Language is important. But not as important as that understanding that holds language accountable for what it should communicate. Words can limit understanding because words evoke connotation before denotation. Words require interpretations that depend on humans with personal needs, wants, agendas, and predispositions. In creative group work, we write on whiteboards ever idea, including “bad” ideas. We marker these “bad” ideas in our thought bubbles not because we do not recognize them as “bad” ideas. We include these “bad” ideas so that better ideas know they are also welcomed to be expressed openly as well.
In order to be healthy, we have to be aware of not only our desirable but often more importantly, in order to be healthy we have to be painfully honest about our awareness of undesirable conditions. This is acceptance in a way many often do not understand that word.
Afeni Shakur discusses her need to accept abuses her mother suffered from her father. In this context, “accept” does not mean to condone, or not to condemn, but acknowledge as an actual occurrence in objective reality. Jasmine Guy transcribes several of Afeni’s anecdotal narratives throughout her book,”Afeni Shakur: Evolution Of A Revolutionary”. One of those dialogues begins with Guy asking Afeni about her relationship with her father.
“So you were close to your dad?”
“Well, you would think that I would be, but basically I resented him. I hated him around us. I hated him because he hurt my mom when he was home…
“I thought she was weak, because what I saw was her taking his shit. She wasn’t a fighter, at least not a physical fighter. But one time in front of me and Glo my dad tried to hit her, and because we were there, my mother did not let that happen. We never saw that blow connect ’cause she threw hot grease on him. Right from the skillet she was holding. She never would have done that if she were alone with him. But we were standing right there, me and Glo, and she was protecting us…
“If I were gonna be angry about things, these are the things I would be angry about. These are the things I have been angry about. The things I lost because I did not have a father. I can’t drive. I can’t swim. I can’t ride a bike, and I can’t roller skate. Now, there’s no reason I can’t learn to do these things today. I could learn to do any of these things, but these are wounds that remain with me. I think I hold on to these can’ts on purpose. They are like my badge of injustice for a great injustice that has been done to me…I needed a father who was not a threat to my mom…
“The reason I can’t do those things is I’ve made prisons for myself, I got to dig my way out of these prisons, therapeutically, spiritually. For many people, driving is nothing. For me, it’s like climbing a mountain. These are my hard things that I have to find it within myself to get over…
“That’s why I understand my son so much. As a girl, I just hurt. I spent so much time searching for the cause of what was wrong with me in my parents; I could see what was fucked up about them. My mama was weak and sweet. My dad mean and arrogant. We were Black and poor in a place where that meant you weren’t shit and I wasn’t goin’ down like that. So, I understand Tupac. He looked for the reasons in me just like I looked for the answers in my parents. When Tupac came at me with a bunch of motherfuckin’ whys, I knew I had it coming.”
“Afeni Shakur: Evolution Of A Revolutionary”, Jasmine Guy, pg 17-20
Here, Afeni is connecting her experiences with her own her parents as a child with her own child, Tupac Shakur. She is not using “girl” to highlight her gender or sex, but to highlight an age, a time of development and a particular sort of curiosity. She concludes this line of thought with a valuable observation about acceptance:
“My understanding of their lives doesn’t make what they did right. But I accept what happened to my mom. I accept what happened to my dad, and acceptance is very important to me for my survival. I get them both as human beings, as two young people, with their circumstances. And I realize they did the best they could. I’m not mad at them for that. And that’s good, because I’ve been mad a long time. For most of my life I’ve been angry.”
“Afeni Shakur: Evolution Of A Revolutionary”, Jasmine Guy, pg 21
As I continue to state through my writings on Black Media Trust, I fundamentally think there is a danger in looking at large swaths of humans as one monolithic whole. I do not promote gross individualism, I simply see a host of cancerous contradictions in generalities regarding groups of people, specifically US Blacks. It is more practical to deal with people who need healing from an individual, one-on-one, basis, than from a top-down approach. Afeni Shakur points out here her own personal traumas that caused by those that gave birth to her, and subsequently impacted someone she gave birth to that impacted an entire generation if not more people.
Her use of “acceptance” is purely therapeutic, not proscriptive. Each of us has their own grievance to bear with a system of oppression that suffocates us all. This is not to condone –or to not condemn– hostilities brought about as a response to hostilities incurred.
Acceptance of wrong done is not even forgiving those who have wrong us. It is simply acknowledging where our scars came from and initiating a course of actions to resist those sort of scars from being given to us again. Also, it allows us time to consider if we are revisiting our own traumas on others. Hurt people hurting other people just because they are hurt is not healthy nor socially acceptable. It is dysfunctional.