I had some interesting experiences today that I would like to share with regards to classic interactions with people of color that can be very disappointing and exhausting as a Black feminist. So earlier today I went & got something to eat at a restaurant on the East side owned by a Palestinian brother who shits on the poor Blacks in the very neighborhood his business is in, claiming equality exists. He managed to understand that what Israel is doing to Palestine is wrong BUT he feels that Black people have brought about our own demise. I was calm, polite, I smiled as I explained the history of capitalism and white supremacy in insuring the failure of Black progress as well as the functions of intersectional domination but he just did not get it. He claimed college education in America is free & I definitely asked him where because I wanted some of this free education he spoke of. The Kid Fury gif perfectly summarizes the look on my face. But at the end of the day, he claimed that if you are poor and starving it is your own fault and the poor Black people in my community are responsible for their own plight and demise. Its so easy for non-Black PoCs to demand solidarity from Black people that they aren’t always willing to return it. Then I was reminded of this following Andrea Smith quote:
“The legacy of anti-Black racism is that Black struggle gets deemed the property of all other social justice struggles. The symbols and tactics of Black struggle are deemed the common property of all. Black people are required to show solidarity with other people of color, without other people of color owing solidarity to Black communities. Black oppression is always analogized to other forms of oppression in a manner that disappears Black oppression itself. It is presumed we already know everything about Black oppression, so we can just use it as an empty signifier to explain other oppressions.”
It was the most awkward moment of my adult life having this man bootstrap his way through shitting on my people as I decided I would never give his business my money again. Solidarity is supposed to go in all directions and be based in equity but I have come to find that non-Black people of color find it easy to fight White supremacy with the help of Black folk but anti-Blackness makes it less likely that Black folk will ever receive help from them.
& then this happened *le sigh*…
To make it worse, I was discussing cultural appropriation with some black women in a Facebook group called Black Feminist Theory & NONE of them actually knew any Black Feminist theory. They didn’t know how White supremacy works, how patriarchy works, or capitalism. They even went so far as to blame Black men for White women appropriating Black culture. I was reading the comments like uhhhh…
Now let’s be real, Black men do have male privilege and do engage in oppressing Black women BUT cultural appropriation requires a very particular kind of power: racial power and privilege. You can’t use a Chuck E. Cheese coin as a bus token. Privileges do not work the same. And Black men are guilty of many things BUT not this. Blaming Black men for White Women’s cultural appropriation of Black culture is like mistaking a tree limb for a root. Its obvious that these sisters were coming from a place of pain and heart ache, feeling betrayed by Black men who embrace White supremacy and its praise of White femininity. When I tried to talk to them about power differentials, intersectionality, and the history of hip hop they got mad. One particular Black woman claimed I thought I knew everything because I suggested we all check out the Black feminist hip hop scholarship. She said she didn’t need to read books because she has real life experience. Then she continued to blame Black men for the existence of White/Euro-American beauty standards. I kept my cool, reminded myself that this is a fellow Black woman and I’m here to help out my sisters as much as I can. She accused me of disrespecting her because I suggested some good books for us all to read including Patricia Hill-Collins’ analyses of hip hop & appropriation. I told her that I’m just sharing some info on the topic that I am aware of since I lecture on Black feminism and hip hop. And I let her know that my words were not written nor intended to be taken offensively. When I used “sis” & “honey” as terms of endearment she got buck & tried to snap at me. I was about to make change out of her $5 ass but I remembered that in most cases Black women who behave like this do so out of a place of hurt and if I truly am trying to help I won’t embarrass her & drag her for her dear life. So I graciously bowed out & left the Facebook group for my own sanity and health. I love my sisters but I’m nobody’s super save em’ ho or SBW (strong Black woman).
My soul ached when that young Black woman said she doesn’t need to read because she has real life experience. I was like oh Lorde! Don’t let it be so Korean Jesus!
I take it personally when ANYBODY claims Black feminism and doesn’t not know what it is nor does the critical theoretical work nor praxis. So I took this experience to heart. It hurt. But I learned something from a close friend of mine today & from the wise words of an amazing father figure I have: we have to be gentle with our own people, give them a chance at first, show love. I did not want her interaction with me to turn into a horrible incidence of when keeping it real goes wrong.
I must admit, social media makes me so concerned about the state of mind of Black folk. Their sheer hatred of Black women & the Black LGBTQIA* as a consequence of internalized racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. I try to engage people in discourse, exchange helpful literature but my experiences with this have not been encouraging which goes to show that the old idiom is true: “You can LEAD a person to knowledge, but you can’t make them THINK.”
Now don’t get me wrong, none of this means that you have to sit and take any form of oppressive interactions with other Black folks & suffer silently. I’m just saying that if I am supposed to be out here praising, loving, and fighting for Black women, for the Black LGBTQIA*, for the Black diasporic community as a whole as a Pan Africanist I have to remember to approach from a place of love. This must be our first stance towards our own. I have learned that you catch more flies with honey. I’m working hard to make love my default stance when dealing with people. But I will say I will clap back when necessary. Don’t sleep on this dragon. In the wise words of mamma Erykah Badu:
“This tea and incense can turn into Colt 45 & Newports if NEED be…OK”