Thursday, June 4, 2015

BLACK WOMEN Without Whom We Might Not Be Here

The first time I heard Gloria Steinem say that “Black women invented feminism” I automatically assumed that she was simply shining her on, buttering up the Jet Magazine interviewer, saying whatever she needed to say to ingratiate herself to a black audience. Not kind, but that’s the truth of it. That’s what I thought.

That’s what I thought until I realized Steinem was telling the truth.

In the United States, black women have always been outside the traditional women’s roles, as defined by white women. Always.

As slaves, we always worked inside and outside the home. And
Harriet Tubman took the non-traditional woman identity several steps further.

Tubman freed slaves, acted as a union spy during the civil war and freed more slaves, argued for a woman’s right to vote, and created a ‘Home For The Aged” for ex-slaves too old to work anymore. Who knows how much hope she gave to the black people she didn’t personally save?

If it wasn’t for this black suffragist/feminist a lot our black ancestors wouldn’t have survived. This means a lot of us wouldn’t be here if it weren't for Harriet Tubman

Post slavery, it took both black husband and black wife working to make enough money to survive. Twenty years after slavery ended an emerging middle class eventually included Ida B Wells, a journalist who owned her own black newspaper and investigated lynching in such a methodical way  (publishing her results in her 1892 pamphlet called “Southern Horrors”)  that it’s not overstating it to say that she was one the world’s first sociologists -- maybe even before Emile Durkheim who didn’t introduce the concept of “anomie” which garnered him the title of “The Father Of Sociology” until one year later in 1893.

Famous as she was, this Mother Of Sociology, Ida B Wells kept her last name when she married and hyphenated it into “Wells-Barnett,” one of the first women to do so. Black women would continue to use both last names for decades afterwards (think: Coretta Scott King) Wells-Barnett had four children after she married, yet continued her anti-lynching and anti-racism activism with her politician husband, Ferdinand Barnett, who sometimes asked her to get on a train to go investigate a lynching.

Ida B was also a founding member of the NAACP.

Without Ida B Wells-Barnett’s ability to be persuade people to get behind her and her anti-lynching campaign, a lot of our black male ancestors wouldn’t have survived. The NAACP also wouldn't have had a foundational cause, lynching, to work on and establish itself.  All this means that a lot of us wouldn’t be here if it weren't for Ida B.  

Pauli Murray, a founding member of  The National Organization for Women (NOW) worked with Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Reed v. Reed  a case recognized for pioneering work on gender discrimination.  (This case established that men could not be given preferential standing in cases of inheritance, simply by virtue of their gender.) 

Then NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall called Murray's 1950 book States' Laws on Race and Color the "bible" of the civil rights movement.

Without Pauli Murray and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, some of our ancestors wouldn’t have survived. And that means some of us wouldn’t be here. And some of us, as women, wouldn’t currently be EQUALLY able to inherit property from our parents if we have male relatives, among other things.

Black feminists started “Black Lives Matter” Without Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, black men would be dying at the hands of white police without notice. We have no idea if the pace of black deaths at the hands of police has slowed from what it was before #BlackLivesMatter because it wasn’t nationally tracked or even reported nationally by the main stream media (MSM) as it is now. But the outrage over what is happening to black men is spreading beyond the black community. The publicity is paying off or will pay off.

A feminist, Ava Monet joined the “Say Her Name” protest, using her poetry to make sure that the 1 in 5 female black people that die, on average, at the hands of white police are not ignored.

A feminist,
Shonda Rhimes, showed us how to brown Hollywood without begging, how to use effectively acknowledge and use  white privilege ( via using a white female lead for “Grey’s Anatomy”) , via moving on to light privilege (via using a lighter-skinned, black featured female lead of "Scandal"), effectively enough to put a black woman, 
Kerry Washington (another proactive feminist) in the protagonist's role of a prime time TV show for the first time in 38 years  AND get a black woman with black features, Viola Davis (another feminist), into the lead role of a hit show like “How To Get Away With Murder.”

And a feminist, Beverly Bond created “Black Girls Rock” to raise the esteem of black girls, ignored and erased from every facet of society, including black society, more often than not. 

This should remind women- and men - of how many women fought and died for simple rights taken for granted

Feminism - the concept that the fight for equal rights for women makes for a better world for both sexes - is a term that is primarily dissed and degraded by men and is why most women today are afraid of or embarrassed by the label. 

Reclaiming and un-tarnishing a label is a start, a change for the betterment of all womenFeminists today love to criticize the faults and imperfections of the early movements without realizing how important they were to their present success (as well as how critical the future will be of their own shortcomings).

To me, trying to sweep feminism under the rug is like trying to say we are "colorblind" and racism doesn't really exist. Sexism exists too. And erasing the label, getting rid of the joining together of people under the banner of "feminism dishonors all those who have struggled to get this far and minimizes the struggle that still remains. Being afraid to call something “feminism” is a bit akin to ‘AllLivesMatter".

Sure, it's about everybody, but black people are the most immediately impacted, so let's not water down the [original] slogan.
Black Lives Matter.
~ Caren Sharp (paraphrased)

Black Women's Lives Matter Too. 

Black Feminists Make Sure ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER.


I can't even imagine how powerful black girls and therefore black women would be if they knew their own history. I truly cannot imagine it.