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Sunday, November 22, 2015

BLACK WOMEN NOW AND THEN



The thing that seems to be different about black women now as opposed to the black women in the late 1800s-1920 and early civil rights women is that

A) black women don't know BLACK WOMEN'S HISTORY (of course there was less of Black American Female History to know back then. But Black women of the late 19th century and early 20th century were creating black women's history at the speed of light during every one of those years)


B) black women have bought into the scapegoating from both the white community and the black male community alike.


Until "When and Where I Enter", I had not realized that male sociologists and psychiatrists, white and black  alike, wrote books, articles, and speeches that actively created the stereotypes of black women that are still boomeranging around inside the black community to this day.

- Mammy, 

- Sapphire (b*tch),
- Matriarch (Sapphire & Mammy Combo) 
- Jezebel (hoe)



Those closest to looking like the single black mother stereotype, which can be seen as Mammy, Jezebel, and eventually Matriarch, all rolled up into one are the ones taking the biggest beating right now, the ones getting the most blame for the failure of the black community.




These black, female stereotypes were first created by whites to take the heat off racism as a reason for black poverty etc, in the 1960s.

The Moynihan Report of 1965(?), places blame for the 'failures of black culture' squarely on black women. Prior to the actual publication of the report, a number of black practitioners of respectability politics --a quasi-popular position throughout in Black American History-- welcomed the opportunity to shift blame off black men onto black women.

When Moynihan report became public there was such a backlash, that those who helped write/critique it didn't dare say so. But the black female stereotypes created and repeated in that report live on.    


Until I read "When And Where I Enter" I did not realize that Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was different from other black civil rights organizations. In this Ella Baker formed group:


1) had a membership that was not exclusively focused on the black middle class. Other groups, NAACP and SCLC tended to look down on rural blacks.


2) was group-centered rather than individual, Messiah-centered (think Martin Luther King and the SCLC, Malcom X and Muslims for a while)


3) had a lot of female led inner groups and black females involved in the top level decision making in the early years.


4) had young black men that eventually saw having young white women in the organization as a symbol of their racial freedom


5) had white women, becoming more feminist, seeing black men as their sexual freedom


6) wound up splintering as macho became a "positive" in male culture across the nation, which increased black male/white female sexual relationships which in turn started creating chaos in the group


7) wound up ousting of white people from the interracial SNCC (which I've known about for years). But this ousting of white people was really the ousting of white women (which I did not know until reading this book).


Ousted from SNCC, white feminists went to a predominantly white civil rights group and were treated worse by white men (used to their entitlements and privilege) when they tried to get back into having the same kind of leadership positions they'd once had at SNCC.

Learning the same history all over again from a female perspective has shed so much light on the place were in now. I've also come to realize how much you will fail to understand if you do not pay attention to how people react to class boundaries that are as real as socially created race/ethnic boundaries.


Black men and black women can be different AND still be dedicated to equality and overcoming sexism, just like black men and black women are dedicated to anti-racism while not being dedicated to sameness in regards to the dominant white culture.

I know this can be done because in the history books I've been reading I think I've seen that black men and black women have done it before -- right after they came out of slavery.


I hope slavery wasn't an extreme version of the enemy of my enemy is my friend kind of situation. An common enemy creates firm allies, but the alliance is often temporary. It truly looks like every year after slavery shows black men valuing how white males perform gender.  Black men and women worked side by side in the fields and did what had to be done just out of slavery, the children being put first in a way they couldn't be during slavery. But women still worked and their worked was valued...and they expected their opinions and decision making would remained valued no matter how much they worked outside of the home.

But black male and female relationships started changing as the black middle class increased, white patriarchal values moving more and more into the black community.

It's not like there wasn't plenty of patriarchy and misogyny in Africa to bring to the United States, but it seems like slavery had crushed patriarchy and misogyny to dust for a while. Black men and women had to pull together without holding onto artificial gender roles, including the one that says that man and his education, his voting rights, and his ability to provide are more important than a woman's.

It seems like patriarchy and misogyny had to be re-learned post slavery.

All of this reminds me of the old military saying: "Ain't no racists in a foxhole." That is, when the shells are falling all around you, all you care about is survival. Slavery can be seen as constant shelling, as 24/7 shelling, that kept black women and black men from thinking about anything except surviving together.

Post slavery, patriarchy and misogyny crept back in quickly. So, maybe there ain't any sexist misogynists in a foxhole either?


I truly hope *the enemy of my enemy is my friend* wasn't the source of black men having black women's backs back in the day. 

 - But listening to all 
the "bitches" and "hoes" 
in various raps
have made me wonder.





-- But seeing the avid defense 
of Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby, 
Ray Rice, Chris Brown 
because the women that oppose them
are "bitches and hoes" anyway, I'm still wondering.




I'm both disgusted and still wondering


However, I must admit that I'm a lot more worried about black women getting back to having one another's backs as strongly as they seem to have black men's backs.
Taraji P Henson happy for Regina King at the Oscars


A lot has been made of black women showing up in large numbers whenever a black man is shot down. And this is absolutely true. In some press photos I can barely see the black men protesting for the large numbers of black mothers, wives, sisters, and auntie's protesting whenever the Michael Brown's and Freddie Grays are mowed down.
"
Protester turn out is not the same when a black woman is killed.
There had to be an adjunct movement created #SayHerName to get #BlackLivesMatters activists and supporters to focus on the deaths of black women.

Prior to 2014, I wouldn't hear about a black woman's death at hands of police until months had passed. Months. Prior to 2014, I might not find out a black woman had died at the hands of police for years.


Freddie Gray was in the center of our collective black focus before he was even dead. Rekia Boyd's killer was in the news at the same time but this cops escape from justice did not get the machine gun, repetitive sharing on social media Gray's death got.  News of Boyd's murderer being set free by a judge instead of a jury was met with "Who? Who's Rekia Boyd?"

  

Much has been made of black men not showing up for Rekia Boyd Protests, myself included.  But you know what? Black women didn't show up either.

Only a handful of black people showed up for Boyd's protest and most of what was missing was black women. It's not like 50% of a Freddie-Gray-sized crowd showed up, only a handful of people showed up. It's not like Rekia Boyd was shot in Iowa either.  Boyd was shot in freaking Chicago, one of the blackest towns in the damn nation.

Black women did not show up for Rekia Boyd either.


Black feminists and womanists showed up though. Black feminists and womanists show up for black women even when black men are not interested.  Harriett Tubmans, Sojourner Truths, Ida B Wells-s, Anna Julia Coopers, Diane Nashs, Alicia Garzas, Opal Tometis, Patrisse Cullors-s, and even Shonda Rhimes-s have always showed up for black women even if black men show no interest.


Again, it's not just black men that do not value black women at this point in time. It is the black community, including black women, that do not value black women the way it should.


I don't know how we are to draw ourselves back from the edge that some of us are so proud to be dancing on. Some of us as silly enough to be proud that we're "not acting white" by refusing to call ourselves "feminists."

MARA BROCK AKIL feminist and producer of
"BEING MARY JANE" "GIRLFRIENDS"
has black women, working behind and in front of the camera
REGINA KING, for example, is often a director


White women were not the first to execute or attempt to retrieve equality without sameness in their communities.

Black women were.





White women feminists have often emulated black women feminists without giving credit where credit is due--- same as other aspects of white culture stolen from elsewhere.


But even if you are mistaking feminism for "white culture" focusing on white feminists as a power that is destroying black culture is just a way for cowards to avoid the real conversation, frankly.


SHONDA RHIMES feminist and producer of
"GREYS ANATOMY" "SCANDAL"
; "HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
has black women, working behind and in front of the camera
and black music/musicians getting paid royalties


I keep trying to figure out how it is some black people think feminism (a way to combat the problems of sexism/patriarchy between women and men) is about black women and white women getting along MORE THAN it's about black women and black men getting along.







I mean, why would I, as a black woman, have higher expectations of white women than black men on the fighting sexism front? Why? This is much like finding your husband in bed with another woman and kicking her @$$ instead of the one that stood up with you in church and said "I do."


White women aren't the central problem for black feminists or womanists.  Men aren't even the central problem for womanists and black feminists. Black women failing to value themselves as individuals and as a group is the biggest problem we as black women have. 



Here And Now, October 2015: 


There are black men and black women who are throwing a black girl child beaten by a white police officer in a classroom in South Carolina under the bus just because she acted like a dumb kid like dumb kids are supposed to. There are black people jumping up to defend this white officer, to save this white cop's job.

I swear, I oughta promise to send each and every one of you 1 million dollars if you ever see a black teenage boy get thrown around like that then see even a few people in black skin start jumping up and down to save the white officer's job.


But I digress.

I'm thinking maybe the sexism solution is going to be as galling as the racism solution.

(Racism Solution: I don't think anti-black racism in this country is going to move much if white people don't move. They're the ones with the disease. If we don't create white allies who can teach the white numb from the neck up (forget the card carrying white racists) we're done.  We're only 13% of the population.

Things stay the same or get worse in this country unless white folk change OR until people of color start learning one another's stories making our outnumbering white people by 2050-ish actually mean something.)

Kerry Washington, Actress
"SCANDAL"



With our love partners, with our sex partners, with our partners in the struggle, black men, the sexism/misogyny solution may be even tougher than the racism solution.

We're more engaged with black men, as we should be. Pulling back to say, "Hey, clean your lane. I'll be right over here when you get done," is going to be a hell of a lot tougher to say to black men than it is to white folk. First of all, there are a hell of a lot fewer black, male feminists to lead black men than there are anti-racist whites willing to teach white folk from where I sit.

Yet, somehow we must get that done. Without pulling out of black men's lane? Standing inside black men's lane silently while they go about the labor of cleaning up the sexism and unacknowledged misgynoir?

But first things first. The percentage of black women who come together to say most of us aren't like up to 50% of white women and proud of it. The percentage of black women who say "we don't tolerate being treated like property no matter how pretty the pedestal is" has to increase.

We have the experience with racists to teach us how to deal with sexists. We, as black women, just have to value ourselves enough to be demanding when respect is low and supportive only when reciprocation is obviously present.



Step Number One: You aren't there for "the new blacks" already. Why not try not being there for the black people supportive of those who rape and kill black women they've successfully labeled as "bitches and hoes."




STEP Number Two: Learn Your Black Female History. You will start to see that that entire black community is repeating a pattern, that we as black women are putting up with things that were beaten back before by the black women, most of them what we now call "feminists" and "womanists" that came before us.