Thursday, September 4, 2008

Resorting To Sexism Will Not Cure Racism: Black Men Need To Think

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There is no denying that black men face racism in North America. There is a legacy of slavery, impoverishment, disrespect, and lynchings.  These facts are not disputable.  Black men and white women have a history of a shared struggle for equality, however they are often divided by racism, and sexism. 

It is perfectly understandable for a black man to become enraged when he is racially stereotyped.  To know that as you are innocently going about your day, that you will be perceived as a threat, based on the colour of your skin reduces one to the status of an animal. 

Black men do have a choice to make, on how they respond to this obvious racism. They can rise above, calling out racism when they see it, and demand respect, or they can rely on their male privileges to try and assert power in a situation in which  they feel powerless.  The decision to resort to unearned male privileges will not lead to the kind of satisfaction that they are attempting to achieve, as in the end  hostility and violence render legitimacy to the label of animal.

You cannot fight oppression by becoming an oppressor, as it only increases the cycle of victimization.  I could offer the cliches of an eye for an eye leaving the whole world blind, but instead I believe that it is more apt to realize that by taking on the masters tools, you are simply doing the masters work.  Those that seek to encourage division do so to maintain their own hegemony within the race/gender hierarchy.  When black men and white women approach each other with distrust and suspicion, they are eroding the possibility of forming an alliance to achieve freedom.  No matter what "ism" you are the target of, benefiting by wrongly asserting power over another only assures that you will never be free of the weight that holds you down. 


Emm said...

I really agree with this post. In a similar strain, I have struggled my whole life with people who are racist despite coming from minority groups themselves. A lot of my family members are Jewish and yet they are terribly racist despite our family's history of persecution dating back hundreds of years. My oldest friend is Croatian and her family was obliterated in the war in Croatia because of who they were. Despite that she is really, really racist and says the most offensive things about any non-white person. I don't get that. I just don't understand how an individual can feel like that when they have directly or indirectly been a victim of hate, persecution and racism themsleves.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I agree with you Renee. Also, people need to not judge on the basis of skin color assuming someone is only black or only white when they could be mixed and have various ethnic groups that they identify with.

I also don't like this video because it is resorting to violence. It is patriarchal in assuming we must hurt this women in the video and therefore reinstating another "ism." It is also generalizing a group of people and their actions which is something we also need to move away from.

Is there a way to have this video removed?

Renee said...

@Ojibway Migisi Bineshii

I placed the video there intentionally to make a point. It shows a woman expressing racism and man responding with sexist based violence. It speaks to the heart of the issue that I am trying to critique. One ism does not trump another and both parties are guilty of doing the Masters work.

Danny said...

Having been that position more times than I care to count I totally know where this is coming from. But let me tell you, a black man calling a white woman out on racism can be a recipe for disaster. At least with a white man (yes white guys do this sort of stuff too they just aren't as obvious about it) if things get ugly and a fight breaks out there is no worry about gender coming into the picture but rest assured with a woman gender could be brought into the picture even when it shouldn't. Of course as you say by no means does this entitle any victim of any -ism to lash out like that but damn that tightrope walk is hard.

Question: Seeing a white woman tense up in fear is an everyday occurrence for men of color. Does it happen to women of color as well? I would assume it does but I wonder how often.

lee said...

This video outlines a stereotype. I do not see how it relates to sexism; the video points and outlines the views of the man. People must stop trying to find an ism in everything.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

@ Renee - I meant to have the video removed from the site that it came from and not here.

I just don't like violence in any form but I understand that its everywhere and must bear witness and contribute to healing.

chang'e said...

Well, lee, please explain to me how calling someone a "dumb bitch" is anything but sexist?

And resorting to beating her to show her why she is wrong?

But, yeah, it's pretty hard to see.

Excellent post, Renee.

Ebony Intuition said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ebony Intuition said...

@ Danny

"Question: Seeing a white woman tense up in fear is an everyday occurrence for men of color. Does it happen to women of color as well? I would assume it does but I wonder how often. "

Yes it does happen to women of colour, non black people will always assume that a black women is trying to steal clothing etc in stores, or just in general non blacks will always do a double look at black women "the why are you here look or the I think she stole that look".

I remember this year at Toronto Fashion week 2 of my friends and I went to view the collections and support a fellow friend who was showcasing designs . We purchased our tickets and placed or wristbands on, we walked over to the entrance and the guard checked our wristbands. As we walked in a black female asked us which show we were here to see, we stated which show and she said ok that show is @8 .....

As we started to walk over to the waiting section the white female who was also standing beside the black girl "the whole time" who asked us about which show, and also saw us get checked by the guard had the audacity to ask us if we even paid to get in. Let's just say that you do not want to know what I said to her in response, because I call out foolishness like that every time it happens even if it's not happening to me.

So yes black women and women of colour go through the same thing as black men, just in different ways. I won't even get into traveling and stories of black women being striped searched for no reason. I thank god that i've never had any problems traveling because I see how they treat people at the border and at immigration if they don't speak full English etc or if they weren't born in Canada or the USA.

Cola said...

It's videos like that that compound my already severe social anxiety around people. I try so hard to behave normally, but I'm so worried about appearing to be acting differently or paying inordinate attention that I spiral into a mild panic attack.

I just wish that I could talk to people, tell them that it's my anxiety, and not them, that makes me blink, sweat, and shift nervously. I'm not afraid of you, I'm afraid of me, making an ass of myself and making the world a little less comfortable for you. But I suppose that's being both presumptuous and self centered. =(

Dolly said...

You know, I hate to say this but I can sometimes be that woman in the video. Not necessarily because there's a black man in the room, but just a man in general. Especially if it's late at night and I don't have my cell phone with me. OR if I'm feeling paranoid. But, just to be clear, I'm not saying that the negative stereotypes white women inherit about black men don't increase that fear or trigger it. Sadly, they do.

I'm just glad that the black men I've met haven't reacted to my occasional "purse clutching" the way the guy in this vid did. In fact, I think the best solution to breaking down these kinds of barriers is turning around, smiling, saying hello, maybe striking up a casual conversation (without sounding like you want to hit on a woman). I used to work late at a local mall, and one time a few really big, tall, middle-aged black guys came in by themselves around closing(I worked at a jewelry store, so this was even stranger). My heart started to beat a little faster and I obviously looked tense, but one of the guys came up to the cash register and said, "Hey, no reason to look so scared. We're shopping for our girlfriends. Could you help us?" It wasn't a flashing callout on racism, but I got the message and became considerably more relaxed afterwards. And the guys got some nice stuff for their sweeties!

So, based on my own experience, I'd say kindness is a pretty good way of calling white women out and getting them off the defense (though, I will admit that's not full proof as I am not *all* white women). Also, if it's late at night and a woman's alone, race might not be the only factor involved (not making the fact that it's there any better, but just recognizing other, I'd say, more justifiable reasons should be taken into consideration).

Danny said...

I think the best solution to breaking down these kinds of barriers is turning around, smiling, saying hello, maybe striking up a casual conversation (without sounding like you want to hit on a woman).
If only other people were as nice as you. Stuff like that can make you even more suspicious to a lot of people. Makes them think you are trying to butter them up and lower their guard for the attack.