Tag Archives: Black Women

Front and Center: Why Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globe Address Flew over the Heads of the Majority of Women’s Rights Activists

During the mentoring process, one rarely understands why they are being taught certain things. Oftentimes, one could be convinced that their mentor is insane as they seek to prepare you for a “higher purpose” as the next generation of race men/women.

There is no doubt that experience has taught the elders of our community that this next generation of black leaders must be equipped with the ability to inventively ply our craft in uncomfortable arenas. This process extends beyond readings and exposure to lectures. The most poignant way my work as a “race man” was explained to me came from Michael Eric Dyson who asserted, “Jones, when you get up on that stage, at that panel discussion, you have to let all of the ‘Niggas’ out like an exorcism is occurring.” Of course, this was Dyson’s method of reiterating what I learned long before at the foot of many elders; that being, it is imperative that I represent our people at every moment.

By the time I became a Professor of African-American Studies, I fully understood that I must not temper my words and analysis even when those in attendance would certainly consider my words harsh and inappropriate as they realized they were daggers directed at the throat of white supremacy. A worldview that has incubated whites for so long that they no longer recognize its existence.

It is this understanding of how black leadership must behave in front of white powerbrokers that makes me so appreciative of the genius that Oprah Winfrey displayed at the Golden Globes while accepting the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.

In front of a mesmerized audience, Oprah Winfrey offered deafening commentary regarding White America’s muting of the horrific sexual assaults that black women have endured since the Jamestown Colony was established in the early 17th Century. In a style that most black professionals recognized as “a courageous way of addressing powerful white folk when they are in the room,” Winfrey positioned black women in their rightful frontline position as the foremost victims of the historic sexual violence perpetrated by the same white men that white women have loved, comforted, protected, married, and produced children with as they built a life that partially rested on the sexual and economic exploitation of Black America for centuries. Winfrey’s comments were based around the riveting story of a poor black woman named Recy Taylor who was a victim of a rape by six white men who the white community, meaning men and women, hid as they considered the brutal crime to be a non-issue. According to Winfrey,

Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

Had the white women in attendance listened closer to Winfrey’s comments they would have discerned what politically astute segments of Black America heard. They would have heard that the fact that the perpetrators of the attack on Recy Taylor were never captured speaks volumes about a white community, a populace that we must remember is majority female, that has never taken definitive action against the rape and lynching of black women. Let’s be clear on this matter, it was no secret within that community regarding who the perpetrators of this or the millions of other sexual assault crimes were. There was a general acceptance among whites that the black women who worked in their homes, fields, or traveled along roads such as the one that Recy Taylor was traveling as she left church on that eventful day were so inconsequential that neither man’s law nor God’s providence covered them.

One must always be on guard for the voluminous impact that emotional moments have on the mind, particularly when it comes to political analysis. The site of so many well-known white actors and actresses standing in public clapping their hands in support of this latest social movement is particularly riveting for those who have been silenced for far too long, unfortunately for those who cherish this moment in time, such a display has no impact on the matter of sexual violence directed at women in general and black women in particular.

The impact of such public displays are so limited that I would suggest that those in attendance should be challenged not with the #MeToo, rather the internal introspective inducing query of #WhereWereYouAndWhatDidYouDo? when you heard your “paw-paw”, “daddy”, “uncles”, “brothers”, “sons”, “husbands”, “fiancées”, and “boyfriend” laugh and banter about the rape of some nameless, faceless, and defenseless black woman. As Malcolm X posited, the black woman is the most disrespected person on the planet. Historically speaking, the black woman’s lack of worth in the eyes of bigoted whites throughout this nation has been cemented by not only her race, but also her gender. My question to those assembled for Winfrey’s poignant commentary is, “Where was that hiding place that you were able to totally hide your new commitment to protecting black women? Or is it merely another occurrence of currying favor from an emotional audience by co-opting the latest faddish social movement?”

I hope that black women are not unduly moved by these recent expressions of female solidarity by white women. The historical record indicates that their only priority is not protecting womanhood, rather securing equality with the white males that they rival ‘by any means necessary.’ Unfortunately for the liberation of black women, the historical record also predicts that they will forget recent betrayals by white women political initiatives and be swept-up with emotions that lead to them yet again abandoning their political interests in favor of helping white women achieve their selfish individualistic goals. In the end, such political naïveté will guarantee that black women will find themselves in the same troubled position that they have always been, meaning cast aside, disregarded, and devoid of a single advocate beyond themselves.

So I applaud Oprah Winfrey for situating the sexual violence perpetrated against black women front-and-center where it should be. However, I am also a historian who understands that the historical record is the best indicator of future behavior and political priorities, hence, I understand that the white women who are at this present moment clapping wildly at Winfrey’s commentary are the descendants of women whose moral compass made it unconscionable to report their “loved ones” for the ghastly attacks on the black women who worked for them, nursed their children, cleaned their homes, and enriched them by applying their labor for a pittance. I pray that black women will finally realize that no one, not even the majority of black men, has their best interests at heart.

Let us not forget that the black women Winfrey speaks of are the very women

(W)ho have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.

These are the women who birthed me, loved me, cared for me, and guided me toward an understanding that I must speak on their behalf at every turn. I just wish that these women would make themselves the center of the universe that they obviously are and not rely on white women to aid them at any moment because that aid is not only unreliable but also only offered as a means to further advance a white agenda that has never been kind to our kind.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

#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

“It ain’t my fault!!!!!!!”: Black Men Respond to the Insinuation that they are Responsible for Declining Marriage Rates in Black America

The swift and poignant response I received after a recent post linking the cause for spiraling marriage rates in the black community to the steeply declining numbers of young, educated, and professional black men unleashed a long-simmering anger of outrageous ferocity.

As I began to receive calls and read emails regarding the posting, it did not take me long to realize that black men had long ago tired of being blamed for the failings of the black community, particularly failed marriages and the unprecedented increase of single female-headed households. Put simply, accomplished black men are no longer willing to silently carry the bulk of those social maladies alone, if at all. The emotional intensity of the alluded to responses was so significant that I felt compelled to revisit this topic sooner, rather than later.

The public protestations regarding my earlier posting emanated from a cross-section of Black America, male and female, young and old, formally educated within the academy and those who earned their stripes via the school of hard knocks. I personally knew a few of those who responded, others I had no prior exposure to beyond sporadic social media postings. Nevertheless, engagement with this highly diverse population of Black America made one thing painfully clear, this conflict over love and matrimony is Black America’s latest internal Civil War, a conflict that has raged uncontrollably over the past fifty-plus years.

It may have been my pre-existing relationship with many of the responders that led me to consider their impassioned protestations over the data included in my earlier posting as more than irrational complaining. The referenced data base that pointed to young, educated, and professional black men as the primary reason for declining black matrimony rates raised the ire of all responders in an uncommon way.

After pondering on this matter, it is obvious that black men feel that the conclusions presented by the Brookings Institute presents a partial portrait of why so many educated black women are not marrying black men. One of the most poignant responses emanated from a former student who took significant issue with the insinuation that he, and those like him, held any responsibility for black women’s failure to find everlasting love.

There are plenty of single (gainfully employed) black men actively looking for black women…(I have found that) It’s nearly impossible to meet and develop a meaningful relationship with a woman that’s outside of your social circle. Most people I know that got married met their wife through friends or friends of friends.

As for collegiate women, I know some (grown) women that would club them over the head for complaining about their inability to find marriage-minded educated and professional black men. From ages 16-23 women hold ALL the cards. Men don’t really get the upper hand in the dating game until about age 26 and up. I think these women are just hopping on a convenient bandwagon to take the light off themselves and their poor choices in men.

The above sentiments were echoed by a Brooklynite school teacher. “C’mon, black women need to stop all of this complaining about there not being any good black men available” the educator lamented. “The truth of the matter is that for many of the sisters who are supposedly seeking an educated black man, they are their own worst enemies. I cannot tell you how many sisters that I dated prior to getting married (to a black woman) who quite simply were impossible to get along with, particularly if you displayed genuine interest in them without any significant problems. I mean after a while, who wants to be bothered with someone who is being difficult for the sake of being difficult. Oh, I forgot. They aren’t being difficult, they are being STRONG black women. Well, if that is what a strong black woman is, I don’t want any parts of it.”

As I read through the litany of comments, it became obvious that the experiences of so many educated black men are not reflected in data used by the previously referenced Brookings Institute study.

Yet another brother communicated his utter disbelief in what he termed the consistent lie that there are gangs of educated black women who are actively seeking educated, professional, and financially stable black men as husbands.

Please don’t mistake me, I’m not arguing the validity of math, but with so many of my patnas’ (sic) with college degrees, no kids, making good money and actively searching for a black wife it seems odd whenever I read things like this. If they’re in such high demand they’d be off the market, no? I won’t throw shade at the sistas, after all, they’re not some homogeneous hive mind but it’s worth noting that the attentions of some are usually grabbed by another “type”… IJS

Although many relationship experts attribute much of the discord between black men and women to “bad timing”, many African-American men refuse such escapism. A former college roommate offered the following analysis.

I have learned that far too often, black women are not seeking the good guy until they have been psychologically damaged, given a couple of children, and then decide that such associations are not working for them. When you think about it, there is no greater sign of a flawed set of priorities than the decisions that so many black women make regarding their personal lives. I actually had a female friend tell me that she would never settle in regards to her selection of a mate. However, over the past fifteen-years I have watched her select men that even Stevie Wonder could see did not represent any of the things that she wanted for her life. There was some type of disjointing that had occurred in her statements regarding what type of man she desired and the type of man that she welcomed into her bed. For her, settling meant finding a gainfully employed, educated, and professionally successful brother who was not about the B.S. Just crazy, I tell ya!” 

The black men who contacted me regarding the previous posting all agreed that researchers who focus solely on data bases are missing the mark and should turn their lens toward examining the socialization and priorities of black women prior to using numbers to explain such matters. “It is in this arena that they will find the actual reason that so many educated black women have failed to find suitable mates” according to a Houston-based Engineer. Indicative of such thoughts was the following litany I received from an anonymous brother who asserted that “in their own pursuit of success, black women have been socialized into believing that they need neither marriage nor black men. So it is predictable that women who have been raised to believe that they must be prepared to take care of themselves, by themselves, would hesitate, if not outright refuse to rely on black men in any situation. I know married sisters who have secretly hidden money from their husband, just in case things go awry. When you think about it, they are only married on paper, not in the truest sense of the word.”    

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once communicated the following. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” After hearing and reading the responses of many accomplished black men regarding their culpability, if not outright responsibility, for the declining rates of marriage for educated black women, I am certain that they agree with Disraeli’s quip.

And that most certainly ain’t no lie.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

Why so many of the Young, Black, and Educated Women I Know Have Yet to Find Their Black Knight in Shining Armor

I have come to understand that my personal discomfort with certain discussions has no impact on others insistence that I participate in them. Such situations invariably revolve around my interactions with my female students who fit the following description of being young, black, and college educated.

Although I often shy away from engaging them in what must be their favorite discussion of who will they marry. I am confident that you understand that this “elephant in the room” discussion of the absence of young black men in collegiate classrooms across the nation is equally uncomfortable and disconcerting because I desperately want to give the young ladies who listen to my lectures at least a modicum of hope that all is not lost in regards to their desire to be courted by and eventually marry a black man that caters to them to no end. Unfortunately, any hope that I provide for them is tempered by their observation that their hopes of finding their equal in regards to education, finances, and social status are severely curtailed by the sheer absence of black males in collegiate classrooms across the nation.

According to a recent Brookings Institute Study, of all female populations, African-American women have the least opportunity of marrying an “equally yoked” male from their racial group. Make no mistake about it, phraseology such as “equally yoked” is a synonym for equal socioeconomic status and educational attainments. According to Brookings Institute researchers, there are simply not enough available black men for successful black women to become “equally yoked.” Such realities lead us to a daunting question of “What is a girl to do?”

According to the researchers mentioned above, for African-American women who refuse to entertain suitors of another race, the only reasonable solution for them is to drastically alter their understanding of what it means to be “equally yoked.” Put simply; black women could dramatically increase their pool of marriageable black men if they curtailed their expectations and “married down.”

Historically speaking, declining marriage rates and an evaporating pool of educated, marriage-minded, black men to choose from is a relatively new phenomenon that has occurred over the last half-century. Ironically, these matters have unfolded during what many projected to be moments of racial advancement. The moments that I allude to are President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ushering in of racial equality on the law books of America via the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts. The following chart offers compelling information regarding the marriage rates of black women before advanced stages of racial integration.

 

The myriad reasons that there are so few young college educated black men for like stationed black women to marry are well known: flawed educational system, the absence of suitable role models, female-headed households, dereliction of duty by black fathers, incarceration, homicide, homosexuality, unemployment, and drug abuse. According to the Brookings Institute study, “The lack of marriageable men in the black community is affected by the very high rates of incarceration and early death among black men compared to white men. Among black male high school dropouts, 60 percent will be dead or incarcerated before the age of 35.” Indeed, death or incarceration serve as significant stumbling blocks in the marriage process.

Consider the following chart created by the U.S. Department of Justice that highlights the horrific effects that the war on drugs had on African-American men; an impact that has severely curtailed the number of “marriageable” black men to this very moment.

Considering such realities, one has to consider what the viable options are available to college-educated African-American women who would rather remain single than date, let alone marry, outside of the race?

Making matters worse for black women is the harsh reality that there is a segment of black men who hold a comprehensively negative view of them. As evidenced by their public proclamations of being willing to date outside of the race, many black men of varying socioeconomic status and educational level have vowed to not only date but also marry exclusively outside of the race.

It may be the time that a harsh truth that “education has never done anything for the heart” is taught to young college-educated African-American women. Put simply; there is no correlation between an increase in socioeconomic status and one’s ability to be a suitable mate. If one did not know any better, it would seem that the principal concerns of many educated black women do not revolve around issues of compatibility, love, and commitment, rather a man’s earning potential.

In truth, far too many black men and women have used grossly flawed evaluation criterion such as physical appearance or a person’s style of dress to inform their decision regarding an individual’s potential to be a mate. We have allowed these fleeting qualities to eclipse more everlasting qualities such as integrity, honesty, fidelity, and love.

I am confident that we all agree it is the time that we all, male and female, take a step back and tailor our likes and dislikes, wants and needs, to fit ourselves regardless of what others may think or say about our choice. Failure to do such is doing a major disservice to the most important person in your life, yourself.

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