Marvin X Replies to Cara Stanley:
Cara, thank you so much for your kind words. I hesitate to reply before digesting them thoroughly since there is much truth in your remarks. Of course all black people live and work in a generally hostile environment, even though many would claim they have a "good job" free of racism--for the most part, this is simply denial. As per working with white people, very few of them have deconstructed their white supremacy thinking and behavior, thus we are sometimes subtle victims of their dominating actions, resulting in us contracting their dis-eases, leading, yes, to death.
Black men are not dying in academia because in many cases they have been excluded, so they have the luxury of dying in the streets like common dogs. Even our high profile brothers go out this way.
Yes, women have a tremendous burden, aside from being women, they must often dawn the persona of men, especially when forced to be the sole parent. And clearly, strong black women find it difficult to secure a mate who is their equal, who understands them intellectually and spiritually, and who is determined to stand and stay with them until death do us part.
But conscious women and men must of necessity go far beyond the call of duty in teaching and mentoring. And yes, it is many times a thankless job, yet we push on with unconditional love, simply because it is our duty to "teach the uncivilized." But we are often guilty, men and women, of not following that adage: physician heal thyself. In our love of community, we ignore self love and healing. We sacrifice everything until we are physically and mentally exhausted--the body tired and diseased because we are lazy with caring for self, rejuvenating self, taking time for RR, continuously ignoring the fact that our health is our wealth. As a man, I am guilty of neglecting myself, especially when it comes to exercise and socializing. I am addicted to sitting on my behind at the computer, even when a walk in the woods is at my doorstep. This is laziness pure and simple.
As per women, I have lost female friends and lovers who died from smoking, drugs, alcohol and other addictions. As a result, I am traumatized when I see a woman with a cigarette in her mouth.
And the fact that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women 24 to 34 is agonizing, especially since I have three daughters in this age range. But as you say, where is the alarm bells for the health epidemic in our community, especially among our women. We seem to think our problems will be solved by singing Silent Night. In truth, they will only be solved by individual and collective action, by all of us standing together as a conscious force for radical healing and liberation. We cannot isolate ourselves in academia, rather we must reach out to the community in general, letting them know we are one and indivisible. We who are educators must be like the professor in Akila and the Bee, determinded to assist the ghetto child while in the process healing himself.
Peace and Love,
Dr. M (Marvin X)
Reply from Cara to Marvin X’s “Is the University of California Killing Black Women Professors ?”
I believe the issue of Black women dying in their prime is more complicated than a hostile white environment. America is a hostile environment for Black people. I think how we as Black women are socialized plays a tremendous role in our dying far too soon.
We are taught at an early age to forego our own needs, wants and desires for the good of the community. The politics of respectability place a heavy burden on the backs of Black women along with the tacit responsibility of being strong for everyone in every situation. I did not know Sherley Williams, but I did know June, Barbara and VeVe.
What I do know as a Black Cal graduate and Cal staff member for the past twenty years, is that these three sisters loved Black people. They took it upon themselves to support and mentor others in ways that many of their colleagues did not. They internalized the legacy of Race women and modeled commitment to and responsibility for the greater community.
What I think killed them, was how we as a larger community, admired and loved them from afar, yet we allowed them to not take care of themselves. We tend to glamorize the Black women soldiers without supporting and loving them. Black women are visible only when they are serving someone else or when we are dead.
In our daily living, we are ignored, pushed aside, and treated as not being worthy of nurturing, loving or resting. Otherwise, why we would sit silent as Black women die from AIDS, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, obesity etc. Where is the call to save the endangered Black women? Why aren't Jesse and Al marching to bring attention to the health crisis of Black women?
If you think I am over dramatizing the issue, I ask one simple question, Why are our Black men in the same environments not dying in similar ways? Gender plays an important role in the way we live as Black people in America .
I challenge us to love one another as Black people. Let's make sure that we love ourselves enough to take time to make sure that we are healthy, sleeping, eating good diets, exercising and getting help with our depression. We are constantly in the pressure cooker of racist micro-aggressions and we need to manage them in productive ways. Alcohol , sex and drugs are not solutions, they just take the edge off.
It is with love for Barbara, June and VeVe, and Black people that I write this.