So I’m trying to write a dissertation and support some really amazing disability justice activist friends of mine so I really don’t have time to be messin’ around with this Eddie Long/#NWNW business but…
Here I go.
This will be real quick though. Promise. Point by point even.
- Abusing children ≠ “gay” – I am all for us critiquing and thinking about Eddie Long’s desires for men but the truth is (yes, I think he did it) he abused his power and at least four vulnerable boys, as their age defines them in the “courts of justice.” There are plenty of people who embrace their same sex desire and incorporate that into their identity or choose to keep that part of themselves to themselves. But they don’t abuse children. That’s what we should be talking about with Eddie Long, lest we equate repressed same sex desire with gay identity and subsequent child sexual abuse. LGBQ people choose to love each other and enter relationships; they don’t coerce vulnerable children with much needed affection and affirmation and prey on them.
- “No one man should have all that power.” -The power of the pulpit co-creates these situations with ample collateral damage. Did you know that absolutely awesome phrase that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” was written about papal power in the Catholic Church? We can all see how relevant it continues to be in that religious context and beyond. When Eddie Long stepped up to the pulpit and put his glasses on to the roar of his congregation I couldn’t help but think of that line from Malcolm X (h/t to Tobias). It didn’t matter what Long said (and he didn’t say he was innocent), the congregation “supports its pastor, period.” The inherent hierarchy of the church exacerbates abuses of power and the fact that we’ve seen iterations of these abuses over and over again doesn’t seem to change the way folks feel about their “prophets.” Regardless of their desire for adult men or lack of desire for adult women, preachers/priests/pastors and self proclaimed bishops’ unfettered access to vulnerable children and the immense amount of power we grant them, should give us pause (no homo).
- No Wedding No Womb– I’ll give you that you just picked the title b/c you liked the alliteration (it’s a favorite literary device of mine too), that your inadvertent and untimely use of the word “wedding” amidst the fallout of the prop 8 black people controversy and ongoing debates surrounding same sex marriage is more an issue of semantics than out right heterosexism. Okay. But to act as though a commitment between two people is the solution to men— wait, I take your pass on heterosexism back—dipping out on parental responsibility seems to completely misrepresent what actually is a crisis in infrastructure, resources, and cause to question our reliance on a nuclear model of parenting in the first place. People need community, love, dough (both kinds) to raise kids. Married or partnered parents are not better than other parents.
- Solutions – #NWNW has critiqued dissenters for not offering solutions (though I feel like we’ve been offering them) so I’ll be explicit here.
- Let men be queer- I mean let men express emotions that are typically gendered “woman”, like sadness, love, happiness, etc. without saying they are less of a man because of it. Allow men to shed hypermasculine notions of being in terms of how they dress, behave, etc. How dope would it be if men could shed their cold detached unfeeling personas? This has the effect of allowing men to be emotional beyond the confines of nuclear family and be more loving to other children and women in their lives, regardless of whether or not they’re related. It has the added effect of destigmatizing traits that are read as feminine in men, which in turn might reduce some of the homophobia that energizes the Eddie Long situation and these recent tragic “suicide” deaths of young people. Homophobia Kills.
- Demand more infrastructure to support parents– The government owes its people and its children more than its giving. It passes the buck to individual households to do the heavy lifting. The classism and ableism at the heart of the nuclear family has got to be unpacked. Even in married two parent homes there’s not always enough to go around. The assumption that people should be able to do it on their own as a single family unit perpetuates the myth of independence. We all need help to get through life and most of the time we act like we don’t because that supports a capitalistic ethic of individualism.
- It takes a village– We see the fallout of thinking that children are the individual responsibility of their parents in #NWNW own posts. In the greatest of ironies, the founder said the crisis of black fatherlessness was responsible for Eddie Long’s indiscretions as opposed to reading his marriage and patriarchal power as an enabler of his behavior and the reason that people thought he was safe. Surely a married, wealthy, pastor with kids who does good things in the community can’t hurt these boys. We remain attached to the myth of the predator “out there” as opposed to examining the conditions that create the power imbalances that cultivate abuse. How might this situation have played out differently if everyone thought of those boys as their “spiritual sons?” What would it mean for all adults to feel accountable to all children in their community? Would individual fathers who weren’t present matter? As is evident in cultures around the world, the primacy of biological parents is not a given. There are a myriad of traditions of child rearing that don’t center biological/nuclear parenting and the kids are more than all right. Two people, man and woman, even with rings need resources to raise children and to ignore that as well as the accompanying hypermasculine gender expectations for black men in those structures is to miss the issue all together. Perhaps black folks’ ambivalence about marriage signals problems with the institution itself and not with black people.