Black women in America marry less than others – and the numbers are even lower for darker skinned black women. Is colorism – favoring lighter skin – to blame? Dream McClinton puts herself on the line to report
OUR COMMON GROUND
Saturday, October 10, 2015
In Conversation with Dr. Tommy J. Curry
“A Quiet Danger Brothers Invisible: Classroom to Home”
“In short, although masculinity may be a part of being a man, it is not the foundation on which manhood rests.”
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about Dr. Tommy J. Curry
Dr. Curry is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. He is a Ray A. Rothrock Fellow 13′-16′ in the Department of Philosophy. He is an editor of PhilPapers, Choice Magazine and a regular contributor to RacismReview.com and OUR COMMON GROUND.
Over the last several years, Dr. Curry has published over three dozen articles in prestigious venues like: The Journal of Black Studies, The Radical Philosophy Review, The Pluralist and The Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society. He is the editor of a forthcoming re-publication of William H. Ferris’s The African Abroad, and is currently working on several manuscripts: the first full-length publication on Derrick Bell’s political philosophy that birthed the Critical Race Theory movement entitled Illuminated in Black; a philosophical exploration of Black male death and dying entitled “The Man-Not;” and a book on Josiah Royce’s racism.
His work in social justice, applied ethics, and bioethics concerns the present interpretation of the Belmont report, and the racial/class barriers to minority access to medical innovation in health care.
“So we have hypothesized since 1978, that Black manhood is different than the concept of masculinity, in 1992, several studies decided to test this notion. Guess what they found:
Historically, the images of Black manhood have been unidimensional, and research has tended to focus on the inadequacies of Afro-American males’ role performance. In this preliminary analysis, we explored the cultural constructions of manhood as defined by Afro-American men at various social locations (age, occupation, income, and marital and family status). Manhood was defined in terms of the self (self-determinism and accountability, pride), family (family), the human community, and existential ideology (spirituality and humanism). It is our view that issues of self-determinism and accountability (i.e., directedness, maturity, economic viability, free will, and perseverance) are at the core of the self and of manhood and form the foundation on which family role enactment, pride, and living through one’s existential philosophy (e.g., spiritual, Afrocentric, and humanistic) are based. Interestingly, discussions of masculinity were absent from men’s definitions of manhood. Perhaps this reflects an awareness of the differences between the physical sexual man and the social man that Hare and Hare (1985) suggest is critical in Black boys’ transition into manhood. When respondents were asked to rate attributes related to masculinity (e.g., physically strong, competitive,masculine, and aggressive), they saw it as somewhat important. In short, although masculinity may be a part of being a man, it is not the foundation on which manhood rests.” Andrea Hunter and James E. Davis-1992
On this broadcast, we begin with the recently released report by the Schotts Foundation for Public Education, “Black Lives Matter”
We recommend that you either review or read it prior to the broadcast.http://blackboysreport.org/
“It seems that America has tolerated and grown accustomed to the under-education of African American males largely because it has written this off as a “black problem.” Rather than being embraced as an American problem and challenge, our leaders in politics, business and education, have implored the Black community to do something, while washing their hands of responsibility for the failure of the public institutions that should serve them. . . .
The consequences have also been evident in the high rates of unemployment in economically depressed, socially marginalized neighborhoods, cities and towns where desperation festers and crime and violence are rampant.
The consequences have also been felt by families and communities where fatherless children fall prey to a vicious cycle of failure in part because they lack access to fathers because they are incarcerated, or don’t have the skills to obtain a job to support their family.” – Pedro A. Noguera, Professor of Education
Executive Director, Metropolitan Center
New York University – See more at: http://blackboysreport.org/national-summary/afterword-by-pedro-a-noguera/#sthash.GKiVJMsm.dpuf
You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. SHARE please
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Saturday, September 10, 2015 10 pm ET
BROADCASTING BOLD BRAVE & BLACK
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“Speaking Truth to Power and OURselves”
Karen A. Johnson,
Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies & Education at the University of Utah
Prior to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1890s by foreign businessmen who were “unofficially supported by the United States military,” Catholic Presbyterian, Mormon, and other Protestant missionaries were “especially prominent in their religious zeal to convert and save the souls,” of the indigenous Hawaiians (Au 78; Jackson xix). During the early 1820s, a number of young female Christians took up the torch and embarked on missionary work overseas. Indeed, their desire to do the Lord’s work in remote regions of the world has its roots in the gospel of Matthew: 12 v. 50, which states: “For whosoever shall do the will of my father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Zwiep 40). During this time, it was not uncommon for 19th century Black women missionaries and evangelists to travel in the U.S. and its territories to do ministry work. As Marcia Riggs explains, 19th century Black women evangelists and missionaries were “like biblical prophets … who brought faith out of the … sanctuary to the marketplace of human affairs where history was in process” (Riggs xii).
Betsey Stockton, a former enslaved person in the U.S., was one of the earliest Black women missionaries to travel to the Sandwich Islands (later Hawaiian Islands) in the early 1820s. No doubt Stockton felt a special calling to be part of history as God’s prophetic witness in an era when women Black women were still enslaved, considered second-class citizens due to their race and gender status; and generally denied the opportunity to become Protestant ministers (Johnson 7; Collier-Thomas).
Betsey was born in 1798 in Princeton, New Jersey into the slaveholding family of Robert Stockton. Robert later gave Betsey to his daughter, Elizabeth and son-in-law, Reverend Ashbel Green. Green, who was president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton College), taught Betsey reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and theology. He gave her “books and encouraged her to use the family library” (Johnson 7; Takara 14). In 1815, Green gave Betsey her manumission papers and the next year, she was accepted into the First Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey.
Betsey became a devout Christian and was very much immersed in the Presbyterian doctrines. In 1820, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missionaries granted her permission to travel with the second mission to the Sandwich Islands. Two years later, Betsey sailed to Honolulu, Hawaii with the Reverend Charles Stewart and his wife “on the Thames from New Haven, Connecticut” (Takara 14). Three days into her voyage, Betsey wrote the following in her diary on November 23, 1822:
“Saturday morning at daybreak shipped a sea. The water rushed into the cabin. I saw it with very little fear and felt inclined to say, ‘The Lord reigneth [sic], let us all rejoice.” … At 10 o’clock, I went on deck. The scene that presented itself was to me the most sublime I’d ever witnessed” (“Betsey Stockton’s Journal”).
Stockton arrived in Honolulu on April 27, 1823 and a month later, she traveled to Lahaina, Maui. In the 1825 issue of the Hawaiian Missionary Herald, it reports that “a colored woman connected with Mr. Stewart’s family … makes herself highly useful to the mission” in Maui (qtd in Nordyke, 243). From 1823 to 1825, Betsey cared for sick infants, secured clothes for the needy, and established a school on Maui for Native Hawaiian children. It should also be noted that while engaging in missionary work on the islands, Stockton continued to work as a domestic servant for the Stewarts.
While Stockton lived in Hawaii during the early 19th century, she was accorded the respect and trust of the local Hawaiians and fellow missionaries and her “advice and opinions were sought after in many matters” (Takara 15). After residing in Hawaii for over two years, Betsey Stockton relocated to Cooperstown, New York, with the Stewarts. In subsequent years, she taught indigenous Canadian Indian students on Grape Island and “led a movement to form the First Presbyterian Church of Colour in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1848” (“Betsey Stockton’s Journal”; Ravage 158). In addition, between the period of 1848 to 1865, Stockton moved to Philadelphia to teach Black children.
Betsey Stockton made pioneering endeavors as a missionary in Hawaii, but her legacy is not well known. Still, Stockton’s school “set a new direction for education in the Islands … [It] served as a model for the Hilo Boarding School,” and may have influence Samuel C. Armstrong, the founder of Hampton Institute, who also worked as a missionary in Hawaii during this period. After a full and productive life of service for the Lord, Betsey Stockton passed away in October of 1865 in Princeton, New Jersey (Takara 15).
Au, Wayne. “The Price of Paradise.” Rethinking our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice II. Ed. Bill Bigelow. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools LTD. Vol. 12 Issue 4 (Summer 1998).
“Betsey Stockton’s Journal, November 20, 1822 to July 4, 1823.” African American Religion: AHistorical Interpretation with Representative Documents. Ed. David W. Wills and Albert J. Raboteau. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (2006). Web. January 5, 2014.
Collier-Thomas, Bettye. Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and their Sermons, 1850-1970. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1998.
Jackson, Miles M. “Introduction.” They Followed the Trade Winds: African Americans in Hawaii.Ed. Miles M. Jackson. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press (2004).
Johnson, Karen A. “Undaunted Courage and Faith: The Lives of Three Black Women in the West and Hawaii in the Early 19th Century.” The Journal of African American History. Vol. 91, No. 1, (Winter 2006): 4-22.
Nordyke, Eleanor C. “Blacks in Hawaii: A Demographic and Historical Perspective.” The Hawaiian Journal of History. Vol. 22 (1998).
Ravage, John W. Black Pioneers: Images of the Black Experience on the North American Frontier.Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press.
Riggs, Marcia. Can I Get A Witness?: Prophetic Religious Voices of African American Women: An Anthology. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (1997).
Takara, Kathryn W. “The African Diaspora in Nineteenth Century Hawaii.” They Followed the Trade Winds. Ed. Miles M. Jackson. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press (2004).
Zwiep, Mary. “Sending the Children Home: A Dilemma for Early Missionaries.” The Hawaiian Journal of History. Vol. 24 (1990).
From: POLITE ON SOCIETY
Editors Note: This guest post is part of the Blog Carnival of Blogging While Brown for Black History Month 2014. -M.P.
The 5 Things Black Women Must Do in 2014 to Live Happier, Healthier, Healed Lives
As someone who has traveled the country for the last two years, talking and engaging almost exclusively with black women in corporate America, in universities, in our sororities, in industry, in our organizations, in the media and in our churches — I think it is time that we, as black women, faced some challenging truths about ourselves. What I’m about to say will be hard. And it may offend some of you. But that is okay, because the truth always hurts us before it heals us. Years before I wrote my award-winning book Black Woman Redefined, I founded an organization: I Am My Sister’s Keeper.
This organization, was dedicated to helping college-educated professional black women to better navigate their careers, their health and wellness, their spirit, their finances and their relationships. The organization took off and grew much greater than I ever expected, and was nationally recognized by media outlets like CNN and The Washington Post as the go-to organization for Black women’s personal development and wellness for over six years. The organization was the catalyst for the book Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.
One of the things that I have discovered about living life as a black woman in America, and by talking to and engaging with literally tens of thousands of black women throughout the United States, is that we have some very negative self-destructive patterns that we need to own, face and be courageous enough to fix if we want to have happy, healthy and healed lives. It is my goal in this column to challenge us as a sisterhood of women to take the necessary steps, to heal ourselves, both individually and collectively. Before we get into the steps that I believe are necessary for us to truly get to the places that we desire in our lives as black women, I ask you to keep an open mind, try not to get defensive, and share the steps in your sororities, clubs, and workplaces so that other black women can benefit. Sometimes it is as simple as people NOT knowing better so that they can do better.
The steps that I have outlined below, are based on qualitative and quantitative research, focus groups, coaching and speaking at large women’s conferences, HBCUs and interactive workshops I have conducted throughout the country over the past several years:
1. We must deal with our unresolved pain, wounds and baggage that often result in angry eruptions, broken relationships, failed relationships and unrealized dreams. This is a huge stumbling block for us in our interpersonal relationships. We carry lots of stuff, and lots of people on our backs and in our spirits. It results in us being weary, tired and frustrated.
2. We must stop doing emotional violence and damage to other black women. Other black women are not the enemy. Other black women are struggling and fighting the same battles that we fight every day, no matter their station in life, no matter what you think they may possess in terms of wealth, status or lifestyle. We have to stop “hating” on other sisters. It is just wreaking havoc on our emotional wellness and sisterhood. “We are all we have,” as First Lady Michelle Obama once said. Let’s start acting like it!
3. We must love ourselves enough to take care of our physical bodies and learn to eat healthier, sleep better, exercise more, tend to our feet (for diabetics) and wean ourselves off of generations of destructive emotional eating (comfort foods) that has literally millions of black women in America stuck in a pattern of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression and heart disease.
4. We must learn to teach people how to treat us with value, respect, love, honor, dignity and peace by showing them that we live by a WOMAN CODE that honors the very same values in our own lives and in how we treat other people.
5. We must commit to engaging in healthy, functional, committed and loving relationships with the men in our lives. Where those relationships are unhealthy, abusive or destructive to our soul’s landscape; we must be willing to put an end to those relationships immediately. We have got to stop making excuses for other people’s abusive treatment of us and toward us. It is NOT acceptable, sisters. We have got to put an end to the pain we feel because our fathers left us or were absent. Or the pain that we feel because the men we love betrayed us, cheated on us, raped or beat us. We have to believe that there are still good, loving, healthy and functional men regardless of their race, who will see our value, our worth, our beauty and our possibilities. And when they find us, we must commit not to run away, push them away or punish them for what our fathers, brothers or uncles did to us.
The truth is, there is no magic checklist for getting any of us the life that we desire. But there are critical life steps that we can take starting right now, and right here to helping us as black women to heal. And sisters, we need to heal.
Far too many of us are walking around with a smile on our face, with beautiful clothing, with our hair perfectly coiffed and with expensive handbags and shoes to make us feel valuable. When deeply inside, we are simmering pots waiting to erupt. We look so good on the outside. But some of us are badly broken on the inside. And we are killing other black women with our venom.
And for those who have been courageous enough to do the work on themselves, it is time for us to be our sister’s keeper. I am not asking you to burden your life with another woman’s pain, I am not asking you to save another woman’s life, what I am asking you to do, is to be kind to other black women. Reach out. Care. Show some empathy. Be a mentor. Be a friend. When other black women try to help you do not treat them as the enemy. When they are there for you say thank you. When they have stuck with you in the trenches and storms of life honor them. When they have your back, don’t stab them in theirs. When they bless you with their gifts for free, support your causes, organizations, and the like or help you and your family in desperate times of need, don’t later discard them because you believe that you no longer need them. It is just immoral. It violates the WOMAN CODE.
Sisters, this will be the last column that I will ever write on the issue of us as black women. I’ve grown tired and weary. I love us, but the world is bigger, more global, and sisterhood is about all women coming together to lift, heal, inspire and change the world. We need to do the work on us so that we can fully participate in that global sisterhood and all the benefits of it.
I have, like many others before me, devoted the last decade of my life to helping the rest of the world try to see us as the beautiful, fabulous, fierce, loyal, kind, nurturing, intelligent, committed and loving women that we are. But in the last year, in particular, I’ve experienced first hand, and heard far too many stories from good black women, from all walks of life, about other black women who have cursed them, cut them off, betrayed them, manipulated them, stolen from them, slept with their men, slandered them, ruined them, fired them and literally broken their hearts with treachery for the smallest of offenses, or for no offense at all.
We love to do what I call “The Go Off.” It is what we do when anyone dares challenge us, correct us, upsets us, or in some cases, tries to love us. Sisters, you have no right despite whatever kind of pain you may be in, to heap abuse on another black woman. The most disturbing part of this “go off” mentality, is that we feel entitled to do it most of all against one another. We don’t do it to the men in our lives who mistreat us and abuse us. We would never do it to the “other” people in our lives or at our workplaces. But we will do it to the sister in church, the sister who has taken us into her home, the sister who has been with us through hell, the sister who has lent us money, the sister who bathed us when we were too sick to bathe ourselves, or cared for us when we were sick. Sisters, it’s time to heal (see my 2012/2013 series for essence.com: “Sisters Heal,” it will bless you).
In the final analysis, each of us must determine her own journey for herself. Each of us must do the work that is required, for us to rise above the pain that was unfairly inflicted upon us as children, as young girls and women, and now as grown middle-aged or aging women. It is never too late to fix yourself, if you are willing to do the work. It is never too late to apologize, to make amends for the wrongs that we do and to forgive those who have wronged us. Sisters, it’s time for us to stop pointing the finger at everyone else and take a long hard look in the mirror at the woman was looking back. If your life is not what you imagined it would be, or if you are unhappy. The change has to start within. You can never skip doing the work. It will destroy your destiny.
If you want 2014 to be different than 2013, then the work has to start now. Your life will only become what you want it to be, when you find the courage to love yourself. And when you learn to love yourself, I promise you that you will learn to love, respect and honor other black women.
Award Winning Author; Corporate/Personal Development Coach, Cultural & Political Columnist for The Daily Beast, NBC’s theGRIO, Essence Magazine, & USATODA
REAL COLORED GIRLS
DEC 22 2013
Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Barbara Christian, June Jordan, Michele Wallace, Harriet Tubman, Patricia Hill Collins, Sojourner Truth, M. Jacqui Alexander, Zora Neale Hurston, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, et. al.
irst things first: we are not talking to Jamilah-come-lately. If you ain’t been boycottin’ R. Kelly since Aaliyah was 14, if you even needed to see the piss tapes to persuade you further, if Kevin Powell’s BK Nation petition was your entry into this conversation, you ain’t got the answers.
Second: if you’re trying to engage in an analysis of Black women’s sexuality, without acknowledging the role of pimp culture in your framing, you ain’t been doin’ the education.
‘Pimp culture’ is the umbrella under which we map the interlocking systems of oppression that create the material conditions under which Black women experience bodily and psychic harm. Vestiges of the gator-wearing, fur cape-lined pimp show up in our private and public spaces and we feel the brunt of his solid gold cane in our experiences of mass culture apparatuses. Pimp culture employs white supremacy, misogyny, racism, homophobia and the dogma of rugged individualism to physically and psychically undermine our sense of self, diminishing our capacity for self-determination.
Pimp culture is in line with other terms used in anti-violence discourse – sexual violence, culture of violence, rape culture. Yet, in the Black feminist tradition, we use the term to center the unique experiences of Black women and signal the specific forms of knowledge that we bring in understanding the depths of physical violence and psychic trauma on individual and societal levels.
Collectively, these forces show up as, for example, the vicious maligning of nine-year old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis who was “jokingly” called a cunt by a major news media outlet. The sexualized verbal battery of a Black girl child, on the public stage, in her moment of glory, was an act of psychic aggression meant to humiliate Black girls and women, while underscoring that in pimp culture we are primed to be sexually exploited even in our most innocent moments. The language used was an attempt by pimp culture to turn a Black girl child out as a sexual spectacle, reminding those of us who are grown that we don’t own the mechanisms of our representation, nor do we have the allegiance of anyone in power who will ride for us.
Many of the comments on our first blog, “The Problem with BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism,” along with dialogues in the Twitterverse, support the idea that we should celebrate the presentation of sexual pleasure by Black women, especially when it’s done inside of marriage. In an effort to subvert the politics of respectability, some Black feminist hash-taggers have relied on strategic amnesia that discounts the reality of the material conditions of our sexual lives. To wit:
Black women comprise the highest group of new HIV infections, a rate 20 times as high as white women and 5 times that of Latinas;
Black women die in pregnancy or childbirth at a rate 3-4 times that of white women due to lack of adequate sexual health services.
Whenever we consider Black women on stage, we also consider the auction block. When we think of public displays of Black female sexuality, Saartje Baartman isn’t far from our minds. When Black women voluntarily show “the actual inside[s] of [our] vagina” to an audience of strangers and peeping Toms, the torture of Anarcha Wescott takes center stage. Sexual violence is not a joke. We breathe these histories alongside our freedoms, which interrupt any fantasies of an ahistoric sexuality and make us suspicious and critical like a mutha.
Real Colored Girls are serving notice: game recognize game, and we are not here for corporate entities to consume our bodies, shit them out, repackage and sell them back to us as avatars for the music industrial complex. RCG are committed to defining healthy, loving, kinky, freaky, juicy, queer, bi and hetero sexualities for Black women. We are most concerned with publicly taking care of Black women’s sexuality by addressing historical and present trauma and arguing for the creation of a cultural environment in which it is safe for us to express ourselves sensually and sexually.
A cadre of Black feminists and Black women sympathizers (those who don’t proclaim to be feminist but ride for Black women) are calling for a “pleasure principle” that creates space in pop culture for Black women to express empowered sexualities. Any set of propositions that seeks to determine the fundamental basis for our sexual expression must consider the structural conditions under which said propositions are engineered. Pop cultural texts are produced inside of this context, and failing to acknowledge that in your analysis limits the work of dismantling the structures of pimp culture. Twerk it out.
Real Colored Girls encourages the communities of folk engaged in recent discussions about this work to move beyond Bey and consider what this moment has triggered around the presentation of Black female sexualities. Beyonce seems to have mastered the impossible, given the realities for most Black women in the U.S. – taking charge of her cultural production. Close reads of her recent and past work from writers Emily J. Lordi and Daphne Brooks invite us to consider the complex challenges for Black women artists. Even though Beyoncé is suspiciously sexy and joyfully raunchy, it would take a contortionist to situate her performances as a safe & empowered representation of Black women’s sexualities. Beyonce is a product of the hip hop generation – she woke up like that. In contracting with pop culture to distribute feminism, have we diluted the struggle of our Black feminist foremothers? For RCG, this is about the political economy of culture – how global corporate structures are not the context for transformative revolutionary action, and we shouldn’t look to them for our politics.
Our dream is for a revolution for Black women and our sexualities. As Mother bell exhorts, living out this dream requires us to do,
…the critical project of openly interrogating and exploring representations of black female sexuality as they appear everywhere, especially in popular culture.
Real Colored Girls are willing to ride for our radical politic, while acknowledging our privileges as artists and academics. We promote an oppositional consciousness that imagines radical spaces for sexual expression – physical, virtual and spiritual – which is risky and not without sacrifice. We call upon the lives and recorded texts of womanists and Black feminists as scripture and theory in the flesh.
Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Barbara Christian, June Jordan, Michele Wallace, Harriet Tubman, Patricia Hill Collins, Sojourner Truth, M. Jacqui Alexander, Zora Neale Hurston, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, et. al.
bell hooks cautions that Black women,
…haven’t as a group really carved out different ways to live our lives.
This is an amazing opportunity to do this work. In the spirit of loving Black women, we invite interventions that construct a post-capitalist imagination in which to dream ourselves whole.
THE PROBLEM WITH BEYHIVE BOTTOM BITCH FEMINISM
In Pimp Theory, a “bottom bitch” is the one in the whores’ hierarchy who rides hardest for her man. She’s the rock of every hustler economy and her primary occupation is keeping other ho’s in check and gettin’ that money. She isn’t trying to elevate the status of her sister ho’s. She isn’t looking to transform pimp culture. The bottom bitch is a token who is allowed symbolic power, which she uses to discipline, advocate for, represent and advance the domain of the stable. In pop culture, she represents the trope of the chosen black female, loyal to her man and complicit in her own commodification.
In hip hop vernacular she has emerged as the “Boss Bitch” or “Bawse”, titles you’ll hear used liberally across urban/pop discourses – from the streets to rappers to the hip hop, basketball and ATL housewives. What she represents is an appearance of power within a structure of male dominance, but in reality this “power” is merely vicarious and not a positional power in and of itself.
Admittedly, bottom bitch is an unfortunate metaphor to use for framing conversations about Beyonce, but when you’re married to “Big Pimp’n” and his cameo on your new self-titled album, coined a “feminist masterpiece,” is all about how he gon’
Catch a charge, I might, beat the box up like Mike…
I’m like Ike Turner
Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake Annie Mae
Said, eat the cake, Annie Mae
you leave us no choice. When elements of the feminist community rise up to applaud your simplistic, pro-capitalist, structurally violent sampling of feminism, the metaphor becomes even more relevant. Moreover, we’re concerned that the capitalist ethics of mainstream hip hop has seduced feminist allies into flirting with bottom bitch feminism in their silencing of those who would critique Bey and the systemic violence she represents.
To this we ask: Is a feminism sponsored by the corporate music industrial complex as big as we can dream? Is the end game a feminism in which the glass ceiling for black women’s representation only reaches as high as our booties? Can’t we just love Bey as an amazing corporate artist without selling out the hard won accomplishments of our black feminist and womanist foremothers? Can we not love her for the gorgeous and fierce mega pop star she is without appropriating her for some liberal, power feminist agenda?
These questions asked, we do understand the terror and mistrust some black women may feel when confronted with representations that reflect us to ourselves as brilliantly beautiful. We also get the impulse that these same women may have to criticize and destroy such images. But this is not that. Our critique of Bey as a feminist doesn’t come from a place of fear. Indeed it may even be more a critique of the black feminist blogosphere. Our real fear is of a bourgeoning cadre of institutional gatekeepers of “appropriate” black feminist politics going in hard with their facile analyses, shaming and silencing black women with alternative reads of B.
Real Colored Girls are not here to promote or co-sign the idea that to critique Bey’s “Flawless Feminism” is to hate black women. We reject the idea that love for the folks equals blind loyalty. Our deep and abiding love and respect for the ancestors will never permit an image of feminism wrapped in the gold chains of hip hop machismo. We ain’t throwin’ no (blood) diamonds in the air for ‘da roc, no matter how many feminists you sample over a dope beat. We’re smarter than that. We’re worth more than that.
Insisting on a rank and file consent and approval to these ‘terms of engagement’ is a form of bullying and in the spirit of Audre Lorde we remind you that silencing dissent will not protect you. We feel strongly that it is our duty and imperative to engage multiple perspectives in the marketplace of ideas, supporting open discourse, lest we find ourselves guilty of policing one another into a dishonest respectability.
Our work is not done. Beyhive Bottom Bitch Feminism does not replace nor is it even in the realm of the critical work of black women writers and artists across the discursive spectrum, as some folks have proclaimed across social media. As womanists and black feminists, we have a responsibility to bring it with our cultural work which we will infuse, at all times, with an ethic of care and responsibility. The coontocracy of assimilationist corporate negroes is in full effect, riding for patriarchal capitalist agendas and having us believe that somehow Bey’s success is a step toward some dystopic vision of progress for Black women. There may be empowerment for some folks but by and large it is a false hope steeped in capitalism and individualism, supporting the escapist desires of rampant pornographic consumerism.
This essay does not come from a place of ‘who gon’ check me, boo?’. We would like to invite dialogue, conversation and a multitude of perspectives. We’re thinking that our next conversation will be about how Beyonce has opened the door for further discussion around black female sexuality. We’ve been feelin’ this quote by bell hooks from her essay “Selling Hot Pussy”:
When black women relate to our bodies, our sexuality, in ways that place erotic recognition, desire, pleasure, and fulfillment at the center of our efforts to create radical black female subjectivity, we can make new and different representations of ourselves as sexual subjects. To do so we must be willing to transgress traditional boundaries. We must no longer shy away from the critical project of openly interrogating and exploring representation of black female sexuality as they appear everywhere, especially in popular culture.
What are your thoughts?
REAL COLORED GIRLS Who Are They ?
Black Rage, Gender, and Allyship
Aya de Leon
Black people are angry. Anyone who is going to be our ally in the fight against racism needs to understand that. Not every black person walks around angry, or is aware of their anger. Fury looks and sounds and hangs differently on people of African heritage with differences of class, ethnicity, generation, geography, gender, sexuality, and trauma history. But for many of us, we’re angry, and we have good reason after hundreds of years of slavery, racism, colonization, jim crow, neo-colonialism, exploitation, and degradation. This is not an abstract, academic, intellectual racism; this is about hundreds of years of our ancestors bringing racist violence home. In the US, slave masters beat us with whips and we beat our children with belts. Slave masters raped and incested African women, and sexual abuse became epidemic in black families. Slave masters worked us to death and now we work ourselves to death, and we are furious. For hundreds of years, we have had to swallow the rage or risk getting killed by white people. And we swallowed it, and killed each other and ourselves. Men take the rage out on each other, on women and children, women take the rage out on each other and on children, and children take the rage out on each other, particularly those younger. Shit rolls down hill. We have a hard time loving ourselves and a hard time building loving, lasting relationships with each other.
In order to heal from racism, black people need hardcore healing spaces with a big, safe, container to do rage work, to get it out of our bodies. It’s not about sitting and talking about it in a nice middle class therapist’s office, or going for a jog, it’s about finding a safe place to scream our voices raw, kick and flail, and let that beast out. One black woman who does this work is Ruth King, author of Healing Rage – Women Making Inner Peace Possible.
Men need spaces to work on rage, as well. My partner is an African heritage man who doeshealing work with black men. When I asked him to talk to me about black men’s rage, he said that black men are filled with sorrow. But they are culturally prohibited from expressing sorrow, because such displays of vulnerability make them targets of violence and homophobia. So the society has shown them that rage is their best option for pushing back against racism—the only option other than acquiescence. So many of them take the only option that is offered. He said that men need to work with other men to face these feelings. Men have the breakthroughs when other men let them know it’s okay to be vulnerable and they can actually show and get in touch with the sorrow. Women can be allies to this process, but the key is for men to be emotionally vulnerable with each other, not for women to be vulnerable.
Black rage is a response to racism. White guilt is a response that many white people have to racism, and the two have a dynamic interaction. White guilt doesn’t reflect a principled stance against racism, and a commitment to end it and undo its effects. White guilt is more of a childlike uh-oh, we’re in trouble, where the white person goes around feeling bad and expecting/projecting some sort of anger or punishment from people of African heritage. This can lead to fawning and accommodating behaviors in communities and relationships. Again, this is not about a principled stance against racism, this is about an anxious wish to avoid conflict with an individual person of African heritage. At other times, part of the racist gaze is to project anger onto black people regardless of their emotional reality at any given moment.
If you plan to be an ally to people of African heritage, you need to be able to handle black rage. Big, heaping truckloads of it. And by handle, I mean be able to keep thinking clearly and act decisively in the presence of rage.
This is precisely what did not happen last week at the Brecht Forum in Brooklyn at a panel titled “What Do We Mean When We Say Privilege, Ally & Comrade? Exploring the Difficulty of Difference & Movement Building.” I first read the account of one black woman panelist, Dr. Brittney Cooper, who challenged a black male panelist, Kazembe Balagun about his sexism. He yelled at her, menaced her, and threw a glass of water on her. An entire room full of people sat silent in the face of this gendered violence.
Here’s Cooper, in her own words:
Left to sit there, splashes of water, mingling with the tears that I was embarrassed to let run, because you know sisters don’t cry in public, imploring him to “back up,” to “stop yelling,” to stop using his body to intimidate me, while he continued to approach my chair menacingly, wondering what he was going to do next, anticipating my next move, anticipating his, being transported back to past sites of my own trauma, traumas that have been especially fresh and difficult this Domestic Violence Awareness Month…
I waited for anyone to stand up, to sense that I felt afraid, to stop him, to let him know his actions were unacceptable…
I learned a lesson: everybody wants to have an ally, but no one wants to stand up for anybody.
Eventually three men held him back, restrained him, but not with ease. He left. I breathed. I let those tears that had been threatening fall.
One black man further berated Professor Cooper, and the biggest gesture of solidarity was when the third panelist, a white woman, silently inched her chair closer to Cooper.
By way of compassion, I suspect that the entire crowd was completely triggered and regressed to some childhood state in the face of black male rage unleashed. White allies need to work on whatever childhood baggage they bring to the table. Perhaps it is the terrified memories of their own parents’ rage. Or maybe they are still stifled by the frequent middle/upper class prohibitions against strong feelings that meant their own childhood rage got shut down. While I have compassion for anyone who is triggered, I hope that everyone in that room who can see clearly in hindsight that they should have said/done something decisive to intervene. I hope they can tell that because they were far too scared to act in integrity with their values, they need to go seek some kind of emotional help.
But beyond the emotional shortcomings of the community, I want to challenge some of the underlying thinking that often allows this kind of thing to go unchecked. White people feel guilty, and will refuse to take principled stands against expressions of black rage. It’s one thing for black people to take responsibility for our rage and find an appropriate therapeutic or healing context (could be counseling, could be ritual, could be somatics, could be any number of things). This is a situation where the person or group of people have agreed to be witness and container to the rage you are prepared to express in an attempt to heal yourself, that is rage with consent. It is, however, a completely different proposition for black people to go around leaking and firing their rage at anyone in range, anyone who challenges them, anyone who is vulnerable, or anyone who unwittingly pushes the wrong button. As Audre Lorde said, “use without the consent of the used is abuse.”
Starting with the Black Power Movement, some black men have had a narrative that black liberation is about their freedom to express rage. So-called allies have co-signed this, from former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver writing about going around raping white women as a revolutionary act (he “practiced” on black women first, to get it right) to the Brecht forum allowing a black man with a history of verbal and physical raging to be on a challenging panel about allyship. Our allies need to take a principled stand that rage is understandable, but rage needs to be healed and patterns of venting rage without consent need to be interrupted. There is no noble political principle being served by allowing people to abuse others. This doesn’t mean that all displays of anger need to be shut down. It’s important to allow emotional space outside of white, middle class cultural norms (sometimes people get angry, and that can be a good thing) but it’s different for people to have a pattern of raging as part of how they work in community. Our allies need to be able to tell the difference, offer resources, set limits, and hold lines against abusive behavior.
There is a particular historical dynamic that can happen sometimes with black men’s rage and white women’s guilt. In this particular dynamic, black men express rage about racism and white women feel guilty, and offer themselves (sexual access, emotional caretaking, free labor) to black men in some sort of private reparations campaign. Clearly there is no larger agenda being served about ending racism, but it’s easy for women’s training as caretakers and fear of violence to get ignited in these situations. In reality, I have seen this dynamic happen in relationships between black and white women, and even occasionally between black women and white men, as long as the white person has strong childhood socialization to respond to rage by feeling responsible and offering caretaking.
So while the pattern is primarily one of black men, it is not exclusive to black men. I have seen this same pattern run with powerful black women in white dominated organizations, as well. Confused white leaders have been liberal with abusive patterns, convinced that it was somehow good for white people to be targeted with this rage. Those same white leaders were somehow unconvinced that there was a problem with the raging, when the black women targeted black people, as well.
I have also seen black rage, particularly African American rage (from the people whose ancestors were enslaved in the US South) target other people of color or of African heritage, whom they deemed as somehow not black enough, not really of color, somehow closer to white people, deserving of being targeted with rage, disdain, dismissal, or disregard. This rage has undermined or destroyed many coalitions with other people of color, not to mention destroying untold numbers of black organizations.
It is not allyship if white people think we can’t possibly control ourselves; white racism holds that this is the best we are capable of. There’s a particular way that this liberalism and confusion works with regard to black women and men, that white people/organizations generally can’t manage to be allies to both black women and men. Starting in the 70s, feminist organizations notoriously would ally with black women’s mistreatment at the hands of black men in a way that was a little too gleeful about black men’s monstrosity. Or, like the Brecht forum, would tolerate black men’s rage in ways that left black women targeted and alone.
I have also been part of community organizations that are predominantly white and have trouble hanging on to black men. Instead of addressing systemic racism in the organization, they use a strategy of placating and lowering their standards to keep black men involved. No matter how unaccountable African heritage men in the community or organization may be (missing meetings, not communicating, thoughtlessly inconveniencing leaders), it seemed the bar could always be lowered, the expectations could always be revised, so no one expressed displeasure at this lack of accountability. The black men meet a wall of complacent white compassion. Leaving the black women in the community to be the bad cops, the ones who actually have some expectations.
In my personal life, I remember when my partner and I went to couples’ counseling. We had a white, middle class, gentile therapist. He and I are both physically big people and were quite emotionally angry. I used to joke that we were 500 lbs of angry blackness on that poor white woman’s couch. The therapist was completely frozen in the face of our black rage. The two of us would sit in the sessions and fight, and she had very little to say. We didn’t progress much until we started seeing a Jewish therapist, the child of Holocaust survivors. She wasn’t even remotely scared of us. She could think and act decisively in the face of black rage. I celebrate her work with us, not only because it saved our marriage, but also because it helped us through our common trauma so that we could both become people capable of being loving to each other.
Coming out of these and other experiences, I have high standards for white allies. In both of these spaces, I have met white people who can stand up to black rage, to black hopelessness, and to black sorrow. If we aim to end racism, white allies need to start getting themselves in better shape. Do the emotional work; never leave a sister unsupported in the face of such violence. Interventions don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to happen. Speak the truth. Even if your voice shakes.
About the Author: Aya de Leon
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