E.M. Monroe

"I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live." Weems


July 2015

Models Monday: Yellow, Blue, Green…

During these trying times, I have decided to follow the example of Baby Suggs, a character in Toni Morrison’s Beloved who offers a brilliant response to the absurdity of racism and white supremacy. Like Baby, my plan going forward is to concentrate on whatever has been disarmed. As Baby explains to Stamp Paid, “[w]hat I have to do is get in my bed and lay down. I want to fix on something harmless in this world.” Stamp stands confused, “ain’t nothing harmless down here.” Baby disagrees, “[y]es it is. Blue. That don’t hurt nobody. Yellow neither.” Still befuddled, Stamp asks, “[y]ou getting in the bed to think about yellow?” Without hesitation Baby answers, “I like yellow.”

Like her, I like yellow; especially a nice, light, buttery shade of the color. At a time when it is seemingly harder to find racists in the United States than it is to find terrorists (as if there’s a difference), I need to nuzzle up to harmlessness so that I might recover from the madness of Hempstead, Texas and Chicago, Illinois. With Rahm Emanuel banning rapper Chief Keef from performing as a hologram in Chicago and with The State Department of Public Safety in Hempstead only beginning an “inquiry” into the legality of Trooper Brian T. Enciania’s arrest of Sandra Bland, I’m finding it harder than ever to keep my cool.


Offensive Language?!

“Warning: This video contains offensive language.” Dashcam video relating to the egregiously foul arrest of Sandra Bland

Me: Why isn’t the entire scene offensive? What right does this world have to a pretence of coyness?

Texas Releases Dashboard Video of Sandra Bland Arrest

“Jesus wept.”
John 11:35


The Texas Department of Public Safety released a dashboard video taken of the arrest of Sandra Bland from a police officer’s cruiser.

The Chicago-area woman was pulled over in Prairie View, Texas, during a routine traffic stop on July 10. After being held in the local jail for three days, she was found dead in her cell.

Officials say Bland hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag, but family members are disputing that.

[time-brightcove videoid= 4366714712001]

The Bland case is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents around the country that have highlighted the strained relationship between the African-American community and local police.

Around two minutes into the 52-minute video, Bland changes lanes without signaling, and the police officer pulls her over. After several minutes while the officer sits in his cruiser, presumably going over paperwork, he returns to the vehicle to find Bland is upset.

“You seem very…

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Alisha B. Wormsley

Black Women’s Lives Matter

Although the mantra ‘Black Lives Matter’ was developed by black women, I often worry that in the collective consciousness it carries with it an implicit masculine association, one that renders subordinate or even invisible the very real suffering of black women, one that assigns to these women a role of supporter and soother and without enough space or liberty to express and advocate for their own. 

Charles M. Blow, July 20, 2015

Models Monday: Meaningful Indulgences

Easy to Remember, 2001. Lorna Simpson.

Imperfect Pitch

Nicholas Kristof’s article and video, “The Worst Atrocity You Never Heard Of,” is troubling for many reasons. The genocide occurring in Nuba disturbs; Omar al-Bashir disturbs; the tone of Kristof’s interview with Dr. Tom Catena disturbs. Catena definitely deserves recognition for his bravery, commitment, integrity, and sacrifice. Dr. Catena obviously has an admirable understanding of his life’s purpose. What I don’t like about Kristof’s interview with Catena is the way he attempts to make this clearly admirable man a celebrity rock star while he plays the groupie fan. I didn’t like Kristof’s little jokes and his laughter given the dead and mutilated people who ostensibly were the subject of the story.

Nonetheless, Dr. Catena definitely emerges as a courageous and giving man. I just don’t understand how Kristof could find anything to smile about when you consider the people whose complete decimation appears inevitable.

Models Monday: Claiming

When I am offering a description of myself as someone with an illness, my blood pressure begins to rise when someone tells me not to “claim it.” I find this paternalistic intrusion troubling in its presumption of my recklessness in describing my life’s circumstances. There have been times when I’ve experienced coughing fits that have left me breathless. A person who doesn’t know me typically expresses genuine concern for my welfare. In refusing the cough drops or the water that the person offers in their bid to ease my apparent distress, I usually explain that the coughing results from a paralyzed vocal cord and soon passes. Sometimes, this admission leads folk to speculate on family members who have trouble with crumbly or mixed consistency foods. I then offer insights from my ENT about possible ways of addressing the impact of paralyzed vocal cords, and the people thank me for sharing what I’ve learned. Cool. The most common response to my admission, however, is “we’re not going to claim it,” and that irritates me and has led to several heated exchanges. “WE” cannot tell “ME” how I will self-identify. “WE” cannot tell “ME” how I will communicate my experience of the world.

I did not come-of-age with the expression and I do not belong to a faith community that counsels against “claiming” illness or other material conditions, like poverty, that greatly inform how a person experiences the world. From my perspective, rejecting a medical diagnosis, for example, and its consequences reflect one’s departure from reality. Too, I’m not going on a journey to discover a neutral vocabulary that pleases everyone. Presuming that you know the best way for another person to define their experience insults an individual’s ability to speak for themselves, and it ignores the integrity and credibility of another’s ability to make sense of their encounters.

Age and folk wisdom often sanction the power people think they have to tell you how “WE” should define our world. The wisdom of age is a MYTH. If maturity and wisdom merely happened because we aged, every adult in the world would be wise. Unfortunately, wisdom doesn’t just happen! Wisdom derives from careful study and reflection. Too many times, I have been told to “wait until you turn 52 (62, 72, etc.)” before describing, assessing, or making claims about even my own life. Just recently, I had a conversation with a colleague who told me that I didn’t know what it meant to be tired given my age. In response, I told him that the toll that illness has taken on my body greatly informs my experience of fatigue; I don’t need to wait.

Some people “keep living” and they never learn anything about the world that might alter their circumstances. When folks start telling me how “young” I am, I know that an attempt is being made to undermine my credibility in describing my experiences. Wise people wouldn’t attempt to silence me. Wise people find home with people, of any age, who are actively processing the meaning of life.

I certainly have my opinions about how language can be employed to best serve another’s interest, but I don’t assume a right to tell them how to speak of themselves or what happened to them. For example, I read an article in The Huffington Post about a young girl who had been drugged and raped by the manager of her rock band. From what I read, the rapist-manager was sadistic. Towards the article’s conclusion, the subject of the story realizes that she was victimized and was in no way responsible for what her manager did to her. At that point, the woman referred to the rapist-manager as “my rapist.” Now, if this were my story, I would use different language. The rapist isn’t hers. Claiming the rapist ignores the breach of boundaries constituting the violence and aggression that contributes to the egregious nature of the crime. The person who rapes is no more “my rapist” than the person who breaks into my house and robs me is “my thief.”

The  subject of the article has her reasons for describing the asshole who raped her as “my rapist,” but the article doesn’t reveal this information. I would never tell that woman how to tell her story. To me, doing so would constitute another act of violence. In my case, I usually say, “I have a paralyzed vocal cord” or that “I have Sarcoidosis.” These nouns are indeed in my possession. Controlling the impact of these nouns requires facing the truth of this existence. Rape, however, is a verb. One does not have rape. Rape happens to you. Making the rapist one’s possession suggests that someone else’s disgusting behavior belongs to you when it doesn’t. Rape happens to you. The passivity and thus the victimization is obvious in the sentence structure.

Recognizing the ways that we intrude into other’s lives with our own philosophies and convictions shows respect for that person. Many of us are too gracious, too tired, too insulted, or too professional to become confrontational over the matter. I have had and I expect to have other moments when I act in the spirit of Anna Julia Cooper when she wrote:

Only the black woman can say when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.

I speak for me. ME! When someone tries to tell me what to say or attempts to speak about me as if they know my experience better than I do, they are not doing so “without violence.”


I went to Kohl’s today (7/8/15) and bought a 20″ Samsonite spinner for $23! Kohl’s isn’t pushing this clearance deal; instead, they’re promoting another good deal where you purchase one piece of luggage and get another piece for $1.

…of course, I’m not being paid to endorse ANYTHING 🙂

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