It’s Saturday Morning. It’s International Women’s Day. And I have a rant. A rant that I need to share in this community of like-minded folks. A rant so that I don’t lose my shit with some educated Black men, who need to be hemmed up by the cufflinks.
On Thursday, in my weekly column at Salon, I wrote about the President’s new My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, and what it means for Black and Brown women and girls, who have yet again been decentered from the national conversation on race and class disparities.
Now if you follow my work at Salon, you’ll know that I have spent an inordinate and disproportionate amount of time there writing about the violent racism that has largely been targeted to Black men like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Johnathan Ferrell. I don’t always share the pieces at CFC because for many months I have felt like I haven’t been pulling my feminist weight, because so much bad shit has been happening to our boys.
But this week, I talked about Black and Brown women and girls. Read the piece here. Here is a pertinent excerpt:
I am ambivalent about My Brother’s Keeper. Yes, by almost every social measure, African-American men, and boys in particular, fall behind at alarming rates. They are suspended from school the most, incarcerated the most, have the highest rates of unemployment, commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime, and have some of the lowest high school and college graduation rates. Frequently their encounters with law enforcement and white male authority figures end with black men dead.
These are alarming times. Times that would make Ida B. Wells weep. Over these many months, as I have watched the failure to convict both Trayvon Martin’s and Jordan Davis’ killers, I have worried. Worried because I know that when African-American boys are being killed with impunity by white people this triggers every kind of deeply held race trauma that African-Americans have. We circle the wagons. We fight fiercely to protect our beloved boys. We demand their right to grow into men. And we should.
The thing is: This “we” is mostly African-American women – doing the fighting, the organizing, the praying, the rearing, the fussing, the protecting, the loving. And the losing. Black women have been their brothers’ biggest and best keepers.
But when black men occupy space at the center of the discourse, black women lose critical ground. I wish these struggles did not feel like zero sum struggles. I wish that black men — Barack Obama included — had the kind of social analysis that saw our struggles as deeply intertwined.
According to the African American Policy Forum, black girls are suspended at a higher rate than all other girls and white and Latino boys. Sixty-seven percent of black girls reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness for more than two weeks straight compared to 31 percent of white girls and 40 percent of Latinas. Single black women have the lowest net wealth of any group, with research showing a median wealth of $100. Single black men by contrast have an average net wealth of $7,900 and single white women have an average net wealth of $41,500. Fifty-five percent of black women (and black men) have never been married, compared to 34 percent for white women.
This situation is dire at every level. But perhaps the most troubling thing of all: The report indicates that while over 100 million philanthropic dollars have been spent in the last decade creating mentoring and educational initiatives for black and brown boys, less than a million dollars has been given to the study of black and brown girls!
And then a colleague, a guy I know only through other people, wrote this rant against my piece, and tagged me into an asinine FB discussion about it.
I shared a few responses with Joshua on FB. And I’ll say them in short here:
1.) If you have a problem with my *tone*, you should check this piece on the fallacy of tone argument. Although given that the tone of this piece I’m writing right now is far more strident than what I wrote at Salon, I’m sure you’ll be even more aggrieved. Oh well.
2.) We know the “program isn’t designed for Black women. Period. Point Blank.” The problem is when it comes to us, the blank is always left Blank. And check it. We don’t want your program. Mychal Denzel Smith did a great job in this piece of outlining all that’s wrong with it anyway. But can we have a real conversation about ameliorating the social plight of all Black and Brown people, Black and Brown women included? That’s all I’m asking.
3.) Advocating for the inclusion of Black women is not the same as advocating for the replacement of Black men. Learn how to read and understand arguments. One of these is not like the other.
But here is the thing I want to get to. The reason I’m so mad. As this conversation progressed on social media, the various Ph.D. having brothers who came to back up Joshua’s point, all felt the need to talk about the 100 to 1 funding disparity of programs aimed at Black men and boys versus Black women and girls.
These brothers all argued that $100 million is itself a paltry amount of funding. Conceded. The idea that only $10 million dollars on average per year has been spent on Black and Brown boys over the last 10 years is deeply appalling and disturbing. I said so during our exchange. But if we agree that it is a paltry sum, then should we not also be outraged at the mere $100,000 a year spent on Black girls? NOPE. No outrage. These brothers can manage to muster no outrage for us, because enough is not being done for them.
And that folks is why these debates are so disingenuous. These brothers when presented with hard evidence of disparity have no qualms about looking at the evidence and still making it about how they deserve more. I mean they won’t even concede that we deserve more of other people’s money. You can’t even be charitable with other people’s money?!!!
This is the thing: if we are all sick from the ills wrought by racism, patriarchy, capitalism, etc, then the fact that in some instances your illnesses are more severe (and only in some instances), does not mean our illnesses should be left untreated.
If this logic doesn’t give you a clue about how the masses of brothers, excepting a few feminist and egalitarian minded ones, would actually divide and share material resources if they were in control of them, I don’t know what other evidence you need. I mean they are literally saying that they do not care AT ALL what happens to black women, not if they perceive that Black women’s needs might in some way demand a redistribution of their own resources. Black women are the poorest demographic in this country not just because of broad and severe systemic challenges, but also because we have no problem redistributing our meager resources to make sure our brothers are eating, riding, laying their heads somewhere and looking halfway decent while doing it.
This conversation reminds me in an odd way of Derrick Bell’s story Space Traders. In the race version, white folks are given everything they need to save themselves from failing Planet Earth as long as they are willing to leave Black people behind to the space traders. We all know how that scenario ends.
I think if we did a gendered version and told Black men that they could have all the wealth and power of white men to rule the world as long as they were willing to leave sisters behind, they’d jump at it. Would barely give it a second thought. Might broker a deal to save their mama, grandmama, and other female family members. But even if they couldn’t do that, they’d march off into that good night with empty promises to return for us. Black men may not be patriarchs, but an alarmingly large lot of them damn sure want to be.
Two weeks ago, I received death threats and all manner of troll behavior on twitter, because I wrote a piece being outraged over the failure to convict Michael Dunn of Jordan Davis’ murder. Two weeks ago, a few terrible white folks communicated in every which way they could that Black folks lives don’t matter, that my life didn’t matter. This week, a few brothers with jacked up thinking have communicated the same–Black women’s lives do.not.fucking.matter.
So I’m so discouraged. Discouraged that these brothers (several of whom in the thread I was in have Ph.D.s, and so have high levels of training to evaluate sociological evidence) could be so disingenuous, so uncaring, so patriarchal-minded, all while claiming that the problem is not with their sexism but with my argumentation. As if. A lot of times folks say that the problems between Black men and women have to do with our failure to talk *to each other.* I actually hate stances like that. We are not all *equally* to blame. Black men — brothers– owe us more than this.
However, much sisters might get mad and go on a Nicki Minaj style “Lookin Ass N…” rant, when push comes to shove, we’ll give y’all our last, fight in the streets for you, catch a case for you and lay down and die for you.
Meanwhile, it will never occur to you on something as basic as that when you are receiving 100% more resources than we are to even advocate that we get more attention, even as you advocate for yourselves. And even as we advocate for you. And to flip the script on the old logic, if this is how our men think (about us), then Black America got a hard damn row to hoe.
Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles by Seyi Adebanjo
A powerful and intensely moving document of a community vigil for Islan Nettles a murdered transgender Womyn of Color, concerning her life & community response..
Official Selection of the 28th BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival
Part of Lives and Loves- shorts
BFI South bank.
South Bank, London SE1 8XT
March 26th, 2014 6:10 PM
Tickets Sold Out!
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!!!
"Today, on this International Women’s Day, I celebrate and bow to the women writers who dared to be seen, who dared to be heard, who dared to define their lives for themselves. Without you, I would not and could not exist as a young woman of color writer, adding my voice to the collective chorus singing the experience of marginalized womanhood. I am deeply humbled to be a part of this legacy.” —from my new essay celebrating Womens History Month through the words and works of women of color writers
A couple of pages from my favorite children’s book “A is for activist”
my kid will have jordans and this book.
Buying this for my soon-to-be niece as soon as possible.
For the first time in our history, African-American women have surpassed all groups in college entrance based upon race and gender. That’s right. African American women enroll in college (9.7%) more than Asian men (8.4%), white women (7.1%) - you name the group, either race or gender, African American women are number one.
Break the string of lies and end the misogynoir (racialized antiblack misogyny). Shine bright!
(h/t For Harriet)
100 things that you did not know about Africa - Nos.51- 75
51. The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totaling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.”
52. Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him … Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”
53. Winwood Reade described his visit to the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a thoroughfare … But the part of the palace fronting the street was a stone house, Moorish in its style … with a flat roof and a parapet, and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street. Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.”
54. In the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the Yoruba weavers as by any people … in durability, their cloths far excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”
55. The recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.
56. On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished. Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta, cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more valuable than the Italian.”
57. On Kongolese metallurgy of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no doubting … the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo … The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead poisoning.”
58. In Nigeria, the royal palace in the city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902, described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside … in itself no mean citadel”.
59. A sixteenth century traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.
60. One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.
61. Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis, according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective of town planning.
62. The Nigerian city of Surame flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a little north of the eastern gate … The main city walls here appear to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”
63. The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.
64. In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.
65. By the third century BC the city of Carthage on the coast of Tunisia was opulent and impressive. It had a population of 700,000 and may even have approached a million. Lining both sides of three streets were rows of tall houses six storeys high.
66. The Ethiopian city of Axum has a series of 7 giant obelisks that date from perhaps 300 BC to 300 AD. They have details carved into them that represent windows and doorways of several storeys. The largest obelisk, now fallen, is in fact “the largest monolith ever made anywhere in the world”. It is 108 feet long, weighs a staggering 500 tons, and represents a thirteen-storey building.
67. Ethiopia minted its own coins over 1,500 years ago. One scholar wrote that: “Almost no other contemporary state anywhere in the world could issue in gold, a statement of sovereignty achieved only by Rome, Persia, and the Kushan kingdom in northern India at the time.”
68. The Ethiopian script of the 4th century AD influenced the writing script of Armenia. A Russian historian noted that: “Soon after its creation, the Ethiopic vocalised script began to influence the scripts of Armenia and Georgia. D. A. Olderogge suggested that Mesrop Mashtotz used the vocalised Ethiopic script when he invented the Armenian alphabet.”
69. “In the first half of the first millennium CE,” says a modern scholar, Ethiopia “was ranked as one of the world’s greatest empires”. A Persian cleric of the third century AD identified it as the third most important state in the world after Persia and Rome.
70. Ethiopia has 11 underground mediaeval churches built by being carved out of the ground. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, Roha became the new capital of the Ethiopians. Conceived as a New Jerusalem by its founder, Emperor Lalibela (c.1150-1230), it contains 11 churches, all carved out of the rock of the mountains by hammer and chisel. All of the temples were carved to a depth of 11 metres or so below ground level. The largest is the House of the Redeemer, a staggering 33.7 metres long, 23.7 metres wide and 11.5 metres deep.
71. Lalibela is not the only place in Ethiopia to have such wonders. A cotemporary archaeologist reports research that was conducted in the region in the early 1970’s when: “startling numbers of churches built in caves or partially or completely cut from the living rock were revealed not only in Tigre and Lalibela but as far south as Addis Ababa. Soon at least 1,500 were known. At least as many more probably await revelation.”
72. In 1209 AD Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia sent an embassy to Cairo bringing the sultan unusual gifts including an elephant, a hyena, a zebra, and a giraffe.
73. In Southern Africa, there are at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies court”.
74. The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in size to that of London of the same period.
75. Bling culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption: “Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”
By Robin Walker
Robin Walkers book When we ruled is one of the best books Africans and African Diaspora can use firstly as a introduction to African history and secondly a good source to become proficient with precolonial African history.
Concept art for Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid by Chad Weatherford