I’ve attempted to explain on numerous occasions the reality of African American men having an advantage in society compared to African American women but the response is always the same.
In large part, the argument is always made that, more than most, African American men are locked up, falsely accused and pulled over without reasoning in comparison to African American women. So, as some sort of technicality, this has become the basis of just “how hard” African American men have it.
While I’m not denying that these things are happening and not always justified as a young professional African American women , I regret to inform those who may take this stance that none of it compares to the inequalities African American women face on a daily basis.
No. I don’t get pulled over for random search and seizures and I’m often not viewed as threatening when walking down the street. But, I have been gawked at in public and criticized for not responding in the way my gawker deemed appropriate and I’ve also been considered a “threat” or “giving an attitude when speaking up about decisions that affect me or carrying out orders/making request – no differently than my male counterparts. All of which I’ve found to be similar to the inequalities, previously described, and associated with African American men but still don’t compare.
For African American women , in comparison to African American men, our inequalities go well beyond the streets and creep into our dating lives, friendships, careers, offices, public perception, and the list goes on. It wasn’t until the #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen twitter movement that I realized, though people I know may not have recognized the problem, there is still a large portion of people that do. I began reading some of the tweets:
“#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen because I recognize and understand your struggle, but you refuse to understand ours”
“#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen because (Black women) are central care givers but are never provided the space to ask for care in return”
“BlackPowerIsForBlackMen when men demand submission as proof that a woman loves them”
“BlackPowerIsForBlackMen because (Black women) are held to a European beauty standard but (Black men) aren’t held to a European financial standard.”
“BlackPowerIsForBlackMen because Black women get jobs/do better in schools that makes us “free” and/or compliance with the oppressor.
It all hit home. The acknowledgement of being oppressed had been rewarding finally there are people who get it but the resolutions led me to despair – and there were very little, if any.
My mentor and former college professor would always say “The problem with the Black women is the Black male.” As an advocate for the advancement of women, I was beginning to recognize that the problem wasn’t just with black men, but with all men AND women who do nothing and say nothing to help. Yes, women have, too, become offenders. Instead of trying to motivate and empower one another, we’ve become conniving competitors, eager to put one another down in an attempt to reach the top and as a result, only placed more men in leadership/decision-making positions because our character/judgement have been compromised and no longer respected.
During a recent dinner table discussion, I had been speaking with friends about my longing for wanting to connect/connect with young professional women from around the city. I had already seen males come together on multiple platforms (networking events, parties, retreats) and had yet to see a female/s in our demographic take the lead on women-building initiatives besides myself.
I was told that this couldn’t be done because I “know how females are” and that women in my city “weren’t very receptive to opening up to other women because they may be afraid someone would outshine them.” I’ve never heard these types of responses in the African American male community and it appeared as though when groups of them decide/d to come together for a common cause they’d do it – It was done, would be done, and could be done if they had a part in it sans women. Meanwhile, the same ladies who could step up to plate to create change and outlets for women to empower one another stood idle and in the lines of the next party/networking events put on by their male peers. What are we doing?!
I’ve been fortunate enough to be inspired and surrounded by women in leadership who embraced our similarities, as well as our differences with enough confidence and understanding to be in their own lane and know that when one of us wins, WE ALL WIN. So, forgive me (and I say that loosely) for not being understanding my friends’ logic BUT since when did we (as females) become so divided when it’s evident there are already enough people against us? We have to deal with being treated differently from white men and women, black men, and NOW our own?
The reality is the levels of expectations are different for African American men and women and the need to “fall in line” and not “upset the status quo” becomes more alluring to both parties when the promise of social status is offered. As a result, changing behavioral patterns/thoughts, in regards to African American women, becomes difficult when the majority’s ideals don’t align with the few. But, there has to be a change! Our voices, our work, and our identity is as important as anyone elses and should be respected, recognized, and cultivated not pushed aside.