Brotherly 'Love'

I've always been a bit confused when 'only children' tell me how jealous they are of people who had siblings growing up.

Brotherly 'Love'
A shameless neophyte and his two brothers on Christmas day, 2010.

My Brother and Me

I've always been a bit confused when 'only children' tell me how jealous they are of people who had siblings growing up. While I can understand that growing up as an only child was likely lonely and perhaps could contribute to being socially stunted in some ways, growing up with siblings brings plenty of challenges of its own. Having a built in companion that you're pretty much forced to do everything with would likely be lovely if you both liked each other but what if you don't? In that case, having a sibling might feel like a prison sentence. The first, and likely last, person I've ever said "I hate you" to was my older brother. And I'm sure that often times, the feeling was mutual. I don't remember much of it but pictures reflect a time when my older brother and I were friends during our younger years but I remember vividly that from around the time I turned 10 until I turned about 16, we despised each other.

If you would have asked me if my brother loved me during that period, I would have thought 'hell no!', but to be fair, I don't think either of us truly knew what it meant to love back then. In my family, we did not say "I love you" often. We didn't really express love at all, or rather, love was expressed through the fact that we had a roof over our heads and food to eat. It's funny, until about age 6 or 7, children in my family would get a lot of affection and attention but once you got old enough to start forming an identity of your own, that affection and attention went out the window. This was especially true for the males in my family but for them, not only did you lose affection and attention around age 7, you also enter "man training" which for me came in the form of physical and mental violence. That being said, "love" was not something that I ever consciously felt from my brother growing up. And that's not to say he didn't feel it, only that it was never expressed to me in a way that I could receive it.

And I don't blame him for it. I think one of the biggest failures inherent to the idea of family is the assumption that love is automatic within them. Because, at the end of the day, your brother, your sister, your mother and father are just humans. Humans that, regardless of whether you share some of the same DNA, are strangers to you when you are born. Over time we develop relationships with these humans but just because they are blood relatives, does not necessarily mean that there's love within our relationships. Since my family's circumstances made love a difficult thing to focus on and develop, I can totally understand why my brother treated me the way that he did. I truly feel that in order to feel hate for someone, you have to also feel love for them. Hatred is a very intimate emotion and in order to hate something, you have to be tremendously interested in it. The reason why I felt like I hated my brother was because I actually admired him. Because I wanted love from him. Protection. Guidance. Encouragement. Empathy. All things he couldn't give, not because he didn't want to, but because no one had ever given them to him. So, when I instead received ridicule and violence, the love I had for him that I couldn't express turned into resentment.

There was a period in our teens where we fist fought on what seemed to be a daily basis. My older brother is three years older than me and has always been substantially bigger than me so very seldomly would I be on the victorious end of these fights. I remember the anxiety and dread I would feel whenever I was going to be left home alone with him because I knew I was going to be attacked in some way. Even if the competition wasn't physical, we often got into situations where we were trying to assert dominance over one another whether via sports, or video games, or art, or the girls we were involved with. Competition, though sometimes enjoyable, is very taxing on the nervous system. So the incessant underlying competition between my brother and I, coupled with the fact that money was always tight in our household growing up, meant that "home" was very rarely a place where I felt comfortable, seen, or truly safe.

This all worsened when I turned 11 and my baby brother was born because it meant that I was no longer the "baby" of the family which meant that I no longer was the center of my mother's attention and protection. No longer being the center of attention meant that a lot of the harm that was being inflicted onto me by my older brother went unnoticed and unacknowledged. Despite what it cost me in terms of attention & protection, I always enjoyed having a baby brother and for most of his early years, we were attached at the hip. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I was a perfect example of love or that I didn't perpetuate many of the behaviors my older brother inflicted onto me onto my little brother, but for the most part, I was always conscious of the fact that I wanted my little brother to feel protected & supported by me instead of threatened by me. I'm sure the significant age gap played a part in it too but for my little brother, I wanted to be someone he could look up to and depend on. And we were really close for the first 7 years of his life to the point where he would regularly throw fits whenever I would go somewhere that he couldn't go — literally attaching himself to my legs at times, begging me not to leave him. Naturally, when I turned 18 and moved out to start college, we began to grow apart. But I never lost the desire for the brotherly love that I felt like I was missing growing up and college would provide me with the opportunity to get that love in a different form — or so I thought.

Stomp The Yard

I'm a first generation college graduate meaning that no one older than me in my family had ever completed college before which also meant that no one older than me in my family had ever gone "greek" — that is, to pledge a fraternity or sorority. My knowledge of greek life in college was pretty much nil outside of the fact that the year before I left for college, "Stomp The Yard" had just came out and it was taking the country by storm. I remember going to see it with my cousin and the theater literally had a velvet rope outside of the auditorium as if we were about to enter some prestigious club. I was absolutely enamored with the film. It made greek life seem so cool, so mysterious, so exclusive. It made it seem like in order to be greek, you had to be special, and that certainly appealed to the part of me that so badly wanted his specialness to be recognized by others. Growing up poor turned me into a bit of a status whore, if I'm being honest, so any way that I could rise in the social ranks was always appealing to me back then. Seeing this film increased the level of anticipation I had for seeing greek life in person by ten fold, and when I arrived on the campus of the University of South Carolina in the fall of 2008, I was not disappointed.

A AAAS cookout from, I think, my senior year. If it wasn't apparent, that's me in the tank and Toms lol

One of the first major events of the year for black students at USC was the AAAS (Association of African American Students) cookout. This always took place in the center of campus in the courtyard of the Russell House which was our student union. Socially, this was one of the most important events of the year so everyone showed up looking their best. This was especially true for the black greek organizations on campus because it was the first opportunity of the year they had to show off the new hops (pretty much choreographed dances) they'd created over the summer to the current popular songs. And let me just say, it was enchanting to watch them. We had every black greek org on the yard except for Sigmas when I was a freshman and seeing each of these orgs, and their letters, and their colors, and their hops, and their chants, and their secret handshakes was honestly quite magical and seemed even better in real life than what "Stomp The Yard" had portrayed on the silver screen.

Not only that, being greek brought with it a certain status that was undeniable by most people. Don't get me wrong, from the very start many people were more than okay being GDIs (got damn independents), who weren't impressed by greeks and their self-inflated sense of importance. But, by and large, being greek brought with it perks and a social respect that many people desired to have. That being said, I absolutely did not need to go greek to have a good college experience. Though I'm sure that going greek got me more attention, I got plenty attention not greek, so what ultimately made me decide to pledge was not the social status that it would bring me but the genuine hope that joining a brotherhood would bring me the brotherly love that I so desperately desired from childhood. What I actually got was quite a bit different than that, though.

My line, the 14 L.E.G.E.N.Ds. I am number 11, A.K.A Apo11o

This post is already getting quite long so I won't go into the specifics as to why here, but I ultimately decided that the frat I wanted to pledge was Alpha Phi Alpha and 'why' pretty much boils down to because it seemed like the frat that most aligned with my personal values and the frat that I could most be myself in. Not only that, Alphas were known for being smart and some of them, for being 'cool,' and both of these labels were pillars of my identity at the time, so it seemed like I would fit right in. Before I was officially an aspirant, I was treated quite well by the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha but once the process of becoming a member officially started, all of that changed. Because in order to become a brother you must first submit to a process that primarily entails physical and mental abuse. This process is meant to break you down and build you back up as a 'brother' and stronger 'man.' But much like my experience growing up with my older brother and dealing with his abuse, all this process did for me is make me resentful towards those who were imposing it on me.

I thought that pledging a fraternity would make me a part of an organization that was rooted in unity, support, and brotherhood. What I got instead was stress, drama, politics, inherited beef, infighting, power struggles, jealously, hatred, and ultimately, betrayal. Shortly after 'coming out' (publicly declaring membership), I had a situation with certain members of my line (the group I pledged with) where I felt betrayed because, from my perspective, they publicly disparaged me solely because I wanted to hang out with my girlfriend at the time instead of them. I tried my best not to let it show but this betrayal cut me deeply. It, and what I'd endured during the process of becoming a member, pretty much completely shattered the dream of brotherhood that I thought I would receive in joining a frat. From that moment on, I effectively became a "T-shirt wearer", which is a phrase used to describe members of a greek organization who wore their letters and enjoyed the social parts of being 'greek' but didn't actually believe in, or participate in, the deeper aspects of what the organization stood for.

A passionate "T-Shirt Wearer", lol

The reason why I preferred hanging out with my girlfriend at the time as opposed to my new "brothers" is because I have always preferred the company of women to men and that is, in large part, due to the fact that with women I can be a human but with men, I can only be a "man." I find it exhausting to be stifled in that way as I prefer connections where I can be vulnerable safely and for most of the men that I grew up around, being vulnerable, especially in the company of men, was not acceptable. Instead, to be a "man" meant to be in a constant state of competition, always looking to assert your dominance in some way, shape, or form. To be a "man" was to be willing and able to be violent. To be a "man" was to be horny or angry or menacing but never to be gentle, vulnerable, or loving. I don't want to speak for the experience of all men because I'm sure not all men feel the same way but for me, as a black man growing up in the south, myself as well as most of the men I interacted with were never taught how to or given the space to be loved by other men. Which means that any purported "brotherhood" that existed between these men would not be founded on any sort of intimate connection but rather was rooted in machismo. And I think that is ultimately why I failed to feel brotherly love through any of the ways I pursued it in the past — because I refuse to accept violence as love.

I want to be clear, many of the men I met through Alpha are still my friends today and overall, I had many great experiences from joining this organization, despite not necessarily getting what I wanted out of it. I do not think my experience should speak for the experience of every man who's joined a frat, especially not Alpha Phi Alpha, because there are many men who uphold and reflect the values this organization stands for. A big reason why my experience turned out the way it did is because of who I am, the trauma I experienced in my youth, and what my expectations of brotherhood were. I'm sure many men found the brotherhood they were looking for in their respective organizations. Some might argue that true brothers can withstand and grow stronger through conflict and I think there's a lot of truth to that but I also think in order for that to be the case, the brotherhood has to be based in love and not fear, obligation, or competition.

Brother Love

You're probably well aware at this point that the artist formerly known as "Diddy", currently known as "Brother Love", has recently been exposed as being a woman beater in his past. And I find it quite poignant given the topic of this newsletter because he, like so many others, apparently believe that violence and love can co-exist. Or even worse, that you don't really love someone unless you're violent with them, an idea that is also perpetuated by people who beat their children. I think it speaks to a larger issue within our culture where, because we've never truly learned what it means to love, we project all of these other nasty emotions onto those closest to us and call it "love" to hide from ourselves. It's become apparent to me that this is exactly what Sean Combs was attempting to do when he rebranded himself as "Brother Love". There are demons inside of him that he was too much of a coward to face so instead, he projected their wrath onto others, and hid behind something as pure and holy as love. He issued an apology this morning and I'm not someone who finds any human unredeemable but it's honestly hard for me to believe his apology because, only a few short months ago, he outwardly denied there being any truth to what Cassie accused him of. When we are truly sorry, when we are truly disgusted by our past behavior, it will not take being caught in order for us to apologize and acknowledge the damage we've done. So, I personally do not believe that "Brother Love" is sorry for what he did, nor do I believe he's actually done the work to face himself. And I think this situation, as well as the situations that I've described above, highlights the importance of loving ourselves and understanding what loves means within ourselves so that we can't be manipulated and abused by imitations of it.

The face of a man who knows he's fucked up.

Love, whether it is brotherly, platonic, romantic, or otherwise always entails empathy & intimacy. In order to love, we have to be willing to put ourselves in the place of those we claim to love. Which means that we would want nothing for our beloved that we wouldn't also want for ourselves. With this in mind, it's clear that anyone who is willingly and consciously violent with you does not love you. Period. There are no exceptions. I understand that may be hard to hear and to accept because we so desperately want to believe that our parents, our siblings, our partners, and our friends love us even when they choose to hurt us but that is self-betrayal at it's finest. The first, most precious, and most intimate love one can have is the love for oneself and love for oneself often means standing alone, which can be scary. But there's nothing more scary than being in company with people who say out of their mouths that they love you but are largely unconscious of the fact that their actions tell a different story.

I'm grateful that at this point in my life, my relationship with my older brother and my relationships with the few other men whom I consider to be brothers are not based in violence but rather in genuine appreciation and support. And though it is often still a challenge to get the vulnerability and intimacy I crave from the men in my life, I know that finding those things within myself has made it a lot easier for those who are truly interested in having a loving relationship with me to meet me in the same space.

Growth Challenge

Objective: The purpose of this challenge is to help you delve into your past and present relationships with your siblings or your experiences as an only child, and to explore how these dynamics have shaped your views on love, support, and relationships.

Take some time this week to reflect on how your relationships with siblings, or lack thereof as a child, have contributed to who you are today, both positively and negatively.

Here are some questions to help get you started.

  1. Early Influences: How did your earliest memories with or without siblings shape your expectations for relationships and social interactions?
  2. Communication Styles: What communication habits did you develop from interacting with your siblings, or how did being an only child influence your way of communicating with others?
  3. Conflict Resolution: Reflect on a significant conflict you had with a sibling. What did it teach you about handling disagreements? If you were an only child, consider a conflict with a close friend or cousin.
  4. Support Systems: How did the presence or absence of siblings influence the development of your support systems outside the family?
  5. Role Models: If you had siblings, what traits did you admire in them, and how have you tried to emulate these traits in your life? If you were an only child, who filled the role of a sibling for you, and what impact did they have?
  6. Personal Growth: In what ways have your sibling relationships, or experiences as an only child, pushed you to grow or change?
  7. Emotional Understanding: How has your relationship with your siblings or your experience as an only child affected your emotional intelligence and empathy towards others?
  8. Perceptions of Love and Support: How have these family dynamics influenced your understanding and expectations of love and support in relationships?
  9. Current Relationships: How do your childhood experiences with siblings or being an only child affect your current relationships with family, friends, and partners?
  10. Moving Forward: What is one change you would like to make in your current relationships based on your reflections about your past experiences with or without siblings?

What's Going On With 2024?

I don't know what's going on with the year of our Lord 2024, and I don't know how Katt Williams knew what he knew, but it seems to me that something is shifting on a Universal level and that antiquated, low-vibrational ways of being in the world are being exposed and dismantled. I think what's happening with Drake, Diddy, and whoever it will be next week is a reflection of a shift in the collective consciousness that no longer finds value in the idea of "celebrity" and that has grown tired of exalting people, only for them to arrogantly tout themselves as better than the very people who put them in the position they're in.

Sometimes our karma is to get everything that we could ever desire just so we can lose it. I think it's important to understand that there is a spiritual reality underlying what appears in the physical. Every tangible thing we desire, we desire in order to produce an intangible feeling. Though it may appear that some people are wealthy because they have access to any material the world can offer, they can also simultaneously be poor in Spirit. And to be poor in Spirit is a much greater poverty than to be poor financially.

I feel like everything is working out the way that it needs to for the greater good and that the best thing that we can do is to continue to work on ourselves, reflect, and evolve so that we can stay ahead of the curve and not feel so unstable as the ground of the old world begins to fall apart.

As always, thank you so much for being here with me, listening to my stories, and hopefully learning more about yourself through my experiences. I am very grateful for you.

With love,

Micheal Sinclair 💜