Monthly Archives: January 2011
“Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing patriarchy even if it leads nowhere?”
It would be one thing if the United States was not a white-racist society. The United States is a white-racist society, and the coexistence of white-racism and patriarchy, produces a unique brand of patriarchy that only truly benefits few of the men in within it. Given that few men within the United States benefit from the patriarchal social order in this country, I wanted to examine why so many men chase pavement, even if it leads nowhere.
According to free encyclopedia, “Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination.”
On the surface that definition seems to indicate a social order that benefits all men, but when a further examination of how that definition works in the context of racial and capitalist exploitation in the United States, it becomes clear that chasing patriarchy is a pursuit that only a few men can afford without consequences.
One of the most striking things about the definition is its mentioning of the fathers authority over “property.” Slavery in the United States relegated African Americans, both male and female, to the role of property. African American men were no longer seen as men, but rather the property of white men. In an ideal patriarchal situation the white man and the black man would be equals, but white-racism always relegates the black man to the position of “other,” and thus not a man.
In a white-racist patriarchal society, the black man may be promised patriarchal power, but the fact that he is both man and black denies him the chance to fully benefit from that promised patriarchal power. Black men may chase patriarchy, but they will always slam into the wall of white supremacy which associates them with “other,” and not man.
There are countless historical examples of black men being relegated to the category of “other,” as opposed to man. Jim Crow was an entire system built on the viewing of blacks as others, even black men. The criminal justice system also shows what patriarchy in a white racist society does to black men. In their pursuit of patriarchal power, many black men turn to a life of crime, and that usually ends with them becoming slaves of a white racist society that punishes them unfairly for pursuing the same patriarchal power that white men do all the time.
So, the question has to be asked why do so many chase patriarchy if it leads nowhere, and what are alternatives for black men who do not want to chase patriarchy? One of the saddest consequences of systems of oppression is that they usually inspired the oppressed to want power over others.
While black men have historically been oppressed along with black women in the system of slavery, many have still come to believe that they should have dominion over black women, and black children. This need to have “power” in a society that strips them of power convinces many black men to chase patriarchy even at the expense of destroying meaningful relationships with the black women in their lives, and the children in their lives.
Many black men feel that since they are denied the role of primary authority in society, which they must make up for that lack of power by ruling in the black home. By choosing patriarchal power over their women and children, black men become complicit in the decline of the black family and the greater goal of racial uplift for the entire black community. We are able to see that patriarchy again leads nowhere because the result is greater rifts between black men and black women.
I would strongly suggest that racist and sexist oppression is inextricably linked to the African American experience in this country, and unless we fight both oppressions the black community will continue to remain as Nicki Minaj says, “at a standstill, mannequin.”
I encourage black men to create new conceptions of masculinity, and manhood that are not rooted in or predicated upon the attainment of patriarchal power in a white-racist society. We as black men must step outside of patriarchy, and stop chasing patriarchy that leads nowhere. The black man must not seek to rule the black woman, but work in conjunction with the black woman, respecting her as equal and ally, in black struggle. The black man must not seek to rule over his children, but be a compassionate, caring, and nurturing guide for their children, teaching them how to respect themselves, others, and the planet. The black man must recognize, and name patriarchy as a system of domination that exploits both men and women, and work to challenge and change the system of patriarchy. The black man must resist the values of patriarchy that insist that a man must be tough and emotionally vacant, and allow himself to be vulnerable, and emotionally available to black women and other black men.
I could go on and on, but I feel that the above tips for transgressing patriarchy are sufficient to begin the steps challenging patriarchy. Should black men keep chasing patriarchy, even if it leads no where? The answer in my opinion is a resounding no.
I posed the question to my friends on Facebook, Twitter, and BGC; and I received a diverse array of responses. Here are some of the responses,
“My black is PROUD!” – Sincerelyric
“My black is intelligent, inquisitive, critical, perceptive, humorous, thoughtful.” – Thetrudz
“My black is Artistic.” – BOOMJones
“My black is innovative and Intelligent.” – FemmeFatale Harris
“My black is resilient, strong, and unforgettable.” - Bright_Eyzx3
“My Black is storied.” – TheKabosh
“My black is creative…motivated..my black is a combination of many colors on a palette. My black is bold and has a voice…” – Cakezilla
“My black is bold and inspiring!” – srtyrck
“My black is bold, daring, humble, proud, courageous, & captivating.” - drniaimani
“My black is ancestrial, authentic, and metaphysical.” – Lifted_Truth
“My black is… undefinable, ever evolving, all encompassing, everlasting.” – UrFavCharity
“My black is loving, understanding, hopeful, free.” – LoveMrsBrenda
“My black is intellectually open.” – dreamphilosophy
“My black is aloof, passionate, sometimes egotistical, scientific, driven, going-somewhere-but-haven’t-quite-figured-it-out-yet.” J. Silver
“My Black is enduring.” – rebelsin
“My black is determined…Strong…Loving overall….sometimes militant.” – 25lighters
“My black is passionate, determined, intuitive, intellectual, and focused.” – _black_majik_x_
“My black is absolute, knowledgeable, mysterious, infinite.” – SonofBaldwin
“Segregation by itself isn’t an issue, and integration by itself isn’t a solution.” – Anti_Intellect
Each year when Martin Luther King Day comes around, it becomes common practice on social media to post every Martin Luther King Jr. quote that you can find. While I appreciate these quotes, and the ability that they have to introduce new people to the life, scholarship, and legacy of Dr. King, I feel at some point we have to move beyond posting quotes from Dr. King, and adding our own quotes and scholarship to stand beside his legacy. Inspired by the life of Dr. King, I began to think about the way we as a society view segregation and integration, and I wanted to examine just what it means for a neighborhood, community, and society to be segregated or integrated, and how that related to inclusiveness and exclusiveness.
I would suggest that there’s a difference between segregation and exclusion. A segregated community can be inclusive, but an exclusionary community can not. I thought of my own childhood, living in what many would consider a segregated neighborhood, and how that influenced the way I view segregation and inclusion. My black neighborhood is segregated, but that doesn’t mean a white family, or any family, aren’t allowed to move in it. My neighborhood highlights the difference between segregation and exclusion. Many people think that Civil Rights Movement integrated society, so I really want to stress what I feel are the differences between segregation and exclusion. We still live in segregated communities, but with less exclusion. Our neighborhoods, churches, and clubs are still segregated, but now we have less exclusion among racial lines. I live in a segregated black neighborhood, but I can shop at the grocery store located in a neighborhood that is predominately, if not all white. Segregation doesn’t mean exclusion, anymore than integration means inclusion, and I believe that exclusion still exists in our “integrated” society.
When I think of many past examples of segregation perpetuated by white racists in society, it is not the segregation that appalls me, but rather the exclusion. Segregation isn’t wrong, but allowing a black woman to die on the steps of your hospital because you don’t admit colored patients is. Segregation isn’t wrong, but denying a qualified student entry into your university is. I don’t think segregation in and of itself is the issue, but rather that segregation coupled with exclusion, and not inclusion, is when it becomes the issue. This society will never be fully integrated, nor does it have to be. I am a witness to the possibility of being segregated and inclusive. When I think of the historically black college that I attended it allows me to see how segregation can work when it is inclusive. HBCU’s are segregated institutions, but they are not exclusionary institutions, as non-black students are welcome to attend HBCU’s. An example of my segregated school being an inclusive is when Michelle Obama came to visit. When Michelle Obama came to FAMU to speak, the university opened it’s campus to all members of the Tallahassee community. Non-FAMU students weren’t excluded from attending, they weren’t forced to sit in the back, and they weren’t ran off campus by a mob. Yes, FAMU is a segregated school, but we *included* the entire community regardless of race, class, ethnicity, gender, to see Mrs. Obama.
It’s possible to know who you feel most comfortable with, without viewing yourself as superior to others. I am less concerned with people being more comfortable with certain people, than I am with people feeling superior to others. I was never raised to believe that I was better than anyone else, and that may be what makes the difference. My cultural differences do not make me better than you or superior to you. Different does not mean deficient. I realize that my view of segregation, integration, inclusion, and exclusion are shaped by my perspective as an African-American man living in 21st century America, but I think my approach could be used in other settings. Obviously, addressing segregation and integration, and finding ways to work within and outside of those frameworks is going to take critical thinking and education. I want to get the conversation started because I do not think segregation has to necessary mean exclusion.
This is a guest post from a talented young thinker by the name of Dexter L. Smith.
The “Down-Low”. A uniquely African-American slang term used in reference to an insidious subculture of deeply closeted African-American homosexual and/or bisexual men who while carrying on their normal, day-to-day, public lives as heterosexual men, simultaneously lead secret lives engaged in sexual relations with other men. The meaning of the term, however, has expanded over the years to include all closeted African-American gay and/or bisexual men. Originally the typical “DL” man identified as “straight” despite his same sex attractions and liaisons. Today, many “DL” men accept that they are either homosexual or bisexual despite what they may tell the rest of the world.
Defined by its “cult of masculinity”, the “DL” lifestyle shuns the traditional trappings of LGBT culture, promoting secrecy and discretion. Many “DL” men are deluded into believing that they can somehow remain in the closet forever, carrying on a double life in secrecy for as long as they like. This of course seldom, if ever, works. These things invariably have a way of being exposed eventually. The “DL” lifestyle itself is symptomatic of the shame, fear, and ignorance that plague the African-American LGBT community. The African-American community itself, overwhelmingly Christian and therefore bound hopelessly to patriarchal believes and behavior, is not very welcoming to homosexuality.
The struggle to “come out of the closet” is nothing new. It is a transition that every gay and or bisexual person, African-American or otherwise, will have to experience. However, there is something different about the experience in the African-American community. It seems that heterosexism is even more concentrated amongst black people than it is amongst our white counterparts. So much so that we’ve produced this dangerous “DL” subculture. A factor which has helped turn the African-American LGBT community into this backwards satellite of the wider mainstream LGBT community.
A friend once told me that sexuality is a “private thing”. That it was ok to be in the closet or “DL” because no one needed to know your sexual orientation. Especially since, as he saw it, being gay made things harder. The notion is not entirely without merit but it sets an unfair double standard. Why should my sexuality be private? After all, if you approached a heterosexual male or female and asked “Are you straight?” chances are they will respond honestly. If my sexuality is private, am I supposed to lie? Why should I advance heterosexism by keeping my sexuality “private”? After all, unless I indicate otherwise, most people would automatically assume that I’m heterosexual. I don’t want that. If you’re not free to be who you are then exactly how free are you?
Besides, how exactly are we to dispel the negative myths and stereotypes, eradicate the stigma and ignorance, and achieve equality by hiding? If we act like we have something to be ashamed of, people will treat us like we have something to be ashamed of. We must abandon the false notion that heterosexuality is superior. This is in itself the very root of many or our problems.
The plight of LGBT people has come a long way since June 28, 1969, when those brave pioneers of the gay rights movement stoop up to this countries institutionalized oppression of sexual minorities. On December 18, 2010, the discriminatory “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy which prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces was repealed. American society has become very open, welcoming and tolerant, and with each year that passes the excuses for hiding dwindle in number and significance. Its 2011 and you’re still so called on the “DL”? Excuse my use of common black vernacular but “Nigga please!” That is so last year.
I’m not hiding. I’m proud, I’m happy, and I’m free. Thank You.
I’m not a fan of organized religion, and I am not a fan of Christianity in particular. I’ve been very open with my criticism of the belief system, and have shared my opinions with my Facebook, Twitter, and in the forums of many other websites. One of the responses that I usually get from someone defending Christianity, or looking for more parity in my critique of organized religions, is that I should spend more time critiquing all religions rather than Christianity.
I am a secular humanist, and as such I don’t believe in the supernatural under any circumstances. This applies to deities, witches, mermaids, fairies, and whatever other supernatural beings humanity has imagined, so it’s not as if I don’t recognize the need to critique all supernatural beliefs, but I do think Christianity is in a class all by itself and I will explain why.
The two largest religions in the world are Christianity (estimated 2.1 billion followers) and Islam (estimated 1.5 billion followers). Both religions have spread their influence around the world, but there is a distinction to be made between the two. While it is true that Islam is a patriarchal religion, and of major concern, Christianity is a religion that is intertwined with imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. When a belief system is as glued to those various systems of domination as Christianity certainly is it becomes not only difficult, but dangerous to not put it in its own category. There is much to be said about the way Islam reinforces and affirms systems of domination, but it is a faith that exists outside of white supremacy.
So, the reason that I place Christianity in a category by itself is not because I want to unfairly spotlight one faith over another, but rather that Christianity is a unique religion in that it is so embedded in various systems of oppression. I believe it would be remiss of me, and any other critics of religion to deny that Christianity is a faith aided and informed by imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Not simply a belief system, but one that seeks to extend its authority around the world. Not simply a belief system, but one that is ruled by white men. Not simply a belief system, but one that supports a system of capitalist exploitation. Not simply a belief system, but one that is male dominated and is rooted in the oppression of women. I believe that all persons should be able to worship as they please and believe in whatever mythical belief that they choose, but those persons also have to realize that a belief system is not off limits merely because it has been around a long time, or has more power and influence than other religions.
Christianity is not just “any ole” belief system. Unlike other religions, Christianity is melded with imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and I do not think we can overlook that fact.
On January 2, 2011, the internet -Twitter in particular- went wild over the news allegation that Michelle Obama was pregnant. For many people, this was an opportunity for them to show their jubilee at the prospect of a baby being born in the White House, but for me and many others it signaled yet another violation of a woman’s space and bodily autonomy.
There’s something about pregnancy rumors that has always rubbed me the wrong way, and this latest rumor about Michelle Obama was no different. I thought to myself, what takes place in Michelle Obamas’ uterus is her business, and if it does become public knowledge I would much prefer that it be disclosed by her and her family, and not some random unaffiliated website.
In a patriarchal society we are conditioned to see women’s bodies as public space. The bodies of women aren’t simply there own, but somehow are everyones to invade and occupy. Instead of respecting the sovereign spaces of women, we view women and their bodies as land that is ours for the taking, even if it’s in a celebratory manner. In the case of Michelle Obama, some collectively said, “gold has been found out west,” but few stopped to ask whether or not the gold was there, and more importantly in whose territory did the gold reside, and whether or not we had access to it.
I think one of the reasons we so readily speculate on female fertility is because patriarchy conditions us to believe that women’s bodies are ours for the taking. And when it came to Michelle Obama that is exactly what we did without her consent. One by one we invaded her uterus, speculating on whether or not it contained a fetus. “She’s pregnant.” “I heard she’s pregnant.” But of course we could invade her body. Speculate on her fertility. She is afterall a woman, and as such her body is ours for the taking. We could even make tasteless jokes about how her husband must be “hitting it right,” how me must be “tapping that.” Our sordid fantasies. Collectively setting up camp in her body, we declared it ours for the taking, if only for a day. Her privacy meant nothing to us.
I am not suggesting that pregnancy is something unworthy of being celebrated, it is, but rather that first and foremost we must respect the bodily autonomy of women. Our excitement can not trump the right a woman has to her own body, and what is or isn’t taking place in her body. If there is news to be known about Michelle Obama being pregnant I think we should all wait for that news to be revealed from Michelle Obama herself, and not some random internet site.