Monday, April 24, 2006

Wake up Call...

Peace and Blessings,

During the last few weeks or so, the rape allegations involving the Duke Lacrosse players and the stripper have permeated various news mediums. The other day, however, the situation was brought to my attention in a way that views this case within the context of a much larger, but often neglected issue. A good friend of mine sent me the following article (peep the links section) that addresses the ways in which the beliefs and themes around this case reflect larger stereotypes about African American women. After looking at the various headlines about the lacrosse players' lawyers seeking information to weaken the woman's credibility, it confirmed the sentiments expressed by the African American women in the article, mainly that black women are intrinsically sexual deviants, and thus cannot be rape victims. Although there are exceptions, no one would disagree with the assertion that this stereotype about black women constitutes the prevailing notion of black women throughout history as well as contemporary discourse.

The purpose of this piece is not to offer my hypothesis on what actually happened with the lacrosse players. Instead, I would like to call our attention to this form of ideological oppression that has been plaguing black women for centuries. Oppressive systems have a way of only presenting one side of an ideological coin, the side that perpetuates inequality and notions of moral and intellectual inferiority. If we are to inquire about the root cause(s) of the current belief that black women are sexually superior and aggressive, we must go back to the 19th century and look at Europeans' exploitation of
  • Saartjie Baartman
  • , an African woman from the Khoikhoi people in what is now the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Europeans took her and at least one other Khoisian woman all throughout England and exploited them as an attraction under the name Hottentot Venus. They were viewed and treated as an attraction because of what Europeans considered unnatural bodily features, arguing that these features are proof that black women were abnormal, sexual creatures. Although not as explicit as Hottentot Venus, black women today are still viewed more so as victimizers than victims when it comes to sexual crimes.

    While this image of black women was being shaped a couple of centuries ago, another image of black women existed in the United States. I'm sure everyone is aware of the belief that suggests that all black women as sexual deviants, yet what they may not be aware of is that also in the 19th century
  • Maria Stewart
  • , the first American-born woman of any race to speak out on political themes, gained national prominence. She spoke out heavily against the immorality of slavery, espousing beliefs and moral principles stemming from her Christian Faith. I find it ironic that the first woman in American history to exercise her voice on political issues was a black woman, who's mission, which she firmly believed reflected God's calling for her life, was to denounce the immorality of and liberate black people from the same inferiority ideology and exploitation that Europeans used to try to denigrate African women. This image of black women as beacons of strength, epitomizers of faith, and advocates of all things moral is the proper image of black women that we should all come to know, love and cherish. I argue that this is the rightful image because unlike the sexual deviant image that is based on beliefs, stereotypes, and interpretations, the image of black women as moral agents of strength and faith is based on and evidenced by fact. Whether it was utilizing their "superwoman" characteristics to provide for their children during slavery, or providing the backbone for many churches, especially those instrumental in creating social change throughout history, black women have and consistently continue to overcome obstacles. Further, this is the rightful image because it is consistent with the image that I believe God wants all of us to represent and uphold.

    In closing, I wanted to address the issue of "Where do we go from here?" Before we proceed with this question, we must make an important distinction. Although it is easy to point the finger at the media and the entertainment industry as being primarily responsible for the maintenance of this sexual-deviant stereotype, there is more to the situation that meets the eye. There are three aspects that contribute to the prevalence of negative images about black women. One aspect involves women who carry themselves one way, but are portrayed and perceived another way. A common example is assertive and independent black women who are often viewed as having an attitude, aggressive or confrontational. The second aspect involves women who are in certain occupations that have negative connotations, but only hold these occupations because it is the only way they can "keep their heads above water" in a society where they are oppressed on two levels (e.g. as a black person and as a woman). A common example here are the women who are strippers only so they can pay their way through college or provide for their child. The third aspect is one that I don't think gets addressed often, and it involves women who, regardless of the reason, operate with the mentality that deems engaging in behavior and in occupations that are objectifying as permissible. A common example are women who are in "highly-sexualized" music videos, artists and video girls alike. The point of identifying these aspects is not to pass judgment or to point the blame, but to hopefully shed light on the extent to which stereotypes about black women, which were socially and ideologically constructed a couple of centuries ago, still affect us today.

    Even though this piece focuses primarily on women, when I say "us" I am referring to black men as well. I am in no way suggesting that the sexual-deviant stereotype is a black woman problem, because it affects and sadly to say, is often perpetuated by we as black men as well. As a black man, I implore that we take more responsibility for and thus more of a leadership role in respecting and maintaining the God-appointed image of black women, who are simultaneously His children and our queens.

    What do you think? Stay blessed and speekonit...

    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    God is good!

    Peace and Blessings,

    I know my updates have been sparse as of late, but blame the mind not the heart. Been on my academic grind lately plus traveling. Anyway, I'm back like I left something, and I wanted to direct your attention to the two newest additions to the "archives" section. With all of the negative press currently in the media, especially as it relates to people of color, it' s good to hear of stories where God is obviously present. Yesterday I came across the article about the young girl who testified against the person who shot her. The image of her on had her crying, and initially I didn't want to click the link. My spirit has recently been grieved with all of the "bad" news I've been exposed to lately, and I felt like I couldn't take reading another article about a young child suffering. However, the "her words might surprise you" part of the link caused me to click on it to read about what happened. Apparent this beautiful young girl was hit by a bullet fired during a shootout when she was 3 years old, and is now paralyzed for life. Now five years old, she confronted the shooter in court and after telling him that what he did to her was horrible, she broke out in tears before replying with "but I still forgive you." I was blown away that a five year old who was the victim of a terrible crime and is paralyzed for life can do something that we as adults fail to do all the time. The power of forgiveness is not just manifested in the way in which the "forgiver" can now move on with their life. Forgiveness is also and more importantly a transformative act that changes the way in which the perpetrator, regardless of the offense, views the moral implications of their actions. The bible's emphasis on forgiveness (e.g. many of Jesus' healings were in the form of forgiving people of their sins) reflects one of the many ways that things work out for good for those who believe. In particular, God's love and transformative power can be revealed even during times when our choices have detrimental affects on others. I believe that being confronted by his victim and then forgiven by her, especially seeing the severity of the bullet's impact and the fact that she is only five, resulted in some sort of "transformation" for the perpretrator.
    The other article I wanted to speak on briefly was the one about the father finding his daughter after 13 years. There are not really any implications I can draw out of this situation as with the one mentioned above, therefore I can do is thank God and give Him the glory. There is no doubt in my mind that people were constantly praying for him and his family and that he be reunited with his daughter. With all that is going on, it;s a blessing to come across stories like these where the only explanation of the outcomes (e.g. how can a five year old who has suffered so much take the moral and spirtual high road and forgive her shooter? How can a father who has not seen or heard from his daughter in 13 years since she was deemed missing now have the opportunity to reunite with her next week?) point to the Lord Almighty. Until next time, continue to, and always, let's continue to pray for out friends, families, communities, and for situations we may not be directly tied to, because if it's one thing i've recently realized is that prayer not only works, it is revolutionary! Speekonit...