Reflections on Race and Politics from Valentine’s Day

By Adrienne Maree Brown Feb 18, 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day! Its Black History Month – did you notice? And we have a black man making history by being the most likely presidential candidate. It’s rumored Madame Toussaud’s added him to the presidential wax figures already. Everywhere there are whispers or internet videos of hope. There’s a Ven diagram of people who neither hear the whispers, nor see the videos of hope. It has three or four circles, but I don’t know how to name them without sounding like a hater. And I don’t wanna start hating, too cliche on Valentine’s Day, and will only lead to me going off on Obama’s foreign policy and on my critique of the electoral system and blah blah. And I’m still in the contradictory zone, critiquing and feeling hopefully in the same breath. Better to go read stuffwhitepeoplelike and calm down. I had a mixed girl total breakdown this week when I was informed about this blog, started reading it and seeing all the things I thought I uniquely liked that are actually just my white heritage preferences. Swimming, Japan, bicycling. Fortunately, my other half was able to make a slight comeback with a Facebook test that asked "How Black Are You?", where I scored equal to, or higher than, the blackest folks I know. Mind you the test was written by a four year old. The question that lessened my score was about Denzel Washington’s best movie – I said ‘Malcolm X’, the test said ‘Training Day’. Things that operate in the pure humorous realm of stereotypes that ring alarmingly true always give me a good throwback moment to the sort of searching, often shallow self-reflection on race I did in college. I’m not a huge fan of race identity crises right now though, so let’s talk about something entirely different: Self Love! On Valentine’s Day people buy each other lots of truly amazing things like cards, chocolate, flowers, teddy bears of various unlifelike sizes, expensive dinners, new electronic gadgets, and sexy underwear. Last night I performed at Aya de Leon’s Annual Love Fest, an alternative Valentine’s Day celebration focused on loving yourself. Not instead of loving someone else, but definitely before trying to gift someone else’s love into existence. Aya asked me to perform because she knew me when I was a pleasure activist, heard me sing once, and when we ran into each other in the airport a couple months ago, I mentioned I was writing more on body image lately. As I still struggle with saying no to direct requests given with a smile, I said yes. So for two months I knew I was going to have to perform at an event about loving one’s self. The pressure was on – did I actually have the inner-yummy to perform any pro-self material? I kept coming back to the body. My body. The bodies of women of color, big women, sexy, scared women, women in places of warfare, women of privilege, all these bodies. Already in 2008 I have had some great moments with my body involving mirrors, exercise, cleansing, massage, hot tubs and pants being looser. I have also had some low moments involving eating too much, indigestion, realizing how close I am to being 30, hurting my knee while dropping heat on the dance floor, same pants being tight again and so forth. I don’t really have bad moments with image in the public sphere, I’ve internalized the battle masterfully. It’s my inner concept of myself that I hold my real outer self up to and shake my head judgmentally. But it is a battle for anyone to actually really love the body in this modern society. There’s no real precedent for it, as consumerism is predicated on not being or having enough. We hold perhaps only one common belief, under everything else: All society might fail completely if we loved ourselves. (Now my cynical self is pointing and laughing at my woo-woo Cali self-love self) With that in mind, engaging in the battle to not just love but adore and geek out over myself is one of my daily revolutionary acts. And the front line of that battle is the body. I don’t know what you did for Valentine’s Day, maybe you spent it cuddled up with one or more others, or on your own. I had a remarkable productive romantic day. But I want to be the first person to come on Racewire and say now that the holiday gimmick is over, in the midst of all your political analysis, you can begin the potentially world-saving daily practice of giving yourself a hug, going to second, third and eighteenth base with yourself. In Struggle!