No, we’re not gonna take it

In the October 15th issue of Newsweek I read a little sidebar piece on Race & Gender titled “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

At no small personal cost, Anucha Browne-Sanders stood up and demanded an end to the kind of abuse African-American women regularly tolerate from some black men. We are not “bitches” or “ho’s” to be harassed sexually or otherwise, she declared.

It was a brave thing for an African-American woman to do. Our community is reluctant to talk openly about the problem of black men mistreating black women.
[…]
“Black men have to start taking responsibility for being part of the reason black women are so disrespected in the first place,” [says Terry McMillan]. …but plenty of blacks–men and women alike–are loath to point fingers publicly.
[…]
The reasons for this silence are complicated, but mostly it’s about not wanting to make things tougher for black men than they already are. …any additional attacks from black women are seen as a betrayal.
[…]
Yet without open dialogue, nothing is solved.

I definitely agree with that. One thing the author didn’t mention is the tension between in-group condemnation and condemnation from without. My hackles rise when I hear white folks pronouncing from on high that black men disrespect black women. But I won’t hesitate to call out this behavior myself. I feel that I have more of a right, not only as a black person but as a black woman, than any white person of any gender.

While I understand the whole Besieged From All Sides feeling, I don’t think that men should be allowed to use this as a dodge when the problem is brought up. Of course there are black men who don’t disrespect black women as a matter of course. But there’s a lot of music, television, and film that does. There are a lot of individuals who do. Any time anyone anywhere has a conversation wherein a black man states that he prefers to date white women because black women are too “angry” and “demanding”, they are being complete asses and should probably be smacked for their own good. Most of those black men are only alive today because some black woman (who was probably angry a lot, even if it didn’t show) put up with them for 18 or more years, nurtured and loved them, and probably still does.

We–and by we I do mean black people–need to get out of this habit of cutting slack and ignoring the problems in our own community because we are under attack from outside forces. We cannot become stronger and better and more powerful if we ignore our own faults. And we certainly can’t do anything if half of us are constantly under siege from the other half.

This does not, however, give white folks a free pass to talk shit about black men. Nor does it mean that I am on their “side” against black men or even agree with their assessment of what, exactly, is broken in this equation.

31 Responses

  1. No, we as black women absolutely shouldn’t take it. I am so sick of black men taking out their frustrations with the world on us. Enough already.

    I found it interesting when those students were expelled from the Belleville Michigan High School for posting pictures online pretending to be rappers with either real or fake guns, drugs and money, the first thing their parents did was file a lawsuit.

    Whether or not the expulsion was excessive is a whole other legitimate debate. But for the parents of the boys to come out publicly and present the boys as victims of “oppression” instead of being appalled at their aspirations was crazy to me.

    It made me wonder how those boys treat their girlfriends and their mothers. And how they will treat their wives and children.

    We as a community need to stop embracing pseudo-criminal or criminal activity especially against black women simply because it’s perpetuated by our “oppressed black men.”

  2. Personally, I feel like the formulation “black men disrespect black women” is problematic because it suggests that black men (as a class) are special in this regard.

    The dynamics of gender-based disrespect are certainly affected by the dynamics of race-based disrespect. However, the phrase “black men direspect black women” seems usually to be used not to discuss the affect of race on gender relations, but to imply that the marked group is doing something the unmarked group isn’t doing, which is idiotic.

  3. I have had that feeling, too, Mandolin, but no had clear words for it, so thanks.

    I recently did comment on a couple of threads where a black man was being confronted about misogyny towards women of color specifically. I hope that I was not attacking towards him, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of saying *nothing*. I would definitely respect it if people told me “back off, it’s not your conversation to join into.” Without having heard that, however, what I felt was the same reaction I’ve felt whenever I’ve seen bloggers I love spoken to in ways that seemed hurtful to me – which is, oh fuck no.

  4. I have no dog in this hunt, so I’ll offer a thought without worrying whether or not it’s taken seriously : Men disrespecting women transcends race. If commercial media portray this conflict – who usually owns them ? And : what was the last time you trusted an ad agency to give you straight goods ?

  5. Mandolin, opit,

    I agree — this isn’t something that white or Latino or Asian or men of any ethnicity are immune to. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what ABW meant to imply. Yeah, men of every ethnicity do this — so the women of those ethnicities need to take them all on, and make a similar “we’re not gonna take it” statement.

    I know diddlysquat about Latino life. As an outsider I have an impression that the whole “machismo” thing has a detrimental effect on Latinas — but I don’t really know it, because I haven’t experienced it. While I might have the right under free speech to say something about it, I don’t have the respect to do so. i.e., I haven’t earned the clout in that community to say anything and be considered sincere, or be listened to. I’m not close enough to it to talk knowledgeably. So I don’t. I stand with Latinas when they fight back, and support their causes, but it’s kind of silly and patronizing for me to try and lead the charge.

    That’s what gets my hackles up when whites start criticizing black men for denigrating black women. They don’t have the clout, knowledge, or sincerity to do it either, but instead of respecting that cultural divide, they blindly jump across it. They assume that having the right to complain takes care of that whole little respect problem, and it doesn’t. So their criticisms come across as very patronizing — We Have to Defend Black Women (Because They Obviously Can’t Do It Themselves)!!! Or as self-serving — “We have to point the fingers at men over there, as proof that our own cultural gender issues aren’t so bad!!!” This often has the unintentional effect of perpetuating racism, rather than solving the gender problem.

    Case in point: Imus made racist comments for years, and nobody said diddly about it in the mainstream media. White feminists only attacked him after he finally made a racist gendered crack. And an awful lot of feminists who started ranting about the “ho” part of the comment exposed themselves as hypocrites by ignoring the “nappy-headed” piece, and all Imus’ previous comments. You can’t do that. Race and gender are inextricably intertwined in this country, and in this case the women were under attack as much because they were black as because they were female. You can’t ignore that. You can’t pick which half of a person you’re going to ally yourself with. Every time I heard a white feminist pulling that trick, I just wanted her to STFU, because she wasn’t helping.

    And both Imus’ defenders and detractors pulled the “Hey! What’s that over there?” trick and pointed at misogynistic black rappers as if that was what made Imus do it. I won’t deny rap needs some fingers pointed at it — but in that context, at that time? That doesn’t represent a sincere desire to solve race and gender problems; that’s playing one oppression off against another. And it’s not right.

  6. Maybe white people don’t have the moral superiority to point accusing fingers at minorities who behave like jerks towards other minorities, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay silent. Obviously, if someone with the moral high-ground is spearheading the campaign, I’ll shut up and follow. But, if nobody is speaking out (and this may sound strange in the USA, but it’s quite common in Spain), I am going to say what I feel.

    Sorry about the ranty post. I’m angry today. A participant in the Spanish Big Brother keeps making blatant racist comments towards another contestant and NOBODY STOPS HER. She’s even been readmitted into some version of the program after being kicked out, I guess because she brings in an audience. I think she’s getting off light because she’s a male-to-female transexual and because the guy she’s attacking has expressed his own homophobic views. Should I wait until a trans group denounces her? Should I wait until an anti-racism organization denounces him? Damn not, not in Spain where I know there’s as much chance of a big network fighting this as there is for it to snow in August.

    Fired off a couple of angry letters. Don’t feel any better.

    Sorry for the rant

  7. ABW,
    I understand what you and other commenters have said about disliking it when white people “pronounce from on high that black men disrespect black women.” I get why that’s problematic and I agree. I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts about how you’d prefer to see well meaning white people handle the situation.

    I worry that what happens in this type of situation is that you get the people with an agenda talking loudest. As nojojojo pointed out, therefore, many of the finger-pointing white people are really saying things like, “those poor black women can’t defend themselves,” or “Imus was a victim, because rappers are allowed to say it!,” or “I’m not sexist/racist because look at how bad those black men are!,” or whatever. I’m sure there are plenty of other white people who do support and stand with black people on this issue, but are aware enough to realize that the importance of expressing it meaningfully.

    Thanks! I don’t mean to make this all about white people, btw, but it seemed a natural follow up, especially given that people of all stripes have been freely talking about it ever since the Imus flap. Besides, if you don’t ask, you don’t learn.

  8. That’s interesting, nojojo, because as a white feminist, my impression of white feminism’s response to Imus is almost exactly the opposite. I’d stopped thinking about Imus and his ilk because he made misogynist comments all the damn time, and nobody seemed to care. When the recent scandal broke, what struck me is that the news outlets I was following, including mainstream feminist blogs, focused on the racism of his comments, and rarely mentioned the misogyny.

    My impression is obviously really different from yours; I don’t know if that’s observer bias, or because we’re looking at different sources, or what. But there it is.

    There does have to be some way, I think, for women to forge bonds across race to combat misogyny, for a couple reasons. One is that there are similarities across race and culture in the oppression and being able to point that out is, in my opinion, a source of strength. Another is that misogyny is so rarely confined to one’s own community–obviously, I don’t get the brunt of black or Latino men’s sexism, but in terms of mass media marketing that behavior, as well as isolated incidents of street harrassment (much less than the street harrassment I get from white men, but still there) sexism seems to forge cross-race bonds. So it seems to me that feminism has to as well, but obviously, as you say, “forging bonds” cannot mean “whites having savior complexes.”

  9. I’m with Sara on this. If I see something that is degrading to women, I’m going to speak out no matter what the color of the people involved. I am a woman, and something that degrades women degrades me. I won’t stand for it. I’m very glad to see ABW speak out about this.

    On the flip side, I have certainly seen people use the “black men treat women like sh*t” argument to silence discussions of racism. There will be some criticism of white privilege/disenfranchisement of PoC and then someone will argue, “Yeah, but look how they treat their women.” This is a flimsy, BS position to take but it’s done all the time. It’s hypocritical, and I think it’s important to call white people out on this.

  10. Nojojojo,

    The primary coverage I read of Imus was Rachel S. at Alas and Pam at Pandagon, so I’m genuinely surprised to hear that people focused on ‘ho’ more than ‘nappy-headed.’ I’m sure you’re right — yuck.

    I didn’t mean to be making a comment about other minorities with what I said, exactly — although of course you’re right that people talk about middle eastern men, or latino men, in terms that are similarly flattening.

    I mostly meant to suggest that one major difficulty with the phrase “black men direspect women” is that it often seems to be used to imply that white men don’t.

  11. I have to say that my impression of the Imus incident is similar to Veronica’s. I identify white, so this could just be because I don’t personally experience much racism and so am less sensitive to it than to the feminist issues. But to me, watching the mainstream media, it seemed the news was heavily focused on the racism of the case.

    But then, I never heard the phrase “ho” or “nappy-headed” separately, always together… so maybe it was the combination of factors. I also didn’t follow the story except in mainstream media, so I don’t really know what feminist bloggers, forums, etc., were saying about it. Were you following the conversations in feminist circles, Nora? Or were your impressions from the mainstream media? I’m wondering now if we’re just seeing things very differently (definitely a possibility, since I’m highly sensitive to feminist issues but have to make a much more conscious effort to notice race ones) or if we’re also looking at very different sources.

  12. “I mostly meant to suggest that one major difficulty with the phrase “black men direspect women” is that it often seems to be used to imply that white men don’t.”

    (Which I meant to be suggesting is incredibly racist, in that it’s attempting to reinforce narratives of white cultural supremacy and black male beastiality.)

  13. Nojojojo wrote:

    So their criticisms come across as very patronizing — We Have to Defend Black Women (Because They Obviously Can’t Do It Themselves)!!! Or as self-serving — “We have to point the fingers at men over there, as proof that our own cultural gender issues aren’t so bad!!!” This often has the unintentional effect of perpetuating racism, rather than solving the gender problem.

    I see what you mean now. (I initially misread your post.) I don’t really disagree with you (though I do think people can engage inoughtful analysis of racialized gender dynamics outside their own race experience — if, for instance, they are sociologists who are informed on the sociology of the subject.)

    Otherwise, I agree with you… I’d meant to imply as much with my original comment, but I see now where my original comment was ambiguous.

  14. Julia,

    In answer to your question:

    how you’d prefer to see well meaning white people handle the situation.

    I’d say focus on the gender issues and leave out the racial aspect as much as you can. Mandolin is right that black (or Latino or Asian or whatever) men are not the ONLY types who disrespect women. And, as a woman, you’re perfectly within your right to call out any disrespect of any woman regardless of race.

    Nora summed up my feelings regarding cross-group finger shaking perfectly. But then I DO feel that I can say “That particular man is disrespecting that particular woman and that’s not cool,” about someone of any race when calling out specific instances/actions.

    In the Washington/Knicks case, I think that everyone can legitimately say, “He should not have harassed her or called her Bitch or Ho. That is completely wrong.”

  15. ABW,

    I suppose I am the only white male on this forum who is going to take a stab at this. (And that is perfectly fine.)

    Here are some thoughts I had after reading your reflections on the Newsweek Article:

    * Back in 1984 the musician, Don Henley, released a song called, “Dirty Laundry”. Here are some of the lyrics:

    I make my living off the evening news
    Just give me something-something I can use
    People love it when you lose,
    They love dirty laundry……

    Dirty little secrets
    Dirty little lies
    We got our dirty little fingers in everybodys pie
    We love to cut you down to size
    We love dirty laundry….

    As a group, do black men treat black women worse than their Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and white counterparts in the U.S? I personally do not think so. I tend think there is a peculiar media bias that scrutinizes black men/women relationships moreso than the rest of us. I also think that the marketers of periodicals like to feed into the morbid curiosity that (mostly white) people have for the appearence of someone else’s dirty laundry.

    ** Nearly 12 years ago, being newly married (to a woman of color), I had a conversation with one man (who is man of color) about interracial relationships: With a wry smile on his face he asked me, “Do you know what the differences are between black, white, and Hispanic women?” Anxious for some new insight I said, “Tell me”. He said, “Most black women hit back.”

    I walked away not knowing how serious he was ( or if he was just pulling my leg). I did not bother asking either. But I remember thinking, “What on God’s green earth does he consider to be a normal relationship?”

    Among the many couples my wife and I share meals with, only two are black. I believe I extend the same courtesy to them as I do our friends who are white and of mixed heritage: Short of seeing abuse or danger, I am NOT going to offer my advice or criticism on their relationship (or on raising children – which is another very hot issue) unless I am asked for it. And when that rare occasion comes, I speak very slowly and carefully. : )

    All The Best,

    Adam

  16. Ico, Mandolin, et al,

    To clarify myself — I want to emphasize that my problem is with the insincerity. The context. I don’t have a problem with white people attacking black men for their misogyny in and of themselves. I have a problem with white people doing it when they don’t know or care jack else about black people.

    That’s what got me about the Imus affair; I saw people in the mainstream media, who had let Imus’ other racist comments slide unremarked, suddenly jumping on the pile with this one. And I was like, WTF? What’s different about this time? Then it became clear: this time, Imus used an overt gender slur. He’s said nasty things about women for years too, yes, but never (to my knowledge; granted, I ignore the man whenever possible) gone so far as to call them cunts or whatever. He has used the n-word, however, and other overt racial slurs, and never got the kind of attention that the gendered slur drew. The Imus thing made very clear, judging purely by the level of outcry and spotlight, what kind of slurs America considers to be less acceptable.

    And to further clarify — the feminists who struck me as insincere were not Pandagon, Alas, etc. I don’t consider blogs mainstream media — probably should be, but most aren’t there yet. But what I specifically remember was some kind of televised panel shortly after the Imus incident that ran on one of the NBC stations (can’t keep NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC straight, sorry). This panel was mostly white women including Gloria Steinem, condemning Imus for his comments. Where the hell was Gloria when Imus was calling a prominent black female journalist a “cleaning lady”? Or when one of Imus’ buddies was calling Venus and Serena Williams “animals”?

    There’s a significant chunk of the younger generation of feminists that I think understand this — that you can’t sift the sexism from the racism when you’re talking about women of color, and that there are race issues to consider even when addressing a seemingly (pun intended) black-and-white issue like misogyny. But those feminists, unfortunately, don’t get called in for interviews when gender issues come up, any more than people like ABW get called up on race issues (even though she’s yards smarter than Al Sharpton, and did great on the NPR segment Monday!!).

    Sara, more specifically — no one’s saying you shouldn’t speak out when no one else is. But if I can suggest… don’t assume no one else is. I constantly hear white people chide the black community for not taking misogynistic rappers to task. From my perspective inside the black community, I’m always astounded and amused by this, because as I see it, the black community has been shouting at rappers for years. I’ve read articles in black magazines, watched rappers argue about the issue amongst themselves, heard angry speeches from prominent people — but they weren’t prominent enough for the mainstream media to pay attention to. So a lot of white people who wouldn’t be caught dead reading, oh, Cornell West, act like nobody’s ever noticed it until they did. This is privilege in action — the blithe assumption that if white society didn’t notice it, it wasn’t important, or being addressed. So just don’t assume nobody’s saying anything in the trans community, in the situation you describe; they just might not be speaking in a place you usually look/hear.

    Julia, same thing. A well-meaning white person who wants to speak out against misogyny in the black community should speak out on other issues affecting the black community, not just the one that she deems of primary importance. It would also help if she learned something about the black community, and listened to what’s already being said by people within that community on that and other issues, and added her voice to theirs to not only get her point across, but to show her support. Along the same lines, she should speak out against all misogyny in every community, including and especially her own. That’s what I’d like to see, anyway.

  17. “… as I see it, the black community has been shouting at rappers for years.”

    You know, I hadn’t thought about this, but I am so glad you pointed it out because it’s so absolutely true. I NEVER hear about any of the criticism of rappers from within the black community; it just doesn’t reach mainstream (white) media the way rap itself does. And this:

    “This is privilege in action — the blithe assumption that if white society didn’t notice it, it wasn’t important, or being addressed.”

    Oh, gee… I mean, you are right. I never thought about it, but you are so very right. I always assumed because I didn’t hear anything about it being addressed that it WASN’T being addressed — that black society wasn’t doing anything about it. It didn’t occur to me that maybe I didn’t hear about it because white society is so deaf.

    I mean, I hear plenty of despicable rap music… Why is it that stuff gets absorbed by white society (loved by kids and condemned by older adults), but not the criticism of it? Maybe it’s because misogyny runs so deeply through all races that it’s easy for those values to become popular on MTV and among teens. I don’t know… but you’re right, I didn’t hear anything about the black community’s response to rap’s misogyny, and I didn’t think about WHY I didn’t hear anything about the black community’s response.

    Ugh… Well that is not cool, is it? I am glad you called me out on this kind of assumption.

    I didn’t know that about Imus using the n-word, either. That honestly surprises me. And calling the Williams sisters animals? What a vile bastard.

  18. Absolute agreement, nojojojo. Thanks for taking the time to respond to me.

  19. Ico,

    To clarify, it wasn’t Imus who called the Williams sisters animals. It was some other guy — but he’s one of Imus’ cronies. (Found a reference here.)

    Why is it that stuff gets absorbed by white society (loved by kids and condemned by older adults), but not the criticism of it?

    Because the despicable stuff is the most profitable product of the same corporations that control the mainstream news media, of course.

  20. Just looked at that reference… Do pardon my french, but holy @#&*! That is so outrageous and disgusting. I can’t believe this guy got rehired.

    I think this blog needs an angry/exploding smiley for things of this sort.

  21. nojojojo,

    I see your point, however, I did do some extensive googling before I shot my lid off like that (in ABW’s blog, I apologize for unloading my issues here). I think the Spanish situation isn’t exactly comparable to the one you have over there. There were a lot of blogs going “OMG, what is this woman saying!” But nothing in the way of an organized campaign to, for example, inform the network that we don’t want this kind of crap on our tv.

    90% of POC in Spain are recent inmigrants who don’t yet have the organization or political pull to denounce these kinds of things. Anti-racism struggle here is at a much more basic stage–and still spearheaded by white people, which I don’t think is the right way to go.

    My rant was more of a “OMG, I wish there was somebody I could talk to about this who doesn’t think I’m crazy”. I’m afraid it wasn’t particularly directed at anything. Sorry again for dumping it in ABW’s blog.

  22. It’s interesting, because when Imus called Gwen Ifill a “cleaning lady,” that was also pretty clearly based in both racism and misogyny. So for me, the question is why did that one slide past but the basketball team one cause a shitstorm (not enough of one, seeing that he’s got a show again, but more than the Ifill comment)? And I don’t know. Perhaps because the language was cruder? But that doesn’t make any sense–crude language is pretty standard on shows like Imus’s. But it doesn’t seem less sexist to me than the basketball team comment, so I’m not convinced that’s the reason.

  23. ABW, nojojojo–
    Thanks for taking the time to reply to my question. It’s funny because once I read your comments, they seemed like very obvious and good advice, but yet I hadn’t gotten there on my own. I mean, I also haven’t been making blanket statements about any group’s misogyny. Reading your post made me start thinking about the whole issue.

    I do generally feel comfortable calling out individual instances of misogyny regardless of the race of the people involved, but hadn’t thought much before about the things ABW said.

  24. ABW,

    Hats off to Anucha Browne-Sanders and the risk she took in pointing out what we all know should be the obvious. It really pisses me off to think that in this day and age, Anucha is embracing “no small personal cost” to say what’s on her mind. I’ve noticed something about some black folks here as of late (not necessarily on this blog but referred to by this blog) when faced with this topic and others like it. They start using the same tired defensive tactics to derail the main point, usually with phrases like “well, not ALL black men (fill in the blank).” First of all, that defensive viewpoint is moot – of course we know that not ALL black men/people (fill in the blank). But in the case of this topic (being abusive to black women) – for those who know black men who DON’T abuse (and I know plenty good black men), why the need to be so defensive during discussions? If the social ill doesn’t apply to you (or yours), but it obviously exists – why the need to splice statistics, or conduct analysis on who should be saying what? Why can’t we simply get on with discussing ways the ENLIGHTENED folk can influence the transgressors?

    Since my college days of attending Black Man Think Tanks (Cincinnati), I’ve heard the same topics brought up – and we never seem to make progress because we continuously get bogged down into trying to disprove issues that are so obviously BIG ISSUES!!! We also get bogged down into details of who is reporting the phenomenon. I’ve never needed the media to tell me ANYTHING about the social pitfalls and accomplishments of the black community – I can witness it for myself. Yes, it is true that as black people our dirty laundry is being aired…a lot lately. But I’m more concerned about the house keeping than who’s watching– I have to live in this house! We need to see to it that our laundry is washed. Period.

  25. Not to run into the party late, but thank you for posting this. It does seem as though there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on (not least with those handful of men who seem confident in asserting that black women are dominant and white women are “properly” submissive; they certainly haven’t been speaking to most of the white women I know) in a way dismissive and counter-productive.

    As a culture, we like to point fingers at people who are “worse” than us in order to show how “good” and enlightened we are. Lately it has been extremely common in the discourse surrounding the issues faced by women in the third world, which makes me highly uncomfortable. Yes, I am an outspoken feminist and I strongly believe in stopping female genital mutilations, enforced chaste apparel such as the hijab and burqa etc. etc. However, some Western feminists speak about these issues with a huge streak of invisible racism. Sometimes this is directed at African cultures (as I believe FGM is only common in a small number of East African communities), but with increasing frequency, it is directed at Islam.

    It just seems as though misogyny is increasingly racialized, to deflect the blame from “normal”, Western, Christian culture. Media portrayals seem obsessed with, “BUT HOW ARE WOMEN TREATED IN YOUR PRIMITIVE CULTURE, DEAR?” Less obviously, it is seen in the deflective comments fielded by pop-culture critics, “Why are you picking on us for writing stereotypical damsels in distress, when those damn Muslim men make their women wear burqas and don’t let them drive?”

    The intersectionality of racism and sexism is very troubling. I think on some level white people (or Western people) try to build up POC in their minds to some sort of ideal that is both terrifying and attractive. There seems to be a trend of foisting fantasies of sexual aggression onto men of color, for instance — which seems to be an underlying contributor to white suburban teenagers’ morbid fascination with the darkest aspects of gangsta rap.

    I’m rambling, and probably jumping to conclusions, but the more I observe the pitfalls some white feminists are prone to, the more disturbed I become. I guess this is a post-cursor to my sobering discoveries about the weaknesses and prejudices of hetero-feminism. It’s sad.

  26. I think it starts with ourselves. We cant expect others to respect us when we dont respect ourselves. We backstab our friends, we talk about other succesful african american women behind their backs and try to hold them down instead of uplifting, we support ignorant shows like “I love new york” and “flavor of love” that portray african american women in the most ignorant and disprespectful light. Until we take a stand on all levels to say this is unexceptable, we cant expect our men and anyone else to do it.

  27. ^^Okay, who’s this “we” you’re referring to?

    Because I look around and see Black women uplifting each other, mentoring each other, and speaking out against anything that doesn’t give us the respect we deserve.

    Actually, I believe it’s the stereotypes that some try to hold against others that is severely damaging.

  28. Hi,
    Just a quick comment. I’m a white woman married to a black man, and my husband’s sister is perpetually denegrated by her boyfriends, who are frequently Hispanic as well as black, white, and even Asian. It’s the type of man that she chooses. Her friends, all black women, do not empower her to be strong enough to leave him or to stand up for herself. I’ve had this experience with one of my best friends in college who was also treated badly by her partner, so I have direct knowledge of how to handle the situation. As a woman, a friend, a mother, and a sister (even if by marriage), I feel transcending the racial aspects of our cultures to combat a HUMAN injustice is more important than dwelling on my right (or lack thereof) to comment on black-on-black mistreatment. I can’t simply watch the situation unfold time and time again without trying to help her acquire some self esteem. Would it be more just if one of my strong black woman friends spoke with her instead of me, who has been a part of this family for the last 16 years, simply because I am white? I’m not the great “white hope” either; I just really care about my sister-in-law’s stability as a woman, black or otherwise. It’s not my place to judge, and I’d never use a blanket statement that all black men disrespect their women (my husband is a testament to that!), but I don’t feel I have any less right to intervene in something that is so clearly a human issue, not strictly a race issue.

  29. Julia, I sympathize with your plight but I’m not sure what you’re getting at; you don’t think it’s about race, so why are you listing the races of her boyfriends and generally treating it as a ‘race issue’? I’ve worked at a domestic violence shelter and trust me, it’s not about race– it happens in EVERY community. And yet DV is still, over and over again, portrayed as a ‘black thing’ or a ‘Latino thing’ or a ‘poor thing’ in the mainstream media.

    I’m a white woman who has talked with a lot of women (a majority of whom were black, because of the location of our shelter) about violent relationships, in professional and informal situations. I think it made a big difference that they were coming to me, as someone who was there to provide help– I wasn’t just barging into their lives and going ‘here’s your problem’! Let her know you’re there for her, say things that boost her self esteem, point out things that are ‘red alerts’ for DV (i.e. if they’ve been together three days and he’s trying to isolate her). If you don’t present yourself as a ‘great white hope’ or, god forbid, start talking at her about your take on the racial dynamics of her relationships, she might feel comfortable enough to come to you. It has to be her decision, though– all you can do is be a supportive sister and an informed resource who’s there when she’s ready.

    Hope that’s helpful. I surfed over here from the ‘On Feminism’ debate– thanks to nojojojo for pointing in this direction!

  30. What a refreshing discussion. Thanks, ABW.

    Men of color are very sensitive to criticism in a racist society but they are insensitive to women of color. Therefore, if a man is sexist, people should not be afraid to say so. There is no need to refer to his race while doing so.

  31. […] Angry Black Woman: No, we’re not gonna take it […]

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