The communication came to me as so many others do, it was neither requested nor desired; however, it caused me to think about a variety of things: African-American women, political activism, and the path to liberation.
One of the most common discussion points amongst Black Nationalists seeking to uplift the race revolves around the role, place, and obligations of African-American women. Unfortunately, in the minds of many revolutionary minded African-American males, the role of women within the movement is, as Stokely Carmichael articulated, ‘prone’; meaning lying on their backs with their legs spread wide open. For others, the role of Black women has been a subservient one that requires her to be available at the ‘beck and call’ of her king. Neither of these roles has been embraced by the majority of Black women.
A cursory examination of African-American history highlights a much different role for Black female activists. History indicates that African-American women have not only been self-sacrificing, but also determined to move their people forward at an extreme personal cost. The race has never moved forward without the prodding, guidance, ingenuity, courage, and resolve of Black women. Put simply, Black women are the engine that moves our people forward.
As I look at the current state of Black affairs, the above historical truth disturbs me at an unconscionable level for one simple reason; I am unsure, for reasons that will be discussed below, if we have the female forces necessary to move the race forward. The female soldiers of yesteryear were incubated within a Black community that intrinsically recognized their worth, nurtured their self-image, provided a comfortable place for them to rest when they were exhausted from a day’s work, and protected them from external forces that desperately sought to stunt their moral development, political astuteness, and economic genius. That hedge of protection no longer exists; sadly, there are many within our midst seeking to damage the minds, bodies, and souls of our young girls in a manner that is eerily similar to the actions of racist whites.
The image of Black women is assailed around the clock; even when she is not physically present. If one were not careful, they may very well believe that many of the reality television (Love and Hip-Hop series), cinematic (addicted), and rap video (Nicki Minaj) depictions of Black women are valid; particularly when one considers the consistency of the images being shared to a gullible public. Despite protests to the contrary, the Black community’s allowing such imagery to be developed, broadcast, and ingested by African-American youth has come at an extreme cost; a cost that promises to rise exponentially as time goes along.
The alluded to images have a varying impact upon the still-developing minds of young African-American females, and males, seeking to identify who they are in a nation that sees their Blackness as a symbol of inferiority and their gender as a sign of weakness. Many of the alluded to sisters are indoctrinated by negative images, stereotypes, and caricatures of what it means to be a Black woman and predictably gravitate toward occupations and behaviors that their oppressors have promoted as a unique niche reserved solely for them. The aforementioned advice given to Black women by their opponents appears to be the sex industry. It appears that many within this nation are advising black women, “…when all else fails, pussy always sells.” Only within this capitalistic ends-justify-the-means nation would such an option be publicly promoted via national airwaves, television stations, and magazines to citizens.
It is the promotion of such economic solutions to African-American women, particularly those just starting to understand that they must actively resist a world that is seeking to destroy them and thereby derail the struggle for African-American liberation that is supremely disturbing. The African-American community’s collective failure to not only protect, but also address such matters in a meticulous manner that counter-balances the aforementioned negativity with our own propaganda dooms us to failure. Our failings in this matter should shame both community leaders and ordinary citizens. The Black community’s failure to protect its young women ensures that we will remain in the same dastardly position that we have been in for far too long. Because, once again, African-American history teaches us one thing for certain, that being, Black women are the engine behind every movement the race makes, and as you well know, no vehicle, not even a Black Nationalist one, will move one inch without a working fully functioning engine.
* Please join the writers of Manhood, Race, and Culture on Nu Power Radio @ (917) 889-8059 on Tuesday October 28th at 6:00 EST for a lively discussion over this blog post. We look forward to building with you on this issue.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III