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.


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