I recently read this inflammatory piece, The SILENCE of Black Women by Shawn James, on Black Bloggers Connect. Can’t control Black women so you sit back and point the finger and criticize what you think is wrong with us. You’re not a Black woman, you’re not helping the situation, so pipe down and keep your opinions turned down on low until you know exactly what you’re talking about—that’s my advice to this dude. He’s obviously one of those “brothas with ankhs”, so more advice from an actual Black woman? Be silent and lower your finger, you sound like an undercover misogynist. Because I prefer not to use the word “nigga”, I didn’t say “niggas with ankhs”, which is a phrase I’ve seen which describes a Black man who appears knowledgeable and spiritual but is basically an undercover misogynist and sexist fool hiding his need to control Black women behind a guise of love, social awareness, and care for his race.
And if you read these words, Shawn James, please take them to heart. Because I think some Black women know a lot more and are doing a lot more than you accuse them of.
Ghetto Gaggers. Real Housewives. Scandal. Maury. Lee Daniels. Tyler Perry. Queen Latifah. Shondra Rhimes. Halle Berry. Mo’Nique. Octavia Spencer. Nikki Minaj. Beyonce. Rihanna. Love & Hip Hop, Teen Moms. Basketball Wives. Shawn James is watching too much television and expecting people (namely some Black women and girls) who watch too much television to object to something that they must be addicted to. They are latching onto the most popular examples of overt Black femininity that are ready made for them. That is what they have been socialized to do. Namely, stereotypes that MEN EVERYWHERE HELP TO CREATE AND MAINTAIN. Blaming them for that, especially if they are unaware, isn’t helping. Some of us have been miseducated and uneducated and given no choice for so long—what do you expect? Judging people for their sexual preferences (however problematic to you), how they like to dance, what they like to watch, is NOT the way to get them to reconsider it or see things your way.
As for the NAACP and the Nation of Islam—you mean those organizations dominated by MEN? James freely uses and relies on words and analogies like church mice, whores, jezebels, mammies, side piece, laughingstock, the “strong Black woman” stereotype, and rats, to describe and criticize Black women as fictional characters and objects for his ignorant criticism. Taking the credit due to Black women for surviving and speaking out then giving it all to a two women he has tokenized and most of it to Black men. Maybe we are not SILENT, brotha, maybe YOU are JUST TOO DAMN LOUD to hear us.
While I believe that, at face value, Shawn James is probably yet another Black man who thinks he’s rescuing Black women by pointing his finger at us, calling us “good black women” or “bad black women” and demanding we singlehandedly undo all the injustices repeatedly and continuously lodged against us, I think there is some truth behind what he wrote, however distorted it may be by his asinine countenance.
Black celebrities do and say anything political for publicity and payouts. We have no control over whether or not they feel they owe Black women anything or want to play active parts in Black woman liberation. Much of the time, they view their success and appearance in the media as a political message by itself that requires no further elaborating on even if their Black identity becomes distorted and takes a backseat on the road to popularity and stardom. They tend to serve as onlookers while poor, working class, unrecognized Black women grapple with life in the trenches. I ask myself, What right do I have to judge them? Its their life, its their money, its their body. I personally have no control over what they do and what they think. Even if Black people won’t support these celebrities or can’t, they will most likely jump in the hamster wheel and turn the right tricks to get white audiences to tokenize them with money and limelight. Even at the expense of the Black community whose image their representations effect whether they want it to or not, whether they acknowledge it or not, whether it should or not.
bell hooks. Angela Davis. Oprah Winfrey. Michelle Obama. Alice Walker. As academics and activists and two of the wealthiest and most visible Black women in the world, I do wonder about my feelings and thoughts towards these women. I don’t expect them to do anything or feel any type of solidarity and yet I want them to do more because I don’t have the power or influence they’ve made for themselves and may never have it no matter what I do. I also know I can’t lay that burden on them though.
It is bewildering to me that some Black women view anything political, especially political identities like Black feminist and womanist, as useless or warmongering. It is frustrating to see Black women paying and begging the white-dominated media to present them as stereotypes. It is alarming to me that so many Black women remain passive or non-committal in the face of the outright and low-key anti-Blackness and misogyny that is specifically aimed at Black women. It is humiliating to me that some Black women actively participate in our shared oppressions and then they cuss and defame Black women who try to fight against it. Its hard to accept that violence against Black women is so normalized, that even our own people are quickly desensitized to it and advocate that our children “grow thick skins” of apathy and nonchalance with codes of “choose your battles” and pragmatism, then abandon or participate in abusing them if they can’t manage this transformation into a “strong black woman” or man.
But I also believe that Black men have no right to criticize because they are privileged by their gender and delusions of the “good Black man” worship they think they deserve. They oftentimes, in my experience, whether they are straight or queer, do more harm to Black women than good.
As true as that is, it doesn’t excuse the harm we do to each other and the impact it has on us as a peoples, how it gives the oppressor and its agents openings to attack and fester in our wounds. Sometimes we are our own enemies, much to my despair. There seems to be no end to the depravity and internalized oppression that we inflict on ourselves and each other and the oppression we ignorantly allow others to inflict on us.