intimacy and violence

I could not stop listening to the news over the weekend, hoping that Julian King, son of Julia and nephew of Jennifer Hudson would turn up. I’m not sure anyone could be untouched by the tragic and senseless murders of a mother, a brother, and a child.

While the case is still inconclusive, the crime’s presumable connection to “domestic violence” is a terrible reminder that many people–especially women–are murdered by people they know. While some are trying to make the Hudson tragedy a “black” issue or a consequence of living and dating “in the ghetto,” intimate violence does not discriminate on the basis of color or class. To be sure, working class women may live in higher crime areas in general and may also have less access to counseling and police protection but unfortunately intimacy and violence are all-too-common bedfellows. If you just Google the cases of, mostly men, murdering their estranged wives and sometimes their children and other relatives too, you’ll find quite a motley crew.

Will the high-profile nature of this case increase awareness? I’m not sure. But I do know that women and men must continue to form coalitions against violence in all of our families and neighborhoods. If there is any defense against such inscrutable crimes, it will have to be a collective effort.


the thug(s) and the candidate

Cultural critic Mark Anthony Neal reviews Byron Hurt‘s Barak and Curtis at Vibe. Hurt’s short takes a provocative look at the polarization of black manhood. Neal’s contention that “Both Barack Obama and Curtis Jackson are fictions that are the products of the larger culture’s inability to imagine anything but radical dichotomies, for black men” is both apt and troubling as it speaks to mainstream culture’s (and to many people in the black community’s) refusal to recognize black men’s “humanity.”

Having just taught Richard Wright’s Native Son to my NYU undergrads last week, and having engaged in an energetic debate about Bigger’s humanity, I am reminded of James Baldwin’s critique of Wright’s novel in “Everybody’s Protest Narrative.” Baldwin writes, “our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult–that is, accept it.” Questioning misconceptions about (black) manhood and positing alternative ways of being (human), exemplified by the work of Hurt, Neal, Jelani Cobb and others, moves us closer to that acceptance Baldwin advocated.

bruni’s postscript

Addendum to gendered dining piece

more fodder for the feminist foodie

Reading Molly Laas’ piece at HuffPo made me mighty proud that, when dining with my female and male friends and co-workers, the wine list typically is passed to me. While I’m not an expert, I do take the art of sipping quite seriously.

gendered dining cues

When a woman is dining with a male companion, place the check in the middle.

signifying fashion

Andre Benjamin’s style to me has always signaled an anti-masculinist posture, especially viewed against the oversized pants — draped below boxers and including the requisite crotch grabbing — that has tended to dominate hip hop street wear. Benjamin continues to circumvent the boundaries set up to define (and at times confine) black men. His new clothing line exemplifies a different kind of rebellion:

“For an African-American guy to be a prep, that’s a dichotomy,” he said. “Prep style comes from mostly affluent families who just wear these cool clothes. But when you come from a background that has more struggle, your take on it will be different. There’s a certain kind of rebel to it.”

Prep on Andre. (more on Benjamin’s clothing line here).