Kimberly Foster’s recent post on her website, “Why I’m Not Marching For Eric Garner
”, the Black man who was slain by Staten Island cops for no ass reason at all,
has led to a host of interesting responses and perspectives on the inner racial gender struggle between people of color. Forster’s website, For Harriet is known as a platform for women of color to express their views on social topics, including gender equality. This is not a review of her article; but more a review of the language, conflict, and the aggressive constructs that support this power struggle.
So what does language, aggression, and conflict have to do with it all? Let us count the ways.
Talking to Someone Who Cannot Understand Your Pain and Expecting the Same Level of Reaction
You ever stub your toe on something, your friend sees it and kind of cringes a little bit? While your cursing those nesting tables, Ikea, and everything Sweden has ever built, your friend is pretty much already over it. If you have a nice friend they’ll ask if you’re okay and that’s about it. Men, and even our Black men, are not going to react the same way to every instance of conflict for Black women. We shouldn’t expect them to; it’s not their toe that was stubbed. For them the pain is sympathetic and time-sensitive because they aren’t hurting. You wouldn’t talk to your White co-workers about micro-aggressive racism in the workplace, because theirs a chance they’re guilty of doing it themselves. You know that while even the most progressive, forward thinking of them wouldn’t understand your pain, because well, they can’t. Why are you talking to Black men about micro-aggressions (such as street harassment, or intentional interracial mating) towards us when they have never been a Black woman and cannot know how it feels to be a black woman?
In war you don’t get your allies on your side by pointing out how it benefits you, then claiming they should do more; you do it by explaining how helping benefits everyone in a way they understand. Instead of making your claim solely about yourself, point out and highlight the benefits to all members of society. If you think someone is going to do something simply because you TELL them it’s the right thing to do; then you’ve obviously never worked in the non-profit sector.
Dismissing the Pain of Others Simply Because It Doesn’t Apply to Your Life
This is the double headed monster at the root of all conflict. Most people can understand that not everyone feels the way they do; case in point, Foster did a wonderful job of explaining the pain she felt watching Eric Garner get murdered on camera knowing his killers would get off. Never once did she minimize the pain that others felt while watching it, and or the pain that Black men feel when interacting with the police. Yet, many people felt that Foster had no “right” to pen her article, that her views were “ill-timed”, and unnecessary. Immediately after explaining how she feels Black men dismiss the pain of Black women, her pain was dismissed for not being “important” or “relevant” enough. The language was not of hurt, but anger. Not of disappointment, but of vitriol, and not of peace, but of aggression.
Listen when you’re at war, your Allies pain is always relevant. That’s actually the whole point of having Allies; to have each other’s back when shit get’s real, or inconvenient, or real inconvenient. I didn’t like the article, I won’t pretend that I did, and I won’t apologize for it. But I did understand why she felt the need to write it. I understood that her personal medium for expression is hers, and as an ally in the war for Human Equality, it would be as equally counterproductive for me to dismiss that as writing the article in the first place. I know my first point is a kind of “get outta jail free card” for not caring as much about something as someone else does; but to use my earlier example, if your friend sees you stub your toe, and doesn’t even cringe or ask if #youoksis, your friend is an asshole, not an ally.
Failing to Verbally Acknowledge Where You Had Them Fucked Up
Notice how I said verbally acknowledge? There’s this weird blame game going on right now between Black men and women over who’s exact fault this stupid ass inner racial gender war is. I called it stupid because it’s both of our faults. We can talk patriarchy, we can talk about institutionalized racism, and the colonization of Black sexuality or any other HBCU 101 Topics. None of it matters if we don’t acknowledge how individually, we still mess shit up for other people.
There are so many men in our community who do what they’re supposed to do as allies; and there are even ones who go above and beyond the call of duty in supporting women’s rights which is great. There’s also a plethora of women who stand side by side with our male counterparts when we see our men being victims of oppression. Great. The obvious has been stated. We no longer need to default to this childish ass defense whenever our flaws are pointed out.
Just as there are droves of misogyny in our community, there are droves of women who inflict pain and hurt on men. Both stem from insecurity and emotional dysfunction, so don’t tell me one outweighs the other. Are there men who view and objectify women as sexual objects to be bought, sold, and bartered for? Sure, and some of the same women who chastise men for this thinking, will surely let them know what the materialistic parameters are for having and sustaining a relationship with them. No one person can apologize for the actions of other people, but building up defenses without acknowledging any wrong doing on your side is just going to end with Russia shooting down passenger jets over Ukraine thirty something years later.
My long winded ass point is this; stop talking so damn much and listen. Stop being hurt all the time, it’s exhausting. Relax the defense mechanisms; it makes you appear paranoid and delusional. Black people really do love each other despite what every instance of media, social or not, will tell you. Love hurts sometimes, but it is still patient, and it is still kind. No matter how different our viewpoints and perceptions may be; we’re all fair in love and war.