Friday, November 13, 2009

It’s All About Gender, No It’s All About Race

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I cannot believe that I am writing this post yet again.  I have covered this subject repeatedly, but it seems some people need to see it yet again.  Black women are in a unique position, in that we struggle with two identities, which are marginalized from birth.  When one is born Black and female, at any moment of any day, one may be targeted by either racism or sexism.  It is this binary, that is the foundation of much angst between us and our supposed allies.

White women will engage us with arms outstretched, talking about sisterhood and solidarity.  This is all well and good, until race raises its ugly head.  In that moment, Black women are expected to ignore the ways in which race serves to mark our bodies as other.   While their mothers and grandmothers were fighting the battle to get out of the kitchen, we knew that our place was firmly ensconced at the stove, forever the helper and the foundation. 

When White women worried that breast feeding might ruin their figures, it was to our ample bosoms that they turned.  Yes, they can do it all, as long as they have a Black woman to exploit.  Go girl power my ass.  To this day, the voices of WOC are largely silenced within the feminist movement and yet it is supposedly about advancing equal rights for women.  Tunnel vision regarding gender, to the exclusion of anything that specifically address issues of race, class, ability and sexuality, informs much of present feminist discourse, despite the mantra about intersectionality.

All you see is race we are told, or why must everything be about race?  Of course, they can’t see the importance of race because no one ever looked at them and called them a nigger.  No one ever spit on them because of the color of their skin.  No one ever decided that were angry, slutty, irrational, unrapeable or aggressive, all based solely on the color of their skin.  (In case you are wondering, I have experienced all of the aforementioned).  If you don’t know why race matters, perhaps the issue is not me, but your own unacknowledged privilege.

We are blind to gender oppression we are told, because sometimes defending ourselves again racism, means standing in solidarity with Black men.  Black men are not just some abstract gender, they are our fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, cousins, uncles and friends.  Our attachment is one of blood and shared pain.  You have a history of being silent when White men abuse us but the moment we stand up for our men, we are betraying the cause. Yep, no agenda there.  White women may be oppressed by gender, but they have always been able to use Whiteness to their advantage.

Okay, on to Black men.  Uplift the race is the mantra that you try and sell us.  This is the supposed key to equality.  I have about as much faith in you, as I do a snake oil salesman.  There can be no doubt that racism affects us both, though differently.  There can be no doubt that we must fight against racism; if not for ourselves, then for our children.  Even with these truisms, how many men think that the path forward, is by ignoring the ways in which their sexism is specifically harmful to Black women?

You love us when you want a booty call.  You love us when you want a meal cooked or your clothes cleaned, but where is the love when it is time to defend our humanity or laud our accomplishments?  Where is the love, when you strike us in fits of rage?  A Black man may face the terrible forms of racism in the public sphere, but he can always come home and aim that brutality directly at his Black wife.

As much as race serves to bond us together, gender disparity acts as a divide.  Why is uplifting the race always based in supporting patriarchy? Black men seek equality with White men and this means the ability to act with impunity.  Demanding our silence, so that you may present an aggressive masculinity that serves no one, is not the path forward.  Demanding that our needs are secondary, to focus on issues that solely benefit you and couching this as defending the race, is nothing more than an obvious display of sexism. 

We are not bitches and ho’s; we are your mothers, sisters, and daughters.  More than any other betrayal Black women face, yours hurts the most because it is on our breasts that you suckled.  It is your tears that we have kissed away for generations and how are we rewarded?  Affirming every negative stereotype that has been created about us, does not uplift the race; it simply affirms your desire to express patriarchal power. 

Black women stand in the middle of two dynamic forces, which seek to claim us for their own purposes.  Neither side wishes to validate our identities and neither side can claim to love us outside of an agenda.   You don’t know us and in fact never sought to because in doing so, you would have to admit that we are more than a political tool.  Perhaps, it is time for you to look for new shoulders to stand upon.  If anyone is tired in this life, it is the Black woman. Judas at one point claimed to love Christ and your protestations ring even more hollow.