Category Archives: African-American Women

#Invisible Sisters: Are “Good Black Women” Invisible to Black Men?

“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.” 

(Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man)

I recently had the pleasure of serving as the moderator for a community panel discussion at the African-American Library in the 4th Ward of Houston, Texas. As a writer, I do my best to stay keenly aware of discussions as they provide the basis for much of what I write about regarding Race in America, hence, I was particularly attentive to a panel composed of prodigious scholars and intellectuals such as Dr. Kaarin Perkins, Dr. James Conyers, Dr. Ronald Goodwin, Dr. Derrick Wilson, and Dr. Jasmine D. Parker. I intuitively realized that this group would provide innumerable moments of brilliance that I would do my best to first seize and then expound on in this space.

I am quite confident that if you have sat at the foot of those mentioned above that you already realize the depth and breadth of their insight regarding being black in America. While listening to riveting comments by the esteemed Dr. Kaarin Perkins, a sister who carries her passion on her sleeve, it dawned on me that a recent construct that I borrowed from the great writer Ralph Ellison was woefully incomplete.

In an earlier post, I posited that today’s progressive black man is an “Invisible Man” whose existence mirrors that of the figure that Ellison wrote about sixty-five years ago. Although I maintain that my analysis is spot on, it was Dr. Perkins whose poignant comments pointed out that my construct was a far too abbreviated idea as African-American men have much company in being rendered “Invisible” by an outside world that refuses to see them. Most disconcerting is Perkins’ contention that she could care less about the viewpoints of the outside world, her indictment was aimed at black men who render her invisible.

According to Perkins, progressive-minded black women whose entire being is aimed at uplifting the black community and those that call it home are routinely grouped with others whose entire existence has nothing to do with being politically astute, pillars of their community, and savvy enough to battle those seeking to destroy our community on their turf. Instead of seeing these women, far too often black men only see a figure onto which they are able to project their insecurities, hatred, and disdain. “Instead of seeing their sister who is here to aid them, they see a hoe, a bitch, or a slut.” This matter reminds me of an observation that W.E.B. Du Bois made in his classic text The Souls of Black Folk regarding it being a “peculiar sensation to view oneself through the lens of another.”

This matter leads me to an interesting query. Is it a reasonable assertion that African-American males have allowed their negative interactions with what many would term “basic” black women to destroy their understanding that black women are not a monolithic population? Although I hate to say it, I know for a fact that the negative interactions with a few “basic” sisters is integral to black men grouping all “sisters” together and thereby making those who serve as pillars in our community as Ellison would term it, “Invisible (Wo)men.”

While listening to Dr. Perkins passionately explain this conundrum that affects nearly every black woman that I consider a friend, it dawned on me that this situation is tied to an oppressive white world supremacy that has ensnared far too many of us. Most unfortunate is the reality that until we are able to somehow free ourselves from the reverberating damage that being black in America has wrought on our souls, sisters like Dr. Kaarin Perkins will remain invisible to the vast majority of black men. And that is a shame!!!!!!

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

#Me Too: Why Has Black America Remained Silent About the Sexual Predators in their Midst?

I am quite confident that if you speak with an African-American man, they will tell you that at some point in their life they have had a private exchange with a black woman that forever changed their soul. We never publicly speak of this secret moment for reasons of delicacy and respect. However, the alluded to exchange remains so prominent in our heart and soul that it often causes us to stare at the man in the mirror as we wonder what demons hide in the hearts of men.

Most devastating to the black men who have had this deep conversation is that it usually occurs with someone that we love, cherish, and trust: a lover, our wife, a family member, or our best female friend. The topic that I am alluding to is the far too frequent occurrence of rape or sexual assault of African-American women at the hand of some black man that is far from a stranger.

When I think back over the relationships that I have had with African-American women, I now realize that at some point in our engagement the vast majority of them confided in me that at some point in their lives that they had been harassed, sexually assaulted, or even brutally raped. Unfortunately, the only commonalities in their stories were that they all knew their attackers and not a single one of them was ever convicted of their crimes. Each of these women decided at some point to either not report the crime or end their engagement with an unresponsive criminal justice system. Most revealed that they refused to go through the same charade that their mothers, aunts, and girlfriends experienced after similar assaults.

As an African-American male, I find it a strange phenomenon that there is a segment of black men who have decided to prey on African-American girls and women in a manner that conveys a deep and unending hatred. In fact, the commentaries and viewpoints of so many black males are so standard that I am no longer shocked to hear their tales of sexual conquest, not to mention financial exploitation, of apparently naïve African-American women whose educational attainments and financial resources vary widely. Truthfully, there was a time when I thought that such viewpoints were a sign of ignorance, small-minds, and an absence of loyalty to the Race. Those days are gone as experience has taught me that individuals holding draconian beliefs about black women are found even within the African-American Freedom Struggle.

I find it to be peculiar that black males can pledge their loyalty to “the liberation and salvation of the black nation” while operating from a “physical might equals right” ethos in regards to their dealings with black women. The referenced individuals have somehow found space to publicly pledge their allegiance to the Race while operating out of a highly-flawed manhood construct. Rarely is it discussed that the alluded to manhood constructs are white male patriarchy in blackface.

The sexual exploitation and rape of black women within the activist community is nothing new if we believe the shocking commentary of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). Carmichael answered a question regarding the role of black women in the African-American freedom struggle as being “prone.” Carmichael’s quip translates into the role of black women in the movement is on their backs with their legs open. Even the Black Panther Party (BPP), the Vanguard organization of sixties protest politics, had so many problems with Panther “brothers” attempting to exploit Panther “sisters” that BPP leadership expelled members for the offenses.

I long ago decided that I would do my best to remain on the right side of events, even if it meant me taking a stance against the actions, activities, and intentions of African-American men. It is this commitment to righteousness that spurs my rejection of the perverse forms of toxic manhood that I see so many of my contemporaries and students using as their moral compass.

Although rarely discussed in public spaces, flawed manhood constructs are as damaging to black men as the pernicious and publicly discussed evils of bigotry, discrimination, and institutional racism. In many ways, faulty manhood constructs that mandate black males assume personas of hyper-aggression, irresponsible sexual lifestyles, and pervasive social responsibility is the final nail in the coffin in regards to their maturation.

Unfortunately for Black America, until black males are socialized into appropriate forms of black manhood, none of the women in our community are safe from sexual assault or rape. Not your mother, aunt, sister, or daughter. None are safe!!!!!!

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

 

An Open Letter to Veronica Wells: Please Refrain from Making Black Men Invisible

I must admit that I did little more than shake my head when I heard my brother Carl Tone Jones speak about someone terming black men “terrorists.” Considering that his comments came on the heels of the greatest terrorist attack on American soil, I simply shook my head and mused, “ain’t white folk something.” I readily admit that my racial paranoia led me to believe that it was the white press that had managed to twist and turn the deplorable Las Vegas shooting into an innovative opportunity to rail against black men.

I am confident that you will understand my surprise when I learned that it was Veronica Wells, a black female who serves as the culture editor of MadameNoire, who had disparaged black men in this manner. Particularly troubling is the reality that Wells’ commentary was bound to reach thousands of Americans.

According to Wells,

Black women have been trying to tell the entire Black community that one of our biggest threats in the world is the very Black men we’ve birthed. In the same way that White men use their power and their gender to oppress virtually every one else, is the same way Black men oppress the only group they can, Black women.”

Wells goes further into her diatribe while making the same mistake that Damon Young of “Very Smart Brothas” did in a similar statement against his brothers in Straight Black Men are the White People of Black People. The alluded to mistake was pointing a sawed-off shotgun in the direction of black men and irresponsibly pulling the trigger to fire a spray of pellets in their path. Both of these writers wielded a shotgun when a sniper’s rifle would have been much more appropriate.

It is important to note that the alluded to attack on all black men by writers whose subjects and analysis should be emanating from an esteemed intellectual tradition of racial uplift is yet another consequence of having an intellectual class that has learned at the foot of a white community whose primary purpose has been the destruction of Black America. If Wells and Young are representative of the black intellectual community, that population now fails to understand the utility and power of the Black Pen. In fact, it appears that many black writers consider its best use to be sticking the instrument in the eye of black women or stabbing black men in the heart with it.

In her posting, Wells takes the privilege of speaking for all black women and issues the following complaints regarding black males.

Men literally break their necks to oogle your body as you pass by. They comment on what you should and shouldn’t be wearing. They touch your hair and then get loud and angry when you tell them to stop. They demand hugs, following you into your apartment building and trapping you in an elevator to take them. A Black man threw an empty bottle at Victoria. Brande has had men offer extremely hurtful opinions about her body. And our experiences are not unique.

Although I do not doubt that there are black males, a description that is a far cry from black men, who have perpetrated those acts against not only Wells but also droves of other black women. I am not compelled to apologize for their actions. I have nothing to do with their behavior, yet as a black man, I do denounce their disgraceful conduct and have always served as an active socializing agent against the continuation of such events from my lectern on a weekly basis.

Quite possibly the most annoying aspect of both Wells’ and Young’s postings is that in their clumsy, haphazard rush to correct black males, they have rendered black men whose very essence is guided by a moral compass and commitment to uplifting the Race invisible. Ralph Ellison appropriately sums up the enormous erasure that occurs to progressive-minded black men whose love for women extends beyond familial connections when writers such as Wells and Young articulate unsophisticated, illogical, sophomoric attacks that achieve nothing more than serving as a rallying call for those who despise black men; a population that predictably includes droves of people who hate black women with a similar intensity. These unspecified sawed-off shotgun blasts that by their very nature will harm the innocent are nothing new. Ralph Ellison penned the following about such generalized maligning by relating what such attacks do to black men.

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.   

Once again, my primary problem with this posting is not that Wells has decided to point out a most unfortunate occurrence within our community by a specific sub-culture as those discussions are much-needed and should be encouraged. However, such conversations need to be precise and not general ramblings that ultimately cause more division among people that I could not imagine being any more divided than it is at the current moment.

Consider the following as it is one example of the inherent danger of sloppy intellectualism and writing manifested by both Wells and Young.

In her posting, Wells pens the following,

By the time I got upstairs to my office, I told my friend and coworker Victoria about the incident. Victoria is the ’bout it friend. Not that she ever goes looking for a fight; but should one present itself, whether it directly involves her or not, she’s not afraid to confront the situation. I mean, I’ve literally watched her jump into a fight involving teenagers on a New York City subway from Brooklyn to Harlem at like 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Bout it. Meanwhile, I was half sleep, curled up in the corner…Anyway, when I told her what happened, she climbed a few levels of crunk as she talked about what she would have done and said to him.

Now consider for a moment if I were to take the antics of her “bout it friend”, who obviously has an absence of impulse control as she is eager to jump in random confrontations such as fighting on a New York City subway car in the early hours of the morning, and extended it to cover all black women. I would be left with no other conclusion than to believe that even when empowered with an education — a fact that I am certain that her co-worker at MadameNoire possesses — all black women are hood-rats who when pressure is applied morph into uneducated, ghetto-talking, welfare queens, whose foremost desire is to get their hair “did” as it will help them attract their next baby daddy. I am confident that you agree that it would be ludicrous for me to take the socially inappropriate actions of her impulse-control starved co-worker or a figure such as Veronica Wells who apparently fell asleep after a long night out on the town and consider the actions of these few individuals to be an appropriate sample size to evaluate all black women.

In many ways, writings such as those penned by Veronica Wells and Damon Young reveal more about their view of black men and less about the subjects that they loathe, if not despise. As a black man who has lived a little bit of life, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly to be found among black women and even after those life experiences I find it impossible to denigrate black women in such a generalized manner. For every sister that I have seen fighting on a subway or passed out from a night of gallivanting, I also realize that I have female friends whose star shines so bright that it would be impossible for them ever to be rendered ‘Invisible Women.’ The alluded to women are brilliant Professors, loving mothers and wives, phenomenal intellectuals, Womanists, Engineers, and the list goes on and on. It is this latter populace that is the norm in my world, and the antics of a few misguided individuals will not block my view of these sisters that I love cherish and would attack anyone who sought to invade their physical space, mental clarity, or safety.

Although it may be difficult to comprehend for a writer such as Veronica Wells, the majority of black men deplore the actions of those that you have termed “terrorists.” I am confident that you can understand that black men denounce the harassment of black women as they are our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, confidants, and cherished friends. In fact, I feel comfortable in saying that black men denounce such foolishness more stringently than you could ever imagine. And we do that without the expectation of any kudos or response from black women. All that we do ask is that in your abhorrence of these droves of black males who have yet to understand the essence of black manhood and therefore fail to under the jewel that black women are, that you do not overlook us and render us Invisible Men whose presence matters little to you.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Why Black Men Should Applaud the Development of a Black Woman’s Movement and Political Agenda

I must be forthright and state that I believe public protests and marches should be at best a minimal portion of strategies aimed at liberating Black America. A century ago, public protests and marches were a phenomenal way to inform naïve whites of bigotry, racial discrimination, and institutional racism, the need for such measures are long gone as all Americans realize that we have a Race problem in this nation. The historical record indicates that over the past half-century public protests have failed to make significant strides toward solving the underlying catalysts to racial inequality. Put simply; the typical march for racial justice amounts to little more than our people talking loud and achieving nothing.

Although I hold fast to the belief that marches such as the March for Racial Justice and the March for Black Women planned today in Washington, D.C. will fail to make a tangible difference in the plight of black people in America; there is a silver lining to be found regarding the latter. To the chagrin of many who oppose black liberation, it appears that a segment of African-American women have channeled the spirit and intelligence of their brave sisters of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and the Black Liberation Army and realized that black women have tended to exist in a peculiar space that lends itself to political invisibility.

Consider for a moment that it is common for the needs, wants, and particular issues facing black women to be muted by their identity. Unfortunately, black women are too female to be adequately represented in the male-dominated African-American freedom struggle and too black to be centered in a women’s movement that disregards the pernicious evil of racial oppression. Verification of such an assertion is found throughout the entire feminist movement that has “welcomed” black women into their fold under the condition that they must adopt a pre-existing agenda that has nothing to do with their particular needs, wants, and desires. The issues that matter most to black women conflict with the “white world supremacy” that provides great privilege to white women; it is, after all, their first inheritance as an America.

In many ways, it should be difficult for anyone who has any love for black women not to applaud this courageous decision by march leaders to articulate a political agenda that highlights peculiar issues that will never be found within either the African-American freedom struggle or the feminist movement. This decision should ensure that black women are no longer eclipsed by an African-American freedom struggle that accentuates racial matters at the cost of ignoring gender issues or a white female-headed feminist movement that will never work toward eradicating white supremacy.

Although I know that many black men will shudder at the prospect of black women having a separate political agenda, they have little to worry about as African-American women have historically supported the African-American freedom struggle. I am confident that the March for Black Women will not change that fact. The alluded to fears should be quieted by the reality that politically astute, courageous, disciplined, and educated black women are central to the creation of and the maintenance of an active black community.

Failure to understand this fact dooms us all and ensures that racial disparities will continue unabated. And that is a reality that all of Black America should consider revolting.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

A Low Down Dirty Shame: What the Video of Maia Campbell Reveals About Ignorant Black Males

I recently received a communication from a trusted female friend who issued a very poignant assertion that doubled as a general indictment against African-American men.

We are supposed to jump on every injustice that happens to the black man, but we seem to be their main punching bag! Sharing that video is an insult to us all!!!!

As soon as I read the comment, I realized that it was emanating from grave disappointment with black men. The impetus behind the communication was a “viral video” of actress Maia Campbell who suffers from a bipolar disorder that affects 2.3 million Americans.

The alluded to video captured the In the House star as a physically and mentally disheveled mess in desperate need of the kind of professional help that extends further than an earnest attempt to pray away the “demons” by some prayer circle. Viewing the video caused my heart to break for this young lady. As expected, the lens of love and understanding that I used to view Mrs. Campbell was not matched by other members of our community who used this unfortunate matter to hurl derisive comments in her direction. As if things could not be any worse, it became apparent that it was a black male who not only captured but also promoted the shocking images.

For reasons coded in both our DNA and historical record, African-American women have looked to African-American men for some semblance of protection; unfortunately, in the new millennium it has become increasingly common for those reasonable expectations to be ignored by a sector of black males, a population that is distinctly different from African-American men, who now view black women as prey to be hunted, subdued, and released back into the wild after they are of no further use to them. It is this behavior that led to the poignant assertion that,

“(Black women) are supposed to jump on every injustice that happens to the black man, but we seem to be their main punching bag!

Now I am most certainly aware that the vast majority of black women believe that they have always supported and defended black males regardless of the situation and received very little in return. Such feelings contextualize the repeated conflicts that occur between black men and women. One of the primary mistakes that the combatants on both sides of the aisle make when deciding to attack what they unwisely consider their adversary is a failure to pinpoint those that they intend to battle; put simply, it appears that hurt, anger, and disappointment paves the path for each of us to generalize and indict all black men or all black women as the source of our turmoil.

Despite an understandable emotionally charged knee-jerk reaction, the truth of the matter is that the scrap of a human being who captured Maia Campbell on video is not a fair representation of the black men that I know; he is a black male biologically, yet devoid of any of the qualities necessary to be crowned a black man. It is fair to characterize persons of this ilk with the following descriptors: ignorant, unlearned, socially inappropriate, devoid of common sense, and absent even a semblance of consideration for the community that has nurtured them. Predictably when this Negro was pressed as to why he recorded the referenced footage, he related the following.

Y’all n****s would not be mad if I posted a white girl. If I would have ran into muthaf***king Hillary Duff/ Lizzy McGuire and she was asking for crack and sucking d**k at the gas station for money for crack, I would have posted her, too…This ain’t no mental disorder this b***h is just high as f**k.”

When one considers all that the above language and worldview convey, it is easy to understand why others look at this population of African-American males with amused contempt and pity.

In regards to the assertion that black women

“…are supposed to jump on every injustice that happens to the black man, but we seem to be their main punching bag!”

I have little response other than to warn black women to not generalize and fall into the trap of allowing a few ignorant fellows to represent the essence of black manhood. If nothing else, it is imperative that we ostracize this class black male and work toward healing the willing and able in our midst. I am confident that she would agree that this process becomes more difficult when idiots such as the one referenced above are included and therefore permitted to continue their pattern of mischief and destruction.  

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.