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Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 14:40:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Meg Henson <meg@hensonscales.com>
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Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Man, God, & the Okey-Doke
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Man, God, & the Okey-Doke

By Meg Henson Scales
27 June 1999

"The bitch set me up!"
     -The Honorable Marion Barry,      Mayor of Washington D.C.

We black women have become so blameworthy, we are such objects of disaffection, that slavery has even returned, passing for 'welfare reform'. Black degenerate spectacle now poses as entertainment, slinging politic without a dialectic, and in a word, defiles. Still, we are not the names we've been called, and we are not how we have been commercially depicted as being. It is testament to our relative powerlessness that we are still primarily being 'depicted,' as opposed to authoring our own images, out of our own experiences.

The blaxploitative difference between this and past white male constructs of our images, is that Homeboy's are the most slanderous, and their profiteering the most wretched, since the slavery of the last century. This is not a sentimental statement born of our black commonalty or shared struggle, although it's doubtlessly a factor in our pain. These vulgarian masturbations supersede all prior character assassinations totally on their own merit. They are simply the worst.

The cost of this cultural slander is apocalyptic. Who could have imagined professional brutes and convicted felons being championed by civic leaders and clergyman as heroes, over their victimized beauty queens and Hollywood wives? Who could have predicted that hallowed institutions like the NAACP and the National Baptist Convention would become hotbeds of sexism and financial skullduggery, ever-emerging from serial scandals; ineffective, ill-explained and unclean?

In this lunatic context, it is not astonishing that African American feminist activism is largely interpreted as betrayal. In times like these, when no good deed goes unpunished, to restate a 60's Movement scandal, the politically correct position of the black woman is still prone.

If the unpopularity of gender equality within the community were limited to brutes, compromised 'leadership,' and/or the clergy; we could blame the epic patriarchy of BrotherMan for our gross failures of emergence. But this would hardly explain why the very women and girls that the brave dusky feminists purport to 'rescue,' are so resistant to being saved.

I use the term 'rescue' cautiously, and with all the menace and interdependency implied with its usage; for one must want to be rescued, before the task can be accomplished, particularly in the hood, where naming misogyny is always fighting words.

Is the word rescue too dramatic, too histrionic a term for the mission of the black feminist?

Intro/Chorus (Repeat 3 times):
Fuck Bitches...Get Money
Fuck Niggas....Get Money
-Junior M.A.F.I.A

In consideration of the operative status of women and girls in our communities, and the misogynist jams flying through our air, whether we want to hear them or not (particularly if the Radio Raheems have anything to say about it), rescue seems utterly appropriate. The malevolent rhymes are not only a science of lies, but a cultural retro-virus; contaminating the youth, the clergy, corporate fronts and politicos. The global implications of this are scandalous.

In perverting our history and power as a people to accommodate this pathology, we simultaneously aided in the inner destruction of much of our youth, yet who wants to countenance the notion that many of these are now inside jobs, with THE (corporate) MAN raking in the bacon from this collective cultural immolation. Wherever you go now: here in Harlem, the Midwest, out on the West Coast, Down South--this sad song becomes about all of us. It is time to purify now, time for tough love.

Scotsboro Syndrome

It is clear that as we stand, who kills us, and who rapes us, is of much greater import to the spokesmodels of our communities, than who is murdered and raped; particularly when the accused utilizes African descendancy as a criminal defense strategy. I call this phenomenon 'Scotsboro Syndrome' in deference to the opposite circumstances of the original Scotsboro Boys, who were convicted solely on the basis of their Negritude.

The flabby and unethical pretext behind The Scotsboro Syndrome totally deranges, when the criminal and victim share a common raciality. As if it were a child's game, black offenders contest through their attorneys and community spokesmodels, that because the criminal justice system is mean and racially biased, a black victim bringing criminal charges against a black perpetrator, is an enemy of the people.. So, in some Dada turn of overcompensation and reductive white construct, the black rape victim of a black raper for example; becomes the equivalent of a snitch, if she takes the proactive stance (in terms of defending other potential victims int he community) of bringing charges.

This idea that one promotes injustice by becoming a victim is very sophisticated. Or that one's race effectively cancels out the significance of one's crimes, that's a good one too. But these aren't jokes, and we're not children, and even if we choose not to march in outrage in front of the homes of our murderers and rapists, as we're wont to do in front of our rampant rogue police precincts; we must certainly resist.

If you are fortunate enough to be murdered or raped by someone white instead (although intra-racial rape and murder are most common), or by a police officer; your violation may be met with the keen holler of the hornblowers. This is wrong! it is trumpeted. No justice, no peace! As if we could exact from others what we would not require from ourselves; safety and respect.

If you are unlucky enough to fall within the category of most crime victims, and your perpetrator shares your racial demographic; the Scotsboro Syndrome engages, and community attentions will be focused (if at all), upon a 'fair' (meaning lenient) and forgiving disposition for, oddly enough, the criminal. We have been gorged with this poison; we are toxic now. Our rapes and murders are consequential; they do matter.

The Scotsboro Syndrome explains a Department of Justice study that revealed the average sentence for the rape of a black woman was two years; for a Hispanic woman, five years; and a white woman, ten years. The Scotsboro Syndrome lets the world know how unimportant our lives are, until The Man violates those lives or snuffs them out. We are our own sitting ducks like this, or catfish in a barrel. Scotsboro Syndrome begs for analysis of that posture, it screams intervention. Something is wrong here.

Most of the reasons why gender equality is 'paper' to race's 'scissors' amongst us, cannot be explained by traditional Movement Politics, yet that same construct provides us with the only language we have for struggle. White feminism does not have our answers, and they do not seek our fellowship. That they have somehow bought the name 'woman' without paying nearly as much for it as we have, and that the 'blacks and women' phrase has always marginalized us and they knew that; these are only two of the many underwhelming indicators that our real struggle is one without clear allies, or at least one nearly devoid of organization.

Since the 1800's, when progressive white women began dating Frederick Douglass, they have been fighting harder for black men's 'rights' than for black women's. Sadly, we have that in common with them. This is not a wholly new conflagration we're caught up in, but it is a dangerous one, and we must hash this out for ourselves, unrehearsed.

The cultural engine of our self-loathing, as Junior M.A.F.I.A. so disingenuously notes, is significantly driven by economics. Conscripted into bitchdom, slavery, abandonment and ho-lery; the chumps we have so easily become is something like a snuff burlesque. To consciously witness this ravishment, to paraphrase old slang, is to have your mind blown.

Domestic Violins

It is written into our relative freedoms, wins/losses, identities, and ultimately our American-ness, that STRONGBLACKWOMAN is an 'us' with the beleaguered black man. We stood together in the cotton fields, on the Freedom Rides, and on marches and picket-lines. We fought, worked, and died 'like men' toward the attainment of 'our' (supposed) goal of 'freedom'. Now our agendas conflict on the fundamentals of civilization: safety and respect. The domestic and cultural violence that flowers in its mighty absence, is met by the spokesmodels, once again, with violins for the perpetrator, boogaloo-ing our public worth down into the ground.

We become the collective battered lover to our troubled partner-in-arms, too accustomed to the abuse to call a halt to it, too afraid to go it alone. Our piecemeal separations rent us, and it is a political and musical ripping, with tragic personal and public consequences. This is not 'our' Civil Rights as Negroes (I Am A Man!) colliding with the assertion of female sensibilities (Ain't I a Woman?). It is masculinist reverse, masquerading as reason and tradition. It is marriage to old oppressions and contentment on the plantation. It is only within woman-hating environs like these, where things have fallen so completely apart, that the Scotsboro Syndrome could thrive.

Bitches, skeezers, hos--these epithets are less unrelated topics or aspersions, than a table of contentions. It is disrespectful and undeserved; it is not prophetic. Nonetheless, despite the evidence of the majority of our lives to the contrary, I fear you actually can become the proverbial song you sing.

I used to be scared of the dick-
Now I throw lips to the shit,
handle it like a real bitch-
Heather Hunter, Janet Jack-me-
Take it in the butt. Yah, Jazz whah...
-Lil' Kim

We articulate the struggle specific to our intersections of race, gender, and class, because we must, but we cannot mistake our revelations for actual social progress, not yet. The 'leadership summits' that seemed to hold such promise, have left virtually no trace of ever happening, and seem to have served no one beyond establishing the pecking order of the participants, reinforcing the claptrap of class and celebrity statures. Holding black men's architecture responsible for our own burning house, regardless of its actual complicity, will not put out any fires, nor save us, I am certain.

What we can do instead, is utilize the model from Bro'Man's own younger and far more successful movement, and specifically concern ourselves with self-improvement, re-education and coalitions. We needn't agree on everything/ we need to get along.

I suggest that a fundamental reason gender equality is so unpopular, is in large part because we behave as if we despise each other, and that we freely demonstrate this in our public and private interaction. Our iniquity with each other provokes distance, and distance promotes our myriad isolations. It will be testament to our true strength, and not that of the mules we're occasionally likened to, that we conquer our good reasons to unfurl at each others throats.

The menace and vitriol we face when confronting the toxic intersection of race, gender and class; means we must continually rescue each other as well, in the process of our actions, protests, and wake-up calls. In acknowledging the divisions and betrayals between us, in ceasing the ugliness we tend to visit upon those closest to us, our mission becomes clearer: we must regain our safety and respect, especially among our own. This is far superior to the abominations we've been taught about each other, and decency and civility are still infinitely more compelling (and easier) than revolution.

So back at the scene, we are rescuing, and its an uninvited rescue, and its deep water; meaning there is nothing to hang onto, nothing to stand on beyond our faith in our righteousness, and remember: our minds are blown. Right then, there's a distinct possibility that we, the rescuers may drown, overcome from the incidental ass-whipping administered by the thrashing rescuee.

This ass-whipping is at the nougat of my paradigm, in that this kind of shellacking continues even into the night, even when we are alone; that our self-loathing is the colossal byproduct of our systemic destructions. Our injuries are at least as massive as our divides.

Its horror is unabridged by our capacity to 'take it' (the legacy of STRONGBLACKWOMAN), and in fact we feed this monster and/or allow it to be fed, simply by existing, by once again tolerating the unendurable. Even as it consumes us, and usually in the name of black male empowerment, we continue. It is too often a hallmark of our oppression, rather than a source of inspiration.

So many women whose children are summarily unwanted, whose poverties are considered 'deserved', who are lonely and/or parenting alone, will still want men, good or bad. Yet men not infrequently are bad nowadays; uncommitted and irresponsible, and behaving as if the rare prizes they have become, are evidence of something far greater than their own ruinations.

Bolstered by slackened expectations, and unaided by our minimalist definitions of what a 'good' man is (other than my man), confounds. We have become so mired in the hip-hop gravy being made all over us, that genuine non-sexual fellowship with black men seems like puppy food for we so-called 'bitches'.

If you champion women and girls, despite our inner and outer hatreds, you do not seek to replace or destroy black men, but to provide sorority for those women prepared to work for better men, and better women, who are then equal to parenting better girls and boys. Our work becomes a healing then; not an insult in response to our injury, not another tasteless ingredient in this slum of our impossibilities.

To manifest this change, I believe that women who identify with black feminism, womanism, or other names for conscious present womanhood; must be strong as always, but in a different way. They must first absent themselves from the onus of STRONGBLACKWOMAN, who has limitless potential to take it but is menaced against dishing it out. Once the senseless clown of ever-expanding Burdens is out of the room, once the unearned afflictions are refused, healing can begin. Once the senseless self-sacrificing has stopped, once the acceptance of the intolerable is ended, our safety and respect proceed that much closer.

Our lives are enhanced, when our murders are consequential, even when they are committed by disadvantaged black youths. We can recover from our damage, when our rapes are treated as crimes and transgressions, even when celebrities commit them. Our lives are important, and I should be preaching to the choir. This feminism of safety and respect is not another salvo from The Man trying to keep the black man down, but a matter of black survival. Our vaginas do not render us privileged, nor white, regardless of the scuttlebutt.

Chicken Little

I believe we are sometimes seen as wicked Chicken Littles trying to keep the black man down in our protestations, and they are half right, in that the sky has fallen, on many of us. Here in Harlem, sharp chunks of sky lay strewn about on the ground, uncollected for days.

That is not the news of it--that it has fallen, but that sooner or later some 'undeserving poor'/ American welfare recipient, wearing an orange vest will have to come pick it up. This, without gloves or instruction, or safety equipment, they're expected to pick up these jagged shards, used prophylactics, broken glass, shit, and syringes--in exchange for some food stamps, Medicaid, and a rent voucher. This doomed and reluctant garbage-picker is still us, even with her Prisoner of War status. It embarrasses me that the attack on her resulted in our collective black withdrawal. We have only stood up for her children so far, evidently convinced of either her inherent worthlessness, or her contamination of us by proximity.

"Most welfare recipients in this country are white," we hear our spokesmodels protest, in flawlessly standard English. Some of us may take this oft-repeated ridiculous statement as evidence of our comparable worth--as if there is some status or comfort to be had in believing there are more white women on welfare than black women. But it's almost malicious, comparing sums to percentages, doing this new race-shame math.

We can't stop that poor woman's ass-whipping by denying she exists or by minimizing her numbers. There are way too many black women on welfare, suffering, and they are being ignored, when they're not being vilified. By publicly disowning her, we have not fooled anyone, and we have potentially alienated the pool of women likely to carry the seed of women's liberation where its most needed.

This abomination is not Million Man algebra, either--we have eviscerated this dreadful act from within our own. Still, she is us/ we can still be her. We can admit that freely, in that it ultimately costs us nothing but our abhorrence. The free and invaluable Million Man Lesson, is that they refused no one, denied no one, embraced all (except us). Remember whom we are refusing to embrace (us).

We can assume all these non-white welfare recipients in our communities are getting mighty chilly in the shadows of our lies to ourselves and about ourselves. They have not disappeared--they are only obscured--and they are only obscured by our hideous response to masculinist social policies. This is us, not them/within, not from without.


Lastly, the schisms within the African American Feminist Aggregate, further advance the suggestion that our primary barriers to social progress are within. I propose this aggregate consists of what some feminists call 'churched' women (which includes Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mambos, and New-Agers); leftists (including Marxists, Post Modernists, Critical Race Theorists, Africentrics, Democrats, and Trade Unionists); and lesbians (Although 'lesbianism' in and of itself does not impart the spiritual or political outlook of the woman, African-American homophobia promotes their balkanization.). These designations consistently overlap, but constitute the primary categories considered for our analysis.

The church women are considered a vast potential resource by the leftists for their numbers, dollars, and their cohesion and dependability. Leftists barely tolerate church women, occasionally in recall of their own churched childhoods. But the leftist woman's most specific problem with the 'churched' woman is a presumed dullwittedness, coupled with an overall resistance to intellectual inquiry, presumably in cultish submission to her faith. The churched woman, having fallen for the spiritual okey-doke, is considered a valuable soldier for the lefties, but a very dangerous potential leader. The late Lorraine Hansberry, whom we love despite her God-ist outlook, said in her posthumous collection, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black:

"I don't attack people who are religious at all, as you can tell from the play [Raisin in the Sun]; I rather admire this human quality to make our own crutches as long as we need them. The only thing I am saying is that once we can walk, you know-then drop them..."

Unwilling to walk away from the subliminity of God-realization, for the infinitely slighter gift of a leftist's attentions, the Churched and the Left have a guaranteed failure to communicate here. In the same breath that the leftist acknowledges the importance of the churched woman's faith in her intrinsic value to the struggle, she rigorously limits both their possibilities together, and on the basis of something the leftist woman has either rejected or not experienced (God).

Masculinists, as we can see here, do not have the market cornered on balls. It may not be just arrogance, however, that supports the equation of weakness and a God view. It could more easily be argued that weakness is demonstrated by a lack of faith, but then, I fall for the okey-doke as often as I can.

Black churched women are much more notable in their social achievements than women on the science or the atheistic path; from Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to Rosa Parks and Barbara Jordan. Our stellar contemporaries, like Alexis Herman and Marion Wright Edelman are prayerful; Oprah Winfrey has a God-view. The power of faith in their lives is evident and undeniable. In this light, Leftists might better be served rescuing God from the Fundamentalists, than throwing Her out with the bathwater.

I further suppose that if faith were an unnamed elixir, with the exact same effect on people, and a list of scientifically 'proven' ingredients; leftists would imbibe to excess. It is perhaps not enough to say that if you have The Spirit you can't explain it, and if you don't have The Spirit, then you can't possibly know it; but this is the set of circumstances.

As exploitive as many spiritual practices are perceived (and too many rightfully so), we should already know not to judge each others' groups by their vilest members, having been surfeited with our own bad press from the beginning. We are not unsophisticated, and we would be fools for becoming that which we have despised, for turning away from grace, because some have used it for their own evil ends.

The churched women are not devoid of their own smugness and prejudices, often 'faith-based', through which they cast their own intolerant aspersions. Beyond the 'scripturally inspired' woman-hate so prevalent in much of churched womens' dialectic, is the rampant homophobia of churched women, particularly the Christians, that is distasteful and must not be abided. It is not God-like to hate, and I've heard some very evil-sounding 'word of God' garbage spill out of churched women around lesbianism, and even female autonomy. Reading it in a book doesn't make it so--even if you think its "the" Good Book. The Million Man Lesson is vital here; come one, come all. Our mission is not limited to refusing to take it anymore, but promises we also won't turn around and inflict it on someone else.

Lesbians, who are a subset of both the churched or the leftists groups, do not experience the horrific rejections heterosexual black women collect from black men, and their sensitivities to them in that area are notoriously absent. This is despite our knowing from the wealth of our trans-cultural observations and experiences, that relationships do not become well-mannered by dint of sexual preference. Domestic violence amongst gay and lesbian couples equals and exceeds that of heterosexuals. But once again, we are acting as if we do not understand each other, that painful things must be said, that balls must always be broken, or nothing has really been accomplished.

The main culprit in our communication is our language of non-acceptance. The nomenclature of we/they, and us/them, will not be as productive as it may have been in the past. We have so many questions to answer in the acceptance of this opportunity to endure less. Is race the key element in black woman's oppression or a factor? Are gender issues 'white', or is that just what your group tells you? Most importantly, if all the so-called 'movements' have listed to a lowdown slow groove of backroom machinations and masculinist bully pulpit, can we finally begin to rely on the truth of our own experiences?

We suspect we will never be free of white racism, that we are both invisible and hard-working spokes (or spooks, depending upon your experience) in the white women's wheels, while black masculinists insist musically, politically, and colloquially, that our rapes and our murders and our abandonments are simply the price of our black tickets. In light of this hat-trick, are we simply to be free of each other?

I think not. What has not killed us, has only made us weaker and sicker of each other. Our task at this juncture is to comprehend each other outside dickcentric paradigms, to prepare to win acceptance of ourselves and each other, to heal.

It is only because we have been taught how not to love each other, and that we now receive these teachings from everyone at the same time, that we're so depleted, but our lessons are still inscribed in our hearts. We need only heed our heart's warnings, respect ourselves and each other, and then move on--safely and civilized, even in the absence of contemporary models for it. We must become ntozake: she who brings her thing with her. We can bring this new thing in more easily than enduring the old thing, and this new thing may may serve as bedrock.

The success of the Million Man March demonstrates how our problems did not exist within their archetype, where any and all were invited to participate, based solely on the agenda of their collective survival. Every context of American black men's sense of place, entitlement, religion, and politic, was supported. We must accord no less for our sisters.

We must concern ourselves with respect and safety, making it our political mantra, dispelling the retro-rhetoric of obsolete killing strategies. Respect and safety first, and then, justice and peace. By believing in each other's essential goodnesses, by acknowledging it in ourselves, we will all prevail: men, children, and women. There is nothing more important, no social task more urgent, no Americans more deserving of it, than we.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Meg Henson Scales

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