I briefly touched on this topic in my post about my black womanhood, but at the time I was pissed off. The focus of the blog post was centered around my anger and not the issue at hand, now that cooler heads have (somewhat) prevailed, I’m ready to dive into the core of what that post was really about.
Black people, we have to admit that sexism exists.
I do not know of any group of people that willfully ignore oppressive systems that affect the pursuance of their liberation the way that black people ignore sexism. The black community in all its racial perseverance and unity, is very ignorant to the thralls of sexism. It is and forever will be our greatest downfall.
By ignoring sexism we ignore the plight of the black woman and therefore perpetuate the oppressive state black women have been subjected to for centuries. It is almost too easy for us to rally together to fight racism, there are a few black people out there who would rather stay out of it, but for the most part, we come together. But when it comes to sexism, we are so divided, it is like pulling teeth for black people to acknowledge the oppressive state of black women, both within and outside of the black community, and it has hindered us for years. I would hate for this post to be used as a pedestal for black people who are not sincerely interested in understanding sexism, and instead only care about using it as a gateway for racial liberation. In my opinion, that is just as harmful as ignoring it.
If you are only interested in the plight of black women because it benefits your individual pursuance of liberation, then you need to expand your knowledge on the black experience. Black people are not monolithic, therefore, we are NOT only victimized by racism. Classism exists, capitalism exists, ableism exists, ageism exists, and SEXISM EXISTS. Oppression is also intersectional, if you can understand that black people as a collective are hindered by racism and classism, then it should not be hard for you to understand that black women as a collective are hindered by racism and sexism…but here we are. I would think that the one group of people that would be well versed on oppressive power dynamics, would be black people, but yet we focus solely on racism and it’s embarrassing if I’m being honest.
Black people experience racism differently, and are subsequently oppressed differently, how can we ever truly be liberated if we ignore that?
While I am aware that there are a multitude of oppressive systems that affect the black community, I’m focusing solely on sexism because if a black man expresses his victimization of classism, ableism, ageism, cisgenderism, or any other institutional oppressive system we rally around that man with the strength of our ancestors without so much as a second thought. Black educators (both men and women) will write a full dissertation on how the black community is riddled with unmentioned oppression due to a black man being victimized and stripped of his humanity and manhood. It permeates our community. We are reminded of it every year on the anniversary, and we STILL willfully ignore how the same has happened to black women. That’s why we need to acknowledge how invasive sexism is in our community and how it affects our people, because we ignore black women. We need to have that same energy for black women that we have for black men, not because we’re black, but because we’re people.
By ignoring sexism we base the oppressive state of black women on race and completely erase our gender. Therefore, erasing the fact that black women experience a different kind of racism and sexism.
It is important to note that this blog post is not directed only towards black men, there are black women who also ignore sexism, it is still harmful and deserves to be called out. You may not think that you are oppressed based on your gender and your race both individually and collectively, but you are and so are other women that look like you. Consider this a friendly reminder.
I could write a full novel on why sexism needs to be acknowledged in the black community, but I will condense it to this one central point:
The black community ignores the presence of patriarchal power and focuses solely on racism, because black men ignore their male privilege and black women have been socialized to put their blackness before their womanhood.
If black people ever want true freedom for ALL black people we have to address how we are oppressive to our own. I cannot overstate how important it is for us as black people to come to terms with the fact that even though we are oppressed and have been oppressed for centuries, we can still be oppressive to our own. Our racial oppression neither excuses nor justifies our erasure of sexism from our own people. But overcoming the way we ignore sexism requires work and we have some unpopular truths that we have to confess if we ever want to get past this hurdle in our liberation.
Black Men: You are oppressors. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but you might as well get you a big ass glass of water and chug that shit down, because the truth will set you free. You are oppressive. Admitting this in no way negates the racism you face as black men. It is possible to be both oppressed in one social role and be an oppressor in another. As black men, you have to confront your deep-rooted misogynoir towards black women. Black women have been fighting along side you, for you, and without you, we shouldn’t have to fight you as well. Acknowledge our personhood, accept us as people, understand that the racism we experience is defined by our gender, and YOU perpetuate that as MEN. The fact that you’re also black just adds insult to injury. Due to proximity, YOU are the biggest threat to our safety. Ignoring your blatant misogynoir and how institutional sexism affects us makes you culpable, not because you’re black, but because you’re MEN.
Black Women: You’re oppressed. It is not enough to ignore it and carve a path to success, you have to be cognizant of that in order to effectively understand your role in society and in the black community. I don’t expect all black women to be feminists, but I do expect all black women to be aware of the dynamic between us and black men. Upholding patriarchal norms while simultaneously shaming other black women who either resist it or don’t fit the image of the black woman that the patriarchy has constructed will not protect you from harm. I understand assimilating for survival, but sis, you are going about it the wrong way. You cannot and will not find true protection or liberation by centering men in your life, not even black men. Ignoring sexism that you and other black women face makes you a foot soldier for the patriarchy. Be mindful of that. Admitting that your oppression is intersectional does not mean you cannot be successful, but it does give your success or lack thereof some context. Don’t make the mistake of putting race first and ignoring your gender.
As a black woman who is fully invested in fighting for liberation from both racism and sexism, I find it exhausting to explain to other black people why “racism first” is a hard pass for me. As much as I love my people and as much as I always will, it would be remiss of me to pretend that I would ever choose my race over my gender, when there are men who look like me and are still heavily invested in my subjugation. In no way do I wish to push my perspective on to other women, or force men to abandon their principles. However, I will say that if your principles are based on the subjugation of another group of people, I will not stand by idly. Sexism is just as prevalent in our society as racism, because as black women we experience sexism both in and outside of our community. As I have stated on my blog several times, it always has and always will hurt more when the misogynoir and sexist attitudes come from black men. But please, don’t allow my words to resonate to you as if I’m pleading, I am not.
For the black people who constantly ignore sexism, you will not silence us and you will not continue to oppress us, we will resist you every step of the way. I’m not begging you to acknowledge anything, I’m simply providing facts. If you want to ignore it we will throw it in your face every chance we get until we reach true freedom.