Take a Good Look at Our Problems
By Pamela Newman, The Militant, 30 October 1970
Pamela Newman recently graduated from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, where she had been a member of the Black Student Union. She is a member of the Young Socialist Alliance.
When women's liberation is mentioned, there are often two reactions. One is that this is just a bunch of frustrated women who are going to separate themselves from men. The other is that this is something that is a white thing, which doesn't concern black women.
The truth is that the exploitation of black women goes deeper than that of white women. Unity of all black women is needed to push for such demands as self-determination, equal pay, free abortion and child-care centers. We should realize the need for the women of the black nation to have a liberation movement of women as part of our movement for total liberation of our people.
The black man has been led to believe that office and skilled jobs are given to the black woman by the white capitalists to make the black man feel inferior. In reality, there aren't enough jobs for everyone, and the black woman suffers the most from low pay and unemployment.
When our men get jobs where they make enough to keep a family, they often insist that the woman's place is in the home with the children. But raising children can be done just as well by the man as the woman. Because a woman is able to have babies doesn't mean she knows more about caring for them and raising them.
The very idea that women are here on earth just for having children isn't true either. We have minds and have the right to determine what we do and say. Child rearing should be a profession, not an automatic duty.
Usually black children are taken care of by older women who can't find other work. As a result, the children are separated from other children because these women aren't able to take care of more than one or two children. The mother often has to run home from work to take the child off the older woman's hands. There are no facilities for child care in the black community and few qualified people to take care of teaching the children in a progressive manner.
Ask yourself, have you ever been told, this is a man's conversation, so be quiet or keep out because woman's work is only dishwashing, sewing or laundry. This, my sisters, is male chauvinism, not by the system but by the brothers because of the illusions that capitalism has produced.
How many of you sisters come home from work and have to cook dinner and clean the house, and if the brother comes in before you finish, he immediately gets angry because you are not in the best mood. Somehow we must make him understand that we are human as much as he is. We aren't tools of pleasure to be called to his side and put down if we dare not come.
Just look at the newspaper ads, how they use sex to sell products, and also use race. Before the rise of black power, you never saw a product for black people. But they did have lighteners and brighteners on the market to make women look "beautiful." Not until it was profitable could you buy a bush comb, bush wig or Afro-Sheen. Most of these black products are for women because of their general lack of a strong sense of worth and dignity, which makes women more exploitable than men and better consumers.
And don't you think it is wrong that women who can't afford to keep their children have no say in where their child is sent? Isn't it wrong that after a certain number of "illegal" children, you are sterilized without your permission? Don't you think that we should have community control of abortion hospitals in our communities?
No doubt you or almost anyone can somehow get an abortion, but it is either expensive or risky. It would be nice to see the day when we have free abortion by recognized doctors in the community. But with hospital costs what they are now, and with most of us making only about $75 a week, we can't afford this.
Why not lower the cost of medical care or make it free? Reason: the system of medical care would cut the profits of all the companies, including the drug companies. The system wouldn't want Bayer Aspirin or Excedrin or any other company that makes drugs and sells them at ridiculously high rates to be unhappy. But still people are dying in the black community without the care they desperately need, and children are being brought up in conditions that some rats would turn down.
It is time that we started struggles against every aspect of our oppression.
Take a look at our problems: medical care, housing, jobs, police repression, child care, abortion . . . To solve these problems we need to gain control of our communities. We have to stop letting our communities be controlled by white, rich politicians and capitalists. We can't go on voting for the two parties controlled by these dictators. Both parties protect not the interest of the people but the white ruling class which controls the economic system. For the total liberation of our people, we need an independent black political party which we can control.
With the demand for self-determination, we are demanding total control of everything that affects our lives. Is it wrong to ask for the right to make the decisions affecting the lives of your children and yourself? If you think so, then you are against women's liberation, black liberation and democracy.
It is very important that black women's groups be formed now, because the capitalists are not going to give money out of their pockets to finance twenty-four-hour child-care centers and meet our other needs. A black women's liberation group would also bring out other demands directly related to women, such as welfare. They could fight for new clothes and for free food which is not surplus but fresh meat and other products which are good for the body.
This money-greedy ruling class can't and won't give us free medical care and other necessities. The only way to get these things is to fight for them. In the process of this fight, many women will begin to realize that our struggle is against capitalism and imperialism. We should be dedicated to building a socialist society inside the United States where profits would be outlawed and the total means of production and distribution placed in the hands of the working class. That struggle must be led by black people, who are concerned about the humanity of this world.
The revolutionary vanguard of America will be the black nation. The total working class must be liberated, including the women, and of course the black woman shall have to be liberated first because of the multi-oppression which she suffers.
All over the world, black and Third World people have stopped turning their cheeks. We need to organize to struggle against every aspect of our oppression. Black women's liberation could not and will not be a diversion from the liberation of our people. The organization of black women to fight for our needs as well as the needs of all black people will help intensify the struggle.