Monday, September 22, 2014

I am Black Woman. Hear Me...

#RHOA: Overseer of Black Female Slave Syndrome and Our Unwitting Self-Destruction
While the U.S. cowers in fear and trepidation of mustering the courage to fight the scourge that is I.S.I.S. or I.S.I.L. (or whatever appellation is used to describe the terrorists hell bent on creating their Islamic caliphate), Black women around the world, except those in Nigeria, are oblivious of what's going on outside of their general hemisphere--outside of "over there."

Black women are fighting our battles, on our own turf, but the plight of the Black American woman is dead front and center.

There are better analyses of our contemporary battles:  Mrs. Ray Rice, domestic abuse victim and devotee to her assailant; the fisticuffs of the "Basketball Wives" or "Atlanta Housewives," who use their own brand of domestic abuse in their aim to be relevant.  And many aren't even complaining because those reality television cases, though histrionic, are telegenic (who doesn't like to see wild women fight)? Black women of television are struggling for prime-time ratings (see the tempest that never was), but they doth protest way too much.  Most of us are fighting battles to be relevant in our daily lives. Period.

Black women are some of the most misunderstood, if not "the" most misunderstood species that has ever existed in contemporary civilization.  We are the creators of the human species (heard of "Lucy"?), we are the subject of Biblical lore (before Hollywood let Whites play African roles). We are lusted after, mostly behind closed doors, in cars, in streets, in bedrooms, and in cotton fields where our progeny sprang into our contemporary apotheosis as Negroes, coloreds,  Blacks, and African-American "hoes," "girls," "tricks," "shorties," "bitches"--any others out there I've forgotten?  Our big lips and butts were the stuff of ridicule, and are now the stuff of big money. We've been eclipsed by the White woman, who has perfected our Negritude in White face. We've been out-souled by a more visually pleasing imposter; yet it is we who are ridiculed for our "otherness."

While the White women triumphantly sang, "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar," some of us sisters were moaning while busily doing the heavy lifting, too tired to chime in while we did their labor. Yet, we have no manifesto to declare our lot as Black women. Our collective lament throughout the diaspora is only explained and heard using one adjective: angry.  The appellation is cartoon-ish, lacks depth, and is a stereotype, just like the N-word, that must be rejected for what it is: a blanket adjective used to describe a complex human being, capable of dissection, but, most often, spray-painted by a dismissive appellation instead.  Using the term "angry" to describe black women is the equivalent of describing crimson, mauve, carmine, or burgundy as simply red.  Black women are as varied as the colors of grass that we call "green," or the colors of the sea in many parts of the world; for those who have had the privilege of seeing seas unspoiled by pollution, somehow the color "blue" doesn't do them justice.

Nicki Minaj, born Trinidadian, now a disgrace
to Black American women

There are some writers, pundits, and so-called entertainers (see photo to the left) who seek to capitalize on the Angry Black Female concept-- some from the diaspora, but not historically from the United States--they are the new voice for Black America, without having had the same experience, because their immigrant heritages foist them into positions of prominence.  This country is for immigrants, and the last person anybody wants to extol is a self-aware, American Black child of slaves who is also female, except for Condoleeza Rice, who wore a happy grin on most occasions that she served her President.

Over the past twenty-plus years, I have introduced my own Black female concept to film and television, but each was changed and adapted to reflect Hollywood's preferred story about Black women:  we are stern judges or crazy crack-fiends: television writers use the stereotype for dramatic pull. And, well, there is some anger out there.  But that's only on the surface.  Underneath the anger is disappointment--in our lot in this life, in walking a solitary path while all other women are escorted.  Even Oprah Winfrey, a newscaster, at the time, had to hire her escort, now life-partner, to attend a gala event.  Even her claim to fame is that she is not angry, but spiritual. She forgives and forgets, embracing the now.  That's what America likes to remember.  The Now. Not the Past.   

Preach, Lorraine
My protagonists have and always will be Black women, if they are to be fictional characters. To this day, Lorraine Hansberry has written one of the few portrayals of Black womanhood that does our cause any justice.  My character is not as emotionally involved and exposed as the characters were in "A Raisin in the Sun." She is my contemporary Black woman: her arms are wide open for love, but on terms that don't sacrifice her own self-sufficiency and independence.  She is clinical, scientific, suspicious, and wary, but open to new experiences. In my novel, Dr. Lula Logan is vulnerable and alone, navigating her way through her new home, Louisiana, and feels very much an outsider.  She will feel pulled in two different directions by two Black men who are unavailable, each in his own way, but who still draw her into their respective romantic tentacles. Her love life is only subplot, secondary to her scientific self, as she becomes embroiled in a police investigation in the small parish.  She is a metaphor for all Black women who aren't models, or who don't wear blonde hair in a desperate stab at being defined by another standard of beauty, therefore jumping the broom to leave our ranks for acceptance by another peer group to which we will never truly belong, and who will always unwittingly one-up us by their ability to out-do us by virtue of their being coveted by almost every man, no matter what his hue.

Until Black women find the means to tell our own true story as women, not angry females, without Hollywood editing by white men or black slaves of White thinking, we will forever be marginalized by Hollywood caricatures and adjectives that objectify, reduce us to stereotype, and that will only further debilitate our position as citizens in our own American backyard.

ISIS or ISIL are vile terrorists. However,  I dare say that Black American ideological self-loathing and its consequences will do more to hurt this country than any Islamic religious jihad fought overseas.

Here's an excellent post about prejudicial stereotypes of Black women

and an introduction to the concept of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, which has begun a nation-wide dialogue about how slavery informs Black American behavior to this day:



CallyRose said...

I hear ya sister Souljah. Black women are misunderstood, and have long been looking for the allegiance of their black counterpart; one who will put as much effort into a relationship as she will. Some black men do characterize black women as angry, but there is usually a reason why black women are angry. Too often it is the result of infidelity, deceit,lying, stealing,deprecation degradation, mistreatment,or drug induced (or not) Jekyll and Hyde personalities of black men that destroys those relationships.Black women are angry because black men are angry and take it out on the black woman. Not to say that black women are without all fault, but usually women want to work things out. It takes two to compromise. Black men think being a man means that they do not compromise.
I think if we all understood that the chasm between black men and women is an epi-genetic carry over from the trauma and horrific experiences and emotional responses of our enslaved ancestors, perhaps we would make greater efforts to bridge those gaps, to undo some of the damage that was imposed upon our people, one of which was the forced separation of families. And today, many black families are often separated by economic failures, mass incarceration (the modern day extension of Jim-Crow), lack of education, drug abuse, alcoholism,insufficient healthcare and lack of access to resources (including fresh fruit and vegetable, to say the least). It is just a continuation of the denigration and suppression of blacks by the system. Until black people become aware of their continued subjugation by a country that has never embraced them as equal, they cannot begin to do something about it, because they don't understand the why behind it. We do not live in a post-racial society. Kids today are still growing up not wanting to be black, because they are learning at early ages, that there is a perceived difference between them and their white counterparts. It is not a comfortable subject, and it may be even more difficult for those who don't understand what is going on, since they may look at the first (mixed) black)American President and think that black people have arrived. The status of a group of millions cannot be based upon the status of one, or even a few thousand, if the majority or a large proportion are living in poverty.
Looking forward to your book to hear the voice of a black educated women and the life that she endures.

Anonymous said...

The unexamined life is not worth living. Thank you for this honest, frank, and heartfelt much needed discussion. There is so much healing that is still needed. We can never change others. We can only change ourselves and how we react to others. I am really looking forward to reading your book. (Renie)

Anonymous said...

What you say needs to be said. Rather than a post-racial society, the US is trying its best to return to what life was like just after Reconstruction.We need more sistahs and brothers to speak out about what is really happening in this land of the (not very) free and home of the (not very) brave.We are not paying attention, and doing just what Bush II (he wanted to be the king he was descended from, George III, who, I believe, was mad) told us to do after 9/11 - keep on shoppin'.

This is especially deleterious for Black Americans, who are at the bottom of the totem pole (or the pyramid, whichever you prefer) when it comes to wealth, equality, jobs, you name it. Our young people are looking to rappers and the like for role models, and most (though not all) of them are out to put as much money into their pockets as they can, not carting whom they denigrate (mostly Black women and girls).
Every African and Black-American needs to wake up, smell the garbage, and get to work.

In Greece, where democracy began, it was said that, for it to work, everyone had to be in the public square. Is each of us, today, in the public square? Are we part of the solution, or are we part of the problem? I am not ashamed of my slave ancestry. But I am ashamed at the way many of my people are content to bitch and moan about how bad things are, but are unwilling to work to be part of the solution.

The first thing to do is VOTE! The second thing to do is WORK FOR YOUR CANDIDATES! The third, and perhaps the most important, is to PROTEST!
Nothing is ever given - you have to fight for your rights. Don't shop in places that don't treat you right or that don't advertise with pictures of people who are not white.They don't need your business. Don't wait to get to Heaven for everything to be all right because (1) you may not get there, and (2)there may not be one)!!

Remember, "Faith without works is dead." Also, get the moneychangers out of the temple, as Jesus did. We don't need a "den of thieves," whether in the church or the congress (state and federal), but honest men and women who will work with us to create the country that we say we live in. Remember, nothing is ever given - you have to work or fight for it. We have great role models - just do what they did!

Study your history (Black, not U.S. or American) and model after what our forbears did. I was not an activist (saying that I was raising children, studying, and working) until I realized that my mother had been one all of her life, and she had certainly worked, either as a maid or, during World War II, as a "Rosie the Riveter," while raising a family.

Get busy! It is OUR freedom and OUR lives which are at stake. Science says that this is the 6th extinction, and the first one caused by humans. Are we going to help make ourselves extinct? Or are we going to make our first known human ancestor "Lucy" proud as we evolve and become more thoughtful, more caring, more ready to claim, in whatever way(s) necessary, our birthright as human beings, equal to any other on this planet? THE CHOICE IS YOURS. WHERE DO YOU STAND?

I am an 82-year-old Black American great-grandmother. Will you stand with me? If not for yourself, then for the generations to come?

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