Sunday, February 22, 2009

Are Black Women ready to join hands?

I have been thinking about the relationship black women have with each other a lot lately and how it impacts our working together to pull ourselves out from a deep hole. I was a naive one to believe that black women were and are invested in having open and honest discussions with each other about our current crisis as black women and I am talking particularly about the 'intellectuals' and well versed among us. I thought that at least I could count on black women being upfront with each other and not hiding critical knowledge. I used to think that those who prided themselves as being intellectuals would be too conflicted internally at the idea of employing intellectual dishonesty in conversation with fellow sisters and would not put forward arguments they didnt believe deep down.

I used to think that the vigorous defences many of these black women mount on behalf of black men are real and because they are convinced. I have discovered however that many are doing so without conviction and with huge doubts about the men they are defending and asking fellow black women to go on trusting and holding out for. Some argue this way knowing of more evidence to suggest an even more dire situation than is presently understood, and many are indeed sitting on information and analysis and insight that could be useful in 'liberating' their fellow black women!

The level of dishonesty was illuminated for me when a woman I knew to be a proponent of 'black unity' and equally a vigorous black male defender, was having a crisis of faith. She talked about how she had always stuck up for black men and she was now seeing that rather than return the favour, they were so deeply selfish and self serving. She more or less admitted that she did what she thought she needed to do for brothers. I shook my head because it had all been a 'routine' for her. In her zeal to serve black men she had lost sight of the critical fact that many black women would have been lulled into complacency by her actions.

But then I guess this undescores how that black women get their 'sisterhood' from the relationship they have with black men quite unlike white women who define 'sisterhood' through their relationship with other women.

Her whole dilemma by the way, reminds me of that Mary J Blige song 'Not Gon Cry' where she sings, 'All the time that I was loving you, you were busy loving yourself'. Its a real deep song that spells out perfectly the one way relationship black women have been having with black men.

Anyway I was taken aback at this revelation because I always believed her to be speaking from a place of conviction when defending black men. I guess I was in a way projecting on her, the ethics that I abide by, and the fact that I alway bother to give a damn and to be genuine with fellow black woman. I never present an argument that I dont believe in or one that I have deep doubts about. That to me is deceitful. But I am learning, that for many black women 'playing dutiful black woman' and 'defending black men', takes precedence over all sorts of critical things and even the truth and what they know to be right and comonsense.

One key reason why many black women are in utter confusion at this point; not knowing what to believe and what to do, is because they have made a practice of overriding internal honesty particu;arly in service of black men. Not just that, this black woman thought that this 'dishonest defence' was appropraite among her fellow women; not white people or outsiders but among black women who she should have been able to drop the mask with (once again underscoring that many black women have more loyalty towards men than women).

And then she realised that this was not a fair deal.

It reminds me of plea bargins people accept when they see they have been duped. Before then, most refuse to be moral and honest or consider the victims and those who have suffered as a result of the actions of the persons they are trying to protect!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Assumptions can imprison dont let it cage you

There are things that tend to be unquestioned, for instance, 'a mothers love'.
These are things which you are never supposed to doubt, and if you have ever been in a situation were you are actually questioning something which the whole world does not, you know how difficult it is. In fact, if there be any scars after the experience, many will likely be the scars of not being believed.

Take a child abuse case for instance; before the ever dependable, 'mothers's love' or 'parent care' was ever questioned in society (as it can easily be done today), many child abuse victims suffered turmoil as they tried to convince themselves first, that they were really experincing what they were, and then they had a job getting others to believe them.

I was in a situation years ago where I had to let go of a generally held assumption; a 'given', so as to hold onto my sanity.

I had just started a new job with a person I believed was very capable because she had the 'qualifications', and the public endorsement and essentially, she was in a managment position. I spent months going absolutely out of my mind and utterly confused about how the job was going, blaming myself and 'trouble shooting' myself. Finally I had to admit what I had kept suppressed because it just didnt fit in with the most basic, everyday assumption I had and I am sure most people have, that anyone in a managerial position is capable.

When I finally gave in to my instinct's reading and inner assesment of the situation (rather than an assumption based on general belief), that this was not the case with my manager, it was such a relief, a weight off my shoulders. I was able to initiate a plan of action that kept me from being dismissed for no fault of mine (because that is often what it gets round to in such situations). I was also able to filter her instructions through the helpful notion that, 'she might possibly not know what she was doing etc' this enabled me to double check things etc and with this helpful response in place, I was able to avoid disaster on a couple of cases were she had actually misdirected me.

I know many of you reading this have had reason to reassess their base line assumptions, distrust the usual protocol or set aside a belief and it paid off. Maybe it was that your freind wasnt really a friend, or your doctor wasnt giving you the best advice. Imagine if you had chosen to instead go with the general and thus easy assumption of 'a freind is a freind', or 'the doctor knows best' despite your niggling doubt. A friend of mine hassled her doctor repeatedly over a lump in her breast. A repeat biopsy proved she was right to have insisted!

But trusting your instinct even if it is sending a clear message can be frightening, particularly if you are up against the prevailing doctrine.

The very first time black women are confronted with the notion that they might do well to not hold complete and utter trust in any assumption that 'a black man will come for them', 'always treat them right', 'value them as black women', 'marry them' etc etc in fact do any of the things that black men are suppose to do because they are automatically working within the premises of black brotherhood, many have an immediate resistance, partly because these assumptions are gleaned from the sacred belief in 'black overcoming', that many of us are desperate to cleave to and around which many have built part of their identity.

However if there is lingering doubt, and unresolved tension and you dont have peace in what you have been told to believe there is a reason for it. What is your inner assesment telling you about the accepted assumptions?

More Interracial Blogger's Key Assumptions

About the popular analytical Frameworks
Interracial Bloggers work extends beyond simply pointing black women to broader choices. We are involved in helping black women better understand their social situation to become fully empowered in all areas of life.

We recognise that current frameworks and popular models for conceptualising social oppression and the general analysis on oppression be it race or gender, even the current discussions on same, have never served or been crafted to serve the black female situation either by design or default. Since these frameworks and tools used to offer an understanding of society do not serve black womens liberation needs, black women must make concerted efforts to construct and draw up an analysis for themselves and one that serves their situation and the purpose of their total empowernment. They must construct robust models that highlight comprehensively what the issues are for them and their social and situational realities and thus arrive at appropraite and effective solutions for the problems that they face.

Black women can only construct their own analysis by freeing themselves to engage in broad and ranging discussions and conversations about their experinces so as to join the dots on their situation, discover patterns and trends and ultimately come up with the full picture. This is the key reason why we as Interracial Bloggers do not make a habit of gagging black women and preventing them from speaking freely. We are willing to look beyond the few intemperate words or language, to the deeper meaning trying to emerge. We do not get stuck on the fact that black women have not laid out their arguments using the acceptable practice or approved guidelines or used a few less than choice words to state their case.

Black women must not yield to self-censorship, or force themselves to fit in with the dictates of established and accepted discourses, orthodoxies or methodolgies, which obscure how things really stand for black women. They must teach themselves to not care whose ox is gored as they enagage in an analysis of their situation, and shake off the need to manouver their conversations to 'protect' sacred cows or to avoid labels by those who use this tactic to silence and shut down black women's attempts at full empowernment.

We realise that it is for each group to try to shape the general analysis in a way to give themselves leeways, privileges and concessions or to corner some rescources or rescource accruing terminology, and to try to embed this as the acceptable discourse. However it is not for black women to subscribe to any such analysis which results in a deficit for themselves neither should they accept any 'understanding' that does not fully apprehend the black female situation, in the name of acquiesing or being agreeable in order to prevent manipulative labelling.

It is for others to claim not to understand, or see the legitimacy of the black female complaints and claims, it is not for black women to second guess themselves and their everyday experiences because of these calculated attempts to shut them up or down. If other interest groups can make a case based on their experinces and daily observations than black women should not feel they have to bring out the ruler and calipers to provide 'hard stats', about things they see, and know in their daily experinces, to prove they have a legitimate case.

In short, black women must not be afraid of challenging mainstream tools and analysis and of broadening same to make them robust and responsive and if need be do away with them altogether.

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