— The most important choice you can make is what you choose to make important.
There may be some dissent to this conversation but there also needs to be some serious discusson about the direction the current generations of black women will take their lives and the legacy for the future. If we evaluate the status of the collective since the 1960’s we will find growth for a group of individuals but a stunning collapse for an increasing majority. Avoiding the present set of circumstances and misplacing blame does not serve the interest of black people (in particular African-Americans) who should be firmly established by now and continually moving forward. Being reactionary to certain open opposition does not address the foundational cracks from within and is not the core problem. Fighting white hegemony will not ever elevate the status of blacks in this country when they are wholly divided.
Black women who continue to follow the old models are less likely to thrive at the levels other women whose communities are supportive. Or as blog host Halima of Black Women’s Interracial Relationship Circle stated in her post, “What Would Self Do” :
“The truth that has been shielded from black women to keep them working like a mule, is that when black women thrive as individuals, the so called community would thrive automatically, it wouldn’t need to be something you have to plot and plan for. Think about that for a second and think about the fact that even ancient tribes understood this basic principle!”
The NAACP posted a copy of an email being attributed to Shirley Sherrod on their website last week. In the email titled You & I Can’t Yield, Not Now Not Ever Mrs. Sherrod offers her continued support to the Civil Rights organization and urges others to do the same.
“Not long ago, I sat here in my living room in Albany, Georgia for an afternoon of deep conversation with NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. As he has done in public, Ben movingly apologized for the fact that the NAACP was initially hoodwinked by Breitbart and Fox into supporting my removal. I told him what I want to tell you.
That’s behind us, and the last thing I want to see happen is for my situation to weaken support for the NAACP. Too many people confronted by racism and poverty count on the NAACP to be there for them, especially those in rural areas who often have nowhere else to turn.”
While I have great respect for the long history of service to the black community that Mrs. Sherrod has completed I do not in any way agree with her urging other women to continue to be self-sacrificing for others who never reciprocate. That’s the indoctrination many of us are asking women to evaluate and dismantle. When has the external pressure put on black women to “save the community” alone resulted in success?
Any blanket endorsement for support to an organziation that threw a stallworth of humanity under the bus (who has done so much to directly benefit others) deserves scrutiny and a second look. The problems of today are not solely or even majorly caused by slavery, poverty or the various boogeyman intangibles always being given to explain unresolved and increasingly worse pathologies. While Mrs. Sherrod is free to continue supporting those she pleases, WE have every right to ask:
“What Have You Done For Me Lately.”
Her email indicates the needs of rural residents who depend on the continued support of the NAACP as part of her reasoning. That’s fine. We don’t want anyone going without and these organizations are certainly capable of actually assisting people who need help. There’s nothing else to replace them either – but who’s fault is that? The real question remains will their outreach and organizational hierarchy ever be equitable to black women? As we see by the long history and recent action the NAACP is only interested in promoting the interests of black males, often criminals. They have a history of males fronting the organization on the backs of the work of black women. They now claim to encompass human rights and to be a mutli-cultural organization but are still trading on the history of blacks in the United States and in particular the self-sacrificing actions of black women. Mrs. Sherrod’s decision to “take one for the team” shows great loyalty but who’s going to benefit?
I haven’t seen any follow-up from the NAACP outlining how they’re going to be held accountable for helping ALL blacks not just black males, let alone an admission of their institutional shortcomings. Not that I expect to. Ben Jealous still needs to be removed because he has failed at leading this organization. Those who claim he needs to be given more time ignore the nature of business. If after nearly two years at a CEO-level for a company as a shareholder or employee would you want to continue letting a business you rely on fall off a cliff? If your investments continued to deplete month after month to where it has lost a majority of its value would you still hold onto it?
New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Bob Herbert has asked some important questions in his piece titled, “Too Long Ignored” about why there’s an abject failure of the community. My response is italicized.
“That the black community has not been mobilized en masse to turn this crisis around is a screaming shame.” (Well Bob black women have been saying this for years and it has fallen on deaf ears).
“This is a cancer that has been allowed to metastasize for decades. Not only is it not being treated, most people don’t even want to talk about it.” (Ditto)
“The aspect of this crisis that is probably the most important and simultaneously the most difficult to recognize is that the heroic efforts needed to alleviate it will not come from the government or the wider American society.” (Yet people are still relying on Obama and other black faces in high places to resolve this alone).
This is a job that will require a campaign on the scale of the civil rights movement, and it will have to be initiated by the black community. (Hmm isn’t this what the NAACP and other Civil Rights Industrial Complex orgs are supposed to be doing instead of alternately ignoring the needs of or conducting public character assassinations against black women?)
Whether this is fair or not is irrelevant. There is very little sentiment in the wider population for tackling the extensive problems faced by poor and poorly educated black Americans. (In other words white America has declared cries of racism done: see the Tea Party. Other groups are focused on their own rise to power as well. No one is going to do for blacks what they won’t do for themselves).
What is needed is a dramatic mobilization of the black community to demand justice on a wide front — think employment, education and the criminal justice system — while establishing a new set of norms, higher standards, for struggling blacks to live by. (Well the “community” is only as effective as its members. Justice also includes protecting and uplifting black women and girls separately and specifically. Talk of enacting standards has some people crowing that they can’t do and say whatever they like [i.e. people focusing more on Dr. Laura’s use of the N word because she’s white instead of the daily denigration of blacks by other dysfunctional blacks].
Herbert – like many – focuses a lot on the plight of black males as if to imply black females are doing better. The women are more invested in serving the community while receiving next to zero support. He does correctly identify the lack of family structure but doesn’t clearly lay out it is due to the continuing choice of other black males to abandon black women and children that has led to this catastorphic failure.
Already we can see how quickly people’s attention is fading – at least until the next crisis. The NAACP sought to attach an initiative against the Tea Party to the White House with no real long-term agenda. They had not prepared for the pushback and ill-equipped to respond. It seems they thought if they could remove some of the vitriol they could further ingratiate themselves to President Obama, except post-racial agendas don’t include specifically addressing the needs of blacks as a collective. It was a 360 failure all around.
Mrs. Sherrod was able to recover from being attacked (publicly at least) but many black women are not protected and are in a vulnerable state due to the disarray of the collective and lack of infrastructure (as well as not protecting themselves). We do all of the work but seldom bask in the accoldates and rewards. Once the unflattering spotlight fades it will be back to business as usual. I, of course would be thrilled to be proven wrong, but if past behavior is the determining indicator of future behavior the great scam will continue.
If at any time those black women that make up the backbone of the fiscal, physical and ideological support would set reciprocal standards and a clear agenda tangible changes would be immediately noticed. We cannot rely on these orgs, the community or the White House to address our needs if WE ourselves do not think we deserve to have our needs met and don’t demand anything in return. Trickle Down Theory didn’t work for the masses from a government policy position and it hasn’t worked for those women who continue to self-sacrifice to their detriment on the altar of saving the black community.