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Saturday, December 29, 2007

African American Women: Where We REALLY Stand- "Holding the Reigns of Our Lives"

Earlier this year, NBC Nightly News aired a series called "African American Women: Where They Stand". The series was touted as in depth, but it was anything but. The response was overwhelmingly disappointing. So I put out a call to WAOD readers and asked them to tell us where Black women REALLY stand. Our first entry was from Tami in a post called “The Black Women I Know”. Here is the second from Black Feminist Nationalist.

Holding the Reigns Of Our Lives

By: Black Feminist Nationalist

It's an extremely frightening time to be a Black woman in America. Many things remain uncertain about our fate. However, What About Our Daughters has been that opportunity where Black women, if only for a brief moment, can hold the reigns of their lives and steer in the right direction.

Below is the humble perspective of Black women, from a spinster niece, in the words of Twisty Faster of the late iblamethepatriarchy.com. More specifically, I am a Black Feminist Nationalist woman who is an organizer by profession who has reveled in the privilege of traveling around the country to do many things including, talking to Black women about their rights, and also discovering some things about what's on my own agenda as a 23-year old Black woman in America.

Rape & Violence against Black Women

How can one really describe the paralysis that is living and resisting against the rape culture that is so salient in everyday life? As a Black woman, I not only have the fear of being raped but the ultimate fear that I will not receive justice because of the many reminders in American culture of how truly insignificant I really am. Then there are the other caveats, the fact that 90 percent of rapes in this country are intraracial and that on top of all that you will have the hair salon pundits and your own folk asking questions: What time was it? What were you wearing? Have you ever slept with him? These inquiries somehow attempt to assert that any kind of violence against a black woman in any form is justifiable. I feel especially persecuted not solely by the fear of being raped but the signifiers of a rape culture that normalizes street harassment, distribute fliers that don half-naked women advertising parties and turns physical disputes between grown-ass men and women half their size into merely "fights." Worse, are the attempts to address this problem. When will we rise above the streetlights, county-sheriff safety lectures, and victim blaming and begin the high decibeled critique on the commitment some men have to authenticating their hypermasculinity at all costs. I would like to be a part of a revolution that deconstructs attitudes on violence that are cultivated and exported in media outlets in our country and stops it once and for all.

Child Sexual Abuse

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse and I seldom talk about it. But when I have talked about it, the testimonies poor in. This year is the first year since it ended when I was about 14, that I started to embark upon healing. And it is in this process I have learned what great potential the terrorism that is child sexual abuse has to significantly distort the already unstable self image that black women have today. From sex work, to video modeling, to the inability to distinguish healthy relationships from unhealthy ones, I believe that this is the missed mark for several of the problems that Black women are facing today.

The Lack of Co-parenting and Rebuilding Black Families

There's a personal responsibility piece in here that I haven't quite developed a stance on. If more women would "turn in" the men who sire their children, the 70 percent that accounts for the homes in Black America that are being raised by one person wouldn't be such a defeating number. Because then, at least we could say that many of our children are provided for financially. However, when we think of how relentlessly black women in this country are charged with neglect for evading their maternal responsibilities, I can't help but be filled with anger that virtually few men are ever being held accountable for opting out of fatherhood even if they financially contribute. I feel strongly that child support that is legally mandated in this country should not be simply a monetary obligation. It should encompass the full range of support children in America need from both parents. I would happily volunteer for a non-profit that works to cultivate co-parenting situations in Black America by re-connecting children with long lost fathers and training them, and mothers, about parenting, conflict resolution and how a partnership that isn't marriage can still be a fruitful arrangement that benefits children that are a result from a union had once upon a time.

Comprehensive Sexual Education with a Gender and Race Component

As a Black girl in America there were abstract things surrounding sexual situations that I desperately needed to know about as a teenager. Growing up in the hip-hop generation, I needed a cultural interpreter to explain what the truths were of the sexual imagery of black women in my daily media diet.

I needed to know how to respond to sexual advances from grown men and how to reconcile my response with a sense of bodily integrity. I needed a lesson in negotiation. How do I respond to the boyfriends who want to have sex without a condom because they "loved" me? And once I learned these things, I needed to know how to educate without alienating my partners on the myths of gender roles that determined so much about engaging in heterosexual sexual interaction.

Comprehensive sexual education with a gender component is the on-the-ground relevant information in addition to the birds and the bees clap. Yes, the contraception, STI-scared-straight method is useful, but sexuality in our day and age is about negotiation. And to omit that would be a disservice. The multi-layered sexual state of Black women requires a multi-tactical approach. There is the sexual abuse, assault, rape prevention piece. There is the information piece from a biological standpoint about anatomically correct language regarding the business of penises and vaginas (for the heterosexual). Then there is the ethics, mores piece. Then there is the lesson on negotiation to actually implement a value system in a way that is practical for modern interaction. And lastly there are long term values about sexuality and autonomy, lessons on the Reproductive Justice of Black Women. This is something Dorothy Roberts documented in 1997 in Killing the Black Body, a non-fiction narrative that needs to be required reading for Black girls everywhere.

Bottom line: if Black women don't start teaching Black girls about our sexual systems, we will continue to learn about something so important from the white male heterosexual fantasy that dominates all of the images around sexuality that inundate our daily lives.

Finance Management

Last, I think finance management is critical to survival. Having attended college on a full scholarship awarded to me by my parents, I am still reeling from credit card debt that has shot to hell any chance I have in the near future of owning, renting or leasing anything unless I have a co-signer. While I have recuperated some, I still have a long way to go. Much must be learned about the capital that reports say Black women are gaining so much of.