Look At What Our Collective Cowardice Has Wrought

There has been an interesting sidetracking of the betterment of AA black women as individuals by divorcing us from seeing ourselves as a separate group in the race vs. gender wars. We should be WOMEN first not “BLACK PEOPLE” who are in often women carrying nearly the entire load of service to ideologies that no longer benefit us. Due to the misdirected coping mechanisms of surviving under systematic racism many of us are reluctant or unable to think critically as free agents. It is a mistake to continue feeding the personal interests of those who benefit from the products of our labor at our expense. I wrote this draft six weeks ago but there are times when you have to let the stew simmer. I was waiting for something else to tie it together as these similar themes continuously emerge.

Some of the most important conversations we can have is about how blacks react to racism – but with a twist. Let me ask, what is your first response when I use the term systematic racism? Does the initial response lend to thoughts related to white hegemony? More people may be familiar with the term white supremacy but white hegemony is worth considering as the more accurate term. 

Hegemony is defined as: political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups, regardless of the explicit consent of the latter. The term is often mistakenly used to suggest brute power or dominance, when it is better defined as emphasizing how control is achieved through consensus not force.  Wikipedia

I think the distinction is important as we continue to evaluate who and what we place value in. For just as there is white hegemony there is also a strong influence of black male hegemony. We cannot focus solely on one and not see the other because black women are a race, part of distinct ethnicities AND a gender. Which further extrapolates into gender orientation and identity – but as I’m discussing the majority population I will focus on hetero-oriented cis gender women.  **Since the consensus is for AA black women to put the needs and wants of AA black males above their own and it’s thought to be the remedy for white hegemony then this is a serious matter worth dismantling.

There have been three key components discussed at the following blogs (listed on my sidebar):

Blog host Halima: In asking us to evaluate our Pavlovian conditioning to take up arms to fight when we perceive any random black male has been slighted by whitesor in excusing bad behavior enacted against us as the result of diminished capacity due to white hegemony. That’s Psych 101 by the way. In fact, a student of psychology should write a dissertation on the behavorism theory that most blacks will defy all logic to rail against white hegemony while ignoring the influence of black male hegemony and not focus on advancing themselves as a collective. Especially those that think they know better but still fall into the pit with eyes wide open.

Blog host Evia: In asking black women to reevaluate how they might gain privileges from being the beneficiaries of hegemony instead of giving away their resources for others to use for a change. Here’s an excerpt from commenter Felicia (the entire post is extensive as well as the comments being worth serious consideration).

Many AA BW have been taught that it’s acceptable to suffer if it’s for a a “noble/right cause”.

Being anti “The System” is promoted by blacks (even though most BM wish and desire to be a part of that very system while expecting BW to rail against it) and liberal good hearted white folks and others. But the thing is, ALL of these other non BW talk a good game but when it comes down to it, NONE of them are willing to give up any perks they personally receive by not being on the bottom.

The only ones actually taking this “lets fight the system” stuff seriously are duped BW.

Most AA BW are taking what they consider to be the moral high ground by not benefitting from WM supremacy yet they continue to get NOTHING from their effort.

They feel guilty benefitting from an unjust/unfair system (white supremacy) because it’s viewed (by fair minded instead of reality based BW) as supporting it.

But the thing is, the system that they’re currently supporting (damaged black male supremacy masquerading as a “community”) has certainly not worked for them. Quite the opposite.

Black women are ALONE in their “fight” (fantasy) and will remain so……

Indeed. Blog host Khadija further shatters that Pavlovian Fighting Chant by urging us to stop doing it pronto! We can certainly have empathy for others, be anti-racism activists, respond to what we think is unjust as long as we have ALL OF OUR NEEDS BEING MET FIRST. I don’t consider our written evaluations and conversations as part of the problem but as solution-oriented dismantling of a status quo that has gone unchecked for too long. Though that is only for those women who follow-through these lessons by their actions securing their futures. No other group of women has our unique set of attributes….or liabilities. Being content and well-cared for should not be an option and is our right as women in a patriarchal society to be provided for and protected. As many of us are able to earn huge salaries, run organizations and buy all the Manolos we desire there’s still a need to consciously make autonomous decisions free from indoctrination. 

The first person who should step up to take care of us is whom we see reflected when we look in the mirror. This is part of the behavioral conditioning we must dismantle when we have the urge to do the opposite of what’s in our own best interests as individuals such as fighting for a “cause”, saving the “community”, or limiting our dating choices to prove race loyalty. Forget about anyone else! Not when we’re dying off disproportinately, there’s no “coalition” troops being dispatched to help us fight our battered image and status and there’s no history of or past examples of reciprocity.

The focus of some blacks on the plight of “brown” people who are not black as a response to white hegemony is one such area where AA black women need to evaluate their participation. Why? The assumption that any person with a higher melanin content is oppressed ignores the impact of class and other intangibles. The focus of black males who are dominated by other (white, etc) males didn’t seek to find ways around that situation (by beefing up the black community post-Civil Rights for example) and instead have sought the benefits of hegemony for themselves. This push for tying other groups’ battles into the larger black experience by making it equal to the African-American survival/struggle/oppression meme is not only inaccurate but insulting.

The question we must always ask ourselves is who benefits from our efforts? Are we being respected as blacks by non-blacks? Are we given our props for our contributions as African-Americans by other blacks who’ve come to the US? The Civil Rights organizations are mostly run by black males, some of whom are not married to black women but are sustained wholly by the efforts of AA black women. Their focus is never placed on our uplift but on public outrage against white hegemony and excusing black male criminality. Behind the scenes they are making deals that benefit individuals not the collective. Any stated alliances with non-AAs should also be evaluated for scope and reciprocity. People can say all they wish publicly but the Trickle-Down Theory has long been debunked. As far as I can see the onus is on black women to continue to self-immolate themselves and ask questions later.

Black males take out their “hatred” of themselves and misdirect their chosen submissiveness by annihilating each other and brutalizing/abandoning black women. There’s an equal effort at running towards Rainbow Coalitions and redirecting their assets to non-black women and communities. If blacks were dominant in the Western world would they continually make every effort imaginable to escape their blackness? Would they by word and deed display their honor for black women?  Even in societies where there may be a majority black population the annihilation is reserved for a specific segment, along ethnic lines, tribes or religion of blacks by each other. Think Rwanda, Congo, Sudan. Think Crips vs Bloods. Either way the destruction or abandonment is a determined and highly successful effort.

IF the systematic racism, colonialism, neo-colonialism or whatever you want to call hegemony is the source of the poison then what is the remedy? A diagnosis must be made and an antidote prescribed, but the medicine must be taken lest the poison spread to the point of death. Why focus this essay on cowardice? The cowardice comes the lack of honest conversations about how black women and AA women specifically have been targeted, that the community is gone and there are individual alliances that must be forged. Preparation is key and swift action must be taken.

Not speaking truth to power about the following is cowardice:

The African-American women who didn’t say anything during civil rights who were pushed aside or raped.

The African-Americans who didn’t speak out against the misogyny of the black power or black nationalism initiatives.

The black women who didn’t say anything about the denigrating rap (except for C Delores Tucker and a few others).

Black women who don’t say anything about the violence, the apathy, the degradation, the abandonment or even how their own behavior contributes to the downward spiral of the collective.

Feminist is not a dirty word. Now it might not apply to every woman in every situation but historically black women have always made efforts to improve their status no matter what era they lived in.

Talking around these issues, misdirecting conversations, arguing semantics and denial do not add any value and makes it worse. So much so that remedy would be rendered ineffective. Now that gangrene has set in it’s time for drastic measures. It’s time to remove a limb, cut our losses and reassess the current system for what’s in our best interest.

Here’s some further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Dominance_Theory

http://blogs.ajc.com/cynthia-tucker/2010/02/17/sclc-black-history-month-relics-of-the-past/?cxntfid=blogs_cynthia_tucker

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/02/stimulating-ethnic-recession?utm_source=twitterfeed

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-affirm16-2010feb16,0,6120034.story

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/equality

Whatever has come to pass has gone – BUT WE’RE GONNA CHANGE IT!!!

  • Speak up.
  • Take a Stand.
  • Seek out, evaluate and negotiate who you allign yourself with.
  • Be open to going in new directions.
  • If someone comes after you have a baseball bat handy to knock them to their knees.
  • Coalitions are only as good as the paper they’re written on. Alliances work as well as they can be enforced.

I will never forget my surprise and sense of outrage after attending NetRoots Nation in 2008 and having those in charge tell me to my face they didn’t believe in diversity. I got the message loud and clear. Black women who voluntarily give service to others will be accepted but do NOT expect it will automatically be done in return. There will be no handing over of resources to those outside your group – especially if you are securing a position for yourself. There will be no partnerships, alliances, musketeer-ism without setting terms and conditions. In other words:

  • Have your own SH*T!!
  • Don’t expect to be invited to the table if you are in beggar mode.
  • Be prepared to walk away if there’s any violation.
  • Don’t think partnering up means you get to do less work.

Remember the collective spending power of black women heads of household in the US is $1.2B – yeah let’s repeat that

$1.2 BILLION- Oprah money ya’ll!

Do you know what we could do with that kind of money….we could have grocery stores, hospitals, tv stations, a couple of gulf stream jets, residency on Dominica, hotels, wait….we could have WHATEVER WE WANTED! Instead that money is going OUT of our pockets, our neighborhoods, there’s no infrastructure in place and we’re making a lot of other people WEALTHY.

Of course people want to “partner” with us. We’re educated, intelligent and resourceful.

Isn’t it time we take care of our own first?

Secure an infrastructure for a) SELF b) FAMILY c) COMMUNITY d) WORLD

THEN

We can discuss whether or not it would be appropriate to work with others and how that will manifest itself.

Learn to distinguish ALLIES from OPPORTUNISTS.

Go check out the Black Girl’s Manfesto from Alienated Conclusions.

12 comments to Look At What Our Collective Cowardice Has Wrought

  • Felicia

    Felicia: I think there are multi-layers to this. Some black women are indoctrinated, some are working through it and some of course are not. We just have to keep peeling back the layers and act accordingly. More BW will as more become open to it.

    Faith,

    I hear you. I don't mean to come across as negative at all. I agree with you, more BW WILL become more comfortable with these ideas as time passes. As they see more BW successfully living unindoctrinated lives on their own terms without regard to others. Seeing is believing. And as our numbers grow, we'll win new converts.

    Plus, I have to remember these BWE sites/blogs are a fairly recent development. It takes time for some folks to process and act on new information.

    I would just hope that younger BW reading these sites start acting now because time gets away fast. Before you know it.

    • Faith

      Time DOES pass far more muickly than many of us realize -- especially the older we get.

  • jubilee

    It's sad, but true. Feminism is ok at times but many people didn't want to jump off of the pedistal which black women were never on much.You know, it would be GREAT if someone would redo the song BLACK PEARL (circa 1970) with different lyrics (since some of us had become Miss Americas)and maybe allow someone than a black man sing it since most black -music- is not about us being pearls but 'ho's

    • Faith

      Jubilee: I don't refer to myself as a feminist but clearly I'm seeking empowerment for all women and discussing the things that are holding black women back. We are not in competition with any other women for the "pedestal" besides black men aren't putting us on them anyway. We have to focus on our own elevation

  • Felicia

    These BW (the majority) still drinking the kool-aid just can't process and accept the truth. That most black males simply think, behave, and react differently than other men. And it has nothing to do with white hegemony/white supremacy. It's simply because they don't wish to or are required to by the defunct and non-existent "bc". Classic DBRness.

    Suffering BW feel that they must blame someone for their sorry state of affairs and since the so-called "bc" has designated BM as a group blameless -- including it's MIA baby daddies, dangerous criminals, and misogynist elements- that anger, disappointment, and rage has to be directed somewhere.

    So… it's often misdirected towards WM and white hegemony. WM could care less about what angry AA BW think because they're both powerless. WM (and everyone else) are too busy living their lives, loving their spouses/significant others, raising their children, building their communities etc… to care what these delusional BW think. And why would anyone listen to what angry BW think who won't don't even have the courage to direct their anger towards it's SOURCE (DBRBM) out of some B.S. notion of "racial loyalty" that is not, and never has been reciprocated. Everyone can see that these sister solider types are full of HOT AIR and CONFUSED. And white hegemony ain't going NO where because everyone already supports it to one degree or another. And NOBODY supports it more than BM. The missing ingredient in these sister solider's plan for this "black utopia" nonsense.

    The fact that BM themselves aren't even on board should tell these BW something right there.

    But, these women would rather live in a dream world than face reality. Because to truly face reality would require them to make some SERIOUS changes in their attitudes, beliefs, and sometimes even relationships with friends and family.

    Most are simply too cowardly/fearful/lazy to face these demons, make a clean brake with what and who's holding them back from living normal and fulfilling lives, and start anew with a different mindset that they're not used to.

    Therefor they continue to fool themselves into believing there's an actual black community filled with "brothas" and "sistas" out there that has their back. A black community that is on the verge of making a comeback. Even though EVERYTHING is pointing to the contrary.

    It's just too scary for them to accept the truth and venture out there and relate to folks regardless of ancestry on an individual basis. Because they (and they ALONE) have been trained to view the world in black and white. Us vs. Them. An adversarial relationship with life.

    That is not the way.

    And that's why I think these sister solider type of BW feel so threatened by us BW who think differently, behave differently, and live quality lives on our own terms irregardless of what anyone else thinks.

    It's envy and jealousy. And sadness and anger too. Because the more BW wake up and do for SELF, the LESS BW there are to help those "sister soldiers". They know their not getting ANY help from the "brothers" and now the SMART sisters are leaving too.

    These indoctrinated BW are realizing that as more BW leave the Titanic/Matrix they are truly going to be ALL alone in their misery and their crusades. And misery does loves company.

    • Faith

      Felicia: I think there are multi-layers to this. Some black women are indoctrinated, some are working through it and some of course are not. We just have to keep peeling back the layers and act accordingly. More BW will as more become open to it.

  • MesaATLien

    Faith,

    I want to thank you for your wonderful posts that just make me want to keep going and strive for even more!!!

    As a college freshman (just finished my first year!), I was quite surprised to see how far many will go in terms of black acceptance at my college. A group of us AA girls got together one night to discuss our own empowerment and well being. I suggested that instead of trying to fit in with the crowd, we should do things our own way, and work on us before we try to do things for others. I was saddened to hear about the things that these girls were doing, in terms of alcohol and sex.

    It really shocked me because these types of things never crossed my mind. Call me a little naive and innocent, but if this is what people want college to be about, maybe I'm in the wrong place. It's like a circus of buffoonery that I don't understand why people would approve of this behavior. One girl told me that she's afraid we might lose the support of the "black community" at the college if we only look out for ourselves. I wanted to scream at her that if that is the case, then we don't want the support of the "black community" anyway!

    The so called "acceptance" that they want is not worth my self dignity or respect. This may be a lost cause in some cases, but I want to try and get people to wake up and listen to what they are saying!!!!

    • Faith

      MesaATLien: Wow and thanks for letting me know these essays are helpful to you. College can be a confusing time period. I remember how my parents had insisted on sheltering me so much to the point I was lost when I first went away to school. I'm under the impression that you are a "good" girl, lol! You know, grew up around religion and tried to be responsible and a "credit" to the race. Also being a girl the sexist rules of one set of standards for girls vs. boys may have been in place. I'm just guessing here….

      I had friends betray me over petty jealousies, a white roommate who didn't want to share a room with an AA student and boundaries regarding dating, alcohol, etc had to be worked out. The girls that lived next to me would drink until they blacked out, one girl was date raped…this was all in ONE semester! People were smoking pot, etc and I didn't but it was challenging for me to try to be social and live in the "real" world without being judgemental but not violate my personal values. That took a few years to figure out. I mean I could go on. It was all rather shocking to me initially -- plus I had a very limited budget surrounded by kids who had too much money.

      So aside from that there is the added caution and focus of black female students, in particular AAs who may or may not have a good enough support system to guide them. So yes, you must separate yourself from the indoctrinated. Eventually all like-minded people find each other. I wouldn't even continue to have conversations after those girls have declared their ideology loyalty because they'll see you an oppositional force and a threat. Maybe try to find your common ground activities and keep it friendly but make sure to CYA. It's okay to be naive and innocent about some things as long as you have COMMON SENSE about the things that matter.

      Be safe

      Don't drink past your limit

      Watch your drinks so no one can spike it w/drugs

      Don't limit yourself to the "black" groups

      Take a self-defense class

      Unless a guy has proven himself to be truly interested in you and getting to know you..wait

      You don't want the gossip hounds spreading rumors about you OR other girls sabotaging any true budding romances

      Don't let anyone photograph you in any compromising or questionable situations

      Make sure you have password protected ALL of your computer activity, cell phone, etc.

      Filter your privacy settings on ALL social networking sites. Then do it AGAIN. Employers WILL check!!!

      Know and accept there ARE double standards for anything you do as a woman and as a black woman

      Take at least one semester or better -- one year and go abroad. There are programs such as CIEE that may be less expensive than the one your school offers where you can transfer credits AND have a legal permit to work.

      There are plenty of party schools and even the "name" schools have lots of kids trying to find themselves. You're not the only one who has to make the adjustment.

      Just the fact that you're reading and learning from the BWE/BWIR blogs means you are SO FAR AHEAD OF THE GAME!!! So congrats!

      I wish I had this when I was your age. Feel free to email me privately if you need to and of course take whatever is useful to you and your life and DISCARD the rest -- even if it comes from me!

      Best Wishes!

      • MesaATLien

        Faith,

        Thanks! Yes, I do consider myself to be a good girl, lol. It's getting harder and harder to try and cooperate, I guess, with folks who don't want to be on the same page. I guess you have to let people make their own mistakes, but at the same time, I always think about what could happen if I don't speak up. The consequences of their actions can be severe, and I don't want anyone to do something stupid. I don't drink. Alcohol has never been for me, but it's hard to walk that line of not interfering with what your friends are doing.

        The stuff I've seen here makes me so glad the the school year is OVER! It has been confusing but fun at the same time. I will say that I was hoping the people wouldn't have been so petty over small things. I understand the money situation greatly. I am here on a full scholarship and the only thing I have money for is food!

        Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, we are no longer friends, and I must say it's been for the better. I have had to let go of a friend before in high school because of a negative influence I wasn't even aware of. I had thought that everything was cool between us, but something was always in the back of my mind telling me to stay away. It was just her attitude and behavior, and a lot of people questioned why I hung out with her. I had made the scholar's list since my freshman year at my high school, and I had been friends with her since then. But my senior year, when I got rid of her, I made the headmaster's list!! It was just a breath of fresh air, and I often ask myself "What was I thinking?!"

        But that's how it goes sometimes, you just have to learn from experiences. I thank you for the advice, it really brightens my day to know that in this crazy world there are like minded people out there.

        I am going to study abroad next summer, hopefully to England or Italy. But this summer, I'm going to work at a design gallery and make some money for the trip!

        God Bless!

        • Faith

          If you go to the UK I can give you a lot of tips as I lived there. If Italy I have a friend who lives in Rome. Let me know.

  • Faith,

    Thanks for the shout-out! What I find so fascinating about the conversations you've cited is (what seems to me to be) the fearful emotional undercurrent (from the Sista Soldiers) at the very idea of dropping the so-called fight against White hegemony.

    I get the feeling that many AA women are truly AFRAID to take off our emotional "marching shoes" and lay down our emotional picket signs. It's as if this mostly-rhetorical and mostly-imaginary "struggle against White hegemony" is the "true North" of our emotional compass.

    And this "struggle against White hegemony" is more of an oppositional-defiant emotional stance than any tangible actions (such as actually building an independent economic infrastructure, etc.). During the long decades of this imagined, and now-obsolete "struggle," AA women aren't doing anything except making ourselves unavailable for profitable interactions with Whites. Including those Whites who, given the opportunity, would happily be: (1) loving and lovable husbands for some AA women; productive business partners; and so on. AA women are cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

    Meanwhile, everybody else (including AA men and non-AA Black women) is seeking whatever they can gain from connections to other people—including the dreaded White men.

    It's long past time for AA women to take a step back, take a breath, and reconsider this unnecessarily oppositional-defiant emotional posture.

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

    • Faith

      Khadija: Thanks for your comment. This is another important aspect of removing the baggage from this conditioned thinking. As more AA women shift their focus the true alliances will be sought and emerge naturally from sheer exposure.

      I still think there's been a coordinated effort at destroying the viability of upwardly mobile black women in response to Michelle Obama being FLOTUS. We have to do an end run to all of this nonsense.

      The emotional rage against the machine of white hegemony is probably stronger than protecting random black males. I know it's something I have to catch -- along with the "this isn't fair" reaction. I do think about the possibilities of what a strong black alliance focused on our elevation could have meant because I see how it's manifested for other groups every day.

      Oh well…

      In order to completely purge that something has to be put in its place though and this is what will trip many AA women up until that's figured out.