“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