If you have lived alone for two decades, it also means you can’t subconsciously (or directly) blame your partner if your professional or creative life hasn’t worked out as well as you had hoped. Whatever career and financial mistakes I’ve made (and there have been some doozies) are mine and mine alone. When you meet your partner at 40, there’s no mental backtracking: “I could have been a senior V.P. by now if we hadn’t moved to Tucson for his job,” or “I could have been a rock star if I hadn’t had to cover everyone’s health insurance.” Most important, I’ve realized I never needed a long boyfriend résumé for the experience.
If she had been nicer to me I would have wanted to know [her]. It was always that way with women I found threatening, that there was some unfulfilled longing to be friends. I didn’t know quite why she threatened me. She was full of life and verve and a refreshing bluntness, and yet I wanted her contained instead of celebrated for these qualities I secretly admired
Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers
This practice was fairly common in the war in Eastern Congo some years ago. Consuming human flesh became a means to consume an enemy’s power. When I was reporting on this, I became concerned that by writing about contemporary cannibalism, I would be contributing to stupid old stereotypes about Africa as some kind of cannibal land. In researching the history, I found a couple of interesting facts. First, Christopher Columbus coined the term “cannibal” when he was writing about a certain ethnic group, probably the Caribes, who, a rival group told him, ate their enemies. Columbus used this tale as an argument for converting the rest of the world to Christianity. Also, during the colonial period, many Africans believed that the white colonists were cannibals because so many Africans never returned from working for them in the copper and gold mines. Because the colonists ate canned food, the one common African understanding was that the whites were chopping up the Africans into little pieces and sending them home in cans.
I have never found myself sexually attracted to men, but I’ve definitely been in love with some men in my life. I didn’t want to fuck them and didn’t want them to fuck me, but I cared so much for them and they cared for me. And though we didn’t touch sexually, we really appreciated touch. We were always hugging each other, giving each other knowing looks on the court or when motherfuckers started acting crazy in public. This is love. But we don’t call it love enough. Men can have those kind of relationships without a reliance on dissing women. I think a lot of men and a lot of emcees add the dissing of women to their care for men because they’re afraid of being seen as queer. But that’s bullshit. If you don’t wanna fuck men, you don’t wanna fuck men. It doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love with men. I don’t know why but I never wanted to kiss my best friend, Ray Gunn. I don’t know why but curvy bodies excite parts of me. I don’t know why. But I know that I’ve been in love with some men and some women and while I’ve had sex with some of the women I was in love with, I’ve also not had sexual contact at all with other women I’ve fallen in love with. You see what I’m saying. So yeah, dissing women doesn’t need to be a part of loving men.
But though we were born in violence, we did not die there. That such a seemingly hateful word should return as a marker of nationhood and community confounds our very notions of power. “Nigger” is different because it is attached to one of the most vibrant cultures in the Western world. And yet the culture is inextricably linked to the violence that birthed us. “Nigger” is the border, the signpost that reminds us that the old crimes don’t disappear. It tells white people that, for all their guns and all their gold, there will always be places they can never go.