The Politics Of Accessibility: Love, Work & Survival Schemes

Tabias Olajuawon in the Boston leg of the  "Godless Circumcisions" Tour.
Tabias Olajuawon in the Boston leg of the  "Godless Circumcisions" Tour.

It never made much sense to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I had grown up with little and learned the worth of a quarter, fuck nevermind a dollar. I knew how to work hard. I valued hard work. I had to work hard to survive. Four quarters meant a loaf of starch-white bread, grab another eight quarters and you could get a pound of bologna and a spot of miracle whip. Fried up, flipped and spread you had a meal. I knew how to work hard. I knew the struggle of acquiring scraps, let alone sustenance. I know how to how work hard. I know the costs, the hunger pains, the callous hands and hearts. But who the fuck wants that shit? Who wants to work hard? To what end?

Struggle porn. It has to be struggle porn. Struggling folks glorifying the site of pain, their ability to endure it, in order to valorize it, neutralize it, infuse honor into it, decorate the load. That’s what folks are doing when they ask if I have a “real” job. As if law school, freelance writing, public speaking and community organizing/educating aren’t real. Na, it’s not that my work is a figment of their–or my–imagination, it’s that it is out of the realm of what is normal, what has connected us. It infuses no honor on what we’ve overcome, endured and still survive, live and practice. The struggle is moved from eyesore and site of psychosocial trauma, to a non-lubricated dalliance with the biggest of phalli. It becomes an honor to take it all, without a whimper. Everyone is jockeying to the be baddest powerbottom survivor on the block. Sexually, that’s a good a look. Bottoms make the world go ’round, but in the struggle, it reifies the power of the system or entity doing the fucking, or perhaps raping. Smile if you want, but this ain’t sex, you ain’t give consent, and putting a smile on a struggle doesn’t give you anymore power.

Which brings us back to the topic at hand. Why work hard–or do anything difficult–if it isn’t absolutely necessary? What’s the necessity of struggle? What is the value of obstacles? Don’t we deserve for things to come easily, naturally and without a pound of flesh or stress? Why is it that we value the artist who declines our offer because s/he is double booked, more than we value the sister that readily accepts our overture? Why do we value the person who rarely responds to our messages on time, more than we value the one who readily gives their space, time and love? Why do we value the job opportunity that put us through weeks of hellish interviews more than the one that hired us on the spot, daring to invest in us without an audit of our soul? All too often we find our worth, and those of our loved ones in the practice of devaluation and the politics of accessibility.

This is true in the work that we do to earn our wages but also in the practice of love. All too often I’ve been a willing participant in the perversion of the practice of love. The notion that love, like life, must indeed require hard work. Those things that come easily must be studiously avoided or surveilled with a watchful eye, yours and that of the community. Those men that have loved me immediately, I held at bay, thinking they must have been crazy to get involved so quickly. They were too accessible. Clearly that did not value themselves or their personal equity was actually quite low. Those that are readily accessible are valued less than those that are hard to get, hard to text, rare to return calls, mysterious.

“Maybe I liked the stress, cuz I was young restless. But that was long ago, I don’t wanna cry no’mo.” -Mary J. Blige, No More Drama

The gag here, is that the emotionally impoverished are often the most circumspect about love that comes easy. We often reject love that comes easily because, secretly, we do not value ourselves enough to see that we are worthy. We think we must perform acrobatics, break down walls, perform some herculean feat in order to prove worthy of loving. We must learn that access giving freely is not a statement of unworthiness, but a demonstration of wholehearted living. A belief and knowledge that whether this love, this opportunity, this space works out or not, I shall leave whole and with all the worth that I came in with. All too often we limit our practice of love to capitalist models. We diminish ourselves in thinking that our love, our essence, our greatness is a finite resource…as well as our ability to participate in such unions/experiences…thereby shrinking our divine nature into capitalistic, fickle models of the mass production of love. The fact is, love cannot be mass produced and neither is it finite.

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