Saturday, January 9, 2010

Was Not Born For Servitude

This is why I am so hooked on and thankful for the SWPD blog . The posts are insightful, loaded with truth and universal. The same kind of racism exists almost everywhere. The two most recent posts which address the issue of the stereotype of the Strong and/or Angry Black Woman have brought me so much peace knowing that there are Black women out there who are experience what I do and have just about had enough of being treated in ways that suggest that we are not human like whites are. All I could really say after reading the following comments was "Finally, someone has said it!" And in such a concise, eloquent and dignified way.

For instance, when examining why no one chose to speak up against some of the ironically demonstrative comments toward Black women, Witchsistah notes:

This constant non-defending of BW comes directly from the stereotype of BW not being "real" women as in not being seen as delicate, feminine, worthy of care, affection and protection. We are seen as "mules uh duh worl'" and as rhino-hided, she-beasts utterly incapable of delicate, complex feelings or thoughts. Basically no one defends us because we can "take it." It also leads to the idea that BW cannot ever be harmed (from this comes the view that BW are un-rapeable).

So I'm just going to leave off with words by RVCBard, and then a few more by Witchsistah:

When Black women talk about their experiences as Black women here at SWPD, people (particularly White people, but at times other WoC as well), tend to respond with knee-jerk contradictions (typically betraying a lack of true engagement with the content) or remain silent.

For me, personally, it would be nice to see more comments make a more proactive attempt to engage with Black women in a more constructive way.

How about treating Black women as if we are, first of all, human? Yeah, it goes without saying, but from how we're treated, I'm not always sure people truly assume that from jump street. How about treating Black women like women and not disobedient children? Again, it goes without saying, but from what I've seen, I'm not sure if a lot of you really grasp that. How about treating Black women as though our lives are important to us? Once more, it goes without saying, but the things I've seen make me question whether you genuinely understand that.

IMO, there will be less explosive fireworks and fewer ruffled feathers if more people started showing us that they are operating from these very basic foundational concepts.

In the long run, we find black girls growing up knowing that the face they must present to the world is one of strength and resilience simply because in having nobody care, show remorse of compassion for their struggle they learn that feelings which display vulnerability are to be hidden. Because if you show them...well, nobody will give a shit. You are supposed to be strong. You are supposed to take anything. You are basically supposed to not operate as a human being with emotion does.

Then there is that Angry Black Woman stereotype which annoys me because while anger is a veritably human emotion (something we all experience at some point or another), when a Black woman shows this emotion, this fact is used as justification for the preconceived idea of the Angry Black Woman. You are immediately identified not as a person experiencing anger at that particular moment but are viewed as an angry person in general. Which again, nullifies the fact that you are simply human as everyone else is. If a white person were to express anger, they would not be labelled an angry person but one would only say that they are just angry at that certain moment. So, many Black women find themselves going out of their way to avoid expressing negative emotions due to the fact that any display of these will be used against them (to justify their instrinsic savagery) or will be given as a substantiation for any subsequent abuse the Black woman will face as a result i.e. "She deserved to be hit, she was talking out of her mouth."

Often any display of assertiveness is met with a comment about how much of an "attitude" you have. By not playing out your expected role of "servant", you are in violation and must be reminded of your place. The fact that you are not being submissive makes you a deviant i.e. a woman with a so-called "attitude". Again, denial of humanity. A Black women is not allowed to lay down boundaries and assert herself as whites have the privilege of doing without anyone questioning their choices.
Since many men come with the expectation that Black women are hypersexual (courtesy of rap videos), without saying Black women are expected to act lasciviously and without restraint. Failure to do this again usually ends in some form of insult. The sting of rejection from a Black woman is just too much. We are the ones who are supposed to be down with absolutely anything - the apparent "dregs of humanity". A rejection from one of us surely must be a diss.

Before reading these blog extracts today, the thought came to mind. The behaviours I have observed have often times surprised me. When I thought, "Is this person for real?" Why feel it okay to call me a "bitch" when you have no idea who I am? Or think that I would engage in intimate relations with you when I have no idea who the hell you are? It's failure to recognise the fact that people are individuals and not archetypes. In dismissing individulaity one will assume that they know a complete stranger quite well enough already and will treat them according to those very preconceived ideas borne out of ignorance.

I have heard men speak up about the same psychological process which takes place in their own growing years. When a boy is conditioned into false concepts of manhood, he is taught that it is unlike a man to show vulnerable emotions and act sensitively. This is "sissy" behaviour and mor derogatorily seen as something a "gayboy" would do. I don't think that this is good either. I have said before that I disagree heavily with socially-defined ideas on manhood. That Black women are made to undergo the same process of development can be seen as a masculinization of Black women.

Being a Black woman myself, I know exactly how this proces works. All too well. In encounters I have where people feel they can dump their hatred and anger on me without any kind of remorse for their actions, I identify an inablity on those individual's parts to see me as a person that could potentially take some injury from that level of abuse. I see it in those individuals who acted out verbally or physically because I chose, as I have a right to, to assert my own wishes. They expected obedience from me (again disregarding my humanity) and because I showed no interest in being their puppet, I deserved to be aimed at as a target for scorn or mistreatment. These are men I am talking about mind you. Childish - throwing toys when their wishes are not met. "From the nipple to the bottle never satisfied!"

Essentially, these people also believed in the notion of female servitude. So strongly in fact that it was a cause for concern when a woman did not obey them. CHAUVINISM. So again. When it comes to treatment of Black women - racism and sexism are inextricably linked. Everything I speak of here is my own explanation for what I have experienced. There may be alternative explanations but from the commonality of this kind of treatment as seen at SWPD, it certainly is no co-incidence to me.

According to this article about the song "She'a A B****" by Missy Elliot, the song aimed to somewhat parody the critics who labelled here with the derogatory term as well as empower herself by making light of the word and using it rather as a way of portraying her strong-will. But while she is portraying herself in this light, we must remember that she has other aspects of her that would express a vulnerability and humanity we all have. Missy has spoken about her history of severe emotional and sexual abuse. This affected her as it would anyone else. But she has overcome it and gone on to become arguably the best female rapper in history. An icon in her own right. Yeah, you've got to love her.


RVCBard said...

I found this rather late, but I want to thank you for engaging with what I said so thoughtfully.

Ms Sheeba Ctrl-T said...

You're absolutely welcome, Madame.