liberation movements are not doing their job if they don’t address the oppression of black women
October 31, 2017
By Darletta Scruggs, AFROPUNK contributor
Playing the game of trickle-down liberation is not a strategy to fight oppression. I have often heard the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” throughout movements. The idea that improvements in the overall fight for liberation will guarantee that everyone reaps the benefit. In many ways I do not disagree with that point. For example, the eradication of student debt, as well as free and accessible higher education, would certainly benefit a variety of oppressed people. Hell even people more well off in society would benefit, an argument some corporate politicians use to argue against free college education when in actually they just don’t think poor people deserve anything. Another example is the fight for a $15 minimum wage, which would benefit millions of families throughout the US largely being women of color. The idea is often used, in my opinion, to silence critique of a lack of genuine attention given to a SPECIFIC issue or group of people. Lump summing all struggles together in some buy one get one coupon discounted freedom fighter starter package. Since the aforementioned issues benefit you no need the belabor the point of “your” oppression.
This has created massive blind spots, dismissiveness and mass hysteria within movements and social activist spaces.
I have seen issues that easily enter into the liberal mainstream and become(and stay) popular among activist and left spaces to have one thing in common. The erasure of black and Trans women! Which as a black woman (oh shit watch a few get defensive with that sentence) but most important historically the role and advance political nature of black women I find very troubling, and fucked up! As we all sit and watch in terror as we hear account after account, abuse after abuse of women(and children) at the hands of men. Some in the most powerful of places leaving no woman(or child) safe from the sexual harassment and abuse. I recently came across an account of a woman being sexually assaulted by a man who many would deem to be top tier in intellectual capability and contribution to the advancement of science. As someone who admires greatly, and had the opportunity to meet, this person I felt an overwhelming sensation of sadness. In this society, black women have become disposable. An “addition to” or “part of” the overall goals and strategy but even without them the fight must go one, but can it though?
Miss Jane Fonda recently came out and told the entire world to have several seats as she must of channeled all the black girl magic hashtags and let everyone know YOU CARE NOW BECAUSE THE WOMEN ARE FAMOUS AND WHITE. Miss Jane didn’t even let that tea cool off before she served it.I’m still trying to figure out why Gloria Steinem was there other than to take up a lot of air, but ANYWAY as Jane mentioned “It’s too bad that it’s probably because so many of the women that were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein are famous and white and everybody knows them. This has been going on a long time to black women and other women of color and it doesn’t get out quite the same.”
Even with all the accusers who have come forth, Harvey Weinstein takes the time to refute, Luptia Nyong’o. This isn’t the first time women have come forth to expose a powerful man. I immediately think about Anita Hill who testified about the sexual harassment of CURRENT supreme court justice Clarence Thomas. Yes, Hollywood gave us a movie that rightfully won the Writers Guild of America Award and Emmy nominations, but notice I said “current”, let that sink in. The public backlash and humiliation that Anita Hill went through in nothing like the love, praise and hashtags the victims of Harvey Weinstein received. Even the social media campaigns of #MeToo, which if people actually listen to or cared about black women, would have to know about it 10 years ago. Maybe I would have known about it and saved myself years of sexual abuse and harassment. The movement will give Tarana Burke a quick shout out and then proceed with again focusing the conversation of everyone except black women even though it is black women doing the work.
Black women have been champions of some of the most radical and progressive movements yet we don’t praise them the way we praise everyone else.
I think about women like Claudia Jones, who unlike many historical white and male figures, is not allowed to have her shortcomings therefore unworthy of study and praise. Claudia Jones made the connection of it being essential to include the fight for the liberation of black women not as an addition to the movement but the main cause of the movements. Those that fight for liberation of oppressed people have to fight for the liberation of black women.
“We can accelerate the militancy of Negro women to the degree with which we demonstrate that the economic, political and social demands of Negro women are not just ordinary demands but special demands flowing from the special discrimination facing Negro women as women, as workers and as Negroes; Yes, and it means that a struggle for social equality of Negro women must be boldly fought in every spear of relations between men and women so that the open door of party membership doesn’t become a revolving door because of our failure to conduct this struggle”
-For the unity of women in the cause of peace -1951
Claudia Jones was member of the Communist Party at the time and most of her work related to getting more women of color involved in the overall fight against the exploitation of Capitalism, something that many radical and left organizations then and till this day fail miserably at. We have the work of Ida B Wells who called white women out who proclaimed to be feminist for their active participation in lynch mobs. Then, like now, the racism of white men is given attention but the racism of white women is shielded under the cloth of “gender equality.” You cannot say a damn thing about the white women who voted for Trump without getting an entire thesis on how the ruling class divides, a few Dr King quotes and some pussy hates thrown at you. Why are white women often times the go to for progressive causes? Black(and WOC) and Trans women are the only group of people who experience simultaneously gender, racial, sexual and class exploitation. Yet we are not the ones whose voices get heard first if at all. If were are lucky enough to be heard we are tone policed like hell on how to tell our truths. Black women have been telling the world that men are trash and have trash behavior for decades. The queen (Latifa) gave signal to the world that unless we address this shit now ashy ass men will take over spreading all their ash and harassment. “You gotta let them know you ain’t a bitch or a hoe” “U.N.I.T.Y Love a black woman from infinity to infinity” Miss Janet Jacket gave us all a seminar when she prompted us to ask these men who feel women should absorb all their bullshit with no complaints “What have you done for me lately?” “Good thing I cook or else we’d starve to death – Ain’t that a shame?
Let these ashy ass niggas tell it, feminism is something “white women created”
These men will cling desperately to the PickMe’s of the world who spend all their time showing their cooking abilities to prove to the potential male suitor that he will not starve because she will happily cook for him everyday. Women who have internalized all the patriarchy in the world and reduces women equality to “let men be men”, because these women have no idea how to exist in a world without their worth, purpose and identity being tied directly to a man. They don’t even know themselves. The will be rape apologist until they see the actual act taking place in real time. They will call women who decided that ashy behavior is intolerable “bitter” because women should be honored to be subjugated. How sway?
Black women like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Ida B Wells, Bell Hooks, Claudia Jones, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Organizations like the National Association Of Colored Women, National Black Feminist Organization, SNCC and so on are not worthy of acknowledgment for a variety of reasons. If they are to be acknowledged it’s short and in passing or when those will take a break in freedom fighting to go on a tyrant about how flawed these women’s political views are. I myself will be met an array of abuse from the left for even daring to acknowledge Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw as her work is part of a collective effort on the left to fully discredit, as the whole “intersectionality” movement is being infused with liberalism and ruling class logic. Now (in many ways) I disagree with many if not all of these women on certain points but the question becomes where is there a better example of where the issues of black women were fully and adequately addressed? Speaking of, to and about Black women? I’ll wait…….oh wait can’t do that because that is “ID Politics”
The mass neglect of focusing on issues that directly and often times ONLY affect black women and other women of color allow for the abuse of women of color in even “activist spaces”. The lead organizer of the FF15 campaign recently fired for harassment. An organizer who worked on that campaign for 4 months I can first hand attest to the abuse(psychological, emotional and physical), harassment and condescending rampant misogyny and racism displayed by organizers and top officials. This campaign was often hailed and praise as an issue that directly addressed the needs of black and women of color. Yet the main decision-makers and those in power were(are) not women of color. Black women are just tokens, photo opts. The truth is this is an issue within labor union and organizations as a whole. While organizing with workers at an ex-employer I was introduced to a Teamsters union official, I met with this man a few times as he gave me great advice on labor laws and union work. I can remember an encounter where he introduces me to one of his colleagues(white man) who reaches to shake my hand in which the person I was meeting with said: “She doesn’t know how to shake your hand she’s from the ghetto” as he chuckles.
Here we have misogyny, racism, and classism packaged nicely together. I had to eat my feelings and continue working with this guy who was invited into an organizing campaign that I initiated(cost me my job) and was not invited by me but a third party individual despite my opposition. Yet you will see no think pieces on how to ensure issues that affect black women are not minimized but you will see 100 think pieces to show the “flaws” in the work of black women who have tried to be apart or give their two cents on the question of liberation. However wrong some of those cents may be.
Even looking at the #TakeAKnee protests. It is absolutely commendable that black male athletes are taking a stand against the killing of black unarmed men(Insert #SayHerName). Black women are very happy that you have caught up to what black women have been doing for the last 3 years. Yet when Black women in the WNBA immediately went into action OVER AN ENTIRE YEAR AGO protesting and taking a stand against police brutality, silence. No mass praise, not invitations to speak on platforms at mass rallies, nothing. A quick shout out and then everyone resumes to their regularly scheduled programs.
Black women’s involvement in the movement has become so dismissed that we are forced to retreat into private Facebook groups, blogs, and chats rooms because that is the only place where we can assure that we are allowed to discuss issues that affect us without being subjected to scrutiny and abuse. Black and Trans women are not allowed to focus on that fact that we suffer abuse by white men, black men, white women and the labor movement. Yes we know that this is a product of the capitalist mode of production, divide and conquer; but muthafuckas we live in the society we live in TODAY. If I can’t call out all the people who are stepping on my neck, regardless of how they got there, then what can I discuss? And if you are being a bystander to me fighting to get the foot off my neck, don’t criticize my method of fighting to get that foot off my neck!
Black men in activist spaces can sometimes be the worst perpetrators of dismissing patriarchy. When they have run out of theory or shea butter to mask their ashiness, they go for the full reach of misogyny and start down a spiral of victim shaming or gaslighting by using examples of violent acts against men by the hands of women. They literally use the “black on black crime” argument white people use to discount racism by taking a critique of patriarchy and responding with a “women on men crime”. It’s astonishing to see!
All is lostloss though, some men are doing the work of putting at the forefront issues that affect women and trans women of color specifically black women.
Black women we need to pay special attention to said individuals and uplift them. The Michael Arceneaux, Damon Young, Son of Baldwin(many more could be listed) focusing on the specific issues affecting black women and black trans women. No they are not perfect and at times may display some ashy behavior in which we should not attack but slide in and say, “I’m detecting some ash here. It seems shea butter is not doing the trick so let’s use some coconut oil instead and discuss”. Give men like these good referrals so they remain gainfully employed and able to continue the lord’s work of tearing down patriarchy the best way they know how. These men are not getting invited to the “boys night out” events very often.
As always black women we must continue to be at the forefront of the fight for liberation by raising our awareness of systemic issues and effective ways to fight back. Sure it may take the movement a decade to catch up but we must continue the work of tearing down White supremacist Patriarchal Capitalist society as well as imperialism. We must create and work towards a new vision for society and a new way to organize the production and resources of this planet. We must continue to “shade” “collect” “gather” “snatch” “unpack” “drag” ourselves and others while unapologetically fighting for a world free of ALL oppression.
We not gone just do it for the culture we gone do it for the entire human race, because they are severely bland and pressed and need our help!
So make a committed this winter to engage in political education, learn history, have debates and discussions with other black women. We’re always talking to and about everybody else so feel not an ounce of shame wanting to spend time with just other black women and women of color. Sometimes this journey is lonely, Lorraine Hansberry served us the tea long ago when she said “A woman who is willing to be herself and pursue her own potential runs not so much the risk of loneliness, as the challenge of exposure to more interesting men – and people in general.” Notice she added “people in general”. We know wassup.
And for the women who have yet to divorce their entire existence from ashy men, don’t pity those women. We fight for their liberation even if they don’t while keeping in mind that in every organized society someone has to pick up the trash.
And we don’t minimize the labor of sanitation workers 😉
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