Warning: This post might be all over the place because I wasn’t struggling a bit to pull my thoughts together so please bear with me.
Yet again this post was inspired by a comment from this:
I would like to say that I( and you would have to be blind not to) have noticed a phenomenon occurring. If you look closely and listen to certain groups of people talk, chances are you will have heard something similar to what I ( and many other black women have heard) I’ll give you a scenario:
Black woman : I don’t consider myself a feminist.
White feminist: But women need to come together! We need to be united.
Black Woman: I just don’t feel as if feminism is relevant for me.
White Feminist: How can you not find feminism relevant? Of all the groups in the US black women have been historically mistreated. You should want to help out. If you help feminism then it will trickle down to you.
Black woman: I feel as if the black community is overlooking and treating black women badly.
Black Man: I don’t think that its true.
Black Woman: I feel that I would be better off supporting feminism. I am a woman first.
Black Man: That’s stupid! You may think that you are a woman first, but to them you will always be black! Do you think that they will ever see you as anything else? You need to work with us because once black men have equal rights to white men; it will trickle down to you.
I didn’t pose those scenarios to highlight the usual selfishness of feminist and civil rights groups. My main point was to highlight something else. In this case what I am pointing out is that when black women are poised to walk away from groups that don’t directly benefit them they are talked, cajoled and scared back into line. But further I think that what should be noticed is that there are people who are very aware that there is a racial/gender hierarchy and that black women should want to support every “movement” under the sun because it will supposedly trickle down to us.
Further these people feel offended that black women refuse to work with them because the unspoken (and often spoken) idea is that black women are “on the bottom” and they should “know how it feels” to be oppressed etc. etc. based on race and gender combined. Why wouldn’t black women want to work for causes such as these?
What I believe is the most telling( and I feel the need to point out to you) is that the ultimate goal of conversations like this is that black women should feel as if we should sympathize with every one because if it is bad for them then it must be bad for us.
But here is where things get crazy sneaky. The same people who usually like to pretend that black women are just as well off as them any other day, have to give a nod (albeit not always conscious but definitely grudging) that black are being hurt the MOST by racial/gender hierarchy.
Let me explain…..
During “regular business hours” (the 364 days of the year) *some* people like to pretend that white men are the only ones benefiting from the racial/gender hierarchy but black women know this isn’t the truth. Usually though when black women point out the racism with feminism or the sexism in the black community black women are met with disbelief (because of course they’re oppressed too). Or as if the racial/gender hierarchy leaves black women on the same level as black men and white women so they can’t possibly be hurting black women. Or they respond as if they didn’t even know there *was* one.
But of course this is a lie. And this lie is always displayed in Technicolor when they need black women to work for them. First of all if feminist groups and Civil Rights groups didn’t know that there was a hierarchy, there wouldn’t constantly be promises that benefits would trickle down to black women or that black women would receive them by extension.
What is my point?
By definition “down” is below. Meaning they know that black women are “worse off” then them.
“By extension” means black women are not the main focus.
Do you see what I’m getting at yet?
It is an admission that they are aware that race and gender come together when these people say things like this. Heck, why else would it be argued for black women to work with them.
They know that it is “worse out there” for black women.
These groups know this!
But these people like to pretend that only white men benefit from race/sex privilege.
Except how can this be if they are going to have benefits trickle DOWN. Obviously they know we are “below them” and it is convenient for them to forget it every other day of the year until they want to remember. If black women were truly equal (and by that I mean benefiting the same from gender/race) then black women really wouldn’t have any reason to support feminism or civil rights movements more than anyone else? Now would we? And it wouldn’t commonly be said that black women “should understand out of all groups what it is like to be oppressed.”
Because if we’re convinced we’re all being screwed together that means that we more willing to go along with their thoughts when they want us to. It’s the way to get bodies to fight in their “war” against racist patriarchal white men while being able to comfortably enjoy the same benefits said white men have. And then when called on it they can still pass the buck onto white men and say they created the problem.
In other words they are playing both sides of the fence. They can admit that black women need help and to help ourselves they should help them but they dodge accusations that they are to blame or benefiting because they are “ below” white men too.
Clever, but this blogger isn’t amused because I’m on to them. In fact I would venture to say that their crafty wording is what had me onto their stench to begin with.
It’s an acknowledging non acknowledgement.
Black women have fallen for it. Because the only time that people want to acknowledge that black women “have it the worst” is when it is time to convince black women to bend over and let them onto our backs so they can get up first. When black women weren’t laying down for civil rights they were being told by those same black men that they are trifling, nasty bitter, jealous fat asses that needed to change and drove men out of their lives and that ultimately black women have it “better off”. When black women weren’t holding hands in unity (really coddling) white women in feminism while they talk about their needs, black women are shown exactly where they stand by the absolute non concern that is exhibited when black women point out racism.
Basically black women are acknowledged to be on the bottom as long as we can have some benefit to them. I remember in one article I read about women (I guess they meant white women) and self-esteem one commenter was talking about how “hard” it was to be a white women because of the self-esteem issues and trying to live up to pressure and black women were better off because we don’t have to adhere to traditional beauty stereotypes and how black women (somehow) have great self-esteem. (I guess beauty standards don’t apply to black women because we’re black and of course all the women are white.) My point is, the same people who so easily write of black women having “traditional feminist issues with self-esteem later try to get black women to work with them. Later they convince black women that we really are worse off and need to get help.
So which is it?
Well it’s whatever they want it to be at the time. It’s whatever these groups find beneficial at the time. If black men find it beneficial to use black women for civil rights then black women are worse off. Or if white feminists need numbers to further feminism we’re totes on the bottom. BUT if they have fulfilled their use for us…We can take a seat.
Black women can’t win playing this game.
So what is the lesson here?
The only way black women can win is if they ignore the game and go about their business. Because by the way they are leading black women on a string its more harmful than helpful.
I would also go as far to say that the most harmful thing that black women can be convinced that people don’t know that there is a totem pole. When black women believe that others don’t know that race and gender combined for black women is disastrous, we leave ourselves open to be led around by the nose. Because when they have us convinced that the playing field is equal we start to accept things that are actually more harmful to us because we are, in reality, on the bottom.
A good instance was when the slut walks happened. So many feminists (pretended) not to see why black women wouldn’t want to co- sign “reclaiming” the word slut, given black women’s history in the U.S. Of course in that case most black women didn’t buy the cool-aid and false confusion and deftly avoided that train wreck.
It’s also funny to note that just like I said the major argument for why black women should join was that it was a woman issue and if it was bad for them it would be bad for us.
But my point is that was a clear situation when a certain group would like to pretend that there is no totem pole and have black women behave as if all the rules apply equally for everyone. The totem pole was erased for their benefit despite what would have happened if black women believed it. The best thing black women can do for themselves is cut the cord on the line that we’re being fed because there is a totem pole. To be convinced that others don’t know about it means black women will get crushed by it.