I was puzzled by an out-of-left field series of attacks on a recent post, none of which, I felt, addressed completely the situation black women today are in: Like it or not, white men are simply the best natural allies available to black women in terms of elevating our status and gaining protection and value.
I read it, agreed with it, and moved on. But it was hard as heck for people NOT to question this blatant truth, so I’m going to use some historical scenarios to help make it a bit easier to see where this mentality is coming from:
- Slavery was once legal in the United States. Who enacted laws that freed those black slaves? Answer: White men
- Black people marched for civil rights in America. Who wrote the Civil Rights Act in to law? Answer: A white male president
- Women wanted the right to vote. Who made it a constitutional law that women could do so? Answer: White men again
Are you seeing a pattern here? I sure am. Because, just as easily as white men can be held responsible for discriminatory and evil behaviors, there are also those in this same group that have the power to rectify those behaviors and have done so at different turns throughout history. This is something that can be lost in the narrative that certain black people love to tell regarding their own struggles: Overcoming entirely on their own and with nobody’s help or still under the foot of white racists (and therefore unaccountable for their own actions).
There are non-black people who can be great allies to you, and rather than focus primarily on non-desirable persons (racists), those are the kind of people you should be considering for networking and allying with anyway. It actually does not matter WHAT the race/ethnicity/color/gender is of the person who seeks to help you and is an active ally. You simply have to be wise enough to distinguish these persons from would be users and abusers. And no, you can’t always just look at a person and know whether they’ll be one or the other. If you wait and observe, a person will reveal their intentions.
This is why I wonder at the the idea of black women who will write off or even attack persons before knowing one way or the other. For example accusing persons of having questionable motives because of their being a white man. In fact, repeatedly emphasizing the fact that they are a white man in a conversation where you are trying to establish why they are questionable. Say what you want to, but this reaction is strongly steeped in the learned mistrust of any and all white people. At one point, it could have saved your life as a black woman. I won’t pretend that there still aren’t persons so full of hate, they would seek to harm you however they could.
But in 2012, we as a race and gender can not go on with this romantic version of reality where the greatest threat to our well beings at any given time is someone who doesn’t share a racial identity with us. There are people who are banking on such thinking to gain access to us for the purpose of acting out that hatred: Other African Americans.
They simply aren’t valuing and protecting black women and girls within the black community, and there are far too many African Americans who will try and shout you down over any attempt to take the narrative away from how racism only or mostly affects the ego and viability of black men alone. This is a large part of the reason I’ve written about not treating slavery as a present-tense condition when you are not a slave or giving any place to the white-people-do-it-too narrative in BWE-spaces: The discussion is irrelevant. Black women experience racism from outside the black community AND the inside. So a black woman hater can have a white face and a black face.
So what is a black woman to do with this knowledge? First, let go of people trying to co-opt you for a “battle” against “enemies” that completely ignores your own individual needs and desires. Then, you network with persons who are on the same page as you. Form a circle of persons who can uplift you, shelter you, and help you when you are not strong enough or powerful enough to help yourself.
And it’s that last part that I feel like black women REALLY struggle with as a group. Because denying the fact that you are strong is something that would cause many black women to give up the ghost first.
Being perceived as weak or vulnerable remains an unspoken sin in the eyes of black women who are so used to being required to be the stronger sex. Mentally, emotionally, morally, and sometimes physically (the comments regarding pregnant black women who had to lift heavy things receiving no help in the presence of able-bodied men does not surprise me).
If you are used to be being referred to as “strong”, even to the point of not being given the courtesies and protections of non-black women, you may find yourself drifting into a mindset where you expect to do it all yourself. Because it would pretty much be a necessity as no one is waiting around to help you or treat you with respect and consideration.
Empower black women and raise our status? Sounds good, except no group that has been disenfranchised on this Earth was ever able to overcome setbacks without someone helping them. Someone outside of their group. Forming alliances is a natural thing for humans seeking to survive. The idea of forming families and communities is where this comes from in the first place: A single human cannot survive or thrive on their own. And whenever you want to get something done, want to build something, or whenever you want to end something you find disagreeable, the solution has ALWAYS been outreach and networking.
This is easier for a number of other ethnic groups to do within their groups because they understand what it means to work together for a mutual goal. But also, throughout history, you’ve had different ethnic groups and nations allying with each other to achieve something beneficial to all groups involved.
But for black women, this is going to be an uphill battle, because it is so ingrained in us as a group to question everyone who isn’t black first, and in a way that is clear you already assume they’re up to no good. You as a black woman hate the third degree and negative assumptions about you and yet you feel entitled to do it to others? How exactly is that fair or attractive? And when I say attractive, I don’t mean in the relationship sense: Attraction is when you are drawn to something.
People are not drawn to those who are unpleasant, rude, harsh, and unnecessarily cruel. This behavior may have been the result of a series of evolutions necessary to survive because you have no one else to rely on. But I can guarantee you that if you keep it up with everyone and especially non-black persons who MAY want to help you, you will always need these behaviors because you will remain isolated and alone with no one to help you or even willing to try. If you don’t want others to have the mental picture that you are a harsh, rabid, illogical, brash, loud, uncouth thing that will bite anyone that comes near….how about not acting that way? Not all black women have this problem, because some black women know not to act that way. Simple.
As I stated, if you stand back and observe someone, maybe ask a couple of key questions, they’ll tell what their intentions and motivations are. But if you have come to expect the worst in people, you may jump the gun at the wrong time with the wrong person and lose a valuable network connection.
This comment by NewMaya3 BRILLIANTLY summed up exactly what I mean:
It is for this reason that it will be such a challenge with black women to be able to align themselves with any powerful force. Everyone has to walk on eggshells to deal with us. What he said is the truth. Whether some black women like it or not, it is the truth. But even white guys (who agree with him) would read some of these posts and get turned off or super hesitant.
Black women are a hard bunch even with people who are trying to help us. I mean (for any person with brains) this is the truth and it is primarily the reason black men and white women dont want us to hook up with white men. They know the deal. But they probably wont have to worry cause black women will mess things up for themselves with their mouths. To help the cause for black women, maybe some things are just best left unsaid….
There was a post awhile back by VintageNarcissa that touched on a similar point regarding NBAB black women. Emphasis mine:
It is extremely necessary for us to realize that even men who are, or could potentially be interested in black women are not immune to the world around them and how people perceive them. Not only that but it is also extremely necessary for us to realize that these men also have feelings and opinions based on their experiences that should be understood and respected just the same as we demand. Men who are looking for serious relationships will not stand by for too long and put up games of silly women just for the sake of upholding their preferences.
“Nothing But A Black Man/Brotha”-ism is criticized chiefly because it is a state of mind that encourages black women to limit themselves no matter what. Even if doing so works against them. The women in VN’s story, talk LOUDLY to anyone who is in hearing distance about how they “don’t want no non-black man” and yadda yadda yadda. The idea being that they are vocally opposed to anyone outside their group to the point that they are complacent in their own separation. It was said that American black women are actively the most self-segregating group on Earth. And I’m convinced it’s not just in matters of the heart.
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and I think this is the first time I’m voicing it: I believe that behaviors I see in these spaces sometimes are cut from that very NBAB same cloth. It’s not merely about being “nothing but a brotha”, but the instinct to distrust or loathe anything that’s not black. And even if you get over that or are working to get over that regarding dating and marriage, there are remnants of that mentality that causes you to severely limit who can ally with you and how you form a network.
We should definitely be concerned first and foremost about black women because we are black women. We as black women are directly in the line of fire when it comes to negative perceptions of us and stereotypes and all sorts of limitations based on bigotry and hate. We can band together and speak out all day long, but our cries are actively being drowned out by the noise of the BC eager to treat our real concerns as “dirty laundry” that needs to be put away and not talked about.
This is where clinging to a “save and defend all blackness no matter what, no questions asked” logic in any way, shape, or form shoots you in the foot: Because of a misconception that the best way to outshout these backward persons is to stand shoulder with them, make some disclaimers, and hope that despite your failure to REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THEIR RANKS COMPLETELY, that non-black allies will be able to spot you and hear your voice as you are actively being drowned out. Move away and make fresh connections, and leave these persons to their own devices.
We are simply NOT going to be able make our voices heard as loud as they could be until we stop being so lousy at networking and not think of every interaction as a time to start fighting. And above all, get over the knee-jerk assumption of racism and the idea that people who don’t look exactly like you can never fully be trusted. You shouldn’t be looking to trust everyone anyway (“All or Nothing”-ism is another post for another day), just the ones who make it clear they are for you rather than against you.
And before anyone tries it, coming into these spaces because it’s important that everyone know how “good” you are doesn’t count.
Remember, this is coming from someone who resents familiarity STRONGLY and is always railing against the idea of being co-opted or placed in a box. And yet even I know that the truth of the matter is black women are going to have to decide for themselves to make connections with influential groups of white men that can help them (it doesn’t all have to be romantic or by marriage) and will help them be elevated as a group. It is not in your best interest to cop-out or back away from doing so for fear (conscious or unconscious) of being labeled a “race traitor”.
SPECIAL MOD NOTE: Derailment of discussion, trying to shut down or shout down this topic, or going out of your way to violate the revised TOS is not going to be tolerated. We’ve had to deal with efforts to do so quite a bit recently, and I figure I’d tell persons upfront who try it what to expect. Disagree all you want, offer alternative solutions, I won’t stop you. But there is a clear difference between disagreement and gas-lighting. Between alternate ways of thinking and derailment with the intent to stop discussion. We should all know better at this point.
All of us in our own way need to dig deep and examine this particular idea and find out what it means for us, if it means anything at all, and why or why not.
It’s not pretty and in some ways, having to face this can be painful and scary. I understand that. I know this post might stir up some feelings, but let’s please keep it civil.