Eulogy For Mammy

image Goodnight Mammy and may flights of angels fancy bring you to your eternal sleep. Rest now weary one, for you have laboured hard in the purpose of upholding and maintaining white hegemony.  Let your face hang limp now, the forced smile and the gleaming teeth no longer need to be displayed.  Dust to dust and ashes to ashes….

There are many that will wail at the news of your passing.  Who will wipe my tears now that Mammy is gone?  Who will put my children above their own now that Mammy sleeps with angels?  Who will exist simply to make sure that all of my creature comforts are met, now that Mammy has been laid to rest?

image White people love Mammy, that fact cannot be denied.  As long as she existed in their imagination, black women could indeed be understood to embrace our status at the bottom of the race and class hierarchy.  As long as Mammy’s booming laugh could be heard in the wind, black women could be said to love their precious white folk.  Love is the most wonderful of human emotions, but in this case, it amounts to nothing but a perversion, a symbol  of internalized racism, because it allows  white people to signify all that is good and pure in this world.  Mammy’s love of whiteness necessitated a complete denial, and hatred of all things black.

There are black men that will also weep at the news of her passing.  For them, Mammy justified some of the misogyny in the black community.  That Mammyimage existed without real power was never considered.  To black men Mammy represented a woman who daily performed race traitor behaviour.  That she may have had children of her own to feed necessitating many of her actions was never considered due cause.  Mammys very existence gave black men reason to blame black women for the continuation of white power.  Though they loudly railed against her, Mammys existence gave them cause to silence black women. We could not be trusted to act in our best racial interest, so long as it was perceived that we loved our dear white folks.  This gave credence to the idea that black men should lead.

image Mammy slaved over many a hot stove, refining culinary wonders that would never pass her own parched lips.  Mammys hands were dry and cracked from the bleach used to sterilize and purify homes, that would not open their front doors to her.  Though Mammys body was bountiful, its girth was not built from scrumptious morsels, but from the high fat table scraps that she managed to pocket. Loved and yet despised Mammy bravely soldiered on, her true thoughts an enigma to us all.

As a black woman, I have run screaming from your image, desperate to wash the taint of what you symbolize from my skin.  I feared your reproach, but I was more afraid of accepting your existence, and thus as a black woman I have not emerged unscathed at the news of your passing.  Knowing that you did what did to feed your children, or to secure some kind of favour that benefited your family, has not made the social hatred of you any easier for me to fight against. Even the times when you acted in revolt, poisoning your masters food when you knew the penalty was death,  have been overlooked as true actions of agency.

We never really knew you Mammy, only what you embodied to others, and in truth that is the existence of all black women.  Many endeavour to speak for us, deconstruct our actions, or deny that we even have minds capable of thinking.  We are strangers to the world because just like you we exist more in peoples imaginations, than in reality.  Black womanhood has come to be understood as the collection of thoughts created by other bodies, and not what we as black women actually claim ourselves to be.  Had you been empowered with a voice that could really have been heard Mammy, would the simpleton, sexless image of you still exist? 

Though this parting of ways is long overdue, as you are not meant for the modern age, I shall endeavour to reflect upon you often.  I shall close my eyes and see you, as you would like to have been seen, rather than remember you as others made you out to be.  Mammy though despised and loved by so many, you cannot be forgotten, because to forget you is to deny a significant part of black woman’s history.  Perhaps one day we shall look back and reclaim you from the abyss, but until such time as black women may walk in the sunshine without shame….sweet dreams.

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