Tag 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

‘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

The Look: Michelle Obama Represents Black America Yet Again

There are moments in any African-American professionals life where they are forced to attend events and interact with a class of persons that are morally repulsive and therefore beneath them. Unfortunately for those African-Americans forced to enter such situations, decorum and professional expectations often mute our disgust for the event and the major players involved.

The above situation forces one to make a critical decision, do you follow your heart and the heartfelt advice of Malcolm X to “tell that man just how you feel” or do you preserve your professional credibility and literally ‘eat shit and grin.’

Michelle Obama has once again reminded Black America of a familiar tactic that anyone caught in a situation where decorum prevents them from speaking their mind could use. I simply call it “the look.”

Make no mistake about it, it is not happenstance that it was Michelle Obama who shot ‘the look,’ a subtle sign of disapproval that conveys a clear disapproval, yet is subtle enough that it offers a thin veil of plausible deniability. I am confident that if a patent search were conducted, we would find that someone black woman long ago, possibly a peer of Madame C.J. Walker, licensed ‘the look.’

So the next time that you find yourself within an uncomfortable professional setting drum up the spirit of all of those black women who have used ‘the look’ to display utter disgust for those around them. What am I saying?
African-American women don’t need to be told to do that; it is a standard part of the toolkit that they use to navigate a hostile world on a daily basis.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

What if She Were a Black Woman?: What the Nate Parker Sexual Assault Issue Tells Us About Such Matters in the African-American Community

In a nation that is understandably obsessed with race matters, it is a EMMETT TILLforgone conclusion that race matters. Considering the ever-present nature of American racial matters, I am never surprised when the haunting specter of race that dogged Thomas Jefferson, Gabriel Prosser, Abraham Lincoln, David Walker, and Frederick Douglass appears to remind us of who we really are as Americans.

The latest appearance of a race matter surrounds filmmaker Nate Parker who has achieved wide acclaim for his yet to be released film The Birth of a Nation. Make no mistake about it, Parker and his film’s emergence is a timely rebuttal to the lily-white Oscar ceremonies. According to industry insiders, The Birth of a Nation was perfectly positioned to inject unprecedented amounts of color to this year’s Academy Award season.

Unfortunately for this impressive young filmmaker and to the disappointment of an impressive cadre of supporters that includes filmmaker Spike Lee and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Nate Parker, and by extension The Birth of a Nation, has found himself ensnared in a most unfortunate scandal that dates back to his time as an undergraduate student at Penn State University.

I am certain that you have heard of the rape trial involving Nate Parker and the co-writer of The Birth of a Nation, Jean McGianni Celestin. Parker was acquitted of the charges, while Celestin, Parker’s collegiate roommate, was initially convicted of the charge; he would eventually be exonerated of the charge in future court proceedings. It is this significant blight in Parker’s past that has risen to eclipse what many thought was a blindingly bright future.

Now I am most certainly not interested in rehashing the sordid details of the case, trust me when I say that such information is readily available in other places as Parker’s past dealings with a white female have led to his aforementioned glorious future being continually raked over coals that threaten to make him a social pariah.

This matter has unintentionally raised a very interesting question that I posed to several African-American females of ‘What if the female who issued the scandalous allegations against Mr. Parker had been an African-American female?’

Prior to diving into this most delicate issue, I must issue a few disclaimers: (A) despite the pervasive racial prejudice and gender Black Woman4bias that I have encountered as an African-American male, I still believe that Malcolm X’s piercing observation that “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman” is the Gospel, (B) I am operating from a platform that realizes that the vast majority of African-American women that I am related to, have dated, or consider friends have been sexually assaulted or raped by some African-American male that they personally knew, (C) not a single one of the aforementioned crimes, and yes they were crimes, ever went to trial.

The resurfacing of this charge against Nate Parker and the failure of any of the aforementioned crimes to make it past a superficial investigation period reminds me of the context surrounding the lynching of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Civil Rights workers knew very well that their activities were extremely dangerous because it was not particularly startling when one of their comrades disappeared under dubious circumstances and was never heard from again. SNCC activists, particularly the African-Americans within the organization, understood the harsh, yet irrefutable reality that if they were abducted, there would not be a law enforcement driven search to save them while they were in the land of the living or even to discover their dead corpse.

This point was driven home when three SNCC workers, two of whom were not Black, disappeared and J. Edgar Hoover sent Federal Bureau of Investigation agents into Mississippi to find them. It was obvious to all, the search for what most understood were dead bodies was aimed at finding the corpses of Schwerner and Goodman, not their Black counterpart James Earl Chaney.

This public outcry against Nate Parker, who was once again found not guilty of the allegations, reeks of similar priorities that place Nate Paker 3more value upon some lives other than others. When I posed this question of would things be different regarding Mr. Parker if the person issuing the allegation were an African-American woman to a group of Black women, the response was fast and furious.

One sister related, “First of all, this matter would not even be being discussed by persons outside of her inner-circle because they would be the only one’s who even knew about it. The vast majority of Black women have learned to protect Black men regardless of what they do to us behind closed doors and if she did call the authorities, they would have swiftly explained to her that she caused this, especially when it came to light that she had engaged in a sexual act with him the previous night. Shoot, she would have been called a hoe and possibly charged with making a false police report.”

I was not surprised when these sentiments were seconded by a sister who stated, “C’mon, we all know how the game goes. Justice is not blind. As soon as they see that you are a Black woman, all of the biases and prejudices they hold in their minds, you know, the shit that they never say in front of ‘mixed-company’, rushes to the forefront of their mind and before you know it, if you’re not being directly blamed for what happened to you, the insinuation is there and I don’t care who you are telling your story to. Hell, my family even blamed me for what happened to me when I finally shared it with them.”

Make no mistake about it, the issue situated at the core of this matter is the reality that so many African-American males hold on to flawed manhood constructs that inexplicably encourages them to measure their masculinity, if not their very humanity, by their sexual escapades and conquests.

Unfortunately for African-American women, they are the primary targets of what for many Black men is an indomitable and unquenchable sexual predatory behavior. Shamefully such behavior is emanating from the very men who have historically been assigned the task of protecting Black women. Although it is rarely mentioned, African-American men have often absconded from their role as protector and effortlessly transformed into the very sexual predators that they were expected to fend off. Predictably, each of the ladies in the group that I spoke to not only knew their assailant, but also found themselves in their presence after the incident.

One stunningly beautiful sister related that the manner in which this decades old issue involving Nate Parker’s sexual tryst has placed Black women. “When you really think about what all of this means, Black Womanas a Black woman you are left with an all too familiar feeling of being compelled to defend a brother against an attack from whites. We are expected to defend Nate Parker out of racial solidarity, however, no one, and I do mean no one, comes to defend us from the very wolves that Nate Parker himself represents in our midst. And I dare anyone to deny the fact that Black men only view Black women through a racial lens when they need protecting, at all other moments we are nothing more than prey that they hunt. So to answer your original question, ‘What difference would it make if the female was Black?’

I don’t think, no I know, that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because the victim, regardless of her education, social class, or age, would be considered little more than some Black hoe that was out in the streets doing the wrong thing and some ‘brother’ gave her what she desperately desired. I am absolutely certain of that much.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice….: The Consequences of Repeated Relationship Failure upon Black Women

I have a significant issue with African-American women who publicly issue the following loaded statement, “there are no good Black men left.” So I am certain that you can imagine that my blood pressure gradually rose to stroke level as I watched a recent episode of the Steve Harvey show dedicated to interracial dating.

Now let me attempt to be forthright and clear in my position regarding interracial dating, if you happen to meet a person, regardless of their race/ethnicity, and cupid’s arrow strikes the both of you, please go and be happy while enjoying in the voluminous possibilities, twists-and-turns that life has for you and your significant other.

I have lived long enough to realize that loving someone who wildly loves you as well is one of the best reasons to live. Love is an Black Womanintangible substance that is a rare and precious gem that must be continually re-energized or it will flicker out and disappear; so if you find someone who is willing to help you keep that tenuous flame going, by all means pursue it.

Unfortunately for Black women, this does not appear to be the type of Love that they are experiencing when they make the conscious decision to ‘open up their options’ and engage in inter-racial relationships; the very fact that they are ‘opening up their options’ reeks of desperate women who are willing to ‘settle’ for any man who meet their minimum standards.

I am quite certain that you know the tired, raggedy, and distasteful tale that seems to be the standard verse of disenchanted African-American women who by their mid-thirties and beyond look up and find themselves extremely successful in every area of their lives Black Woman4except finding, developing, and maintaining a healthy relationship with an African-American man. However, I do not think that this is totally their fault; in fact, I know that the genesis of this issue does not begin with them.

The sister who appeared on the Steve Harvey show was in a word ‘stereotypical’ in that she was educated, beautiful, driven in her professional career, and desperately seeking or should I use a more contemporary term such as “thirsty” for Love.

When Steve Harvey inquired how was it possible that she did could not find a single African-American male to date and cultivate a relationship with, predictably, this sister went into a familiar script that lamented African-American men were, and this is her term not mine, ‘baby men’. This gorgeous sister let loose with a litany against these ‘baby men’ who needed constant validation, companionship, affection, and too much attention. Failure to dole out these things often led to them seeking it in the arms, and bed, of another woman.

The crux of the show pivoted around the idea that this sister had tired of dealing with ‘baby men’ and was now willing to ‘open up’ her pool of possible suitors. The Steve Harvey show decided to help this sister out and arranged two dates for her — one with a Greek male and the other with a Korean male.

I intently watched this sister’s interaction with these two men and found her to particularly engaging, vivacious, and eager to interact Black Woman2with them. Put simply, there was an optimism and exuberance that under girded this sister’s interaction with these men. I honestly found absolutely no fault in her behavior during the date. I honestly could not think of a single African-American male who would have not only enjoyed this sister’s company, but also been honored to call her his woman.

I thought this illogical as there was most certainly something horribly amiss. And then it dawned upon me like an ominous cloud appearing over the head of the affable cartoon character Charlie Brown.

There is a factor that is often omitted when discussing Black Male and Black Female interactions. However, this factor must be considered if one truly desires to understand why we so often fail to develop ‘chemistry’. The factor that I am alluding to greatly affects Black women, a population that has historically displayed a nearly unconscionable loyalty to the race in myriad ways including a fervent desire to meet, date, and wed an African-American male. Put simply, the sisters have tired of Black Male foolishness that has repeatedly left them spiritually broken, financially destitute, and embarrassed in their social circles.

One has to wonder, how many disappointments are necessary before disappointment becomes the expected outcome to any and all romantic interactions that Black Women have with Black Men. If Black Woman3brothers were to pay close attention, they would be able to see the emotional wear-and-tear that repeated disappointments have had upon African-American women. The alluded to ‘wear-and-tear is expressed in myriad ways, sisters refusing to acknowledge ‘brothers’ as they pass, immersing themselves in activities with their girlfriends, or finding other activities (reading, theater, etc.) that all but guarantee that they will never cross paths with Black Men.

Sadly, the absence of optimism during a date, let alone during a relationship, is a major turn-off for anyone regardless of race as it reeks of that stink perfume known as sullenness.

So if a sister such as the one mentioned above were to find the ‘perfect’ African-American male (gainfully employed, handsome, monogamous, mentally sane, educated, and financially stable) her inability to engage him, because of prior failed interactions with other Black Men, serves as the supreme deterrent to the development of chemistry. Ironically, this inability to engage a Black Man is directly attributable to much of the foolishness that Black Men have put sisters through for largely immoral and/or inexplicable reasons.

If I could, I would encourage sisters to remain open to the idea of ‘Black Love’ and enter into their dates with the optimism and energy that they are giving men of other races.

I also wish that I could guarantee sisters that it would cause the majority of Black Men to view them differently and treat them honorably; however, I am not a liar and doubt that even an increase of the trust quotient or optimism would alter the behavior of the vast majority of ‘brothers’, sad, but most definitely true.

James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

#ManhoodRaceCulture