I cannot express how excited I was when I first heard Jesse Williams’ speech on the 2016 BET Awards. I cannot tell you the level of pride and “Dear Lord, HE GET IT” that I felt when he said the following while accepting his Humanitarian of the Year Award (excerpt):
“…Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that.
If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.
We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.
I heard this and cried and screamed. He got it! He freaking GOT IT! I cheered as he smacked his gum and Black Power-fisted off stage, daring cats to try it! He understood why we were all mad, and all hurt, and all so ready to (bleep) fight! He knew, and could say it with the verbal dexterity and linguistic venom that college educated and street affiliated black men can. From there, he became a hero to many a black girl. Myself included. And his wife was black?! And he was fine?! YASSS! Erre’bady was winning!
It was glorious.
Then my husband said to me, “His wife isn’t that pretty.” I was so offended! I told him that he was wrong to say that, that she probably heard that all the time, but they were together and I am here AND EVER PRESENT for black love, hear me?
HERE. FOR. IT.
In the being HERE AND PRESENT FOR IT, the world and Aryn find out that her husband had dipped out on her. Then the world wants to turn on Jesse.
I thought about a forerunner of his: Harry Belafonte. There was a story I came across earlier this year about Mr. Belafonte and Eartha Kitt. They were ‘involved’ and Harry wouldn’t pursue anything further. Why? Because she was black.
Yes, I’m serious–because she was black.
He felt because of what he was trying to do, a black woman wouldn’t help him achieve the standard or establish the standard he desired. I thought about Sidney Poitier: he had a decade long affair with Diahann Carrol (WHO I LOVE LIKE I LOVE PHYLICIA RASHAD AND LIKE I LOVE MY MOTHER!), and ended up with a white girl.
Perhaps we thought that Jesse was inoculated against that urge to abandon us. Perhaps we thought that he saw what we as black women saw in each other, and…are quick to snatch away from each other: beauty and purpose.
Why would we extend Jesse Williams more than we extend any other man? Is he not, too, susceptible to the same temptations that are common to man? Am I making excuses for him? No. I am a staunch believer in people do what they deem important, and you have every opportunity to tell a married person that pursues you “No.”
Jesse could have told this broad no, she could have told him no, and he could have gone home to his wife. Yet, according to gossip reports he told his wife he just didn’t wanna be married anymore. I can respect that. I really can. The bogus thing is that…this is an old story but new folk.
The word of God tells us, reminds us not to put people on pedestals, to not make people idols. The danger in that is we forget that those people we elevate people to a God-level, and the only being that can be at God-level, is GOD.
Aryn is not the first woman with a famous husband that she sacrificed for, prayed for, and believed in that dipped out on her. She won’t be the last, in public or private. I’m sure Aryn has seen women look at her husband as if he were infallible and impossibly handsome.
I’m sure she’d had to discern what female friends to bring around, trusting they won’t try out her husband. I’m sure she had seen the shade posts, gossip links and random nattering of silly, clamorous women talking about how pretty she isn’t or should be. What do you think that did to her? Does to her? Did to their marriage? Even the strongest woman, has a weak moment.
In those moments, we tear down our own houses. We tear ourselves apart. We make lists of what we have, need to get, and don’t possess to become…perfect. That perfection we give to the world. We give it to the world to assuage one wave of onslaught to be woman–to be physcially pleasing.
Once we have that, we can go anywhere, right?
I cannot imagine what it is, would be, to be married to a man that is lusted after, idolized by a throng of women that don’t know the hitches and issues he has. They don’t know how when you ask him something when he’s upset he rolls his eyes, and then his swag is off. They don’t know that you worked like mad to help your daughter sing and he could manage her, or how you worked so he could audition, or how you helped put him through school so he could ‘take care of us’.
The world outside don’t get the privilege to see the ugly parts, the mean parts–the world sees the perfect parts.
The dresses, the cars, the smiling pictures on the internet or framed on walls. With Jesse, we saw the perfect parts. With respect to the perfect parts, we get the the idolized version of a person.
As people, we hate to be fooled. We love being able to assume the sanitized, idolized self is truest self, that way you can compare that self, that person with the person in your life–causing a level of strife in your life that is unneeded.
I hope that Jesse and Aryn work this out. I hope that Jesse sees what is really out there, now that he’s out there. I hope that Aryn sees what it is to be whole again and realize that her relationship will not define her to the point that she ceases to exist without him.
I hope that reconciliation can happen, and she not be swayed by other people that want her husband for themselves, and would love to see her miserable. I hope that the children they have know their father for the man he is, and what he will give them–to arm with what it is to be dynamic in this world.
I hope the world can see Jesse for what he is: a man. No more. No less. With that shroud of mortality, he still is capable of stupidity, selfishness…and redemption. Not for us, the consuming voyeurs, but to himself and Aryn.