When the liberal and conservative political bubbles clash online over the issues of anti-black racism several tropes are bound be texted, memed or gifed. The King Kong Aint Got Nothin’ On Me of these troublesome tropes is: “the democrat party started the KKK” followed closely by “The GOP freed the slaves (you ungrateful, uppity, negra.)” Beside the need of my inner grammarian to jump through the screen and throttle the writer with a copy of Strunk & White, the sheer ignorance and constant repetition of these tropes as a legitimate point of debate makes me want to holla Marvin Gaye style. A cursory glance into any history textbook not published in the great confabulating state of Texas illustrates that the history of the Grand Old Party is not that simple. While the KKK was most certainly founded by southern men who were members of the Democratic Party, the nation’s most prolific terrorist organization was not an official paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party. That is a leap that even D. W. Griffith wouldn’t make. While Lincoln did enact the Emancipation Proclamation, the GOP was hardly unified by their desire for the full abolition and equality of the nation’s human chattel.
These oft repeated racial conservative tropes have three rhetorical aims: to “educate” black people on the “history” of the GOP, to chide us uppity blacks about our lack of gratitude for magnanimity of Republicans and “enlighten” our poor, simple, uninformed minds that have no ability to discern how we are being manipulated by liberal whites. Racially liberal commenters dutifully respond to this claptrap by explaining that the parties swapped their racial ideology in the 1960’s. The southern reaction to the passage of the Civil Rights bills is usually used as a point of reference. The major ammunition in this comment arsenal is an infamous quote from the GOP political operative, Lee Atwater. This human garbage was responsible for formulating the policy known as the Southern Strategy. Atwater’s bigot bonafides include serving as a political aide for Strom Thruman, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Atwater recanted his racism on his deathbed, but no last minute confession can wipe away the stench of his 1981 interview:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Sadly, quoting the bigot who crafted and implemented one the vilest political policies in recent history isn’t enough of a racial patronous to defend against your average racially conservative GOP commenter. He or she will continue to squawk that their party has always had the best interests of black folks in mind and that we are too lazy and intellectually bereft to see that shining nugget of truth and break free from the “democrat plantation.” Many will come up a quote from their limited stable of famous black people whose quote backs up their position. Morgan Freeman and Charles Barkley or the most recent political Negro de jure Ben Carson are often used, but the Big Kahuna of racial internet comment dodgeball is “the content of their character” sentence from Martin Luther King’s March on Washington speech. It is clear racial conservatives have never read the whole speech or they would recoil in horror at this quote:
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
The birth of the Republican Party inspired the hope that blacks would receive the riches of freedom and security of justice, but the end of Reconstruction greatly diminished out the section of the Republican party who fiercely worked for the post-Emancipation legal, political and social equality for the freedman. The election of Republican president Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 ushered a decades long waxing and waning quest to recruit the Southern white voter and an expand their influence throughout the predominantly white areas of the country.
After Reconstruction divisions in the GOP grew and by 1888, the party was split between the “black and tans” who favored black inclusion in the the party and the “lily whites” who wanted to restrict party membership to whites only. The lily whites won in Southern states and initiated the swift annihilation of the black political power base in the South. George Henry White, was the last black GOP Southern Congressman seated for the 1898-1901 term. The next black Congressmen from the South would not grace the House of Representatives until 2013. With the victory of the Lily Whites every southern state instituted de facto Jim Crow despite the fact that these laws were flagrant violation of the 15th Amendment. Another tidbit unbeknownst to your average republican Internet commenter is that many Midwestern and Western Republican state parties had very cozy relationships with Klu Klux Klan. By the 1920’s Indiana had the largest KKK Klavern in history and its leader was a republican political operative, D. C. Stephenson. Republican politicians affiliated with the KKK were also active in Colorado, Washington and several other states. This series will take a closer look at the Grand Old Party between it’s founding and the implementation of the Southern Strategy that will help you reclaim your time the when the next racist rube comes up in your mentions spitting the same tired set of smelly, old, soggy, cheeto colored tropes.
Next Friday: The Notorious GOP Part 2: The Founding of the GOP and the Politics of Compromise
I have always been ridiculously proud of being black. My parents filled me with the stories of those who fought for Caribbean independence like Julian Fedon, Queen Nanny and Toussaint L’Ouverture. For the few years my family lived in Canada, my dad owned a black book store and I loved nothing better than to sit in a corner reading a book and listening to grown folk talk about history and politics. I learned about the ongoing struggle in America and the rest of the black diaspora an to reverse centuries of racism and imperialism at a very early age.Spending my formative years in London and Toronto I got read and hear about so many heroes that bucked the restrictions of antebellum and Jim Crow America without the malignant dynamics that serve to minimize and disregard the acts of these heroes in this country.I was deeply impressed by the fighting spirit of black people of all walks of life. By the time I was nine I was recite more facts about black accomplishments than a J. A. Rodgers book!
Since I was surrounded by this knowledge I never got the idea that math and science was for white men. I competed and won borough and city wide science fairs. I went to natural science camp and I am proud alumni of the Bronx High School of Science. It wasn’t until my tenure as a doctoral student I got the message that black excellence was not to be seen or heard. I was asked by several professors indirectly and directly to tone down my rhetoric when it came to issues of race because I was making white students uncomfortable. One vile little weasel of a professor actually told me I had to learn “how to talk to white people!” In my doctoral program the feelings of whites were more important than my education, a lesson that was a far more bitter pill to swallow than when illness stopped me completing my degree.
This is why women like Katherine Johnson (portrayed by Tajari P. Henson in the film Hidden Figures) has my undying admiration. She served this country when she didn’t have the right to vote. She helped this country garner the prestige of winning the space race when she couldn’t buy a home next to her white colleagues. She had to temper her brilliance, yet excel at her work in era where the toxic brew of racism and sexism was the norm. I doubt my pride would have let me reach the heights of technical brilliance that she and her colleagues did. Ms. Johnson performed her duties with quiet dignity and we are now able to bask in the glow of her accomplishments and show the next generation able to how fantastic black female mathematicians and scientists can be.
Johnson was born in 1918 in the little town of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson was a research mathematician, who by her own admission, was simply fascinated by numbers. Fascinated by numbers and smart to boot, for by the time she was 10 years old, she was a high school freshman–a truly amazing feat in an era when school for African-Americans normally stopped at eighth grade for those could indulge in that luxury.Her father, Joshua, was determined that his bright little girl would have a chance to meet her potential. He drove his family 120 miles to Institute, West Virginia, where she could continue her education through high school. Johnson’s academic performance proved her father’s decision was the right one: Katherine skipped though grades to graduate from high school at 14, from college at 18.
Continued at: Katherine Johnson: The Girl Who Loved to Count | NASA
These women may be lesser known to most Americans, but they are my heroes and
I walk gratefully in their footsteps.
“There’s a Chinese saying, ‘Women hold up half the world,”‘ the late civil rights historian and NAACP chair Julian Bond told NBC News in 2005. “In the case of the civil rights movement it’s probably three-quarters of the world.”
Here are just nine of other women who made indelible contributions to the civil rights era:
Long before Steve Harvey gained mainstream fame I was not feeling his brand of humor. I thought he was the least talented of the Kings of Comedy and was constantly distracted by high top fade toupee. I thought his sit com was bland remix of every school sit com from Welcome Back Cotter to Saved by the Bell to Hanging with Mr. Cooper. I tried to give it a chance but I began seeing the disturbing mysogynoir patterns in the Steve Harvey Show. While sweet, but dim witted Lovita easily settled into a traditional romance and wedded bliss with Cedric, Steve Hightower chaffed at being supervised by and in love with an obviously more qualified Regina Greer. The time honored trope of “will they, won’t they” is marred by what would become Harvey’s signature black woman hating schtick on stage. Calling the gorgeous and svelte Wendy Raquel Robinson “piggy” changes from affectionate adolescent snapping to ugly mysognoir power plays if one is paying attention to the growth of Harvey’s comedy career.
Black men have created a cottage industry of books about why black women’s marital rates have plummeted. Mainstream media jumped on this trend for a while too. They made a pretty penny with this twaddle by conflating sexist black religiosity, pseudo Africana mythology (also know as Ashy Hotepology) with that special brand of respectability politics born out of a need control black women with a Jim Crow level of ferocity. No of these “writers” examined why black men are marrying less on whole but those who do are out marrying more. Harvey is the king of this movement. Even though his book was simply another ashy tome, it went mainstream and his deeply ignorant view of black women mutated into Dear Abby style advice for everyone color and crees. This twice divorced, thrice married adulterer was suddenly an expert on relationships!!!
On smart women:
Well, I mean, you know if a guy is out for one thing, it’s best to go for shallow, unintelligent women. You don’t want to break this news to really bright women. “Hey, I just want to do something to you this evening”…You want to find somebody shallow, really simple unintelligent, that you can run this by and they’ll sit there and go, “Wow, that sounds great.
Men cheat because women are hotass hos
Women ask that question all the time: Why do men cheat? But it’s really because there are so many women out there willing to cheat with them.
I could go on and on but someone was kind enough to compile a youtube video of the ignorant sexist, mysogynoir, homophobic, religious intolerance swill that has seeped from the open sewer that is Harvey’s mug. Harvey has ridden this trash train to a syndicated radio show, a daily talk show, two movies, hosting a daily game show and the Miss Universe pageant (insert schedufreude here). Last week, Harvey decided to expand his poison beyond his twisted version of gender and include race. This time he wasn’t just attacking black women he decided to go after Asian men.
Last week, Steve Harvey aired a segment on his his eponymous syndicated talk show about obscure, absurdly specific advice books. These were niche interest titles like Dating for Under a Dollar: 301 Ideas and How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men.
The audience laughed at the latter book in anticipation as Harvey took 15 seconds to gather himself. “That’s one page,” he finally gasped. “’Excuse me, do you like Asian men?’ ‘No.’ ‘Thank you.’”
The comedian then offered a sequel, How to Date a Black Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men — “Same thing. ‘You like Asian men?’ ‘I don’t even like Chinese food. It don’t stay with you no time. I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce.’” – The Hollywood Reporter
In order for you to appreciate my ire at this clown on this issue, I have let you know about my ancestry I was born in The London Borough of Haringey, UK of Jamaican and Grenadian ancestry. My maternal grandmother was half Indian and half Welsh. My parents also had friends of mixed Asian ancestry and so do I. When I moved to the Bronx, I had no idea about the sociosexual stereotypes that are imposed on Asian Americans and had crushes on many an ethnicity hue including Asian dudes. Since I was the immigrant, I saw my Asian friends as more American that I was. It really wasn’t until I moved to the midwest that I noticed the fetishization of Asian women and the emasculation of Asian men. Although black female and Asian male intermarriage occurs in the Caribbean and South American, it is rare in this country. There have been brief periods of when black women and Asian men married both in the Jim Crow South and the North before the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943.
Harvey’s typical hotep arrogance managed to bring the ugly trope Asian male emasculation together with the oft-promoted fantasies of black male sexual prowess and his own presumptions of the unattractiveness and hypersexuality of black women with his usual mysoginoir flair. Of course black women are too stupid to pronounce a Chinese food menu how could they possibly desire the miniscule charms of Asian men? Harvey knows that all we desire is BBC. Luckily, millennials are not in Harvey’s target demographic and some young black women and Asian men are slowly shrugging off what Harvey and many black & white fuckbois with OK Cupid profiles want them believe and are figuring out inventive ways to meet, hook up and start relationships.
Oooops…. I forgot to mention Harvey met with Orange Shitgibbon on Friday on housing issues. He wants to work with to Sleepy Uncle Ben in some capacity at Department of Housing and Urban Development. Now if that isn’t the Kingfish leading Amos and Andy into another con (Google it, young’ens,) I don’t what is. Here are some pics of sexy, hotass Asian men to momentarily take your mind off the upcoming Orange Apocalypse.
Hello folks! It has been a long time since I have posted to this blog. In an effort to get over the shock and horror initiated by impeding elevation of the Orange Menace to PEETUS, I’m going to try to translate my burgeoning habit of “old lady yells at cloud” into bringing you all the black lady news with my own brand of trenchant cultural criticism. I also hope to upload most of my scholarly work on my sister blog site Black Is…Black Ain’t in the hopes that some shiny new blackademic will get interested in my ramblings and continue the research I couldn’t.
Well on to the topic at hand. With the election of Cheeto McPissParty we live in the post-truth world so presciently described in George Orwell’s 1984:
Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge, which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
In the America headed by the Orange Shitgibbon, an Attorney General with a documented history of racism, xenophobia, homophobia and anti-disability statements and legislation is what is needed to make ‘MERIKA GREAT AGAIN and honoring women of color for their contributions to making this country a more equitable land is racist identity politics. After the run of the African American Lady Liberty coin, there will press Asian-American, Hispanic-American and Native-American sets also. So if you want to piss off the white supremacist faction of the supporters of upcoming junta buy some gold ladies for posterity!
Excepts from the book Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement by Premilla Nadasen
The sugar sweet nostalgia of the sassy black maid pervades Hollywood myth making and the yellow journalism of Mexicans coming to take our jobs blares from most news channels. Most forget that even today, black women (both native and immigrant) still do a significant amount of the low level domestic and health care work in this country. Black women always rebelled against the value assigned to their labor.Here are some profiles of the brave women who fought wage discrimination and remind us we still have a long way to go.
Geraldine Miller: Slaves no more
In 1935 investigative journalist Marvel Cooke and activist Ella Baker coauthored a widely circulated article about what they called the “slave market” of domestic labor. The article, published in the NAACP’s magazine, Crisis, cast light on an estimated 200 informal markets in New York City — essentially street corners — where African-American women waited in hopes of being hired for the day by white employers.
“Rain or shine, cold or hot, you will find them there — Negro women, old and young — sometimes bedraggled, sometimes neatly dressed … waiting expectantly for Bronx housewives to buy their strength and energy.”
Cooke and Baker highlighted the vulnerability of these workers: “Often, her day’s slavery is rewarded with a single dollar bill or whatever her unscrupulous employer pleases to pay. More often, the clock is set back for an hour or more. Too often she is sent away without any pay at all.”
Geraldine Miller was a worker leader who had never experienced the “slave markets” herself, nevertheless she used the stories she had heard to highlight the vulnerability of African American women in this occupation. The slave market stories also became a way to establish an agenda for reform. Miller used this story to establish boundaries for this labor and to assert that African American household workers would never again get down on their hands and knees to scrub floors.
In 1954 Miller relocated to New York City, where she ended up doing mainly domestic work and living in the Bronx a short distance from the site of the most notorious “slave markets” of the Depression. She recounted hearing stories from women who stood on Burnside Avenue, waiting to be selected for cleaning jobs.
“Sometimes they’d ask to see your knees and the women with the worst-scarred knees were hired first because they looked like they worked the hardest.”
Hearing these stories was transformative for Miller: “This is just one of the things that kind of woke me up.”
In 1971, Miller was riding the train to work in suburban New York City when she struck up a conversation with a woman who began to talk about “fringe benefits” for household workers and informed her about the Urban League’s organizing efforts. The idea of better working conditions for household workers immediately caught Miller’s attention. “I wanted it, and I wanted it with a passion,” she said.
She attended a meeting of the Professional Household Workers Union, a New York City group initiated and led by Benjamin McLaurin of the Urban League, and learned about the work of the NCHE and the upcoming national conference of domestic workers. Miller arranged for league sponsorship of a bus for a group of workers to travel to the meeting in Washington, DC.
To recruit workers, she created a leaflet that read: “Stop, Look, and Listen. Become Aware of Your Rights as a Household Worker.”
She recalled, “I went out on street corners especially near the trains and I gave them out to all the people that rode on my train.”
Miller mobilized 33 women to attend the national conference. Although she had no prior political experience, after returning home from the conference, Miller formed the Bronx Household Technicians and the New York State Household Technicians, eventually becoming a prominent organizer and leader in the Household Technicians of America.
Josephine Hulett: A working mother seeking advancement
Josephine Hulett was a single mother and household worker who formed the Youngstown Household Technicians in 1968. Two years later she became a field organizer for the National Committee on Household Employment, a middle-class organization that was interested in developing a network of domestic worker groups.
Hulett traveled around the country sharing her personal story with local organizations and encouraging them to participate in the first-ever national convention of household workers, which took place in 1971. Many household workers identified with the experiences Hulett shared of hardship, mistreatment, efforts at advancement and juggling work and single motherhood.
As a high school dropout with few job opportunities, Hulett turned to domestic work to support herself. Because she couldn’t afford paid child care, she left the baby with her ex-husband’s family during the day, and ventured out from her home in Girard, Ohio, near Youngstown, in search of day work. At her first job, she earned $25 a week for five and a half days. She paid eighty cents for bus fare, walking two and a half miles each way to avoid paying for an additional bus.
Her employer’s husband owned a produce company, yet she was given only a hot dog for lunch every day. She cared for four young children and cleaned a large house from top to bottom. Although she frequently worked late, she was never paid for overtime.
One day, when she left 30 minutes early to take her son to the doctor, her employer docked her pay. The next day she left at five o’clock and informed her boss she would never work overtime again. The following week, she was fired.
At her next job, Hulett accepted a meager salary of $22.50 a week, working for an elderly couple who had no small children living in the home. Despite the anticipated lighter workload, she cooked for the entire extended family on Friday nights and sometimes babysat grandchildren — all for no extra pay. When the family announced they were moving to Florida, they gave her no severance pay, no prior warning and no unemployment benefits.
Committed to improving her economic situation, Hulett studied part-time to earn her high school diploma. She then spent a year and a half and $285 — three months’ salary — taking a correspondence course to become a practical nurse. After completing it, she was shocked to learn that the course wasn’t accredited and she couldn’t practice in a medical facility.
Hoping to find work in the healthcare field, she looked for home-based nursing work — caring for an infant or an elderly or disabled person. Hulett encountered yet another obstacle, recalling, “I soon discovered that being a companion or baby nurse were jobs mostly for white women.”
She eventually found a job working for a young doctor, his wife, and their two babies, earning $35 a week for five days. In many ways it was a good position and a vast improvement from her previous jobs. She received wage increases, thoughtful gifts, paid vacations and sick leave. “They regarded me as a professional and an adult. They didn’t pretend that I was a ‘member of the family’ nor did they intrude on my life.”
Hulett’s story of her “good” employer also became important symbolically because it illustrated the possibility for just and respectable work and confirmed that there was nothing about the occupation that made it inescapably oppressive. Hulett’s story resonated with other black domestic workers.
She shared her struggles of living in the rural South and how her treatment on the job pegged her as separate and highly unequal. As a single mother, Hulett had to balance care for her son with full-time employment. She spent as much time with her son as she could and carved out one day a week to go out to lunch with him, “and that was an occasion he loved and looked forward to.”
As a black woman, she had few other job opportunities. And in those situations when she tried to assert her rights, she found herself unemployed. She was deeply concerned about the status and dignity of domestic workers and her treatment as a servant rather than a worker. “Even for a day worker, sometimes it seems the employer feels he or she owns you,” she said. “If you’re sick, some employers will call up the doctor to make sure you’re not lying.”
One morning at 4:30 a.m., Hulett saw an older black woman walking to work and offered her a ride. The woman had injured her hip while at work and had no sick leave or insurance. According to Hulett, her “employers refused to accept the fact that her injury had occurred while at work, and they refused to aid her in any way.”
Although she completed most of her work — sitting on a stool to wash dishes — she couldn’t take the child out for a walk. The employer, who was a stockbroker, hired a babysitter to do it for $2 a day and deducted the amount from the employee’s weekly wages. This woman’s story prompted Hulett to contact several other household workers and encouraged them to form the Youngstown Household Technicians in 1968. The sharing of stories and communal connection helped lay its foundation.
Carolyn Reed: Reclaiming humanity
Carolyn Reed, a household worker in New York, experienced the profound dehumanization associated with this labor, but also determined that establishing limits was absolutely essential.
When Reed took a live-in job for a wealthy family in Scarsdale, New York, she was welcomed as “one of the family.” That meant working from seven in the morning until midnight. In five years, Reed never received a raise, Social Security benefits, or a vacation.
“Then one night, the woman of the house — who had been having an affair and was very, very nervous — began to scream at me for not having done something she thought I should have done. … As she screamed I realized I wasn’t real to her. I mean, I wasn’t a person to her. … She had no respect for me, for what I did. … I was a servant to her, maybe even a slave. I remember while she was screaming I began saying ‘I don’t work for you any more.’ … And that was it. I packed my bags in the middle of the night; my husband, who was then my boyfriend, came and got me, and we took off.”
Reed devoted her afternoon break to organizing for the HTA. She entered the laundry rooms of apartment buildings: “The first rule of thumb is to get friendly with the doorman.”
Everyone in the neighborhood, not only the doormen, knew Reed. She also recruited at bus stops, service entrances, and neighborhood gourmet shops. Shopkeepers on Lexington Avenue regularly sent household workers her way. The Village Voice called her a “natural organizer at large.”
There were no clear geographical boundaries for household-worker organizing, especially as the workplace was often off-limits for outreach efforts. Reed firmly believed that household workers had power, which she suggested may take the form of a strike with the support of other service workers.
One reporter explained Reed’s position this way: “The idea of striking entire residential streets of Manhattan with delivery and repairmen honoring the picket lines doesn’t faze Reed in the least.”
Her sense of the potential to strike came from her view of the fundamentally indispensable labor power of household workers: “The houses could not be run. You could never know how helpless people can be — especially wealthy people — until you’ve worked in their homes. Just one day of true hardship or true inconvenience and they’d want to bargain.” Only through this kind of collective power, she argued, could wages be raised and working conditions improved. For Reed, “Housekeepers, mostly black women, are the last frontier of labor organizing.”
I have been following Imani Gandy’s tireless work for reproductive rights for a few years. She is passionate, knowledgeable & incredibly funny as the co-host of the This Week in Blackness podcast. Read more of her work of her work at RH| Reality Check, The Grio.com, AlterNet,
In Tennessee, pregnant Black women have much to fear as a bill that would subject them to disproportionately higher rates of incarceration and detention sits on Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk, awaiting his signature. The bill, SB 1391, would impose criminal penalties on mothers of newborns who have been exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs in utero. While the bill appears race-neutral, prosecutors and judges will wield the law against Black women more so than white women, based on a long tradition of deeply embedded racial stereotypes about Black motherhood. Should Gov. Haslam ignore the growing outcry against SB 1391 from pro-choice and anti-choice advocates alike, the law would likely lead to Black women being thrown in jail for up to 15 years for aggravated assault should they choose to carry a pregnancy to term while struggling with an addiction to illegal narcotics
Tales of White Feminist Fainting Couch: An Opinionated History of the Racial Conflagrations in American Feminisms Part 1
In past Black History Months, I have posted profiles of black women heroes, and figured my obligation to Carter G. Woodson was done. But the recent white feminist attacks on the growing online activism of Women of Color, has made me feisty. During this month I will demonstrate that recent white feminist claims that disruptive black women are destroying the delicate fabric of feminism with our recalcitrant demands and are also really, really hurting their feelings is a deeply, historically embedded trope in the history of white feminism.
This January has been a banner month for white feminist #FAIL. It began with Ani Di Franco’s painfully slow realization that as a feminist, having a retreat in a place where black women were systematically raped, tortured & worked to death for centuries probably wasn’t a good move. Di Franco accused black women critics & their allies of “high velocity bitterness.” After three apologies she was still whining “that it was an upside down world when your sisters cut you down and Fox News defends you.” Note to Ms. DiFranco: I am not your “sister.”
DiFranco’s caterwauling is really par for the course, but it was her defense of having her retreat at a plantation that really made me stabby. She declared that she:
know (s) that pain is stored in places where great social ills have occurred. i believe that people must go to those places with awareness and with compassionate energy and meditate on what has happened and absorb some of the reverberating pain with their attention and their awareness. i believe that compassionate energy is transformative and necessary for healing the wounds of history.
This statement is deeply problematic. The Nottingway Plantation is not a memorial to inhumanity of slavery, it is a resort hotel that white washes the brutality of slavery, so that whites can relive the romance of the antebellum South. No one goes to this plantation with a desire to meditate on the pain of the men & women who were enslaved there and who the hell told this woman that my ancestors should be used for her pseudo enlightenment? Di Franco’s new age platitudes would have not changed a damn thing and she was deeply self-centered to think that strumming a guitar and composing a few ditties would do anything to diminish the vicissitudes of slavery.
To and insult to injury her white male defender Buddy Wakefield declared that we “venomously” insulted Ani in an effort “to eternally ‘shackle’ her to this oversight.” Shackle, yeah, I see what you did there. Not funny. He labeled our concerns as hateful approaches/vitriolic statements/narrow understanding even before Di Franco issued her first petulant apology.
In order to understand why this oft repeated of claim that white feminists suffer at the hands of bitter Women on Color, one must look at the deeply conflicted history of white women and black women in the United States. When black women were first imported to these shores they were chattel. When white women migrated to America, the nascent cult of white womanhood protected them from the rigors of the “new world.” White women were seen as delicate fonts of civility & domesticity that needed protection from the harsh world outside their doorsteps. Although white women had diminished legal and ownership rights, the one item they could possess was slaves. Enslaved black women were not only a source of income but also their reproductive capabilities offered the potential for even greater wealth. The myths concocted by the earliest European traders around the hypersexuality of African women became the rationalization utilized by western powers to create a system that depended on the rape, forced breeding and involuntary concubinage of black women.
White women also believed in the ‘hot constitution’d” African women, and voiced their concerns about the power of Negress to lead white men down the path of immorality. While the narratives of enslaved women were replete with the stories of the sexual demands made by white men and the murder trial Celia, illustrated what happened to slaves who defended themselves against rape, the diaries of slave mistresses put the blame of their husband’s and sons blatant sexual exploitation squarely on the shoulders of black women.
Mary Boykin Chestnut, the wife of a wealthy South Carolina planter who kept a diary during the Civil War declared:
Under slavery, we live surrounded by prostitutes, yet an abandoned woman is sent out of any decent house. Who thinks any worse of a Negro or mulatto woman for being a thing we can’t name?…… Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all mulatto children in everybody’s household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds. My disgust sometimes is boiling over.
Harriet Jacobs detailed how her slave mistress ignored her pleas for protection from her husband.
Mrs. Flint possessed the key to her husband’s character before I was born. She might have used this knowledge to counsel and to screen the young and the innocent among her slaves; but for them she had no sympathy. They were the objects of her constant suspicion and malevolence.
Widowed plantation mistress Kesiah Goodwyn Hopkins Brevard wrote at the beginning of the Civil War that “I own many slaves & many of the females are of the lowest caste – making miserable their own fellow servants by meddling with the husbands of others. I am not excusing the males, but in the world they are not so degraded by such conduct as the females.”
After reading a sample of the denial & contempt slave mistresses had for enslaved black women, I find it especially ironic that a so-called activist who lives in what was once one of the nation’s major slave trading hubs can state that she is “..not unaware of the mechanism of white privilege or the fact that i need to listen more than talk when it comes to issues of race.” She is part of a long tradition of white women who cannot see beyond her own self-interest and narcissism, a practice I will continue to explore this Black History Month. My next piece will compare how a certain Upper East Side New York yogalini’s racism harkens back to the fact that the American suffrage movement kicked black women to the curb so the Southern white women didn’t get the vapors. Be on the lookout for my next tale from the white feminist fainting couch.
A week after Ani Di Franco finally apologized for her having a feminist song writing retreat at a plantation that white washes slavery so much that it calls the slaves, “workers,” Amy Poehler comes up with the white feminist #fail for the week. Is it any wonder that the supremely talented Rhetta has never had a major story line or love interest? Amy is no beginner at passing over black women.
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey did an interview with the Hollywood Reporter pegged to their hosting Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards. The interview was wide-ranging and well worth reading, about this year’s movies, past awards shows, and the pair’s history as former “Saturday Night Live” players. But it’s what Poehler didn’t say that’s the most interesting.
While Fey answered every question, including ones about controversial topics, with carefully chosen and diplomatic words, Poehler made clear she wasn’t interested in going too far out on a limb — and seemingly growing more frustrated as the interview progressed.
This came through in the pair’s responses to a question about “Saturday Night Live” having cast Sasheer Zamata as its first black female cast member since the departure of Fey and Poehler’s colleague Maya Rudolph in 2007. Fey praised Kerry Washington’s hosting gig in November: “You saw how great it was for Jay Pharoah to have someone playing Michelle Obama opposite [his President Obama]. So I feel like they registered that really quickly and they’ve acted on it really quickly.”
Poehler was less game: “Ugh, I don’t want to talk about this. Pass.”
Read entire article at Salon
You’ve probably heard the expression “black don’t crack,” a reference to black women’s ageless beauty. But though their skin may be smooth and wrinkle-free on the outside, black women are aging faster than white women on the inside, health experts say.
Dr. Michelle Gourdine, a former deputy secretary of health and chief public health physician for Maryland, explains that extreme stress causes wear and tear on our internal organs, contributing to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke in black women—all diseases of aging. “The cells that make up your heart, your blood vessels, whatever else, begin to age prematurely because of all the stress, and that predisposes you to disease,” says Gourdine, author of Reclaiming Our Health: A Guide to African American Wellness.
She points to a 2010 National Institutes of Health study titled “Do US Black Women Experience Stress-Related Accelerated Biological Aging?” The study’s authors analyzed data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation and found that black women between the ages of 49 and 55 are 7.5 years biologically “older” than white women
Continue Reading at The Root.