It is time for some honest talk about gender politics in Black America.
With the rise of “Trumpism,” our community needs all hands on deck to engage in the struggle. All available human resources are needed, requiring that we not push women to the background in order to maintain male dominance as the preferred social order.
Very few Black men can truthfully deny that they have witnessed and participated in a culture and a social order that normalizes male privilege in a way that devalues women. This social order is called “patriarchy,” where it is believed that men should run the world.
Not every Black man in America supports patriarchy. But unfortunately, too many of us do. The truth of the matter is that we can no longer afford to subscribe to the notion that leadership in the Black community has to be gender based.
The need to develop a gender-neutral leadership structure in the Black community can be illustrated by a few pointed examples.
The headmistress of a boarding school I attended years ago often reminded students that while Frederick Douglass only carried himself to freedom when he fled from bondage, Harriet Tubman led more than 300 men, women and children out of slavery and led the Combahee River Raid during the Civil War that freed another 750 more. This was not to negate the great abolitionist work that Douglass did, but rather to affirm the work of Tubman that was as great or greater.
Add to Harriet Tubman’s name a list of women like Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Madam C. J. Walker, Maggie L. Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisholm and Kamala Harris, just to name a very few, and it becomes abundantly clear that there have always been extraordinary leaders among the women in the Black community.
Let’s not forget Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, the founders of the Black Lives Movement. Given this rich history of Black female leadership, it defies reason that some Black men still hold to the notion that leadership is the domain of men.
Thinking back to the March on Washington in the summer of 1963, it boggles the mind to think that male leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were opposed to having women speak to the many thousands of Americans who had gathered in the nation’s capital to demand equality for all.
That march was for jobs and freedom. But where was the concern for equal pay and employment opportunities for Black women in the politics of those men who organized and led that march?
The decisions of the Black male organizers of the March on Washington silently signaled that Black women could stand behind their men but not beside them.
Recently, the African American Policy Forum (a think tank to dismantle inequality) called for a gathering of men to discuss the importance of Black feminism in sustaining the Black community and the necessity for Black men to become Black feminists. This gathering was a first step forward to address many of the obstacles facing Black America. We need more organizations to follow their example.
We can no longer afford to have Black women’s hands tied behind their backs by patriarchy in the Black community. Black women should not have to fight Black male patriarchy as they rally to the barricades against racism.
And Black women should not have to fight alone against sexism.
Oscar H. Blayton welcomes readers’ responses to OBlayton1@gmail.com.