(March for Eric Garner in NYC)
Many Black women are deeply hurt by anti-Black misogyny. Although anti-Black misogyny comes from everywhere it seems to be a particular betrayal when it comes from Black men.
Social media and the internet in general has increased the visibility of Black men's sexism. There's always a new Twitter screen-cap saying something very hurtful about Black women. There's always a new article.
And then Black women turn on the radio and hear these same messages reflected in music performed by Black men. They walk outside and see the same messages reinforced in Black men they meet.
It's hard to imagine how one might not become bitter or start to view all Black men as inherently anti-Black women.
And yet, I find the position of viewing Black men as being collectively against Black women and calling it Black feminism as extremely dangerous. And furthermore I find it counter-productive.
But that is the new wave I am noticing within Black feminist activism. I see Black feminists co-opting liberal white feminism and putting Black-face on it.
It's not about rectifying the wrongs of Black patriarchy in a progressive and helpful way. Now everything is sullied by a deep disillusionment and resentment. And there's almost a push for gender separatism or to view Black men as nothing but an enemy.
To me it risks repeating history but in the reverse. Post-Moynihan Report there were many Black men who subscribed to the idea that Black women were the enemy. It wasn't white supremacy. It wasn't capitalism. It wasn't the American government. It was Black women. This is what a white man told them and what many of them believed. We're talking late 1960s and early 1970s.
This was a grand departure from the Civil Rights era. Although patriarchy was firmly cemented in the structure of the Civil Rights movement Black men did not view Black women as an enemy. In fact, a continuous message given by Black male Civil Rights leaders was to respect and protect Black women. Look no further than Malcolm X.
But within only a decade the mood had greatly changed. This is understandable because of the amount of loss the Black community was facing during this time. So many of the major Black leaders of the era were assassinated. The promises of the Civil Rights Act weren't being followed through.
So disillusionment and resentment got in the way of logic. And Black men -- feeling unequal to the task of fighting the real cause of their oppression because it felt firmly out of their control -- decided to blame Black women and a mythical "matriarchy" instead.
Some people might argue that I can't compare the Moynihan induced Black male scapegoating of Black women to what is happening in the Black feminist movement presently. They might say that the current fed up-ness with Black men is a result of what has occurred in the past and what is still occurring. They might say that anti-Black misogyny has created this situation.
I wouldn't say that they're wrong. It is true that the current mood in Black feminism is influenced by the seeming pervasiveness of Black male sexism. It's obvious to me why this is happening but that doesn't make it right. That doesn't make it a Black feminist response.
I've never viewed Black feminism as a tit for tat movement. It has never been about selfishness. It has never been about "I got mine. You go get yours." Never. It's a movement for social justice. This is what is supposed to separate it from social movements that have ignored race, gender, sexuality or social class. Black feminism is supposed to be better than that.
And we can't be better if we take individual acts of Black male sexism and indict the entire Black male demographic. We can't be better if we stop seeing the importance of working across gender lines in the Black community.
I don't think that can be called Black feminism.
I've always been down to defend Black feminism against misogynists who didn't like it because they felt tearing down patriarchy was an affront to Black manhood. I've always defended Black feminism against those who say that if a man doesn't rule then it isn't right.
I've never been against calling out an individual Black male misogynist or bringing attention to unique Black women's issues.
But how can I defend Black feminism if it's saying I no longer care about Black male victims of white supremacy?
I can't and I won't.
I had a moment where I wondered if I was becoming a "softer" Black feminist but then I realized that I haven't gotten softer. Other people have gone out of bounds and have started to replicate oppressive ways of thinking apparent in Black male led movements.
The argument I hear is: "They don't care about us. So why should we care about them?"
Who is "they" and who is "us"?
Unfortunately, not all Black women have the back of every other Black woman.
We have our own issues in terms of colorism, class, sexuality, and other interlocking forms of oppression. Yes, we have some things in common as Black women. And then there are things we don't have in common.
Not admitting this puts us in the same boat as Black male leaders who claim that "we're all Black" and use that as an excuse to only focus on heterosexual middle class Black males.
It's also true that not all Black men are insensitive to Black women's issues. It's hard to imagine how they could be when our fate is so inextricably tied to theirs.
Most of the time I see an individual Black male misogynist they also don't have any understanding of white supremacy. One moment they're making "strong independent Black woman who don't need no man" memes on Twitter and the next they're poking fun of themselves with Daquan memes.
How are these Black men who have never a day in their life considered themselves to be activists of any kind the justification for the reactionary nature I'm seeing in Black feminism?
Black feminism is a social activist movement and as such it should fully understand and grapple with the reality of kyriarchy in a responsible manner.
A part of me wonders if the people who say Black men never support Black women are accustomed to offline activist work.
Even in my own tiny world I've never been to or hosted an event focusing on Black women where no Black men were present. I've even held educational workshops on Black feminism where half of the audience is made up of Black men. I couldn't tell you how many times I've had Black men approach me asking for Black feminist reading recommendations. It's always been harder for me to get white feminists to support Black feminist events than Black men.
(Jada being represented by the Houston Chapter of the New Black Panther Party)
When it comes down to it I'm not a white feminist. I don't see any point in even hyperbolically saying "kill all men" when Black boys and men are already being routinely murdered. Both by state-sanctioned violence and because of circumstances created by poverty and white supremacy working together.
I can't pretend like all Black men are the enemy when Black men are in my family. When there's so many instances where I've been listened to and cared for by Black men. My personal circumstances disallow it. But also my understanding of white supremacy disallows it. All Black people are targets. The ways we are targeted differ by gender and other factors. But when any Black person is a victim of white supremacy it impacts me.
I will always support combating anti-Black misogyny. But my knowledge of anti-Black misogyny will never lead me to turn against Black male victims of violence. It won't make me resent Black men as a collective group.
It's bad politics. But it's also bad ethics. And one thing I've always admired about Black feminism is the way in which it is above so many other social movements because this is supposed to be the first one to be truly concerned with exacting justice in its totality.
Over a hundred years ago Black feminist Anna Julia Cooper said: "When and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me."
That is my Black feminism. I don't recognize the other stuff.
If you enjoyed this post check out "But Black Women Have Always Been "My Brother's Keepers" so Who is "Keeping" the Sistas?" which talks about the importance of holding Black men accountable for supporting Black women's issues. This is always an equally important conversation to talking about continuing support for Black men.