Being Where We Are Wanted

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 I had the pleasure of being a panelist on Tunes & Talk, hosted by Risikat Okedeyi, on WPFW DC. The topic was the seeming backlash from black men to Damon Young’s article on Very Smart Brothas articulating what he had heard before from black women in his social media network – black men are the white people of black people.

The panel was a raucous one, and there have been plenty of hot takes about the piece, so I feel no need to rehash them here. What I wanted to note is that the fact that a man wrote about this idea should serve as a final warning.

Anna Julia Cooper had to remind the readers of W.E. B. DuBois’ work that the problem of the color line was but just one of the problems of the 20th century. That the woman problem, the limitations of gender, were harming black women.

The Combahee River Collective reminded us that black women, and black queer women in particular, will wait on no one to recognize their power.

Deborah King, Elizabeth Fiorenza, Gloria Hull and Kimberle Crenshaw have been telling us since the 1980s and 1990s that one can experience both privilege and oppression, and perhaps the way to freedom is by listening to the folks that have the least of the former.

Moya Bailey made her plea more specific when she addressed the particulars of the degradation experienced by black women in 2010.

I say this not to provide a syllabus of the basics of black feminist thought, although I do encourage reading the work of these women before dismissing Young’s article. Instead I’m merely illustrating that black women have been articulating this thought for at least two hundred years.

The waiting is over.

Black women will no longer cook in the back, and hope that our concerns are addressed from the pulpit. Even if we make a mean macaroni and cheese and potato salad.

There is no more ceding leadership roles, while doing everything else to keep the structures of the organizations black women start afloat.

Candice Benbow articulates another aspect of the black and female experience that also plays a role here:

Many of us born in the late ’70s and ’80s can attest to growing up in single parent homes, which isn’t to say that there were no men who supported us in our communities, at all. However, your uncles and community members are not your parent. Furthermore, if the men in your life do not cede space for black women, then there is only one outcome – a large portion of black women will move on. At this point should black women decide to pack our duffle bags and go, and by go I mean stop organizing, stop feeding, stop advocating, just stop, then this does more harm to black men than black women. We’ve had at least three decades of practice advocating for ourselves since the marriage rate for black women has been in decline. We have learned to go only where we are wanted. But you dear brother, good luck if you decide to go it alone.