In considering my first “official” blog post, I had a swirl of potential topics competing in my mind. However, one topic beat everything else out and I hope it will serve to define the kind of thoughtful material, deep conviction, and transformational insights that you will enjoy on agundaokeyo.com and related platforms. There have been a number of articles written in past weeks around the intrinsic value of black womanhood. On December 16, 2013 an article in the Village Voice mulls over music journalist Jim DeRogatis’ statement that “nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody." The article explores the long history of revolting predation by singer R. Kelly and popular disregard towards his numerous victims: black young women and girls. I agree with the starting point of the argument that the liberties, experiences and humanity of black women are often sidelined in court and in popular discourse. The plight of black men, other people of color, and European Americans (AKA white folks) usually gain national attention before black women—not necessarily in that order. However, for this reason, inverting the logic of oppression, I think that “no one matters MORE than black women and girls.”
Speaking to the point of the notion that “nobody matters to our society less than [black] women,” most of us with common sense agree with ongoing research and overwhelming consensus that America is a deeply racist nation with a national identity fixated on the marginalization of African peoples, women and other minorities. Furthermore, let’s be real, black people consistently bear a disproportionate burden of American racism, no doubt because of American history—I’m not giving you a history lesson, so hit up the library. Modern racism manifests in biased practice when it comes to incarceration (seeMichelle Alexander), police harassment (seeStop and Frisk), racial profiling (see Barney’s and Macy’s scandals), unjust murder of unarmed black youth (seeJonathan Ferrell , Renisha McBride, Rekia Boydand of course Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant), roll-back of voting rights (see guttingof 1965 Voting Rights Act) and so on. However, as an African raised in the United States, in solidarity with the oppressed and with genuine affinity towards those of African descent, I know in my heart that the oppression of women and African peoples is an outgrowth of fear. And the source of that fear is a response to our beautiful, expressive self-determination; in short a fear of our power.
A recentblog postreflecting on DeRogatis’ words entitled “Nobody Matters Less than Black Girls…” is written by an anti-PIC (Prison Industrial Complex) social justice activist and her interpretation of this statement. The author’s eloquent contribution speaks to her experiences as an activist and recognizes the historical cocktail of racism, sexism and sexualized violence that black women consistently experiences from without and within the black community. In it she (I’m not deliberately withholding her name—it’s hard to find!) explores the hurts and resilience of black womanhood through the temporal overlap of DeRogatis’ words and the independent release ofBeyoncé’s euphoric new albumto paint a picture of what it’s like to be a black woman in America:
And so it appears that for us as black people, trauma and domination have always co-existed with pleasure and celebration. It is with this historical context as backdrop that Beyonce released her “visual album” this past weekend to great fanfare and debate. The past bleeds into the present as sense memory reminds us that we were property and that our bodies were violable hypersexualized flesh. We rage and turn our anger towards our reflections sometimes. We can hardly believe that we are still here when we weren’t actually meant to survive. We have few words to convey our mountains of hurt and of pain…We know that we have never been in style and that chattel slavery’s script was written on our bodies. But even then, we sought ways to resist and to seize control. We created dances, embraced fashion, depicted ourselves in photographs, created homemade birth control technologies, had illegal abortions. We did this, we’ve continued to do this understanding full well that: ‘Nobody matters less to our society than young black women.’ ”
As much as I respect and relate to the above text, I must restate that “no one matters MORE than black women and girls.” Why do I believe this? Because although women and people of African descent in America are regularly marginalized, the obsession to dominate said groups by white supremecy and those who assimilate such thinking (a number of the oppressed!) speaks to their --the oppressor's--feelings of insignificance. Going further, those hungry for power have anacute sense of inadequacy that drives them to take power away from others. As a humanist, I have this understanding of the humanity of ‘the oppressor.’ He or she is a human being as I am one too. He or she has hopes and dreams for their future as do I. And if it were not for his or her fear of my power in an imaginary one-on-one competition with their own, I would be free. Any yet it is this imaginary competition for power that motivates the creation of barriers and hierarchies that muddle my opportunities for success. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with me as a black woman. And many black women know or have a sense of their power despite the pain. Indeed a number of studies reveal thatblack peopleandblack womendespite it all have high self-esteem comparative to European Americans. Some choose to view this as some trumped up colorblind argument as how race does not negatively impact self-esteem, as if expectations would find black people as more emotionally insecure than whites given the dynamics of privilege. However, I suggest that it reveals resilience, a power within and among black people in spite of all the hurts. What is needed is a recognition and thoughtful cultivation of that power.
I wouldn’t dare equate myself with the Dalai Lama, but like him I exist in the world with specific commitments. He acknowledgeshis commitments in this order: 1. Human being, 2. A religious practitioner of harmony and understanding and 3. A Tibetan. I, on the other hand, wield my own faith in humanity like a saber, strive for cross-cultural understanding and respect my birth as an African. For these reasons I write, I read, I think and I speak. So, to all the oppressors out there, I know you’re human, so please recognize my humanity. And to all the oppressed out there, think differently, do not emulate the oppressor and keep reading my blog.