People often assume that I became an atheist because of the homophobia present in many churches. In my own experience, however, it was the sexism that drove me away–the homophobia was just a secondary thing. The churches that I attended focused primarily on adultery which usually damned women for being tempting harlots out to ruin good church men. I grew up hearing a lot of sermons about women’s proper role in the church, a woman’s place, the head of the household, blah blah blah. I remember being infuriated when women in the church were told that they could not preach or “bring the word” because it was not “their place”. So, in terms of my own journey, it was biblical sexism that pushed me further and further away from the church more so than homophobia. The “You’re only atheist because you’re gay” argument that so many people want to tack onto me doesn’t hold. My feminist consciousness and Black liberation politics have had more to do with my atheism than anything else.
This picture is being passed around the internet as proof of T.I. being a good father. I have to disagree though. Honestly, T.I. was a horny young boy at one point, too, and I am pretty sure that he has done and said worse to other people’s daughters. One need only listen to his music to see that he has said far worse. T.I. comes off as the typical patriarchal father who is less interested in his daughter’s disrespect, and more interested in his male ego and beating his chest. It has always struck me as odd that certain men don’t want their daughters and sisters to be treated the SAME way that they treat other people’s daughters and sisters. I’m sorry, but T.I. isn’t impressing me in this instance. He can keep all that patriarchal male bravado.
“Allowing women to vote is like (insert negative comparison).”
“Allowing Blacks to vote is like (insert negative comparison).”
“Allowing people of different races to marry is like (insert negative comparison).”
“Allowing gays to marry is like (insert negative comparison).”
It’s always the same ignorant language being used to privilege one group over another.
I have long been concerned by the number of Black people who believe that reproductive freedom is somehow a threat to Black freedom. There have been various instances of conservative Blacks group who perpetuate the false notion that Black women exercising reproductive freedom is somehow antithetical to Black freedom, and the overall progress of the Black community. What I read within these conservative agendas is the notion that Black women’s reproductive freedom is a threat to Black patriarchy and White supremacy. These two entities conspire to relegate the Black woman’s reproductive freedom to a location of betrayal, simultaneously posing a threat to the control that patriarchal Black men and racists White want to hold over the Black woman and the Black community.
I have long believed that reproductive freedom is one of the primary ways in which we assert ourselves as free people. As the great-grandson of a Black woman who was forced to have an abortion, I have always known, or rather sensed, that there was something important and revolutionary in our ability to control our own bodies. Reproductive freedom is one of the main freedoms on which all other freedoms rest, and without it we are forever vulnerable to the forces of oppression. I speak openly about the fact that Black women’s writing has been one of my primary pathways to feminism and feminist movement. Enter Toni Morrison. In her foreword to Beloved, Toni Morrison outlines the questions that propelled her to write her critically acclaimed work. One paragraph stands out from the others in its articulation of the struggles that Blacks, in particular Black women, have faced within this racist and sexist society.
Toni Morrison writes,
“In the eighties, the debate was still roiling; equal pay, equal treatment, access to professions, schools…. and choice without stigma. To marry or not. To have children or not. Inevitably these thoughts led me to the different history of Black women in this country–a history in which marriage was discouraged, impossible, or illegal; in which birthing children was required, but “having” them, being responsible for them–being, in other words, their parent–was as out of the question as freedom. Assertions of parenthood under conditions peculiar to the logic of institutional enslavement were criminal.”
In one short paragraph, Toni Morrison poignantly articulates many of my own sentiments about the role, and necessity, of reproductive freedom in Black life. The powers who conspire to deny Black women of bodily autonomy don’t want us to remember the not so distant past in which Black women, and Black people, were the victims of their anti-choice institution. Sexist and racist America depends on Black people not understanding the degree to which they were denied reproductive freedom, and why our control of our own bodies, our right to make our own reproductive choices, is one of the most important aspects of any Black freedom movement.
In my mind, there is no question as to whether or not Black women, Black people, or any people should have control over their reproductive decisions. How could I look at the past and ignore the many ways in which this sexist and racist society thwarted Black reproductive freedom? It becomes clear me to me that aiding in the denial of reproductive freedom only furthers the marginalization of Black people. White supremacy and Black patriarchy have long been in cahoots. This becomes clear to me when conservative Whites and conservative Blacks unite in an effort to deny Black women reproductive freedom. Those Black people who are interested in Black freedom must think deeply about the ways in which their participation in the denial of Black reproductive freedom functions to further oppress Black people. Our notions of freedom in a White racist society should begin with our bodies. Reproductive freedom is Black freedom.
As I was driving my niece to softball practice today I decided to give her some advice on her hair care. She is obsessed with her hair (as most little girls are because of sexism), and she asked me earlier this morning if the house had a flat iron to which I told her we did not.
As I began to talk to my niece about black care management, I told her that the best thing she could do to grow her hair is to keep it braided and keep it moisturized. While giving my niece this advice something stuck out in my head. I instantly thought of the way that sexism often takes little black boys and little black girls on separate journey’s when growing their hair out.
Let me ask you a question.
How many times have you seen a little black boy with braids down his back, but a little black girl whose hair can barely fit in a ponytail?
What is the difference? Sexism. Parents almost always let little boys hair grow naturally. They don’t saddle little black boys hair with perms, gels, or other products, but when it comes to little black girls they do products galore, and this effects hair growth and health. I think this double standard in black hair growth plays a role in why little black girls hair receive so much damage, and often doesn’t grow as well or isn’t as healthy.
I know many parents who have a little boy with braids, with hair that is healthy, and down to his back, but his sisters hair is breaking off and short. The reason for this is almost always that the parents took a natural approach to the boys hair, but took a chemical, processed approach to the girls hair. The boy gets his hair braided and moisturized at the most, but the little girl gets perms, weaves, gels, and whatever else the parents can think of to make her look “girly.”
Why is it that we allow our sons to grow their hair naturally, but force out daughters down a path of chemicals and processors?
While Chris Rock is to be noted for his documentary “Good Hair,” he didn’t examine the origins of problematic views on black hair which begin in childhood. Far too many little girls are told that their hair is only desirable when chemicals have processed it. We let little boys off the hook by often giving them permission to have nappy hair, and by allowing them to grow their hair naturally when, or if, they decide to rock braids or twists.
Black men almost never resort to thousands upon thousands of products to grow their hair out. That expectation isn’t there. Black women can take a cue from black men when growing their hair. Less is more. (sexism will make this difficult, but its worth it)
I’m not sure what my thoughts add to the overall natural hair debate, but the role sexism plays is one that I think should be examined more. Sometimes the best way to let your hair be all that it can be is to simply let it be. Step away from the million products.