op-ed: when it comes to supporting black women, some black men are worse than trump supporters #sayhername

October 25, 2016

On Xenophobia, Black men’s continuous denial of it and the disastrous consequences

On August 7th, an In Defense Of Black Womanhood altar was put up in Brooklyn. No Black men came. The outrage for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling was a united rumble of voices bellowing against the pillars of white supremacy in hopes of crumbling them. The reaction for Korryn Gaines and Tanisha Anderson was a quaint, disconsolate cadre of Black women who are justified in their belief that they’re alone with their own issues.

Perhaps men were occupied trying to #RuinABlackGirlsDay on Twitter. Or too busy being disgusted at the thought of queer or trans people to recognize their humanity. Or listening to music that highlights the objectification and marginalization of Black women, without a second thought to challenging artists to respect women with the same vigor with which we demand them to respect our state-sanctioned genocide. Black men hold fast to a perceived responsibility of being the rock of the Black family structure, but we were yet again unavailable to be a vessel of support at a time in which alliance was was direly needed.

By Andre G, AFROPUNK Contributor*

Regrettably, I didn’t know about the demonstration, perhaps because I’m still too conditioned to society’s continued marginalization and dehumanization of Black women to have been actively seeking one. I read about the circumstance in a solitary tweet, after the fact. I felt a sense of shame, but I’m unsure how many Black men feel the same. Maybe share they popular conception that feel women have no place in demonstration.

The murder of Tiarah Poyau made me once again ponder how many of us Black men think women have any place beyond feeding the ego and sexual gratification that defines our manhood. When pressed, most males will reject such a statement as an extremist presumption, but we have a documented unwillingness to challenge misogyny and homophobia with the same agency women challenge injustice against Black men. In fact, we are the worst offenders. It seems amidst the Black males’ continued oppression at the hands of white supremacy, the plumes of vanity and entitlement embedded in us by a patriarchal society invigorate us to sustain a microcosmic caste system in our own community. It’s as if women are either our mother, or fair game for our ire.

Many Black men obtrusively deny rape culture, contending sexual assault is an anomalous circumstance much in the same way racist apologists pretend the police system isn’t fundamentally discriminatory. As the cases of Bill Cosby and street fashion maven Ian Connor attest, we prod at every statement women make in their testimonies of sexual assault in attempts to discredit their claims. We dig through their old tweets and personal history, using the same ad hominem respectability tactics that the media who dug up Alton Sterling’s arrest record did. In the case of director Nate Parker, we sidestep his victim’s trauma and ultimate suicide by pointing to his acquittal — as if we don’t call out the follies of the criminal justice system during instances of police brutality.

On social media, Black men are the first to quell Black women venting about their disdain for street harassment, or the ease in which men correlate snapchat filters with promiscuity by noting “not all men are like that,” or some derivation. Their cop-outs sound like the “there are some good cops argument,” as if officers who don’t harbor homicidal ideation invalidates our concerns with encountering the ones who do.

In our sex-obsessed society, women are both denigrated as prudes for not being sexually active and shamed as hoes for owning their sexuality. The internalized, “spell where/wear” disdain nevertheless reminds me of Fox News’ demonization of all Black men, be it reformed drug dealer or actual drug dealer.

The normalization of Black men calling women, as a default, “hoes” has became so prevalent that women on social media have begun to own the word, neutralizing it’s power. Sound familiar?

There is undoubtedly a culture of contempt for and suppression of Black women’s liberation that Black men preserve. Nevertheless, many men who refrain from committing overtly discriminatory acts frequently absolve themselves of complicity in their occurence, even if they do nothing to challenge friends or associates.

Author bell hooks noted, “racism has always been a divisive force separating black men and white men, and sexism has been a force that unites the two groups.” It’s in the Black male’s lack of accountability, propensity for denial and boorish xenophobia that we maintain an unlikely kinship with white, ultra-conservative bigots, specifically those who found representation via Donald Trump’s revelatory presidential campaign. As the success of Trump’s anti-minority, populist-pandering rhetoric has shown us, equality can easily be conflated with oppression, and indignation breeds a fervent desire to protect the status quo.

There is a particularly militant sect of Black men who subscribe to a rigid nationalism which reflects that of Donald Trump’s exclusionary, “make America great again” base—without the privilege or financial infrastructure to affect political change. Many modern Pan-African movements, colloquially deemed “hoteps” and “fauxteps,” long to emulate what they perceive as the Kemetic culture of Ancient Egypt. They extol prejudicial, exclusionary core beliefs in furtherance of their ideation. As anti-white as they are, they propagate a blatant reflection of colonialist pathology from a Eurocentric, faux-Afrocentric lens.

These men fight solely for their interests, and those of subservient “wombmen” who fall within their respectability-politics laden tolerance level. Based on their infamous memes, they agree with Mike Huckabee’s 2013 lament that “we declare marriage, family, and the presence of both a mother and father to be irrelevant and no longer significant, even for the child’s well-being.” They use spirituality as the springboard for their bigotry and homophobia—like fundamentalist christian groups.

They maintain that both the LGBTQ movement and intersectional feminism, a social theory based on the compounded oppression of racism and misogyny, are threats to the patriarchal Black family structure. Black Feminists are frequently framed as agents of white supremacy by critics such as Tariq Nasheed and Umar Johnson even though womanism is a movement independent—and highly critical–of white feminism.

During the Black power movement of the ’60s, many Black women felt little alliance with white feminists who, as Sharon Smith noted in the International Socialist Review, showed a“lack of attention to racism, with enormous repercussions.” Similarly, movements such as the Black Panthers saw issues of sexism and colorism as ancillary to the plight of the Black male. This circumstance inspired Black feminists to develop a movement strictly for them.

Nevertheless, farsighted Black men view feminism as a means of “integration into [white] society and the adoption of white values as a way to achieve equality, ” as Executive Officer of the Pan-African Alliance Asad stated in a blog post.

Just as conservatives call Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization without so much of a glance at the organization’s peaceful 10-point plan, pseudo-conscious Black men fearfully condemn womanism without a proper understanding of it’s logic. While Donald Trump supporters –mostly white men– long to take America back to a place that was “great” solely for them, it seems Black men running neo-Kemetic movements such as Straight Black Pride desire the Black community to subscribe strictly to a hetero-patriarchy that’s great for them.

All of this, and many Black men are oblivious as to why Black women feel they need to carve their own space. I was once told on Tumblr by another Black male that we “can’t” oppress Black women because Twitter insults don’t compare to the sexism maintained by white supremacy. To borrow from Trump, he thought it was “just words.” I wonder though, what would happen if the Black men who believe that women are having periods because of their diets had legislative representation?

There appears to be a widely held misconception that oppressed people can’t oppress. Black men are affected by racism, but still benefit from the construct of male privilege. We continuously attack Black women’s attempts to simply be if they aren’t on our terms. It’s childish, and frankly, if prejudice, exclusion and uninformed regulation are the tenets of our interaction with others, there can be no pride in our perception of manhood.

The Black community, in America especially, needs to be on one accord to challenge issues of police brutality and economic inequality. The Black male’s unwillingness to relinquish our morsel of privilege to find common ground with other people of color will cause us to stay at odds—divided by ego when we could be bonded by esteem. As long as the majority of Black men continue to maintain a blatant disrespect for other marginalized groups, unwilling to see the legitimacy in their causes, we will be unable to empathize with their plight.

Martin Luther King postulated that he “integrated us into a burning house.” Is that why so many Black men are resolving to fight fire with fire, trying to defeat white supremacy by co-opting the ideologies that sustain it? Is that why we’re emulating the exclusionary politics that are the bedrock of our own oppression?

To this point, when Black men are killed by police, Black people of all genders and sexual orientation have demonstrated in droves, because predatory police don’t see sexual preference or gender, they see Black skin. How much longer will that circumstance continue though when there’s a good chance that a slain Black male wouldn’t have reciprocated outrage for the murder of a cisgendered or trans woman? Based on the mysterious death of Ferguson activist Darren Seals resulting in relatively little National demonstration, we may already be getting our answer.

There needs to be a true dialogue between Black males and the rest of the community, and a deeper effort on our part to understand how we proliferate misogyny, colorism, transmisogyny and homophobia. Otherwise, anti-establishment social movements–predominantly led by queer Black women—may eventually stop advocating for us, leaving us with nothing but our delusions of supremacy. No denying that.

*Andre G is a writer, poet, music producer and co-founder of @ColorTheFuture, a platform for young artists of color. Find more on his personal site, andrejgee.com. @melaninaire