Saturday I was talking to my daddy and was catching him up on my week. I told him I was reading this awesome book on Billie Holiday, If You Can’t Be Free Be a Mystery by Farah Griffin, and that I was having a public conversation with another writer, a Black man, about the importance of having a working understanding of gender analysis if one is going to examine race in a meaningful way.
My father responded, well, Renina, racism, sexism and homophobia are connected. I sat there speechless. Quiet.
I didn’t expect him to say that.
That the man who raised me says things like this is telling. My dad the retired truck/bus driver.
You see, he went back to take some college courses at Merritt College (a community college in Oakland) in 2005 in his late fifties. At Merritt he took a class on Black studies with Dr. Love and they read Paula Giddings “When and Where I Enter.” In fact, HE read the book before I did. We are both readers.
The fact that my father said this to me illustrated something that I haven’t been able to put my finger on in terms of my conversation with Ta-Nehisi.
I am not asking Ta-Nehisi to become a feminist, I am merely asking him to show me the same respect that I showed him and his work and read something that I have suggested. Furthermore, looking back, the reason why I picked up Nixonland (which then led me to finally start the book club here) because Ta-Nehisi recommended that I read it when I asked him for a book that would help me to understand the electoral politics of the 60’s and 70’s that would lead us to the dope game fresh era of the 80’s.
Framing the conversation as me asking him to become a feminist is lightweight absurd.
It reminds of some kinda Black feminist one drop rule. If you read one work, your shit might turn like that press and curled hair in the rain. <<<#turrible aren’t I?
My daddy ain’t no feminist. But having read Paula Giddings book he can say matter of factually that racism, sexism and homophobia are related, and I would imagine if probed we could discuss why.
Side bar. My daddy also read Malcolm’s Autobiography when I was 14, after I read it. It had a pretty profound effect on me, as it tends to, so my dad wanted to know what was going on. He read it too, and it impacted him as well. In fact, as I write this I realize how our journey’s as readers was connected. Because my dad is a working class Black man, I have had the working assumption that working class Black men read. I am learning, that this is false. I am finding that this isn’t the case, especially, as I date.
Friday I ran into a friend of mine, Mr. Fantastic, who is a historian as well and he chatted with me about this conversation I have been having with Ta-Nehisi. He said something pretty daggumit profound which was, “Who is responsible for telling both sides of the story and why?” and “Is there more than one side.” I don’t have an answer, but I am thinking about it. These are the kinds of things that historians say. #Theybekillingme.
Why is the fact that I am suggesting that a text be read being framed as asking someone to become a feminist or even a gender analysis expert?
Maybe my daddy is a feminist or perhaps an ally? Luls.
How old were you when you read Malcolm’s Autobiography?