‘I’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE’: WHY THE POLITICAL DILEMMAS OF BLACK WOMEN ARE RARELY ADDRESSED OR SOLVED BY ANY POLITICAL MOVEMENT AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO ABOUT IT

Yesterday, the largest single-day protest on American soil occurred with a diverse crowd of men and women taking to American cities in the following numbers.

  • Atlanta (250,000 protestors)
  • Chicago (250,000 protestors)
  • Boston (250,000 protestors)
  • Denver (200,000 protestors)
  • New York (350,000 protestors)
  • Washington C. (500,000 protestors)
  • Los Angeles (500,000 protestors)

For comparison’s sake, a relatively modest 250,000 assembled for the 1963 March on Washington.

This historic assembly appears to be a serious attempt at renewing American democracy by issuing a powerful statement against the new Presidential administration. However, as with most political matters in this nation, one has to question will the peculiar issues facing the African-American community, in this case, black women, be acknowledged, let alone ameliorated in this rising tide of political activism.

The above concerns regarding the addressing of issues facing African-American women, many of which flow directly from black men performing a perverse blackface minstrel performance that mirrors white male patriarchy, are reasonable when one considers the historical subordination of such matters by both Black Nationalist and White Feminist leaders.

One must remember that political elitism facilitated white feminist leaders inability to acknowledge that the issues facing white, married, heterosexual, wealthy women in no way covered the complex problems facing black women, a flaw that forced African-American women to forge their path toward gender equality about both white women and black men. Noted intellectual Alice Walker acknowledged the differences found within the struggles of black and white women with her reverberating comment that “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” Put simply, the Black Nationalist and Feminist movements often fail to represent, let alone solve, the issues of black women.

Hopefully, those leading this reiteration of female political agitation are astute enough to realize that racial matters are a significant negative in the lives of African-American women and must be addressed with the same intensity that patriarchy has historically been. Failure at this mundane task dooms African-American women to assume their usual position behind not only white women but also behind black men.

A close reading of history displays the ease with which black women are made invisible. African-American women are frequently asked to choose which is the greater part of them, their gender or race as if they can easily split not only their identities but also their political desires. Far too frequently, Black women have been too female to be a significant element in the African-American freedom struggle and too black to be considered full partners in the feminist movement. It is a damning quandary that can never be solved.

So as many bask in the after-effects of the historic nature of this march, a historical achievement only in the number of participants I might add, the politically astute are carefully examining the political agendas that emerge from this latest push for women’s rights.

I hope that this time things will be different for black women and they will assume the ‘nasty woman’ persona that so many of their white sisters have historically embraced. I pray that there are more than a few ‘nasty black women’ in our midst who are willing to advance the politicoeconomic needs of their sisters “by any means necessary,” even if it means strategically separating themselves from other movements at opportune moments. The tendency of African-American women to mute their voice due to what often appears to be a desperate desire to maintain decorum in the face of political pressure from other groups must cease if black women are serious about solving their issues.

I pray that all of the previous activism and political experiences black women have engaged in have prepared them to avoid a repeat of past moments of activism that left them at the back of the bus. Hopefully, black women have grown weary enough of being “Sick and tired of being sick and tired” that they step forward with a collective consciousness that emphasizes both their unique identity and the resulting issues that flow from it with an uncommon fervor. History has taught us that the only women that have ever changed the world have been “nasty women,” it is the time that black women accepted that fact and make it a policy going forward that their political agenda is the only one that matters.

At least that is what I hope and pray for them.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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