Defining Reciprocity: Black Women Are Still Being Told To Put Everyone Else First!

Yet the buck stops here.

Some women think of themselves by their ethnicity or race first. Some women think of themselves by their relationships (i.e daughter of or wife of someone). Some women think of themselves by their station in life or job. Still others are considered by gender in relation to a political agenda…but still have their race or class status hand in hand.

One of the most freeing aspects from reading the essays of empowerment as discussed by certain bloggers is that we are FREE. Their words are a much-needed inoculation against the insanity messages being spouted as facts today.

  • We are free to date whomever we fancy. Character trumps skin shade.
  • We are free to explore our orientation or identity and establish it as we see fit.
  • We are free to explore our individual tastes. Go see the world!
  • We are free to live our lives as we see fit. Our standards are what matter most.
  • We are free from being conjoined with random black men and tying our existence to them.
  • We are free – or we should be – from the myth of the “black community” and upholding its “tenets” of enslavement.
  • We are even free from needing the understanding or approval of other black women for our individual choices. Even the ones that claim to be in support of empowerment.

Why is that so many are invested in telling us what we “should” be doing? I had a conversation with someone who asked me when I was going to do “community service” and help the children. This was the tail-end of a conversation about a black male student who was beaten to death. I think the “people” that need to “step up” are black men and the Civil Rights organizations. Since we know it is NOT black women causing the majority of the violence, the misogyny and the denigration why would anyone assume we have the power to “fix” other people (esp. black boys and men)?

We know them by the fruit of their labor.

Now, I’m not mocking the benefits of offering assistance but the idea that I should feel in any way obligated to encourage, uplift or elevate other people (and their otherwise abandoned, mistreated, or cast-aside kids) is rather presumptuous. I’m certain this will be considered heresy to some but far too many black women have sacrificed themselves at the altar of “saving all of our people” for naught. Things have steadily deteriorated and the depravity will only multiply.

Black women need to stop riding the rescue wave for others and take care of themselves first!

I am a black woman, an African-American but that is but ONE aspect to who I am. I’m also an artist, a writer, a singer and a budding gourmet chef. I’m also a Gen-Xer, born in the USA, grew up on the East Coast and the first-born child. I enjoy a variety of music, love to travel and enjoy plushness. I cry at poignant commercials. I am many things yet sometimes I am no one in particular. Who says I have to be ANYTHING other than WHO I WANT TO BE?

Yesterday, I had to be very firm in setting boundaries with an individual who was willing to take advantage of me. Lack of communication and setting a bad precedent in behavior will only set a path in motion that’s nearly impossible to reverse. After hearing about their various issues with this and that and feeling empathy but recognizing I was about to be steamrolled I had to put my foot down. I was very reluctant to do so but at the end of the day who’s looking out for me if I won’t take care of myself first!!

When we try to be “nice” and overlook obvious flaws to “get along” with others we are not doing ourselves any favors. There will always be some issue that takes precedence. Once people see they can be “abusive” or take advantage it only escalates. It may be a joke at one’s expense, a harsh word or demanding considerations that overextend others. It may be borrowing money with no intention of repaying, asking someone to look the other way or withholding affection.

I wanted to know whether this person would respect my wishes and set aside their self-interest for the greater good. Their response was to become rather combative because I wouldn’t “understand” their difficulties. Actions speak louder than words. It’s why women are referred to as bit*hes when they don’t respond to street harassers or make unpopular decisions. People are very quick to turn to anger when they don’t get their way and lines are drawn in the sand. “Do it my way or else there’ll be hell to pay!” That is the ultimate in manipulative behavior.

When there is mutual respect, concern and affection…you know a true FRIENDSHIP or KINSHIP…people will look at the big picture. It’s one thing to ask for help. It’s another thing to insist the need for alleviating one’s challenges/difficulties at someone’s expense. Sometimes misunderstandings do occur and things should absolutely be resolved. Sometimes people know exactly what they’re doing in crossing a line. Setting boundaries is not the problem. It’s about respect for self – and others by insisting on them to begin with. There’s no need for emotionalism or lingering anger when they are established and adhered to. No one is going to convince me otherwise.

Sometimes we must ensure our dignity remains intact even if our needs cannot be met at that time or in the preferred manner. Getting along with another person, an organization or even a community should NEVER include being used as a doormat or being self-sacrificing to one’s detriment.

Old School Friday

lauryn hill – x factor
tell me who i have to be
to get some reciprocity
She was expecting equality! This video and song could be released today and wouldn’t sound or look dated at all. The brightest stars always fade out too quickly.

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Gay Is NOT the New Black!

First of all it equates gayness with being something other than Black in order to replace it, thereby ignoring Black people who are gay. Second it places Blackness as the ‘other’ as something inherently wrong and marginalized. Third, it then trumps that marginalization as if Blackness is something that needs to be or can be ‘overcome’ and replaced with something more oppressive. None of which is true.
This strategy being used by the Gay Rights Industrial Complex (GRIC) needs to end pronto!!! Especially in light of the immediate reaction by some who were disappointed by the failure of the No on 8 campaign and used racial epithets against Black people. I’ve been watching the news coverage of the ‘outrage’ against Yes on 8. I’d be hard pressed to find any media discussion exclusive of white people and the only time any PoC are mentioned it’s to scapegoat straight Blacks while ignoring Black LGBT completely. 
People are going as far as to call for boycotting businesses whose employees may have supported it. Funny, that’s the same thing the opposition was doing before the election. Do you think it’s wise to fight fire with fire? Outrage with a further escalation of outrage? I call your pissed and I’ll raise you a bitter? There are many aspects to this argument that need a more thorough and nuanced examination. 
Homophobia needs to be addressed. It should be something confronted and worked on by individual people, straight and gay (and everything in between) within their own communities. Of all ethnic/cultural groups. Perhaps if more Black LGBT for example were more open or willing to make themselves more available….I know I’m gonna get grief over this, but if you take off for the closest white neighborhood and/or are in an interracial relationship and don’t even want to ‘deal’ with Black people how are we going to find common ground? Am I really supposed to believe that Black people are somehow inherently more homophobic than everybody else? I just don’t buy it. 
Racism within the GRIC needs to be confronted. Again, when all the gay people are white (that you see in the media) it’s a problem. When all the gay people you see running national organizations are again – white – claiming a ‘minority’ status it’s a real slap in the face. Like the Republican party, somebody needs to do real ‘soul searching’ and decide if it’s going to be a movement for those that think like them and who they deem appropriate and feel comfortable with or a movement for all
I want equal rights for everyone. I want people to be able to earn a good living that covers all necessities and some wants doing what they love. Women should be paid the same salary as men when doing the same work with equal qualifications. I want people to live up to their full potential. People should be able marry other people of legal age who consent whatever their gender. We need an efficient gov’t and to be active participants in the role it plays in our lives and how we impact people around the world. There needs to be a separation of church and state. 
Today there are rallies being held across the country in support of same-sex marriage. As many as 25K people have already attended other protest marches since the election. It’s great when people feel motivated to take action. I hope this effort will be extended beyond that into a sustained campaign at working on issues that negatively impact people on a daily basis. That campaign should not be exclusive of and limited to the GRIC. 
Of all people it’s Bill O’Reilly (well his producers anyway) who took the time to bring in some color commentary with writer/activist Jasmynne Cannick. Before you view the video read her interview with Oakland, CA filmmaker Debra Wilson (not the MAD TV performer) who said:

“Look—I even applied for a job with the No on 8 campaign office in San Francisco’s Castro District. I specifically wanted to help outreach to Blacks on the issue but it was clear that wasn’t the agenda of the campaign.”

So let’s recap again: the failure of their campaign is still being pinned on Black people as the sole cause and not the Latino, Asian and whites who voted against it in higher numbers. “Black” is all-encompassing term and ignores Black LGBT and yet the movement is on par with the church based-social movement of equal rights for Blacks. But church-based Blacks voted Yes on 8 overwhelmingly. NO on 8 TURNED DOWN HELP FROM BLACKS. Except Mary J. Blige doing a Beverly Hills fundraiser which is….preaching to the choir. 
I haven’t seen any plans to address this or correct it except hearing about protest rallies – and having more white people, usually men speak for the GRIC and still insist on appropriating the struggle of my elders. Does that cover it?

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Prop 8: Evaluating & Finding Common Ground

So while the blame game continues, people take to the streets in protest and file lawsuits take a look at the actual votes for Yes on Proposition 8 by non-Blacks:
White Men:   51% of 31% of 10,325,615 votes: 1,632,480 Yes
White Women:   47% of 32% of 10,325,615 votes: 1,552,972  Yes
Latino Men:   54% of 8% of 10,325,615 votes:    446,067 Yes
Latino Women:   52% of 11% of 10,325,615 votes:    592,170  Yes
Asian/Native:   51% of 9% of 10,325,615 votes:    473,946 Yes

Total: 4,697,635 

9.3 times the maximum TOTAL number of Black votes in California.
Continuing this discussion of the failure of the No on 8 campaign and similar legislation in FL and AR, I’d like to work on presenting strategies we should consider. 
1.) End this focus on Black straight religious-based labeling of those that voted Yes on 8 as homophobic. There is a larger argument here that is multi-layered and not as simple as ‘black and white’ or ‘loving God means hating gays’. Accept the fact that some people’s religious traditions do not support LGBTQI on certain aspects but find other issues that you can get their support on. There is too much emphasis on sex and sex acts and not enough consideration of loving monogamous (if you will) relationships and families. Focus on poverty, housing, employment and improving the lives of children and you will make inroads. I have a religious tradition that has constantly evolved as I’ve matured, experienced things in life and have revisited what I believe. It’s called evaluating, questioning and growing – something that we can all benefit from.
Read this article in the Bay Reporter Online from October 23, 2008 that focused on Black religious leaders and community gathering for support for No on 8. 

About 100 people gathered at a predominantly black church in San Francisco Sunday, October 19 for an evening of preaching against Prop 8.

Referring to blacks’ fight against oppression, the Reverend Amos Brown, of Third Baptist Church, told those present, “We have become that which we hated.”

People “ain’t got no business telling gay and lesbian and transgender people that they cannot have equal protection under the law in these United States of America,” he said. His words were greeted with a loud standing ovation.

So much for that “all Blacks hate teh gay (and can’t be gay)” meme!!
2.) The Gay Rights Industrial Complex (GRIC) has a serious image problem. First of all every LGBTQI person is not white, male (mostly) and monied. That’s the only aspect we see. Look at who’s running the organizations, who’s driving the media narrative and who the celebrity spokespeople tend to be and it’s a virtual white-out. If you present yourself as exclusive and wealthy any cries of discrimination and marginalization are not gonna fly!! You can’t have it both ways. A regime change is absolutely necessary from the top down.
3.) Where are the people of color who are LGBTQI? Where is the parity within the GRIC? There should be conservations between them first. Why have you allowed a movement with an agenda being pushed that largely discounts you? There has to be a coordination with non-LGBTQI supporters who should be at the table as well. And let’s be real: people need to go places they don’t feel comfortable going and speak to people as human beings, not as labels. The one thing that should be gleaned from the Obama campaign is community organizing and listening to those whose viewpoints you are unfamiliar with or don’t agree with. 
We need more of this:[prop8.jpg]
And Less of this:
Election ’08: More Prop. 8 Madness---From Westwood to the Hood
4.) If whites had a real understanding of the tradition of Civil Rights and how it began in the Black church they would not continually lay claim to the idea in theory when applying it to Gay Rights activism. Have you ever heard of a repeating comparison to the Holocaust? Of course not. It’s ridiculous! Yet there is this inherent racism, yes, racism by placing all Black people into victim status and then trying to co-opt our struggles as having the same meaning. It also places a hierarchy of status by placing Blacks beneath whites – which brings us full circle back to my beginning argument. There are also the struggles of the other ethnic groups (Natives, Asians, Latinos, etc) that haven’t even been considered. No matter what circumstances or who is involved it always seems to come back to blaming teh Black
In the end the Marriage Amendments may have to be decided by a ruling from the Supreme Court. Hopefully the Obama administration will be able to make at least 2 appointments of more moderate (but I’m hoping for uber liberal) judges. That’s why voting for him and working on a long term agenda is so important. You might be surprised to find th actual votes from white gay males was lower for President-Elect Obama than Sen. John Kerry. Let’s not even talk about the Log Cabin Republicans!
 
Black people and other PoC who are LGBTQI and supportive of have to sit down together and hash things out with those who are not. White people who are LGBTQI and supportive have to make a choice about what’s most important to them: white privilege or gay rights. And act accordingly. 
A coordinated attack from an opposition force that is well organized and well funded will not survive if all allies are united. 

Let the Backlash From Prop 8 Be A Warning

Here in California the moment of our coming together unraveled rather quickly don’t you think? Some people may not have noticed yet but certain people have already drawn their line on the white side and are gunning for our jugular. 
Some of these white people who identify as gay were sorta okay with following the Obama train because they felt he would do a little jig and tap dance on cue. They were anticipating tit for tat. If they voted for Obama, we’d vote No on 8. The fact that they made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to speak to Black (straight) people and have a history of excluding most Black people gay or straight from the official Gay Rights Industrial Complex then what were they expecting? Magical thinking doesn’t work for anyone. 
It is not a coincidence CNN released inaccurate exit poll information and tried to present it a representation of actual votes. It is not a coincidence that certain white males who identify as gay with media access continued this lie and further spread the racial arson. It is not a coincidence that white people will appropriate elements of Black social movements and claim an endangered status when it suits them. It is a suit they can wear when navigating less amenable waters which can then be quickly removed once they are back on solid ground. 
I know many people are genuinely disappointed and angry that Yes on 8 passed. For them it may a singular issue of utmost importance. This affects many LGBT of color as well, but they’re not the ones rioting! Since so many like to talk about discrimination I’d like to know how much people are willing to sacrifice to get rid of it?  Are people willing to denounce their white privilege to make it a level playing field for everyone? 
I highly doubt it!
I see this theme about ‘homophobic Black bogeymen’ as a straw hat argument that has no discernible meaning any more than the ‘menacing Black mugger’ Ashley Todd tried to use to start a race war on behalf of John McCain.  If a real discussion and analysis had been had the immediate eruption of anger and use of racial epithets even against fellow LGBT who are Black would not have occurred.  
Writer-activist Jasmynne Cannick wrote a great Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times that you can read here.

Oprah Just Honored Gloria Steinem: Why Am I So Mad?

So I was watching Thursday’s Oprah episode where she featured Maria Shriver. Maria has an annual conference for women and this year Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem are amongst the honorees. Now Steinem might be an ally of Oprah but is she an ally of mine? What about Laquisha from the hood? Or Monique from a small town? So many people are ignored not only by corporate media but by us when they don’t easily fit into our vision of what an ally is or we dismiss others without giving them an opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.
Blogger Host Lisa at Black Women Blow the Trumpet posted a discussion about how Black women needed to vet their potential allies back in June. When I go through the criteria I find key elements lacking for matters that are important to me. How did I come to such a conclusion?
Well I looked back at Ms. Steinem’s behavior during the Democratic primary. Per her Op-Ed article in the New York Times back in January: her charge was that sexism is worse than racism. I was outraged by that assessment and to me it signaled the same white male supremacist power structure Black people have been fighting against since we helped found this country with our blood, sweat and tears. I also looked at the historical interactions from previous generations of white feminists, black feminists and civil rights activists.
If there’s any one authority of the ravages of sexism it is Black women. We were uniquely affected by it as well as racism when our female ancestors were forced to breed and lived with being raped on a daily basis. Our bodies were never our own. Being enslaved required 18-20 hours day of skull-crushing, back breaking labor while white people fought for ‘freedom’ and built their wealth. Now to be certain, there was the slave owner but there was also the slave owner’s wife who benefitted from this practice and had an equally vested interest in keeping the status quo. 
That violation of Black women continued after slavery, through Jim Crow and still resides today. Do you think the brouhaha over Janet Jackson being exposed had to do with indecency or a reaction to the historical image distortion of Black women as being wanton and having no morals? 

White women = the definition of “woman” in this country. White. Blonde. Thin. Young. Pure. Wife material. Innocent. Worthy of protection. American.

Ms. Steinem made a point of mentioning she ran as a delegate for Shirley Chisholm and praised her contribution to feminism. Nice, but that was 1972. Then there’s the fact that she was also supporting George McGovern’s run (in states where Chisholm wasn’t running). Now color me stupid but I’m thinking of two words right now. Divided loyalty. Hedging bets. Not Sincere? 
What has she done for Black women since then?
Watch the documentary Unbought & Unbossed. Note that Mrs. Chisholm didn’t get a whole lot of support from the Black (male) politicians of the day but she was definitely abandoned by the so-called leaders of the (white) feminist movement at a crucial moment when they could have gone for broke and supported her candidacy.  For a white male candidate no less. So I am rightfully incensed with Steinem and a host of other white women (Geraldine Ferraro, Joan Walsh, et al) who were given media access and were carping about how ‘unfair’ it all was that they were victims of a vast Black (male) conspiracy (and not getting their way)! Their sense of entitlement was palpable. Otherwise why title your Op-Ed piece, “Women Are Never Front-Runners” when you had the chance to support a female candidate more than 30 years prior and decided to choose white?
Furthermore, where were the BLACK WOMEN in this equation? Yeah Hillary Clinton had Sheila Jackson-Lee and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones in her corner but was that from a position of power? Or was this standard water-carrier activity? How was the average Black woman benefitting from this discourse? Then….and now? If you have no idea what I’m talking about now’s the time to do a little historical research, compare it to the coverage last Spring and connect the dots as to why I’ve drawn this conclusion. You don’t have to agree of course.
Then there’s the very telling debate between Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Democracy Now a week after the Op-Ed was published. Steinem had this paternalistic attitude of how ‘grateful’ Black women should be. This is the ongoing indicator of how some people are not our allies, including other Black women and Black men. Watch and judge for yourself.
Oprah referring to Steinem as the “Mother of Feminism” is really giving her far more credit than she deserves. A key contributor – sure –  because a path was created for her to do so. This is when I see why some people are critical of Oprah for seeming to fawn over some white people too much. I can’t quite agree with the charge of the ‘selling out’ of Blacks by Oprah but I do see the distinction of money, access and celebrity. Besides, those part of the elite classes and those with access to them are not interested in opening their doors to the masses. 
First of all Steinem is in her 70’s and part of the 2nd wave of feminism. We’re in the 3rd wave now and believe me there’s a reason why so many young girls don’t know anything about feminism other than having a vague sense of the word. Most women under 35 don’t consider themselves feminists at all.  At times it is an exercise in privilege because there is so much ‘choice’ involved. When there are systematic barriers in place that prevent some women from being able to make certain choices or have equal opportunities then there is no choice! It is just white woman privilege under the construct of white male supremacy.
There can be no truthful acknowledgment of Steinem’s contributions without discussing her privilege as a white woman, her class status and appearance. She was single with no children, educated and is still attractive and articulate. She was not a poor woman from Appalachia with a GED. Sorry Glo, I am still not convinced. There is a blogger whose interests lie in deconstructing and dismantling this privilege.
Now as a member of the (in)famous X generation perhaps I am missing something. This could a generational difference. Just like the Civil Rights Industrial Complex the old guard wants to keep their status and accolades. Where is the grooming and nurturing of future leaders? More women would make a concerted effort to align themselves with the Feminist Industrial Complex IF they felt it spoke to them and addressed their needs.  There are women who are anti-racist activists trying to form valuable alliances with each other. We need to have more than one declared leader of the FIC anyway. Women, like Blacks are not a monolith. So many are quick to object to blind support for Obama and not make him into a Messiah. Well we don’t need a “Mother” either. We need to be on equal footing with a seat at the table.
For too many there is a huge socio-economic barrier at play. If you have to address more immediate needs such as affordable housing or even personal safety as a result of racist/sexist policies negatively impacting your sphere of the world being ignored by these pillars of the movement won’t encourage your participation. Another example of this is the current fight against Proposition 8. The Gay Rights groups seeking support for its opposition approach communities color during an election year but ignore them otherwise. 
Steinem now claims to have been in support of Obama all along – she just wanted Hillary Clinton in the White House first.  Remember those calls for Obama to “wait his turn”? As if he had to make it easier for the white women (and those that support their agendas) to deal with playing on a level field. Isn’t that what equality means? See where white privilege demands deference? Obama has already capitulated to white people to make them feel at ease enough!! Look how close we are to election day and you can read numerous reports of how whites are calling Obama a terrorist or dressing up monkey stuffed animals and all the ways they are making their displeasure known. 
The convenient fall back position is to claim they didn’t know they were being offensive, or because they have a Black friend/lover/neighbor/co-worker they can’t be racist. Not correctly labeling their actions means there can be no progress. Without respect there can be no real relationship. Standing by and doing nothing to hold people accountable will never resolve these conflicts. Until white people like Steinem take up the charge of first acknowledging then letting go of white privilege and all its benefits she can NEVER truly be an ally in my opinion. It must always about RECIPROCITY.

You can also go the Democracy Now! site for a stream and transcript.