Burdens, Loads, and Mules, Race Again

At first, I was tempted to write about the white man’s burden and the black man’s load, to play with gendered and sexualized constructions of insemination and breeding, of infinite creativity and the pitfalls of sharing seed. I have not yet abandoned play. It will happen.

Amidst ruminations on gendered play and inversion, I was reminded of Zora Neale Hurston’s piquant claim that the black woman is the mule of the world. In place of generation, sterility. In place of loads that give rise to burdens, the absence of futurity.

One is reminded here of debates on whether inter-raced couples could reproduce, a claim that “trafficks” in the selective memory of phenotype. One is also reminded of the black AIDS orphan, that figure of black seed and white obligation.

In Villages Across Africa, so the narrative goes.

Given the weight of these topics, (we use weight and topic so often it begins to sound like one word, weightopic). To resume. Given the weight of these topics, it might seem frivolous to muse on pleasure, the psychic and sensual possibilities of doing it raw, taking and giving seed, insemination with poison, one might call it.

Barebacking is my topic. Logic has it that there are only two possible stances. Again with the pun. One is either for or against, but given the opprobrium of being for, one must be surreptitious. An option between noisy latex and raw feeling. At times, it feels good.

Sensualism (an ugly word) need not be an excuse. But one wonders if one needs alibis. Nodding can be disengaged. Guillotines and castration.

An experiment: find how far this tether stretches (morality, guilt, responsibility, duty, belief in the humankind, language).

I am yet to be convinced that queer lives matter. I am absolutely convinced that the school of “how you think about yourself is what matters most” is mostly deluded. Faced with the banality of violence, it becomes difficult to praise the sanctity of life.

Perhaps our greatest contemporary metaphor: a compromised immune system.

In reply to Prufrock’s question, “would it have been worth it, after all?” one asks for the definition of worth and its tenuous relationship to temporality.

It is no exaggeration to say that AIDS introduced a new calculus into racial negotiations. As stories of its origins and spread were debated, from monkeys to Africans to whites, a messy amalgamation of species, continent, and race, we were also compelled to recognize tourism as sex tourism, holidays as sex vacations, Africans as sex providers, even as the stories reversed direction from white labs to white citizens to Africans, syringes as substitute phalluses, as, finally, the threat of miscegenation as race suicide assumed a new, deadly form.

In Villages Across Africa, so the news goes.

Perhaps the most visible, if unacknowledged, legacy of slavery is our desire and ability to quantify human worth (this is the text of Ian Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic). Loads and burdens formulated within a racial matrix now dominate a universal imaginary.

One continues to take raw loads.

2 thoughts on “Burdens, Loads, and Mules, Race Again

  1. My own favorite Prufrockian question (amended, naturally) is the quiet, almost inaudible: “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

    Between the callous whites who don’t give a shit, and the tender ones who are consumed with shame on our behalf, I say we’d better dare disturb the fucking universe.

  2. A fairly conservative college (not sure what to term our relationship) used “do I dare disturb the universe,” unironically, I thought. (In those days, before bush, before hubris, when irony seemed a little easier to define. Perhaps that is the true legacy of this regime, the utter loss of irony). For that reason, I hesitate to use it.

    I have a semi-aesthete’s relationship to Prufrock: I am charmed by the lives measured in coffee spoons, baffled and irritated by his semi-rape fantasies, but grow increasingly sympathetic to his musings on what it means to age beyond one’s age–or to grow into one’s age (and puns abound).

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