Tuesday, February 10, 2009

For black women, hatred begins at "home"

I know what the world thinks of me. Not "me" personally, but women like me--black women.

They say that black women hate and dominate men.

They say that black women are unlovable, that no partner–black, white or otherwise–wants us.

They say that black women are not beautiful, that our hair is too nappy, our skin too dark, our noses too wide and our asses too big.

They say that we are too smart for our own good.

They say that we are crazy, out-of-control and too much to handle.

The marginalization, demonization and dehumanization by the mainstream is ugly. But what is uglier than what "they" say is what "we" say. In a recent review of the film "Diary of a Tired Black Man," Renee at Womanist Musings wrote: "Black men have historically equated equality with the ability to act in the same manner as the white male patriarchy. Isn't it convenient that the best way to uplift black people is to replicate patriarchy in all of its manifestations?" It is mighty convenient. And this thinking is a trap and a lie. But we embrace it still--tightly, like a drowning man with a life rope. In a society where it is offensive to be woman (the opposite of male) and offensive to be black (the opposite of white), to be a black woman is doubly offensive. While rejecting (partially, anyway) the inferiority of blackness, the black community cleaves to the notion of female inferiority. The result is this:

The black community hates black women.

I am convinced of it. Yes, there are many members of the community who value and honor black women in the way that all human beings should be valued and honored. I'm not talking about the individual; I'm talking about the collective. The collective believes that putting the black woman in her place (and elevating the black male) is the key to African American salvation.

Proof is written across the landscape of pop culture. A doppelganger for R. Kelly urinates on a black girl in a bootleg video seen 'round the 'hood, and urban radio continues to play the singer's "jams;" the NAACP gives him an award; black women and men line up to defend him and label the girls in question "fast." Don Imus calls a group of black, female, student athletes "nappy-headed hoes" and causes a media firestorm; high-profile black comedians like Damon Wayans and D.L. Hughley rush to agree with him and many in the black community simply laugh along. A black instructor and parents support young girls in performing a stripperesque dance routine for chosen boys during half-time at a high school basketball game. I turn on urban radio for five seconds or Tyler Perry releases another movie ('Nuff said.).

On Sunday, R&B singer Chris Brown was arrested for "felony criminal threat" and allegedly assaulting a woman who--since the Los Angeles Times thinks celebrity victims of domestic violence are "fair game"--we know is his girlfriend singer Rihanna. The reaction to the news in the comments at the top black gossip blogs is disturbing. More than a few comments are nakedly misogynist:

On Bossip:

"THEORY- they were over, but had to do the whole 'appearances' thing for the sake of keeping their profiles hot since they were up for nominations. Ri was in too deep with feelings even though she's been passed around FACT in the industry. Trying to save the r'ship, she took the opportunity to be all over him at the pre-grammy party. His body language suggested he was not feeling her. Actually that was too much at such an event anyway, especially when you are deemed a 'couple'. CB had enough once they got in the car, she went a lil ballistic, like we can do as women *sometimes* when feelings are reciporcated then he went ballistic cause he wants out, we all know the story, she most likely hit him first but he did it in a bad way, no excuses. Just a

"Just remember there are two sides to every story. as i can recall there a reports of a std?and other reports that's she very physical with him also that's she gets around. who knows what the deal is just hope and pray this is blown out of praportion by the media they always make things seem worse than it really esspecially when it comes to people of color."

"Okay I'm not running for prez so fuck being popular but I feel that if a woman hits a man and he retaliates, that what the fluck she gets. I have two brothers; put your hands on them if you want to, and I will give you the second beatdown. The rule is "no hitting" PERIOD! That goes for Jack and Jill. Ri Ri better be glad I'm not C Breezy's sis — I'd have been cut her from asshole to appetite."

"Maybe he's showing no remorse cuz he aint do it. That trick is crazy. She probally banged her head on the car or something, who knowss. She obsessed with him. The poor kid couldn't get rid of her pathetic but. Cant wait for the truth to come out"
On Sandra Rose:

"...there are ways to deal with an irate women. You can shake some sense into her OR you can hold her arms until she stops swinging. Either one of these solutions is doable there is just no excuse for hitting a woman!..."

"I agree with you 15. I don't promote violence, but females can sometimes push somebody to put there hands on them. We don't really know what happen between the two of them except that she got the worst end of it. She could have been smacking and punching on him first. we don't know."

"I didn't say I would support my son hitting a female, I SAID THAT I WOULD BEAT THE BYTCH FOR HIM, since tricks have the right to beat on a man SO! What type of shyt is that?? Thats how half of our young brothers get fukked up in the system off a bytch being a damn fool hitting on a niccA day in and day out, but the second a dude defends himself against her….a bytch calls the POLICE on his aZZ…then wanna call a nicca tombout she "sorry"…PLEASE…I KNOW, I've seen it and I've been there before! Yall need to stop acting like you haven't put your hands on a man and dared him to hit you back so you can call the fukking POLICE, that shyt ain COOL at ALL! I told my son to call the police on her AZZ and watch her get put in the squad car like a LAME…let da bytch get a record for domestic violence before you do!"

"I agree with this 100%, look at the pictures before this Chris sometimes looked like a little child. Look at the pictures of them at the Grammy party, riri was tipsy she probably started up the argument of him with them girls or he could've gotten a call from someone. Walking away is so easy when it's being said and not done. But if you have someone who want let you just walk away then you have a problem. And we was raised, if you hit me I'm gonna hit you back!!! But for me; the bottom line is where was the BODYGUARDS? They are paid to protect and all this happen? maybe a car accident was the problem. Who knows? But I really wish people stop putting it all on Chris!!"
Sapphire...Jezebel...Mammy...the dirtiest stereotypes of black women, who they are and what they deserve...are present in those comments, written by black men and women.

What I find frightening about the words above is the assumption that some level of violence is expected in a relationship; the belief that a woman can do something to deserve brutal violence; the idea that there is an acceptable level of violence toward women (shaking or grabbing); the notion that black women are so out-of-control that we sometimes need a beating; that some black women are instructing their sons and brothers that it is okay to hit women.

We do not yet know the facts of this case. Chris Brown has not been convicted. The evidence offered by the media is damning, but I respect the need to reserve judgement. But if Chris Brown is guilty, too many black folks will find his actions justifiable. And that is tragic.

I am not conflating chatter on two entertainment blogs with the feelings of the entire black community, but it means something that every third comment on the top black gossip blogs is a defense of domestic violence. And these comments are definitely part of a larger pattern illustrating that the black community has absorbed the mainstream's pathology related to black women. In American society, all black people face racism and all women face sexism. But sadly, for black women, hatred begins at "home" among our own.

UPDATE: Figures. Latoya at Racialicious got to this topic before me. That site has an open thread on the topic and a round-up of coverage here.

UPDATE: Professor Tracey, too.


Kahnee said...

Preach on, Preacher!

MilesPerHour said...

Tami, I really like the way you get your point across by stressing that you are talking about the collective, not the individual. And you always supply evidence to those points you try to get across.

Now I'm not one who reads many lengthy posts, in fact yours may be the only one. You are always very thought provoking.

Unfortunately being a white male I find myself an "observer", someone outside of your targeted readers. So most times I do not comment knowing that I may be ignorant to much of the subject at hand due to my race and gender. In other words, I cannot fully understand and I acknowledge that, being unable to walk in those shoes. I learned that through my experiences being in a loving relationship I have with a black woman and through her wonderful family.

I look forwrd to your next post as always.

AJ Plaid said...

Hey Tami,

I'm not pressed about who had something to say first about this, but that something's getting said....and, as always, your contribution was on-point. I get tired of some folks in Black communities accepting and justifying--in essence, supporting--domestic violence as if it's some warp and woof of Negritude and, furthermore, want to take away a person's "Black card" if we want to critique it and want it--advocate for it--to cease. (I'm thinking of the famous maelstrom Alice Walker faced when she wrote about DV in The Color Purple. Folks were ready to throw her out of the African Diaspora.) It's as if we Black folks so busy expending energy doing "Stereotype Patrol" at the expense of dealing with issues, like DV and queerphobia, that are literally killing members of our communities. It pisses me off, frankly.

ravengal said...

Thank you for your writing(s).

Crystal said...

After reading Latoya's post at Racialicious yesterday, I looked at some of the sites you quoted here. I too was disturbed by the wrongheaded assumptions underlying some of the the comments, including that if Rihanna gave Brown a VD, then she deserved a beatdown and got off lightly. (!) And like you, I feel it stems partly from society's chronic devaluing of black women. Thanks for writing about it. I'm sick of it, too.

Anonymous said...

Tami you are so on point with your comments. It never ceases to amaze and disappoint me when other black females come to the aid and rescue of those who would beat down and devalue another black woman. This is why you see the Chris Browns of this world being born over and over again. The devaluation of and abuse of black women does indeed begin at home - and unfortunately it begins with those who have the most influence over the child in his developemental years. I am not talking about all black mothers - but you get my drift.


Claudia said...

A hard post to read, but there's much truth here.

La♥Incognita said...

Hi Tami, well done as usual.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're writing about this. I call this stuff horizontal violence--black on black -- everytime you listen to rap with "b----" and "hos" think of this as an assult on black women by black men. Think of the culture of woman hating that the hip hop world represents.

Black women are so dissed and degraded, and then expected to stick by their men that would be unthinkable in a radical feminist context. It always seemed kind of creepy that the civil rights establishment was about black men being just as controlling and patriarchal as the white male machine.

We need to put a stop to all violence against black women, and all horizontal hatred too.

Seattle Slim said...

Just recently Soulja Boy told Chris to keep his head up, but disregarded Rihanna like she was completely not a part of the situation. This is shameful.

MacDaddy said...

Great post. I do think that relations between black men and women are changing for the better. Nonetheless, we have too many black men who have no control of their anger, who hit women and children, and who kill. And, no, they should not be allowed to use what a woman did or did not do as an excuse. There is no excuse for hitting a woman.

GoldenAh said...

Women's Rights are rarely addressed as a component of black people's issues. Our concerns, as black women, are never put on the table. Black folk, mostly women, will march and protest in a hot-minute for a black man abused by police, but what about black women who are abused by black men?

Today's popular culture has monetized and codified, contempt, disdain, and hatred for black women. Overall, black males and white woman are exempt from this cultural contempt. People know to check themselves, or will get checked, with regards to these specific "victims."

And we black women, losers of a Civil Rights and Feminist movement, continue to put up, and often support, the abuse and hatred.

Divalocity said...

It's the mind numbing ignorance that makes so many of them believe that abuse, violence and assault in any form is normal.

It won't change until mothers teach their sons while they are young to respect all women especially Black women and to never hit them.

Anonymous said...

i think you hit the nail on the head when you explained how black men (and other minority men) define their masculinity by patriarchal white standards. that's the difference between a womanist analysis and other ignorant analyses that tend to essentialize black men and violence. it's important to acknowledge how black men have been historically and currently demasculated and dehumanized, and so their behavior is in part a response to that. i think it's not only to teach minority boys to treat women with respect, but explain to them how dominating behavior just copies the patriarchal white ideal, so they can be proud of challenging racism instead of feeling emasculated.

Color Online said...

Thank you. I mentor young girls and many of them were like the blog posters:"What did she do to make him do that?" "She must of done something." It was sad and we had to talk about it but I knew that no matter what I said many of them would accept a relationship like this. I'm going to forward a link to your post.

Even if they aren't listening today, the message needs to be repeated.


Color Online said...

Nodding in agreement with you AJ.

I wish I could line all of you sane people up in front of the young women I mentor.

One manager at the agency was so upset by the girls' responses, she was shaking with upset and disbelief. It was as if all the work we do to build them up wasn't working. They still think it's okay for a man to hit them.


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