Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On the 10th Anniversary of the State of the Black Union

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Saturday February 28th was the tenth anniversary of the State of the Black Union. Each year it is organized by Tavis Smiley. The state of the Black Union is meant to be a representation of the best that black minds have to offer. The panel was divided into two different sections to ensure as much participation as possible. The first panel consisted of Maxine Waters, Charles Ogletree, Stephanie Robinson, Peter Harvey, Michelle Singletary, Marc Morial, Michael Eric Dyson, Iyanla Vanzant, Les Brown, Jesse Jackson, Tricia Rose, and moderator Raymond Brown.

Though there was much enlightening commentary, particularly from Michael Eric Dyson, I would be remiss if I did not pay particular attention to the issue of submission raised by Michelle Singletary. Wrapped in religious dogma, she made a great effort to announce to all that even though she earned more money than her husband that she was a “submitted woman”. It was of particular importance to her to encourage black women to submit to their black husbands because “the black man is the natural head of the household”. This commentary was followed by raucous laughter and a quick admission from various men on the panel that they were the submitted members in their particular relationships, thus turning the issue of patriarchal oppression within the black community into a comedic routine.

The black church has a longstanding history within the black community and in fact without the work of devoted church leaders much of the advances that the black community have made would never have occurred. Even with the acknowledgement of the good deeds performed by the church, it continues to be misogynistic as well as transphobic and homophobic.

Religion is meant to be a path to enlightenment and comfort and instead it is commonly used as a justification to perpetuate intolerance, and hatred. It is telling that black women were once again encouraged to submit to a man with religious dogma used as justification. This particular approach ignores the fact that not all black women are straight and that families no longer solely consist of a mother, father, and 2.5 kids. Simply because the heterosexual understanding of family is hegemonic in discourse, does not necessarily mean that it is beneficial to all participants. The authoritative strain of most family dynamics is particularly oppressive to both women and children.

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