Allies And Opportunists

Tell the truth and shame the devil. As much as I’d like to build coalitions, find like-minded individuals and dispense useful tools that empower women there are consequences as well as rewards for weighing the status quo. After blogging for nearly three years and engaging with numerous people online I find it necessary to constantly evaluate such contact. I am a passionate advocate for black women taking a step back and reassessing their lives from top to bottom. I want African-American women to look at themselves in relation to other women in the Western world (since I’m writing from the United States).

This reevaluation is not to be resentful of what other women have but to compare and contrast how other groups of women as a collective fare. That must include a survey of how the men of their groups behave.  I do try to make distinctions between choices of individual women versus the collective with overall advancement in mind. We have distinctions based on ethnicity, age, geography, orientation, etc. that always have to be considered during these types of evaluations. There has to be a full review of the indoctrination tactics and obstructions put in place to prevent women from undergoing such an assessment.

Many women claim to be free but allow themselves to be put in a box – or they try to limit the choices of other women. This isn’t about dictating a rigid set of terms that may not be applicable. Nor can this be about ignoring certain truths. We operate in a patriarchal society. Black women in particular have a unique set of circumstances that need to be addressed. For example even if I as an individual woman decide to not marry or have children you will not find me promoting that as a viable option for the female collective because it’s in opposition to societal norms for a majority of women in thriving cultures. You won’t find me promoting “black love” because I look at the stats of black women who have disproportionate numbers of never-married, out of wedlock and HIV rates and see there’s a huge imbalance and lack of reciprocity.

Even though many women may be in equitable relationships with men from similar backgrounds and experience none of the above. I discuss the prevalence of disdain, apathy and hostility certain black males display towards black women and why we need to recognize it so we disengage from them. Often we are supporting their careers, coming to their aid, offering undying loyalty and taking up the slack without admitting the disloyalty exhibited towards us. Even those males who may be more aware of their misogyny do not have a vested interest in completely dismantling it because they don’t have to.

Men look to get what they need from wherever and with whomever is easiest. That’s something women should learn from. Don’t jump through hoops when you can walk through the door. Don’t support those who aren’t giving anything back.   Dismantling the obstructionist tools and tactics leaves women free to invest in themselves. Ultimately, this will help others make decisions that are beneficial to improving the quality of their lives.

Since I started discussing the indoctrination I’ve had my integrity called into question. Since I’ve exposed the foul behavior of numerous damaged beyond repair males as well as those who are content with the current status quo of devalued status for black women there’s been a hostile reaction from time to time. I’ve seen the learned responses of many black women who’d rush in to declare they knew all the “good” men. I’ve been accused of hating all black men for exposing the foul behavior of a few. Well…let’s face it..I’ve said I believe it to be a majority and I stand by that.  If you cannot speak the truth to others you can’t expect to have an equitable relationship with them.

Have we defined what that alliance is? Perhaps we need to dial it back a notch and determine what an ally is first. I do not allow others to predetermine my participation in their causes. If I’m looking for an ally they must be vetted. After the smiles. Through trial and error. I’m also rethinking my decision to be all-inclusive in supporting other people’s causes. I’ve found it challenging to let go of certain assumptions about “doing the right thing” and “looking out for others” to achieve a level-playing field when many of us operate from a distinct disadvantage due to the decline of the collective.

I always find it interesting to evaluate women who betray other women over male approval.  Integration and multicultural are words but as applied by blacks who have no ethnic or racial pride a better word would be: escape. Perhaps some people are so used to dealing with the types of blacks who are not looking to expand their world views or social circles and embrace everyone but other blacks. They may not expect to meet an African-American who still protects their identity and commands respect and acknowledgment of it. It is the epitome of disrespect for those from non-black groups (and even other non-AAs) to dare dictate the terms of solidarity and alliances by presuming it must be on their terms. The bottom line is: what’s in it for me to help you? Far too many just assume they are entitled to our time, energy and resources because some other self-hating Negro (often male) told them it was okay to do so. They then expect everyone to follow suit.

Despite this I harbor no resentment towards others. African-Americans need to strategize better and stop letting everyone else pimp us out. Life sometimes has to knock us on the head so we learn valuable lessons and I hope this will be useful to others in distinguishing those differences. The next time someone wants to have a discussion about (inter-ethnic, gender, political and personal) solidarity let them offer solutions and enforcement against discrimination and misogyny. Let them discuss the accepted racism that some blacks seem to be taking far too lightly. There’s a time to speak and there’s a time to be silent, listen and learn. Even in my efforts at addressing the various nuances of LGBT rights I never presume I am speaking in place of someone else. Neither do I speak for all black women. I speak for myself and offer my observations. I discuss ways that I think women can empower themselves but I know that each woman has to walk her own journey. It’s always very telling when people who don’t agree with the evaluation and solutions offered cannot do so amicably. They get so caught up with trying to deny others the right to speak and harbor resentments it becomes rather apparent it has long ceased to be about a difference of opinion.

Which brings me to another point:  non-blacks are increasingly repulsed by the increasingly dysfunctional behavior of the black collective when compared to other groups in society and why it makes it harder for those of us who act “normal” to be taken seriously.

I constantly get feedback from certain black males how ask why can’t “we” work together as if they aren’t already the recipients of the majority of time, energy and resources of black women as a collective. What they’re really asking for is a continuation of that disordered status quo and for those of us who challenge it to be silent. What many want is to maintain the lack of accountability. As a woman it is not my role to save a community. Men are supposed to provide for and protect women and children – not the other way around. Men teach other men how to be men.

I had an interesting conversation with a reporter in his 50’s who spoke of all the ways he gives back to young males. He mentioned a certain frustration with how his efforts only progressed so far. He also mentioned the efforts of a popular radio show host whom I’ve dismissed. He wanted to know why and I told him simply that male does not acknowledge his misogyny and has publicly put down black women. Any efforts on his part will have limited impact when the “community uplift” is in fact “male uplift” at the expense of black women.  He asked me what I thought he could do. Now perhaps someone else would be flattered by that but I was horrified. How was I supposed to offer solutions to poverty, devaluing education, abandonment and apathy from males who refuse to take responsibility for their own choices as a collective?

This man is also married to a white woman. Now please note that I don’t care because I have no investment in who he mated with – but it was one of the first questions I asked in responding to his attempt at getting me to feel responsible for saving all the menz. I asked how invested was he in uplifting black women and holding other males accountable? You can’t have one without the other. Black males cannot be deceitful in their engagement with other black women in discussions surrounding “saving” the black community. So I told him he needed to meet with other black males and address all of the above and perhaps they might make some inroads.

Nothing is guaranteed though. He never identified anything specific that he was engaged in, but he was preoccupied with what I’d choose to focus on. Even when some of these males have made choices based on their self-interest they want black women to be focused on them. This is why we need to do the exact opposite. It’s why I always question the participation of unknown black males (and others) who come to this blog or at social networking sites when they initially engage me. Far too often they presume I will welcome their presence automatically. I want to know what they’re bringing to the conversation first. Almost always they are surprised at not getting immediate access.

I have the right to determine who is an ally on my terms – not by self-appointed (mostly male-centered) interests. An ally is someone who helps you realize things that are a priority to you. Even now I’ve had conversations with males who say they want to “teach” black women.  Already their focus is a misonomer. It presumes male privilege and unless it’s done in conjunction with black male accountability and reciprocity it’s just more of the same rhetoric. So while I speak out about protecting and uplifting black children I won’t limit the participation of anyone who really wants to be an ally – but everyone who refers to themselves as one is not.

8 comments to Allies And Opportunists

  • jubilee

    I happened to look in the Oct. issue of Essence today, and there was an article saying what many BWE sites been saying for the last 4 years; that black men put non-black woman on a pedastal and not us--I wonder if these people are reading the sites:

  • Patricia Kayden

    You made me laugh when you said that there are Black men who want to teach Black women. What in the world do they want to teach us? Enquiring minds want to know.

    Great article.

  • Faith,

    Thanks for this insightful essay (as always).

    I really can't add much to what you said, or the excellent comments given so far.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more BW stop hopping and skipping in response to the rancid scraps that BM toss their way. And for more BW to stop automatically running to rescue BM who hadn't given a rat's behind about "Black" anything—Black women, Black so-called communities, Black children—until after they got into trouble with some nonblacks.

  • Thanks for addressing this issue with such clarity Faith.

    I always deeply sigh at the entrenched pattern of the bm -bw interaction:

    Bm come with absolutely nothin but maybe some nice sounding phrases and rhethoric and black women once again put their hand to the plough, providing the substance and resources yet feeling 'blessed' that bm have deigned to come to them.

    I have just finished the local paper in my area which spoke about how a bw battled for six months to free her brother from a libyan jail. the inside story according to him was that the officials were unhappy with his relationship (clearly an interracial one), and so they decided to 'sort him out'. Once again a bm making a choice with himself in mind but yet when help is required, yep the bw runs along like the dutiful mule to help him out of a tight spot of course dear pedestal sitting girlfriend is no where to be found.

    It offends my spirit that bw continue to see themselves as cleanup women smiling foolishly and indulgently at bm choices that are clearly made against bw like them. no wonder these men are taken aback when a bw like yourself acts differently to their sense of entitlement, afterall you are probably the only bw who has ever put a hand up against bm entitlement and bm taking bw for granted!

    If bw were to attend to their situation themselves they would have gotten twice as far for their efforts but they are tricked into pushing along two carts rather than just their cart, because of the mistaken belief that bm are trudging alongside pushing too when they are just pretending and giving the necessary appearance of working and making the required grunts and sounds of exertion.

    You know left to me, i would say that bw should categorically reject any 'partnership' working with bm and let everyone lift their own load themselves, because this pattern of bw doing all the work, is just too entrenched, it will simply 'reproduce' without thought.

    Bw have been trained to deliberately continue this dynamic. it is like when you starve someone, they pounce on scraps so i think the whole getting zero from black men, has trained bw to over inflate the value of scraps and nothing that bm hand out.

    I know there is a fast brain on the average bw, thats why i know there is powerful conditioning and powerful meme's etc pushing them away from making the obvious conclusions about this situation and the necessary course of action!

  • Nia

    I think one of the first and main rules of being an ally is that you have to learn to be quiet and listen at first, and then also always be ready to learn and be quiet, even while you are trying to contribute effectively.

    An ally should not expect to belong or participate in every discussion that African American women have among themselves, because it is not all about YOU (i.e. the ally).

    You can sometimes tell when someone is not sincere in being an ally to African American women and /or black women because they will do any or a number of these things first and foremost:

    1. Proudly rattle off a list of all the "good deeds" that they have done to help AA women and / or black women.

    2. Demand that AA women and / or black women to teach them or tell them what they (the ally) should do to help, instead of learning themselves.

    3. Lecture to AA women and or black women about what they should be doing to better their situation.

    4. Proclaim that this is the way I do things, and if it works for me then it should work for you too.

    As an ally you will sometimes mess up, but have to be prepared to own up to it and to continue trying to help. When the person tends to get rude, angry or stalks off permanently if they are called out, that is also a sign of their sincerity or lack thereof.

  • […] Tell the truth and shame the devil. As much as I’d like to build coalitions, find like-minded individuals and dispense useful tools that empower women there are consequences as well as rewards for weighing the status quo. After blogging for nearly three years and engaging with numerous people online I (Read more …) […]