Black Pearls Community Discussions: The State of African American Relationships
Part 1: Hosted by Dr. Niama L. Williams
Just some brief thoughts after crying while watching President Obama grace Ottawa. I love the way this man is received and loved the world over!!!!!
You’ve asked about the historiography and spirituality and the meaning of black womanness in the Americas. Let me begin by defining that huge word:
historiography: the writing of history ; especially : the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods (m-w.com).
Selecting particulars from the “authentic materials” and synthesizing those particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods is the primary work of a scholar.
My hypothesis, my belief about the rifts, gulfs and chasms that separate Black men and Black women are number one, those gulfs don’t really exist. We as Black women have been accused of emasculating our men, of raising them to victimize other women, of the ills and social maladies they perpetrate falling at our doorstep: we raised them so we are responsible for what they become.
Such thought simplifies the issue, the vast machinery at work to emasculate our men and victimize our women, and denies the fact that we as Black women have often, consistently and to our detriment, stood beside and defended our men.
Let’s go way, way back and look at the psychological dynamics at work when the journey of African people began in the Americas.
Point one: Many believe the history of Blacks in this country begins with enslavement. I demur: look at those Mesoamerican stone faces. African people beat the Vikings here. Those Mesoamerican stone faces have braids, wide noses and thick lips. AFRICAN!
Point two: Lying about the above and telling us that our history begins with enslavement is part of the dynamic at work to further enslave us and coddle our brains, trick us into enslaving ourselves.
We as Black women have walked a difficult minefield, mental, emotional and psychological, and we and our men have often been victims of what the enslavement system tried to do to us as proud African people.
We as a people were forced into a system in which an African man defending his woman or his children or his family members from any sort of brutality stemming from a white hand RISKED HIS LIFE or the lives of those he cared about or someone else in his community. DEATH could be the result, death or maiming or being separated for life, all lay at the end of the road of resistance.
Such a situation creates an incredible minefield the mind must walk. How defend those you love when they may not want you to because they know it could mean your death? How look into the eyes of those you love knowing that day in, day out, you must live with what is happening to your woman or your daughter or your son because resistance, as the Borg say, is futile?
A minefield for the male and for the female. She may say she does not want him to resist–because she knows it will mean his life or hers–but deep down, some part of her wants him to cut master’s manhood off and hang it from a spindle. How live with that rage and anger and pent up fury? The both of them?
A rift between Black men and Black women? Not all of the time. Many times we stayed together, fought to be and remain together, despite the odds, the weights, the tragedies, the sacrifices. We knew what it cost and we did it anyway. The rift occurred sometimes because we hurt and were angry and we couldn’t help blaming and wanting vengeance. Why didn’t he act ANYWAY, we Black women sometimes asked, even if it was only to ourselves. Even if he could only see the question in our eyes, screaming from deep within our souls.
This is why there will be no real healing of the African American or White soul in this country until the PSYCHOLOGICAL WEIGHT AND LEGACY for BOTH RACES of enslavement is dealt with on a MASS level. Until we deal with it psychologically, AS A NATION, there will be only a closing over of the wound (Obama), but no deep and necessary cauterizing and cleansing.
Now let’s bring this forward.
Enslavement ends, somewhat violently. Reconstruction. The rise of Black colleges. The rise of the Black female domestic. Black men are still a threat in the eyes of White America. Black women are still perceived as desirable and not as big a threat as Black men. Black women are able to be educated. Black women are able to work. Black women, in many instances, are able to provide for their families because they are seen as not as huge a threat, when their men find much more dehumanizing and much riskier work–riskier emotionally, and psychologically, especially in terms of self-esteem and behavior that might get one killed. Ever the threat of harm, ever the perception of “uppity nigga.”
Women can get away with more, but women have to put up with the constant threat of sexual attack, assault, innuendo, et cetera. For every domestic with a good relationship with “her white people,” there was another who had to put up with unwanted advances and/or plain old racist white behavior.
Resentment on both sides? You betcha. Women could always earn. It is even moreso the case now. More female Black college graduates even today. Black men needed more than ever in elementary and secondary schools, but school teaching still seen as “women’s work” unless you are in administration.
Is there a rift? I look at behaviors. Black women still, in large part, prefer Black men. The numbers of available, viable Black men are shrinking and shrinking criminally, so many Black women choose outside of the race because they want marriages and families and there are simply not enough Black men to go around.
White America has also done its bit to emasculate on several fronts. My wonderful significant other tells me (he is 77 years of age) that a significant element of that emasculation was LYING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF BLACK MEN AND WOMEN. “We,” he says, “were made to believe that we as Black people had contributed NOTHING to history. We were,” he says, “WRITTEN OUT OF HISTORY.” When he was growing up, they were convinced that Blacks had contributed nothing to world civilization. NOTHING.
A people with no history can be easily controlled. His generation was told nothing of what Blacks had contributed to the prosperity and greatness of THIS nation. Washington, D.C.? Designed by a Black man. The stoplight? Designed by a Black man. The first open-heart surgery, the first Blood transfusion? Black men.
The pyramids in Egypt? Egyptians were white, remember. Charleton Heston and Elizabeth Taylor remind us of that.
Black men of my significant other’s day were TRAINED to tip their hats to even WHITE CHILDREN and were called boy. Whites wanted to CONTROL African Americans and they contributed by writing us out of history and further emasculating our men.
How do we begin to heal the rift, imaginary though it might be?
Read some books, people; read some books!!!! Learn about your people; follow your history; understand where you came from; discover what people did to combat these dire historical circumstances so that you can look beyond what we are facing right now. So that you can look beyond with hope, plans, an agenda based in right, not criminality or subservience.
In this day and age we are a global economy and the fight is a global one. We can no longer fight on just one front; it is a multi-layered fight and one that has room for both genders. We need to help our Latinas deal with the misogynistic elements of their cultures just as we deal with the racist-imposed elements of our own and the misogynistic elements of Asian cultures popularized by the media–anyone see that episode of Numbers about brides for the dead?
Whites have begun to recognize the browning of realms of power and their children have already largely defected. Anyone see that episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent where the rich kid kills someone just to get his demanding English teacher fired because he’d heard his father complain that in a few years their elite prep school was going to look like National Geographic? It was compelling, watching this kid confess. He was proud because he’d accomplished, he thought, what his father and his father’s cronies had not–a strike toward keeping the school elitest and white, very white.
It was painful watching this kid’s father deny the words he’d said in private as they came spouting out of his son. I know many saw that story and thought twice.
In my classrooms, toward the end of my 15+ years as an adjunct professor, I began to see more and more children obviously of biracial descent. The tides ARE turning, but Black babies are still being born to Black parents, Black women and men are still finding and loving each other, and discussions still fill the airways aimed at discerning how, when, and why we can heal this imagined rift between the genders in Black America.
Dr. Niama L. Williams
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