If love is a verb, and so is control, and so is coerce, and pressure, and so is guilt, and neglect, and deny is also a verb, and so is ignore, and manipulate, as well as threaten, and love has been taught to us as a verb often including all these other verbs, then what does it mean to love as a practice, to live with love as a central tenet of our way of being in the world?
The culture of white supremacy is a culture of domination and control, a culture of competition and coercion. The culture of capitalism is one of commodification and transactional relationships — because I give you this, you now owe me that. The culture of colonialism is one of territories and property: this is (you are) mine, I claim ownership.
So if we are going to live anchored in love, then we also have to examine where our definition of love is rooted in these systems of domination and control. We have to pull them up, from the root, which is, after all, what it means to be radical. Radix: To go to the root.
At the root of a practice of radical love: (all types of love, not just romantic) If I love you, I do not own you. If I offer you love, you do not owe me anything in exchange. If I love you, I do not control you.
All of these are pretty things to write and easy to say, but they run counter to the learned beliefs that came to us in so many implied ways: that respect is actually deference, that to give someone what we call love means we are owed love in return, and that if I love you, this means certain behaviors are required of you, and to show you love me, you will let me control you — which, lest this be used to as fuel for a gaslight, is different than having boundaries and holding them as the sacred container they are.
The purity of love is at the heart of our movement and effort for social justice now, and always. When we work for justice, that’s work rooted in love. But this twisted version is also in our social justice work, because we carry it in us. Both the love that is pure and the love that is twisted have an opportunity to grow in our relationships, including the relationships we build in our movements. Our work includes learning how to separate the two.
That work can only start with you, but it can’t end with you.
We’re going to need each other, in radical ways, to get through. We’re going to need to rebuild a relationship with the earth, to return to being part of the world rather than owners of it. We’re going to need to remember that love is a verb, and so is practice, and free, and open, and liberate, and unburden, and grow, and hold accountable is also a verb, and so is learn, and teach, and trust, and tend, and care, as well as believe, and release, and dream, and so is effort. Because this will take effort.