Doldrums

Listening, or the Art of Shutting the Fuck Up

Ask me twenty years ago and I might have said something edgy, or something un-ironically unprofound such as, “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in equality.” As if they were two separate beasts.

No man is without sin. That much is clear. I still don’t call myself a feminist; that’s a title earned, not self-proclaimed. And there’s still a lot of self-realization that I need to accomplish before I get there – in my opinion, anyway. And while I may not call myself a feminist, I do believe in feminism. And I do try to learn from my mistakes – both past and present – because I want to be that better person, more than just an ally. An accomplice. But it isn’t for me to decide when I become one. 

When people accuse me of being a “good man,” I cringe. I’ve asked this to myself and to others around me: Am I a good person, or just a person who does good? Or even someone who tries to do good in this world. 

On Sunday, 27 March 2022, rapper-turned-actor Will Smith approached comedian Chris Rock and slapped him on live television to the shock and awe of audiences across the globe. Rock, who mocked Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, was rightfully put in his place. Jada’s “hairstyle” is a result of alopecia areata, a medical condition that causes hair loss.

This sparked an outrage on the social media-sphere. Several people (most of them white) called out Will Smith’s actions as violent, demanding he be punished. Discussions were had, comparisons were made. One woman on TikTok even went as far as comparing Will Smith to Russian tyrant, Vladimir Putin – a comparison that is more than just a stretch.

However, no one was holding Chris Rock accountable for mocking a medical condition. The very same people who thought Donald Trump was unfit for president when he mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter with arthrogryposis, were now ignoring how Chris Rock openly mocked someone with an autoimmune disease.

My Facebook feed was filled with local activists and poets who were also condemning Will Smith without holding Chris Rock accountable. A few thought there was no violence behind his words, at least not in the same manner as a slap. Arguments were made in the case against Will Smith, and anything that countered that was pushed aside. 

Which is common when it comes to the discussion of violence against black women. 

So I did what anyone should do in this case: I listened to black creators, most of them women. 

While a time waste – for the most part – apps like TikTok has given marginalized people a platform. And I follow some amazing BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators. Most of whom have taught me more than I could ever hope for (see, how I brought this back to my introduction?). And they had something to say to nonblack individuals: Shut up and listen. (OK, I may have paraphrased that.)

It’s understandable to want to express your opinion on a particular subject. I’ve been there myself. However, it’s important that we step back and listen to who our opinion hurts. Intent doesn’t matter; it’s the impact that’s important. Your words can still be harmful even if you had the best intentions when expressing them. 

Maybe what Will Smith did was violent. Maybe he should have handled it better than he did. Maybe he should have spoken out against ableism or violence against black women (verbal or physical). Because that is what he did that night, regardless of how you saw it. But you don’t have to condone it. That is in your right. But to excuse Chris Rock and not hold him accountable? That’s where your argument breaks apart.

Because how can you condemn one form a violence, while standing up for another? 

So maybe it’s time we shut up and listen.

Afterthought:

When I discussed this subject with a coworker, she told me that it doesn’t surprise her how many of us missed the point. We’re sheltered here in the Valley. Which is true. Most of our population is Latine/White, and black people make up a small percentage – 0.60% according to this site. It’s true that the Latine community experiences discrimination and violence, but are our experiences the same as those within the black community? And this is not to get into the wrongs committed against the Afrolatino members, because that is another post in of itself.

We all have the right to our opinion, and this is just mine. I may have gotten some things wrong, but the difference here is – I’m not about to declare it’s time for the healing to begin. Because we’re so far away from that until all violence is cured. 

Photo by Lucxama Sylvain
Personal

Of Love and Nerds

Photo by KoolShooters from Pexels

For the sake of my mental health, I decided to go for walks. This isn’t a new thing for me; in the past, it was what I did almost every day after work. It started off as something more serious – I’d walk and began pushing myself further until it was a sprint, a job, a run.

These days though, I walk in hopes to build some strength back in my lungs.

And, of course, to people watch.

For those wondering, people-watching is essential to creative writing – be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Jose Skinner taught me of its importance, though it had been a pastime of mine for some time.

When you observe your surroundings with a creative eye, you register things that would otherwise be overlooked. The way a young wife moves away from her husband when he sits next to her. Or how a child darts across the street while his mother scrolls across the screen of phone. Or the mannerisms of a young couple.

They paid no mind to the scent of rain that lingered in the air; they were more focused on studying each others smile. The groove between their hands, their teeth. With the first drops, she pulled him into the open space. They wrapped their arms around each other.

It took me back to a moment in life. One taken for granted. When a girl pulled me outside to kiss in the rain.

Continue reading “Of Love and Nerds”
Personal

“The bandwidth is throttled”

I should be doing something. I have the whole day off and all I’ve managed is to go back to sleep after dropping Shaun off at school. I’ve also watched several minutes of Tik Tok videos. I blasted through two hours of watching YouTube. On my bed, lies my journal, my Dungeon Master’s Guide, and a magazine with an article I’ve been meaning to read for three weeks now. Yet, I can’t muster up the motivation to write, work on a D&D campaign, read, or anything.

Hell, the moment I turned on my computer, I opened Word then quickly double-clicked the Left 4 Dead 2 icon and wasted half an hour shooting modded hellish zombies.

Last night, the library held a book reading by local poet Edward Vidaurre. I haven’t been to many poetry readings recently. This year’s Love & Chocolate event was the first I stepped foot on stage in ages.

El Senor and Amado were also there. They were talking about getting the old band back together. I could be working on new material, but I’m not. I’m just here, listening to the song on repetition while writing these words and wondering what the fuck am I doing?

Maybe, I’ll take a nap. Figure some shit out in my dreams. Or, I don’t know, make an actual attempt. Maybe it’s just time to panic.