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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Turner Complex: Can a man honor his people and not his woman?

The Turner Complex- group of symptoms associated with a Black male who simultaneously identifies with the revolutionary behavior of Nat Turner and the abusive behavior of Ike Turner. He is passionate about the advancement of his people and spends his time reading Michael Eric Dyson and listening to John Coltrane. He can quote from the Auto Biography of Malcolm X and there is a picture of the Black Panther’s on his wall, however he can’t help but disrespect woman after woman as he concerns himself chiefly with his own satisfaction. If he doesn’t leave her with physical scars he leaves her with emotional wounds. The problem with a man suffering from the Turner Complex is that he is so self-convinced and often receives such affirmation from his peers that he is never forced to confront his faults.

CAVEAT: This is not at all a generalization en masse about Black men. This is an observation I have made about a FEW Black men I've encountered that lead me to ponder a more general point about human nature that has no race and has no color boundary. I use life experience frequently as a lead in to my blogs, but they almost all have a greater point that many people can take from. This is not meant to be "sexist". It is an observation made based off a few encounters, romantic/non-romantic and while there are few men for whom my ficticious complex applies, there are MANY more men for whom it doesn't. And for that, I thank God. Enjoy.

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While I coined this term comically about a year ago amongst my friends, it came to mind earlier today while browsing Myspace. I came across the page of the very man for whom I’d coined the term. Let’s call him Prince Charming because he was charming as all hell, and at one time I believed that he was the man who would make my fairytale come true. (Well, for about two weeks) Now our relationship didn’t progress very far. I quickly realized that I was dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but I feel as if the experience is worth discussing.

Prince Charming’s Myspace profile is filled with quotes by the likes of Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, quotes about the liberation of the Black race and the context of freedom. One that particularly stands out is taken from one of Malcolm X’s most notable speeches:
“If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her.”
Now let’s make it clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a man that is passionate about freedom and the advancement of people of color. It is a trait that I need in a man. In fact, his ‘consciousness’ is what attracted me to him in the first place. I thought, finally, a good looking, educated, older man who believes in God, likes jazz and loves his people. Jackpot! Boy was I disillusioned. Sure, he could speak at length about the state of Black America and perhaps he’d even read some Amiri Baraka, but this man treated Black women with up most disrespect, so.. .he wasn’t all that elevated in his consciousness.

It is absolute hypocrisy when a Black man proclaims his commitment to elevating peoples of African descent, and ritually disrespects Black women, physically, sexually, or emotionally… and emotionally does count. The black woman is the bearer of the Black Race. No, this doesn't mean she carries it on her shoulders single handedly. It means, quite literally, she gives birth. She is the mother, the grand mother... the matriarch. How can a man belittle a Black woman, her mind, her spirit and her body, when it was through a Black womb that he came into existence, or that his parents came into being? How can he express his love for the Black race and denigrate the female in the process? Is it feasible fora man to be committed to honoring his people and dishonoring a Black woman when in many cases, a Black woman raised him? How can one circumvent the Black woman when she is such an integral part of the Black race? It doesn’t make sense. In the same way, it doesn't make sense for a woman that proclaims her commitment to elevating people of color routinely disparaging Black men. In both cases these are contradictions of major proportions. I dont know, it's like being crazy about pizza, but hating the bread. Then you don't like pizza. It's like being a jazz fein but abhoring the bass and the drums... Then you don't like jazz.

If a Black man, no matter how militant he is, lacks the integrity it takes to honor the Black woman (and that doesn't mean he has to love or like all black women) then he can not possibly honor his race or really, love his self. And Prince Charming isn’t the only man I’ve encountered suffering from the Turner Complex.

Now, I won't go to deep in this but I wonder if the Turner Complex to some extent manifests itself on a national scale. Like every ethnic or national group of people (we’re getting into gender studies here, but remember I’m still a senior in college) the woman ultimately signifies the ‘people' and the nation. Politics and ethnic discourse are often played out on her body and she is considered to be the keeper of tradition. Hence you have terms like the “motherland” and the “mother tongue”. In the Arab world where Islamic Law and custom are constantly being put under attack by the West, many Arab female scholars will argue that this phenomena makes it more difficult for Arab women to attain equal status in civic society because the act of defending Islamic tradition manifests itself in the suppresion of women. Literally, she becomes the keeper of tradition, and the counter to intrusive Western Thought. This is an example of how women signify the nation or the group on a larger cultural stage.

To return to my point, I find it interesting that as a collective, Blacks are interested in social ,political and economic advancement, yet we condone (and silence is a form of condoning) the sexualization and objectification the Black woman on a national stage. Is this not a ghastly contradiction? And to think of it sociologically, if the 'woman' indeed does signify 'the group' then how are we to interpret our predilection for denigrating Black women for viewing and entertainment purposes. It was on the slave block that a woman was told to strip naked and bend over so her hind parts could be examined by potential purchasers, but when I look at some videos and magazine's today... not that much different. I don't have the answer, I can just ask decent questions. (Below: Frame from Nelly's 'Tip Drill' video as he swipes a credit card down... well you know)

Now there is nothing at all wrong with a conscious Black man and many of them are respectful and admirable Black men, heroes in fact. My dad is a wonderful example of this. We're talking about men who wear their consciousness on their sleeeves... but not in their hearts. The issue is that life is about balance. When a man defines his self by his convictions, be his convictions about race or even his piety, we have to wonder for what character flaw he could be over-compensating. This statement may step on some toes, but we all know that there are men of all races in positions of political, social and religious leadership who have philandering ways and no respect for women with whom they are romantically involved. In most of these cases, however, we are willing to look past his character flaws because of his distinguished public role. Every time you watch a male politician publicly apologize for adultery and his wife is there stoically by his side, this is what’s happening.

Men who seem motivated by some deeply rooted goal to inspire change are very attractive. They seem determined. They seem whole. Their very charisma and sense of purpose is the source of their magnetism… and in most cases they know this. There is nothing wrong with an inspired man (it’s great) but a woman must be strong enough to see beyond the mask. We all wear masks. Are his convictions apart of his character or his well constructed fa├žade? Is he fooling even himself? The song says “order my steps in your word dear Lord”. Is he merely capable of articulating his beliefs in a profound way, or does he “order his steps” by them? We can always find people whose words contradict their actions, men and women, but it is dangerous to form relationships with such people.

We have to be careful about being infatuated by the “idea” of a man, or what he represents. We can’t fall in love with an archetypal figure, we need to fall in love with the reality if love is to have a chance at all.

I’d love to know what you all think about this.

Flyness and Funk,



Luciferatu said...

No doubt there is some truth in what you said (as there will be in ANY generalization of a large class -- i.e., black men). However, I find tenor of your post to be sexist, racist and offensive. It's interesting how you can easily point out and denigrate the flaws of some black men (and have even invented your own diagnosis of the "complex"!), but you seem completely oblivious to your own racism and sexism. I can hear you now, "What, me sexist?" Yes, you. How else to explain these statements:

"The black woman is the bearer of the Black Race." Notice your language. The black woman is not "a" bearer of the race, but "the" bearer of the race. In other words the black race is carried on the shoulders of the black woman, with no contribution whatsoever from the black man.

"...the woman ultimately signifies the ‘people' and the nation." Not only is this claim inscrutable (what precisely does it mean to "signify" a people?) it is patently sexist.

You also seem to suggest the primacy of the woman based upon the fact that we are all born from a woman's womb. It should go without saying, but you seem not to acknowledge the fact so I'll say it anyway. In terms of reproduction a woman's womb is utterly useless without the man's seed. So if I need you just as much as you need me to make a baby, there is no primacy. There is (or should be) equality.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not at all condoning disrespect toward women. And I agree that there are certainly some misogynistic aspects of some elements of black culture; especially (but not exclusively) in hip hop. But when your rhetoric suggests that "the woman" is somehow "better than" or more important than "the man," then you are guilty of exactly the same behavior you are condemning.

Your post is chock full of your belief that the black woman is to be respected, honored and loved. These are beliefs that I share whole-heartedly. I just wonder why there is a complete absence of any suggestion in your post that the black man is to be treated likewise. Is it possible that you suffer from some as-yet-uncoined "complex" that may have as much to do with your relationships with men as your claimed "Turner Complex?"

Ike said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Now let's reference several things...
1. The Turner complex is a jocular phrase, not a diagnosis, though I stand by the fact that it exists Also, we're talking about a SMALL minority of people here. This is not a generalization in any means of BLACK MEN. This is black men who are very vocal about their militant beliefs who in their personal lifes, are disrespectful to women. That's it. Don't read further into it.
2. Bearer of the black race does NOT mean the Black woman carries it on her shoulders. I could have easily inserted this cliche into the but I chose not to. Quite literally, she is the Bearer... she gives birth. That was meant to say... Chances are a black man has a black female for a mother... or grandmother (if he is mixed) .That is to say that they more than likely grew up with a matriarch figure who they respected and honored and it is difficult for me to concieve how you can love the black women in your family and disrespect those you date.

now.. i can easily flip this entire statement. How can a black woman disrespect a black man if you grew up with a father figure, however... its not the subject of my post and it's just not something that I have personally experienced or witnessed. My blogs come from day -to -day experience. I will say however that I hold Black men in tremendous esteem mainly because my father, uncles, and grandfather are such honorable men, so it would be hard for ME having grown up around this tutelage, to then look down on "the Black Man" (using this term in the plural)... though obviously all men (excluding race) are not necessarily worth my esteem.

I, in no where in my post said that this is a WIDE SPREAD complex. However, it does exist and I was careful to draw out of my own experience in which case a black man was militant yet, to pull from the vernacular, 'no good', to make a greater point.This is that when we pick partners we can't judge them for what they represent but who they are inside.

Now this is a powerful message because as I see it, many of my friends who are single and dating take a look at his character when it is too late. It is a message that I was trying to send to women, not just black women, but women. The second half of this post was devoted to that because that is the greater point.

Are women perfect? Are Black women perfect? No. Do they sometimes treat men with disrespect, OF COURSE!!! However, I was addressing a single issue, as I see it, and after all this is a blog oriented towards... women!

Lastly, the idea that the women on a social-psychological level signifies the nation is NOT MY scholarship... If you study the national or ethnic politics of any region you will come across the phenomena of "women" being symbolic for tradition, the nation, and the people. I didn't explain it fully as it is a bit complex for a blog.