Thursday, April 3, 2014

But Black Women Have Always Been "My Brother's Keepers" so Who is "Keeping" the Sistas?



When I'm asked about how Black male sexism makes me feel I am forced to think carefully about an issue that I find both demoralizing and complex.

I was raised in a very pro-Black household. In this sense I was raised to love Blackness, which in practice always means loving (cis hetero) Black men although it doesn't always mean loving Black women. I was taught to love and respect Black women on condition. Is she educated? Is she childless or married? Is she demure? Is she with a Black man? 

So I was socialized to love and appreciate and act in consideration towards Black men quite frankly at the expense of myself. Whereas the fact is that Black men are absolutely not socialized to be the same way towards Black women.
I have been socialized to see the virtue in initiatives such as President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" and to not demand similar programs for Black girls. I have been socialized to frame the issue of racism in a way that primarily focuses on the issues of Black men. I have been socialized to see my role as subordinate to that of Black men. I have been socialized to wait for the leftovers. 

Black men are socialized to think of Black women in the exact same way that I have been taught to think of myself. 

And how do I feel about it? Cheated. Angry and sad.

Mainly through social media I am constantly privy to anti-Black misogyny perpetuated by Black men. I can't possibly address everything I see nor do I desire to. It is demoralizing. It is a form of constant and overarching unrequited love when I witness Black male sexism. I'm down for y'all so why aren't y'all down for me?

As Black women we are supposed to minimize the impact of Black male sexism. We are supposed to be careful to add as a disclaimer that this is just "some" Black men. And that we still LOVE Black men. 

I fall into this trap all the time. Angry Black women are marginalized even more than Black women who either pretend not to be or are so steeped in internalized misogyny that they don't see there is anything to be angry about. 

Here's how I see it: I support the Black community as a whole and I want to see an end to the way capitalism and white supremacy work to marginalize Black folks. And I also support Black women. And I'm tired of having to accommodate Black folks who don't love and support Black women. 

Honestly, my biggest challenge as a Black feminist has to learn how to directly critique Black male sexism. We are taught to be absolutely silent about it. To ignore it. To look for the few Black men who aren't sexist and act as if they make up the majority. 

People think Black feminists love to "emasculate" and put down Black men which has always struck me as especially fallacious because if anything Black feminists use the existence of white supremacy as a crutch to not call out Black male sexism as much and as bluntly as we should. 

We think that because our community is impacted by racism that solidarity is of utmost importance. Of course, true solidarity is not possible with the existence of sexism. But we often favor a faux solidarity where sexism is simply not really spoken about or it's minimized. Or it's only talked about as something whites perpetuate towards Black women and not an intra-group reality. 

I find it difficult at times to express the hurt I feel due to Black male sexism because it is hard for me to admit that the Black community is truly splintered and that half of the community is regarded as lesser than on the basis of gender. 

My first instinct is to say "Black men are perfect!" thinking that will deflect racism (or more specifically anti-Black male stereotypes of aggression and the rapist myth and etc.) when saying "Black men are perfect!" is a way of implicitly silencing my own issues.

It is a thin line Black feminists learn to walk and more often than not we often end up giving ourselves the short end of the deal. 

And what is the gain? 

Nothing.

So how does Black male sexism make me feel? Unsafe, unloved, less important, and less valuable. 

And what am I going to challenge myself to do? To be more open and consistent about addressing individual issues of sexism from an intra-racial perspective. To not let my love for Black men -- something I was socialized to have but don't want to divest of -- blind me from seeing the ways in which Black women are marginalized and disrespected by the same people we are constantly running to support. 


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1 comment:

  1. Your blog speaks to me in so many ways. As someone who is just at the beginnings of understanding what black feminism is, I am so happy to have found this blog. Keep writing, and I'll keep reading!

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