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The Failure of Intimacy


In a 2009 writing by Laura Murphy entitled "Obstacles in the Way of Love: The Enslavement of Intimacy in Samuel Crowther and Ama Ata Aidoo," Murphy suggests that the "endemic failure of intimacy was engendered by the slave trade in Africa, revealing the way in which the economy of the slave trade was calculated in such a way that family bonds and human relationships were diminished in value."


During this Black History month, I am reminded of the endemic failure of intimacy as I read the writings of Frederick Douglass. Here is what he writes when his mother was sold away from him.


"For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child's affection towards its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result."

Douglass adds that this sale was not only remarkable in that his hope for a mother-child relationship was severed at this moment, but that it resulted in the dissolution of any bond he felt between himself and his siblings. Wow! Talk about a set up for failure of intimacy... not only failure, but failure that is endemic!


Endemic is an adjective that means natural to, native to, confined to, or widespread within a place or population of people. What Murphy suggests and what Douglass demonstrates is that the widespread failure of intimacy was produced by the slave trade in Africa such that today this failure of intimacy appears natural to and widespread amongst African Americans. Taken even further, not only was a failure of intimacy produced but in the economy of the slave trade, the failure was calculated.


While I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic, like COVID-19 (which many suggest will become endemic in certain regions) the enslavement of our intimacy is viral. Although not in a medical sense, the virality of the enslavement of intimacy, even hundreds of years later, makes its danger remain significant. As our immunity must be built and treatment plans developed to fight COVID-19 (i.e. vaccines, masks, social distancing, etc.) so too must we build our immunity and develop treatment plans against the enslavement of intimacy. Will you join me in the development of IN TO ME SEE as a treatment plan?


Ponder-- As we wear masks that fit properly to decrease the chances of infection from COVID-19, is there a masks that we can wear to reduce the danger of the enslavement of our intimacy?


Practice-- Visualize a family being ripped apart as was Frederick Douglass' family. What effects do you imagine that having on the family ripped apart?


Prayer-- Lord, as our families have been ripped apart and our intimacy has been enslaved, we ask for your divine guidance in a treatment plan that will help us develop immunity and the kind of Beloved community You envision for us.

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