Decolonize ALL The Things

The UNsettling reflections of a Decolonial Scientist in a Constant State of Rage

Racism, Sexism, Identity, Oh My!

March 16, 2014
Shay-Akil

tumblr_m0n2m53wUl1qfrvzzo1_500In this blog post, my aim is to discuss some of the issues that systemic oppression/domination create in regards to many people of African descent in America having a disrupted sense of identity.  People of African descent in America are suffering from an identity crisis.  This is a result of intersectional oppression: Intersectional paradigms view race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and age, among others, as mutually constructing systems of power.  Because these systems permeate all social relations, untangling their effects in any given situation or for any given population remains difficult (Hill-Collins in Black Sexual Politics).  Black identity can not be discussed without discussing racist and sexist oppression.  At the core of identity within the Black community is the Black man & the Black woman.  I would like to discuss the importance of addressing these issues intersectionally with an ethic of love.

intersectionality-1Now let’s take a moment to think about identity construction and how different types of oppression can result in a distorted identity construction among people of African descent attempting to adapt to a White supremacist racist patriarchal capitalist society.   Identity is formulated through conceptions of memory, history, & the dominating social structures & systems within society.  –“The ultimate stakes of politics, according to Turner, is not even the struggle to appropriate value; it is the struggle to establish what value is. … Similarly, the ultimate freedom is not the freedom to create or accumulate value, but the freedom to decide (collectively or individually) what it is that makes life worth living” (Graeber, 2001:88).  Black/African Americans have never been awarded the freedom of value determinism within their own community nor the wider American society.  With that being said, much of Black identity construction in America is composed of:

(1) White supremacist racist version of History (White Washed) – Current conceptions of American history silence people of African descent (& others).  The silences produced by White supremist racist imperialist narratives in America are the narratives, memories, and histories of the un-empowered and oppressed.

(2) Inferiority complex (e.g. colorism, brown paper bag test, lily complex, etc.)

(3) Black gender ideology = modified version of White gender ideology (e.g. patriarchy, misogyny)

(4) Colonialized mindset

All of these components result in a strong sense hate of Blackness, the self, women, and the working & under class.  Systemically this results in oppression; the systematic, socially supported mistreatment and exploitation of a group, category, or team of people by anyone.  Blackness is the antithesis to Whiteness, thus the identificatory determination utilized by the dominant American society in shaping what Black is and what is not Black, is based off of the definitions and values of American ‘Whiteness’.  The Black identity is thus defined as the polarized ‘other’ within the conceptualization of the Black ‘self’.  Systematic oppression is not limited to oppression by a government or social institution.  –The forms of systematic oppression that I will be discussing today are:  White supremacist racist ideologies and sexism via patriarchy, emphasized/hegemonic masculinity, & emphasized/ideal femininity.  Black identity in the US is dictated by White supremacist ideologies, Patriarchy (Emphasized/Hegemonic masculinities & femininities), & Capitalism.  David Graeber points out to two forms of social power: the power to act directly on others and the power to define oneself in such a way as to convince others how they should act toward you (2001:104).  Blacks/African Americans have been robbed of this latter form of social power, this power is instead in the hands of the political/economic/racial majority.  The views of Black men & women are dictated by White supremacist racism & patriarchy BUT Black men have the capacity & ability to oppress women via patriarchy.  Women have also been robbed of this form of social power, the social category of a women within the larger society is passive, her existence is based upon the whims of a man, of men.  Women become objects who have no say so in defining themselves in a manner which instructs men of how they should act towards them.  This is a difficult dialogue to start.  People of African descent in America have NOT had a real discussion about sexual politics in our community nor about the relationship between Black men & women.  Black gender politics are a cookie cutter format based on White gender politics.  –The Civil Rights movement was a patriarchal & a classist movement.  Within the Black community, the Black middle class made the most financial as well as social advancements.  Black men gained the most social capital from the Civil Rights Movements as well.  The Black Power movement was also very patriarchal.  The majority of the social capital gain was made by White women, Black men, & the Black middle class.

During these movements Black men fully embraced patriarchy as part of their Americanization.  This changed much of the relationships & discourse between Black men & Black women.  Black men began to cry that they were victims of Black Matriarchy, they also began to push the ideal of racism being more important than fighting sexism.  One of the components of Black male privilege is to NOT have to choose between your gender/sex & race.  Any movement that embraces a formulation of systemic domination is reactionary and its participants are merely “objects” of reaction, “objects” of adaptation, the weakest form of self-defense (Paulo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, 1974:12).

Deeming race to be more important than gender or as more valid than sexuality can comprise the social justice core of a progressive Black sexual politics.” (Collins, 2005:10)

I am saying, among other things, that for perhaps the last fifty years there has been a growing distrust, even hatred between black men and black women.  It has been nursed along not only by racism on the part of whites but also by an almost deliberate ignorance on the part of blacks about the sexual politics of their experience in this country.” – Michelle Wallace in Black Macho & the Myth of the Superwoman

5044ed6a9a9f4b5da0230a46d356ac82_820x820Emphasized/Hegemonic masculinity construction relies on what the female/woman is or is not.  Emphasized/Hegemonic masculinity in a patriarchal system is a very active status.  Men have to prove that they are not women while women align with hegemonic femininity via passive forms of waiting on physical maturation & hoping that their bodies receive social approval.  One of the benchmarks of hegemonic femininity is that women must not be like men & Black women automatically break that rule.  For a long time the Black community’s problems have been blamed on one dynamic: Black men are too weak, & Black women are too strong. (Black Sexual Politics by Dr. Patricia Hill-Collins)  This patriarchal perspectives places the blame on Black women. “If Black women would just submit to their men & get in their place the Black men could finally rise & take their rightful place in the home and in society” (in deep James Earls Jones Voice).  NO.  JUST NO.  TAKE A SEAT.  SHUT UP.  Do you know where this ideal/rhetoric came from?  The Moynihan report.  Yep, that’s right.  The Moynihan report.  You just tried to solve a problem that racism created with a quote from a racist White guy.  This is why the generalized Black Matriarchy argument is so easily shot down: its not true and its racist as well as sexist.  The men & women using the argument are getting their ideas from the Moynihan Report, one of the most White Supremist Racist Patriarchal documents ever constructed and the fallacies from this report are used by a lot of BLACK people.  Many of the underlying lies from the Moynihan report that speak of Black Matriarchy, weak Black men, and how Black women have everything so the men & boys must be saved are the biggest arguments and campaigns led by supposedly politically conscious men and women.  Isn’t it amazing what can happen when people aren’t well read?  Many are under the impression that they are fighting the good “Black Power” fight and the only thing they are fighting/advocating for is the equal opportunity to exploit everyone else.  Black Patriarchy is NOT liberation, Black Patriarchy is NOT liberation.  Thomas Sankara says it best; “A soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal.”  How can you be for any cause & NOT educate yourself about what you are fighting for?  But we must consider the fact that patriarchy isn’t just something that everybody spontaneously picked up and thought was the best idea ever.  Proponents of today’s society were and are socialized into patriarchy just like many are socialized into White supremist racism and capitalism.  But if people aren’t shown anything  besides what they have been socialized into; how will they know any better?  How will they know that they have options?  In a world filled with lovelessness; how could they know there is love?  In a world of oppression; how could they know there is liberation?  Only through learning, only through a message of liberation, truth, and love.

No political liberation ideology or movement will be truly liberating or R{EVOL}utionary without its women, without its poor, without its myriad of peoples (be it color, creed, &/or sexuality).  The R{EVOL}ution is intersectional.  Without the true love for all and interest in the equity and fairness for all people, your movement will just be another group of people squabbling over who gets to be on top and you will be no different than the enemy.  Patriarchy, Homophobia, Capitalism, Neo-liberalism, White Supremacist Racism, and any Supremacist Ideal or form of Domination IS COUNTER REVOLUTIONARY.  POINT.  BLANK.  PERIOD.  Its that simple but in my humble opinion Assata Shakur articulates it best:

“This planet needs a people’s r/evolution. A humanist r/evolution. R/evolution is not about bloodshed or about going to the mountains and fighting. We will fight if we are forced to but the fundamental goal of r/evolution must be peace. We need a r/evolution of the mind. We need a r/evolution of the heart. We need a r/evolution of the spirit. The power of the people is stronger than any weapon. A people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. We need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. It’s not enough just to change the system. We need to change ourselves. We have got to make this world user friendly. Are you ready to sacrifice to end world hunger? To sacrifice to end colonialism? To end neo-colonialism? To end racism? To end sexism? R/evolution means the end of exploitation. R/evolution means respecting people from other cultures. R/evolution is creative.”

True politics of liberation is about empowerment.  True politics of liberation awaken the notion of the “subject” within all people.  By “subject” I mean that those submerged in a culture of un-empowered silence emerge as conscious makers of their own culture and “subjects” of their own destiny.  If people of African descent in America (anywhere for that matter) do not begin to have a discussion about the politics of identity in the Black community, we will get no where.  A politic of liberation is one of love, meaning that we all have, “the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  R{EVOL}ution is love.  Che Guevara said that, “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”

4170popBlack feminism provides a message, an ethic, politics of love.  Black feminism acknowledges the struggles of women of color, it acknowledges the racism, the sexism, the classism, the ageism, the intersectional pain that these women experience.  Through Black feminism men are believed to be more than just mindless patriarchal animalistic beings subject to some boiled down version of nature.  No you are so much more than that.  You are all capable of so much more than that.  Feminism is a form of humanism, it is for men and women.  Black feminism is for everybody.  R{EVOL}ution, liberation, freedom, community, are all types of love.  The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.  When we come to understand the humanizing & empowering effects of love and community we will be able to revolutionize our interactions with the self as well as others.  Oppressed people have to first learn to love themselves if they are going to be able to extend that love to anyone else.  People of African descent must come to love themselves, love their community, embrace and accept the beautiful spectrum of being that is Blackness if they will ever come to know R{EVOL}ution.  This message is for all people interested in the liberation, equity and empowerment of all.

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