The summer of 2013 was truly the summer of my discontent. The Supreme Court ruling regarding the Voting Rights and the acquittal of George Zimmerman were a powerful punch to my gut. As they say in the streets shit got real, and the country of my birth once again reminded me that I’m less than equal. The combination of these events left me in a bewildered and cynical state. By August however another controversy would erupt. The fallout from this event, coupled with discoveries made in my study of slavery, would lead to a painful-but necessary-examination of my views on identity and on the concept of solidarity among my own people. My next few posts will deal with these reflections.
Black power is for black men. It was a hashtag that started trending on Twitter on August 13th, 2013. Through tweets Black women gave voice to our struggle at the intersection of race and gender and our frustration. We shared our pain at being taken for granted both by the Women’s Rights movement and by the Black community and at seeing our issues constantly put on the backburner. From the time I read Susan Brownmiller’s “Men, Women and Rape” at fourteen years old I knew something was amiss in how Feminism treated the plight of black women (well all women of color really but that is a topic for another post). So when the hashtag started trending I was elated, as I’d held such sentiment for years. That elation did not last long though as a backlash-headed by Black men-surfaced. I was floored by the number of Black men-even those within my circle whom I respect and look up to-who maintained black women have no separate identity and struggle in the United States, that we are just “one” people and any attempt to discuss sexism within the Black community is a nefarious racist plot to divide us. In the minds of these brothers sexism is for white men. The African ancestry and melanin of Black men somehow inhibits them from oppressing Black women. We are all one big, happy Black family-or we WOULD be if black women would just get with the program, learn their place(which is always beneath the black man) and forget about this tricky feminism talk!
However I can’t say all my brethren reacted this way. I have friends who acknowledge the plight of black women, that we carry an additional burden due to our gender and that they, as black men, do have privilege over us. But even after stating this, even after facing how deeply and painfully sisters have been failed, they still admonish me to love, support and stand with black men collectively. But given the reality of both my personal experiences and those of my sisters throughout history I cannot answer calls for a blanket unity with black men as quickly and easily as I once did. Before responding affirmatively to the call of my brothers to unify with and support Black men I need to know WHICH black men I am supposed to unify with.
Am I supposed to unify with ‘beautiful black woman; I bet that BITCH look better RED’ rapper Lil Wayne and those who think like him?
Am I supposed to unify with ‘everyone knows mixed babies are the prettiest’ R & B singer Ne-Yo and those who share his sentiment?
Am I supposed to unify with the Black men who harassed me to the point of tears, calling me an ugly black bitch?
Am I supposed to unify with the YouTube personality who tells the world that Black women are the “most disgusting, vile creatures on this planet” and the thousands of Black men who follow him and spread his message?
I could give dozens of other examples, but I am sure you get the point. Now, as descendants of the survivors of chattel slavery in the US Black women and men share a common history. There is no debate on that in my mind. With that said: my support and allegiance carry weight and they come at a price. I cannot co-sign on the idea that all black men are entitled to my support without qualification. I can be down for my brothers, but for that to happen they must bring more to the table than their testicles and our shared ancestry.