The Chasm Between Black Men and White Women and the Bridge We Need to Build

There are a lot of similarities between the struggles of racism and the struggles of sexism. This is not a radical notion—the oppressed often share similar experiences of abuse. It’s the differences, however, that cause strife and resentment between the two groups and when those differences are not understood and are allowed to fester, the canyons of separation they breed between the two always only help the oppressors. 

Consider, for the time being, the differences between the plight of the black man and that of the white woman. There are many instances of prominent black men, activists who have put forth great efforts for their communities, disparaging the causes, hopes, and attitudes of white women. These criticisms are often not entirely unjust and uncalled for: white women, as a class, are more protected than black men.  They are the least likely to be murdered by police or face harsh consequences within the justice system for any crime committed. They have more power in terms of wealth, credit, and not being discriminated against when it comes to applying for loans, school, and housing. In short, their lives are more valued. This is part of a traditional historical trend. White women are a long-time cherished and protected class in Western society—the whiter and wealthier, the more coveted and guarded.

The flip side of this trend, however, is that though their lives are more valued, their autonomy is not. In the history of the US, this is perhaps the most obvious when it comes to the fact that black male orators were far more respected than female orators (who were not allowed to speak in public spaces to begin with). Black men, recent former slaves considered little better than livestock by many, were technically* given the right to vote long before women, who though coveted and protected, were not respected so much as human beings as they were as brood mares. In recent history, we’ve finally managed to elect black male leadership all the way to the highest office of the land while female leadership is still viewed as suspicious, weak, and untrustworthy. 

These thoughts have been bubbling in my mind for quite some time, but I would guess the reason they’ve come to be more centered in my attention is because of the new Dave Chappelle specials, in particular the Bird Revelations. There is a portion of it in which he seems substantially offended by the #MeToo movement, alluding to the fact that the oppression of blacks has been so much worse than the oppression of white women in the context of US history, that a little rape and harassment here or there is absolutely nothing compared to slavery and lynching. The most absurd part of that argument is of course his attempt to use centuries of oppression against people like him as an excuse for him not caring about the oppression of women for several millennia across the overwhelming majority of human cultures. It’s an uncomfortable fact that sexism is far, far older than racism, far more insidious, and far more likely to be dismissed as not such a big deal. 

Now, that being said, there is something to his argument, there is a solid foundation to his frustration and misunderstanding of the plight of white women, because, again, we are more valued. We do have more opportunities. We are safer. Our concerns are listened to even though they are mocked. We’re richer, luckier, and we get away with a lot more bullshit.

Ultimately, I have no real conclusions to any of these thoughts other than leaning towards the notion that maybe black men and white women both need to shut the fuck up a little bit and back off on their weird, petty little competition for who has it worse. The most disgusting part of both the virtue signaling of white feminism and the moral grandstanding of male black empowerment is that both ignore the group most often beaten down and left behind, the group attacked unmercifully by every aspect of injustice the other two purportedly seek to fight against: women of color. Their words, movements, and activism are constantly hijacked by white women and black men. The more I hear privileged white feminists bitch about “yes all men” while praising only white feminists, and the more I hear black men dismiss the concerns of the damage done by misogyny as though their communities are not also culprits to it, the more I think maybe everyone should shut the fuck up and take a back seat behind Rosa, Coretta, Tarana, etc. because both sides clearly aren’t getting the full scope of the problem and part of that might be because they’re both ignoring the people who very intimately understand it just by being forced to live through it every day with minimal appreciation or recognition for their voice, talent, and agency. Ignoring the serious and devastating history of rape and sexual violence because black men were once slaves is a seriously offensive slap in the face to all the sexual violence black women** have been viciously subject to and continue to endure, all-too-often with the added context of such crimes being committed with terroristic intent. Refusing to elevate women of color—whether intentional or not—in conversations about justice and feminism by appropriating their movements but not bothering to remember their names is some grade A bullshit. Willfully ignoring the groups most hurt and least valued by misogyny is inexcusable.

Listening to one another’s concerns and earnestly trying to understand one another makes our causes stronger, not weaker. Celebrating the echo chambers we cultivate that bizarrely celebrate the victimhood we endure do not. Stay angry but keep that anger nuanced and refuse to let it deafen the voices of those who also have justified anger. White women: quit fussing about how to spell “womxn” (especially if you’re still pronouncing it the same way—like, seriously, what even the fuck is this time wasting controversy???). Black men: quit fussing about your masculinity and hiding behind your history of oppression whenever you get called out for being shitty to women (and gay men). Both of you: shut the fuck up and listen to women of color more, you’re both getting real weird with your petty, narcissistic victim-olympics. 

My thoughts on all this are clearly still a bit muddled and I know there’s more I’d definitely like to call white women out for, the specifics of which just aren’t coming to mind right now. I’ll hopefully organize all these ideas better at a later point. 

*”techincally” meaning I fully acknowledge this wasn’t really the case until the 1960s

**that sexual violence against black women of course including trans women and not excusing black men when they are the perpetrators

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