The books also details the failings of white feminists.
Through this book I understood decision by decision how white suffragists/feminists of the 1920s through to white feminists of the 1980s turned to away from the issues of black women....
- to court southern white women (at anti-lynching's expense in 19th century)
- and even to court black men (like Frederick Douglass)
- to court anti-feminist white women (timeless)
- RATHER THAN COURT black women for support on various issues.
And because of white women's failures to be what we call now call "intersectional," they have failed at different national efforts decade after decade after decade. But the author, via other black feminists quoted (Angela Davis/Kathleen Cleaver) make it clear that while our struggle is very different from white women...
- due to our earlier history with anti-black racism
- due to our common goals against oppression with black men(a link white women don't have)
-and our stronger attempts to embrace one another despite class,
...that some of our ultimate goals are clearly the same.
I say that only some of our goals are the same because white feminists, mostly middle class or better, are married to a man that is perfectly capable of supporting her on his income alone. That leaves the white feminist with a tendency to focus on things like abortion and slut shaming to the virtual exclusion of all else.
Black women in the 1960s, by comparison, were trying to figure out why they were only being paid 75% of what black men were being paid when they had more education as a group even then. (Black women have been closing that gap since this book was written though) White women could easily figure out why they were making less. White women suffered sexism too. But they did NOT have more education then white men at the time. And it was a status thing for white women not to work - a status behavior they could implement a lot more easily than black women.
For black women our sexism/patriarchy struggle is different. Black women have had to work side by side with black men (not a step behind like white women) due to higher rates of poverty among blacks. This is not a recent (since the 1970s) phenomenon for black women like it is for white women. However, the biggest reason that black women's sexism/patriarchy struggle is different is that black women are completely intolerant of chattel treatment from black men due to chattel treatment from white men during slavery.
Black women have essentially refused to change masters from white men to black men, especially during the early days of our freedom in the United States. And black men appear to have been, at the change of the 19th century, a lot more sensitive to this than they are today.
By comparison, large numbers of white women appear to have tolerated property status from white men, on and off for decades, for so long as an imaginary pedestal was involved.
The average black women may hate the word "feminism" as much or more as the average white woman because they put "feminism" the "copying white people box," ironically enough. But we as black women have been "naturally" feminist in mindset before the word "feminist came to exist.
Maria Stewart (gave a feminist speech that made her sound like she was 100 years before her time in 1832)
Sojourner Truth (gave a famous feminist speech, "Ain't I A Woman" in 1851--before slavery even ended)
Harriet Tubman (was a Union Spy in the 1860s who led a raid to free 300 slaves in one shot, and led slaves to freedom via the underground railroad)
Ida B Wells was carried off the white train car, in 1884, fighting, kicking, and biting. Then she sued the railroad. Eventually she became an investigative reporter/sociologist that led an anti-lynching crusade that was adopted by the N.A.A.C.P of which she was a founding member. And she was a key mover and shaker in the black women's club movement. And helped get Black Women the vote in Illinois long before women of any color voted elsewhere.
Black American Women are completely feminist in their attitudes and actions.
And we may also have less tolerance for sexism than women of any color even when we don't recognize it as such. That may be why there are so many unmarried single fathers visiting their children on every other weekend instead of living with their children and their children's mother.
The may be why the most profound thing I've heard this year came from a black woman. "Black men have really done a number on themselves with all the "bitches and hoes" in rap and hip-hop. "On themselves" she said. They've done a number on themselves to the point that many of them cannot and should not be tolerated inside a respectable woman's home. You wouldn't let a white person who called you the n-word or everybody except you the n-word whenever he thought the title fit. So why would you let a black man, that calls himself your "brotha?" walk around identifying this black woman over here or that black woman over that a b-word or a h-word?
I'll tell you why too many black women allow this and even cosign this. Black female reproduced sexism and patriarchy is evidence of the black female desperation born of missing 1.5 million black men. We want to support be strong race women. We want to be united. So we try to overlook little things that are actually big things.
We are too willing to support black men that may be the target of more physically aggressive racism but are rarely ever targets of sexism at all. We are too willing to step into the belief that "they come for us first" when a black man says it as if there is more direct frontal assault, physical confrontation from white poor and lower middle class on black males than there is back door assault from the white bankers and law makers on all black people
I know black men die at the hands of police more than black women do -- but probably not by much as we think because black women's deaths aren't raised as high in the black community. A black woman's life being counted as worthless, especially if she falls into the bitches and hoes hole that rappers and hiphop artists have dug for her, is the biggest reason why a serial killer called "The Grim Sleeper" likely killed hundreds of black women over decades, in a relatively small area of Los Angeles, without too many people noticing or caring enough to stop it.
Yes racism makes black men subject to geometrically more attacks from white men. But black women are subject to being attacked by white men due to racism and also black men (and women) due to sexism too. That's why I really wanted to do a comparison of black men killed by white presenting police and black women killed by domestic violence but I was afraid of what I'd find.
It would be even more interesting to add up the number of black women killed by police, the number black women killed in domestic disputes, and the number of black women that literally disappeared off the face of the earth like The Grim Sleeper's victims
* * * * *
CONCLUSION: The author solidly makes the point that sexism is just as real as racism. From where I sit this is obvious.
Unlike white women, black women have never had the expectation while growing up that they are not going to fully participate in life as a fully functioning adult.
Even if a black woman decides she will marry, work inside the home, and be the primary raiser of the children, if a black man dies --and they die often in the U.S.-- a black woman knows she will have to stand up and take over making of the living while still feeding the children. Black women, collectively, have had to be more dedicated to education and making a living. to sustain the self and the family that depends on her.
Gloria Steinhem once said that Black Women created feminism. In the moment when I first heard her say that, I thought she was shining the black female reporter on. I've come to the conclusion since that Glo was right on the money that particular time.
At the end of the book, Giddings makes the point that both the civil rights movement and the feminist movement stopped moving in significant ways when black women's needs were not (among many other things) taken seriously and black women withdrew.
There are so many different ways you can think about that. But as I look at the frustration of so many black women as they look at Black Lives Matter and see it primarily holding black men up, not just because there are more black men, but ignoring the deaths of black women when they die in similar circumstances, I see how the Black Panthers, SNCC, and White feminist organizations have failed or are failing. I've heard black women say they will no longer focus on or be a part of the echo chamber that raises black men to the place where the main stream media notices them. They have decided that they will focus on black women until they see reciprocity.
Black women/Black feminists gave up on white women a long time ago.
I see that Giddings almost has to be right about Civil Rights Groups and White Feminists Groups being weak and calling out for black female support because I see it starting to happen again with Black Lives Matter. The only thing more shameful than #SayHerName being necessary when Black Lives Matter was created by black feminists in the first place is that it looks like #SayHerName movement is not working. And I think one of the reasons it's not working is because black women hold onto higher levels of patriarchy trying to be loyal to the race at the expense of being loyal to their gender in equal measure.
There are so many voices saying that black men are in more danger than black women when that's so unlikely. If you want to know for sure though. Add up the black women killed by police, the black women that have ACTUALLY disappeared from the earth - not disappeared from society as most in the 1.5 million black men article, and the black women dead of domestic abuse.
We don't need to try and out-victim anybody. But we need to fight our own damn corner. We need to demand reciprocation. And in order to demand reciprocation we have to believe that our own lives are just as important as his life (black men) or her life (white women). And we need to learn the stories of other women of color -- like yesterday. We need to come together if we're going to train white women and men of color, both.
A BLACK WOMAN'S HISTORY BOOK THAT BELONGS ON EVERY BLACK BOOKSHELF
by Paula J Giddings
Link back to part 1 of this 4 part series http://thankherforsurviving.blogspot.com/2016/02/when-and-where-i-enter.html