I have been home (Little Rock, Arkansas) for about a week now. I keep getting, metaphorically, slapped with genderism and sexism daily. In meetings with former mentors or with family, when introduced, the suggestions and potential job opportunities presented to me are limited to my gender. And the most frustrating part has been my conversations with black men about the “black agenda” with little or no regard for the “female agenda.” Both are equally important to me – why am I being asked to choose black > female? Does any other double- or triple- minority struggle with this challenge?
As a Black woman, it’s troubling to be boxed in such a way. Historically, during both the Civil Rights Movement and with the Black Panther Party, we’ve been asked to support the black agenda behind, mostly subordinate roles to Black men. In 2008, during the Democratic elections (Hillary Clinton vs Barack Obama), there was a lot of media and press around which candidate, the collective Black Woman, would support.
What I have found in this predominately “white boys’ culture” is that white women, and women generally, are more relatable than black men (and other men of color). Keep in mind, this is just my experience and it’s limited to my hometown. From my experience, I deduce that women are discriminated against more than blacks in professional settings (this is my focus, as I look for post-MBA job opportunities).
Other than being annoyed with these series of events, I urge black men to think more about their agendas and how they differ from that of black women. The agenda isn’t the same and a mere acknowledgement is not sufficient. It’s the equivalent of white men (and some white women) who understand that being black has disadvantages but validate their unwillingness to actually do anything to improve the situation because affirmative action is doing something, we have a “black” President now, or it’s just not their damn problem. This is the perspective that some black men have on black women.
This is not a black man bashing session. I’m willing to acknowledge that it’s a rant, but holds significant weight for double- and triple- minorities across the board. I’m sure other women of color and queer POCs also share similar sentiments in being boxed in one minority agenda over another. Open your eyes and ears to the surroundings. Look for ways to be a strong ally to other minority groups. Don’t assume that your agenda is the most important and the only agenda.
While the recent tragedies have mostly resulted in political activism, economic activism is also an option. As I reflect on the events, two main factors come to mind:
- Classism is one of the “great divide” of the Black community. In my surveys of folks, outside of the East Coast, it appears that a larger number of protesters are working-class people. When I asked middle- and upper-class black people why they are not protesting, I received responses:
- “I don’t have time for that,” or “I’m really busy.”
- “I got my own self to look after first.”
- When I followed up with, “You’d want someone to protest for you if you were shot or choked to death, for no real reason.” And I got replies:
- “I sure would.”
- “That’s different.”
I’m not an advocate of these frames, but I respect everyone’s view. I’m not a fan of this “individual” thinking because it hasn’t, doesn’t, and won’t work for the collective Black (or general, Minority) community. Looking at the history of highly marginalized groups, economic prowess was achieved through focused mediums, like buying, employing, mentoring, and managing relationships for one’s own community (not oneself). Realizing that my view is not the only one, I came up with some alternative methods for successfully empowering Minorities:
- Maximizing your abilities as change agents within your constraints (maximization within constraint(s) is called optimization in Economics). Look at this blog as an example. My strength is Finance and Economics so I’ve created this forum to share my experiences and to learn/hear from others. If you don’t have time (a constraint for many) to protest, then there’s plenty of other things you could do.
- Create forums within your communities. ‘Nough said.
- Talk to the ignorant or racist people at your jobs, clubs, etc. Be tactful, of course. I’m not suggesting you show up to your corporate job in a Dangerous Negro t-shirt on a casual Friday (although I’d give you mad respect, lol.). I am suggesting that you build relationships with folks outside of your comfort zone and over time pose these serious issues of injustices to them. Give them time to process.
- Wear a provocative t-shirt that makes a statement. Check out Dangerous Negro. Dangerous Negro has Minority stuff in general, although the targeted audience is black; other Minorities might appreciate the apparel as well (Btw, don’t fret, not everything is about being Black and White, which I plan to address in the new year. This is a Minority Journal.).
I stumbled across this photo in a book I just finished called, Borrow: The American Way of Debt by Louis Hyman. The photo, “How to money train your wife,” is from The Kiplinger Magazine (July 1952) under the “Changing Times” section. Yes, the woman is in a cage and her husband has a chair, similar to that of a lion trainer at the circus.
While I find the recent events repulsive, I look at these events as an opportunity to do something. I share thoughts similar to that of Malcolm X, particularly his arguments made in the speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, where he highlights Blacks lack of economic independence and the need for Blacks to avoid naivety around equality and what it takes, amongst other things. I urge you to take a read or listen to his speech and reflect on its unfortunate timelessness.
One additional observation: The stock market has not been affected by the turmoil. It ended in the green, which speaks to minorities, particularly Black Americans, irrelevance with regard to the market/economy. Since Black Americans came to America, they have been significant builders and contributors to the American economy with little influence/power within the American economy. Does this bother anyone else?
Copy of audio speech
Copy of written speech
In lieu of the recent events that show a lack of interest in Black bodies across America, particularly Black males, I’ve added a new photo for this month. While the photo is not the most festive for the holiday season, it is a necessary one that conveys my concern for ethnic minorities, as a collective.
Source: Bennett – Chattanooga Times Free Press