Saturday night I sat down to watch a special on CNN regarding the black community. I was very excited as the panel was slated to be all African Americans who were to be discussing issues that plague our community. What quickly became apparent as I watched was that the state of the black male was the primary concern. It seems black people is a euphemism for black male. When the hell do black women get to count for something?
In discussing this with L today, (a dear friend) he felt that it was irrelevant that the panel was unbalanced, and that I was taking the whole gender thing to far. Apparently, "gender is not an issue in everything." The reason I am sharing this commentary with you dear readers, is that I feel it is very reflective of attitudes within the community when it comes to dealing with racism and poverty. Black women count only when the talk turns to sacrifice. The black male cannot speak on behalf of the black female because even though we share the same race it effects us differently. Yes the black male is constructed as a violent criminal rapist, but it is our bodies that are violated. Until both men and women are equally engaged in the effort to "uplift" the race it will be a failed project.
Throughout almost the entirety of the special there were more black male panelists than female, in fact the ratio was only ever equal for a very short segment. The panel was divided 50/50 on the discussion regarding AIDS which lasted 20 minutes. Though AIDS is a serious issue, to call it a black womans problem denies the fact that AIDS does not recognize race, class, gender, or sexuality. It is an equal opportunity killer and I resent it being referred to as the "black woman's disease". AIDS presented this way is just another stigmatizer used to debase the black female.
At the beginning of the show a lot of time was dedicated to pushing marriage and family values. It seems that they were trying to raise a co-relation between the "break down" of the black family and the problems that are now facing the community. A return to the patriarchal family may bring with it certain relief for black men, but for women a return to the traditional family means more obligation and servitude.
Constantly the panelist kept saying that though a woman can raise a child alone that she shouldn't have to. I tend to agree with this statement, however participation in the life of a child should not mandate the continual access to a mothers body, or the benefit of her labour for a lifetime. Black men need to stand up and care for their children but this does not mean that both parents need to cohabitate to make this happen. Becoming pregnant by a certain man bonds you for a lifetime as parents, not as lovers and partners.
The series is due to continue on Wednesday with Black Women and The Family. I would also like to point out that Thursdays episode is called the Black Man. Notice that the black male has an entire segment dedicated to him whereas women are conflated with family. While motherhood and child rearing are important events in a womans life they do not make up the totality of our existence, further not all women become mothers. While this specials aim is raise concern about racism, and the ways in which it impacts our lives, ignoring the different ways in which gender intersects with racism means that the black male will be privileged while once again the black woman is 'othered' through silencing.