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.