On Eddie Long and #NWNW

30 Sep

Picture of Eddie LongNo Wedding No Womb Logo- wedding bells = image of stick baby

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.

  1. 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.
  2. “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).
  3. 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.
  4. Solutions – #NWNW has critiqued dissenters for not offering solutions (though I feel like we’ve been offering them) so I’ll be explicit here.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

Check tweets by @shelbygoodwin, @dopegirlfresh, @aliciasanchez and @crunkfeminists for more on #NWNW.

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34 Responses to “On Eddie Long and #NWNW”

  1. rhetor September 30, 2010 at 11:28 PM #

    You are preachin!!!!! I too am tired of all the propaganda being thrown around in both the Eddie Long and NWNW discussions. Pedaphilia should not be equated with gay!! I am so tired of trying to drive this point home to people. This case is about power and how this “pastor” used his to manipulate and abuse these young men. The greater issue is also how the church (Eddie’s and the entire Black church) publicly deals with sexual abuse and sexuality in general. It made me sick to my stomach to see the congregation praise their pastor as if he were some god or like he’s done nothing wrong. This type of behavior helps to continue a legacy of sexual abuse, homophobia, and sheer ignorance in our congregations.

  2. Erika September 30, 2010 at 11:38 PM #

    Great post! I agree! & don’t forget @focsimama, too! Weighing in on the debate or absolute nonsense!

    • MB October 3, 2010 at 7:18 AM #

      Yes! and I’ll add @anti_intellect, @KhadijahOnline and @fakeford

  3. Alyss October 1, 2010 at 12:10 AM #

    Go ‘head on! This is a pointed critique. Keep up the good advocacy. We need to be having this conversation everywhere, all the time, with everyone.

  4. ashoncrawley October 1, 2010 at 6:57 AM #

    YES!

  5. susiemaye October 1, 2010 at 8:15 AM #

    “Perhaps black folks’ ambivalence about marriage signals problems with the institution itself and not with black people.”

    Yes! Preach and teach! This line alone has given me life this morning (and not just because this claim about marriage (and family) is what my scholarship is about). It lifts me up because it’s true! Thank you for writing this.

  6. marian October 1, 2010 at 8:25 AM #

    great.

  7. Honeysmoke October 1, 2010 at 8:35 AM #

    You are on point.

  8. omi October 1, 2010 at 9:01 AM #

    yes, yes, and yes again.

    thank you for this.

  9. middle child October 2, 2010 at 9:04 AM #

    Yeah, I agree. But Eddie long is really gay..

    • moyazb October 2, 2010 at 2:18 PM #

      lol!

  10. Kjpaw October 2, 2010 at 4:20 PM #

    I enjoyed your article! I just wanted to say as a person who works with teenagers please be clear that research shows that there is a strong link between growing up in a single parent home and/or being born to an unmarried mother and the likelihood of going to jail. It does take a village to raise a child, but sadly children without a father in the home or in their lives are much more likely to end up living in poverty or jail regardless of their race or socioeconomic status (85% of prisoners grew up in a single family home.) Just food for thought, not an indictment in any way of all the incredibly hard working single parents in the world doing their best!!!

    • crunktastic October 2, 2010 at 9:59 PM #

      The question is whether this has to do with some innate value of fatherhood or if it’s an issue of the socioeconomic benefits and emotional support offered in a two-parent home, be it hetero or same sex.

      • Kjpaw October 3, 2010 at 2:19 AM #

        I think that’s a very fair question. Personally, my experience working with kids would leave me to believe a committed longterm partnership, whether straight or gay, provides a good base for raising a child compared to a single parent home: The absence of a father in a child’s life has a significant impact on a child’s future according to research (and my 12 years experience working with kids mirrors this). I don’t feel educated enough on the intricacies of why this occurs to comment. As for the innate ses benefit, most studies have held that and race as a constant and regardless of ses and race, the absence of a father has a significant impact- ie a rich white kid without a dad is as likely to commit a crime as a poor African American child without a dad. I don’t defend or pretend to be able to explain the stats…they are what they are. There are always the wonderful exceptions to the rules! Society is changing, but right now we know 85% of male prisoners grew up in single parent homes and without a father in their lives.

    • MB October 3, 2010 at 7:29 AM #

      Word.Thanks for the question. But statics might also show that black people o the whole are more likely to get locked up than white people anyway. And since black people are also disproportionately the products of these “single parent” homes that doesn’t surprise me. I guess what I am trying to figure out is what came first you know?

      There are cultures (currently) were men and women don’t live together, where children live with the women or at a certain age boy children are reared by men. THere are cultures where biological parents are not expected to do more than any other person in that community, everyone is responsible for each child and the children might not live in the same dwelling and the parents might not live together either.

      I understand that our society is very different but I say that to say that the outcome isn’t fixed when biological parents aren’t present. Human being are really creative and every culture has a different way of relating to each other. I think the current conditions suggest that it’s time to change up the game as opposed to hold onto a colonial and slavery enforced model of parenting that perhaps never really resonated with black folks in the first place.

      • Brittany March 6, 2011 at 10:58 AM #

        Yes!! I for one think that mothers should hold a secondary role in parenting, and that men should be the primary care providers for children, starting from infancy. I daresay that the mothers do not need to live in the home with the children, only the fathers. A new child-rearing model would be a breath of fresh air, and I think that black men, as the primary caretakers for their children, need to take on the task of forging one.

  11. Politicalguineapig October 3, 2010 at 1:07 AM #

    I’d just like to point out one thing: from what I’ve read, most of these “boys” were legal adults when Mr. Long started initiating sexual contact with them. The ‘grooming’ however, took place while they were teens. So, yeah, skeevy as heck, but it isn’t pedophilia.

    • MB October 3, 2010 at 7:37 AM #

      I’m also speaking to the grooming as a premeditated act that prepared them for abuse later as a crime. By definition, pedophilia is reserved for children younger than these boys anyway. That’s why I use the term child sexual abuse. Those boys were definitely understood to be children, “spiritual sons” of the pastor and that power differential was instrumental in the abuse, both as a means to keep the boys silent and likely something that was exciting to Long. Also, I think a few were 17 when the abuse began?

  12. dantresomi October 3, 2010 at 8:44 AM #

    I agree with the Eddie long situation..

    as a blogger for NWNW, i say again, and I will continue to say this, there are over 100 posts, and several of them bought up the exact solutions you offer. I urge people to read at least 30 posts and then come back to the table. DO NOT JUST READ 2 or 3 posts.

    I say again, in any organization or group one joins, one may have the same goal but different approaches. I am sure there are people that write for Crunk feminists who you disagree with and some who you agree with.

    I myself don’t think that marriage is the answer. I also agree that there are systemic policies that make the problem worse. However the math is there. and numbers don’t lie…

    • VMay October 3, 2010 at 9:08 AM #

      RE: NWNW

      Recommended reading and hopefully policy change(if there is political will, there is a way):

      BEYOND (STRAIGHT AND GAY) MARRIAGE by Nancy Polikoff

    • MB October 3, 2010 at 9:18 AM #

      Thank you for your comment dantresomi but I disagree. Numbers lie all the time and as black folks I think we know that right? There were numbers that supported our inhuman treatment in slavery, our being 3/5 of a person, and in the Jim Crow South, numbers that supported the domination of women in this country. I don’t disagree with the stats but perhaps their significance and the resulting solutions folks think they engender.

      As for reading the blogs, I’ve read more than half of them and at the end of the day I don’t think a commitment between two people is what makes the difference in a child’s life. It seems a commitment to children and families however they are constructed would be a more compelling movement. I’m not interested in black people being successful in a system that exploits brown and black labor around the world consumes half the planet’s resources with such a small sliver of the world’s population. I think the conservative politics of trying to fit into the white mainstream culture’s idea of proper gender/sex/family roles has done us more harm than good and maybe its time for black folks to shed the assimilationist doctrine in favor of models that might actually work for us.

      I’m really curious about the messages black men get about fatherhood and family in relation to patriarchal power. I think a lot of those messages are damaging and perpetuate cycles of violence within two parent homes in our community. I think we need to do some more work on reshaping masculinity before we prescribe marriage as the solution to our communities problems.

  13. dantresomi October 3, 2010 at 9:52 AM #

    I did say “math” right…? i don’t want to play a word game.. but I said math. like 2 + 2 = 4. Not waking up one morning and saying “negroes are 3/5’s of man…” that’s not math, that’s systemic racism.

    As a black man who has been married for 10 years (9/15 made it ten years), we get all kinds of nonsense supporting patriarchy and male privilege. As a pro feminist, i come into conflict with many of my peers over matters of being a husband and parenting. I have always said that as black men we have to change our definition of said manhood and accept feminism. we have to recognize our male privilege. that i have no doubt about.

    and guess what? some of the NWNW posts discussed just that. some of the NWNW posts gave those type of solutions. and yes, some of the NWNW posts supported male patriarchy and male privilege. some of the NWNW posts discussed white middle class morals as being superior to all in so many ways. but they are some.

    I have read a few Crunk Feminist posts that i felt were dead wrong and were shocked to find it on your page. that doesn’t mean that Crunk Feminist should be thrown out with the bath water. I dig what you do. and guess what, I still pass on those posts that i disagree with to my friends. However, because i disagree with a few posts, I don’t stop reading Crunk Feminists or stop supporting you.

    let’s do this, COME ON BOARD NWNW for 2011. I know it sounds nuts. but consider it. if you don’t want to, kewl. i can dig it. but just imagine if you came on board…

    • MB October 3, 2010 at 10:57 AM #

      You said, “However the math is there. and numbers don’t lie…” And then I said, “I don’t disagree with the stats but perhaps their significance and the resulting solutions folks think they engender.”

      I don’t think that your proposition to join NWNW is “nuts,” (please read this about ableist language http://www.raisingmyboychick.com/2010/09/on-the-ubiquitous-use-of-crazy/) I do however think that the frame of the discussion limits the ways in which folks can participate.

      What does coming on board mean? I support families, nuclear and not. I support children, #OOW and not. I’m engaging in the convo with critiques of the terms used and offering solutions. I wonder if this type of engagement can be seen as useful too.

      • VMay October 3, 2010 at 5:18 PM #

        When some, if not all, in the NWNW “movement” believe that committed same sex couples shouldn’t be together and by extension, can’t be “good” parents; such engagement would be difficult at best. I know of lesbian couples where the birth father is fully engaged in his child’s life. In one instance, the birth father and his wife live on the same street as the lesbian birth mother of his daughter and her life partner. The daughter’s half baby brother lives with their birth dad and his wife(the baby’s birth mom). Both couples share in the care of the children. These two children are loved and cared for daily by 4 adults. The adults make it work and it takes work. Love makes this family work.

        I also know of many successful co-parenting arrangements, both same sex and different sex. Just because the couple separates doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be separated from the children. They make these arrangements work because they love their children.

        People split up for all kinds of reasons. Staying together for the sake of the children, IMHO, is not always a good idea. Kids know when their parents aren’t in love with each other, when they HATE each other, when they are stepping out on each other, when they are miserable being in the same house, etc. What kind of trauma does living in this dysfunctional atmosphere cause? Wouldn’t the optimal environment be one where the couple loves each other and thus provides a loving household for their children?

    • crunktastic October 3, 2010 at 6:28 PM #

      To get “on board” with a movement, one would have to agree with the fundamental premise of that movement. The fundamental premise of NWNW that marriage is sacrosanct and that we should restore this institution back to its sacrosanct status for the sake of black families is so patriarchal that one wonders how this could be considered a progressive movement in the 21st century. Feminism is certainly not anti-marriage, motherhood, etc. But it is about a critically engaged notion of what these institutions mean and how they must be reimagined so that they don’t further entrench and reinscribe patriarchy. I don’t care how many different people are writing for NWNW. Signing on to a movement with that premise, means you are hooked up to something that imo is antithetical to a progressive/radical/thoughtful feminist politic. In fact, the end goal of such a movement is to fit black people into pristine (classical), uncomplicated, conservative notions of family, and ain’t nothing crunk or subversive about that. Moreover, the very title itself suggests that women’s bodies are commodities to be exchanged for the security of a social institution. I think we know the historical consequences of shoring up western institutions using the currency of Black women’s reproductive organs. To advocate for such a thing in the 21st century is anti-feminist and anti-Black.

  14. TheCapriciousD October 3, 2010 at 2:44 PM #

    Damn. That last sentence gave me chills. Thank you for unpacking these like this…

  15. Dr. Goddess October 3, 2010 at 3:13 PM #

    Thank you so much for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I wrote two blog posts on NWNW myself because I’m rather appalled and disgusted at the Campaign, the lack of any real organization/solutions, the judgmental attitudes, the deceit of the founder and the lack of any real engagement in dialogue. In contrast, I have thoroughly enjoyed the sanity, compassion, intelligence, BRILLIANCE and common sense of the dissenters. To suggest we don’t care about marriage, children or personal responsibility is ludicrous.

  16. Renina October 3, 2010 at 3:24 PM #

    Who wrote this?

    And this honey, is that *kisseshand* Muah.

    “Perhaps black folks’ ambivalence about marriage signals problems with the institution itself and not with black people.”

  17. Renina October 4, 2010 at 9:01 AM #

    “I think we know the historical consequences of shoring up western institutions using the currency of Black women’s reproductive organs. To advocate for such a thing in the 21st century is anti-feminist and anti-Black.”

    WHO wrote this. My God!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rebecca Martinez, Crunk Feminists. Crunk Feminists said: Comment on On Eddie Long and #NWNW by VMay: When some, if not all, in the NWNW "movement" believe that committed s… http://bit.ly/a7dDD2 [...]

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