In Defense of Black Women and Womanism

Alice Walker (Core Magazine)

I’m tired of being blamed for everything. Really. I’m tired of black women being blamed for every single problem in the black community. WE let the welfare break up our families in the 70s, WE used crack in the 80s and made crack babies, WE took all our clothes off in the 90s and created “video hoes,” WE hate on black men with white wives and WE ruin their lives and their careers. WE cry for help when our sisters and brothers are being murdered in the streets, and the response is shut your man-hating ass up.

WE are sick of this shit.

The attack on black womanhood is exhausting and unrelenting. It has no off days, no safe spaces, it happens at any given time, anywhere. It’s on social media, it’s in the club, it’s while we walk down the street. And it’s damn sure in the office with these white folks we work with who can’t seem to keep their fucking fingers out of our hair.

A few days ago, Special Cloth published “Birth of a Nation’s Box Office Flop and the Unrepentant Pettiness of Black Feminists.”

In this trite, ill-conceived, poorly written piece, this young black woman decided to cash in all her chips on the premise that black feminists and black feminists alone are to blame for the relatively disappointing ticket sales of Birth of a Nation (7.1 Million opening weekend.)

She posits that:

1) Black women “found out” that Nate Parker has a white wife and then we, the “Black Feminist Cyber Mafia,” decided to destroy him.

This suggests that we honestly give a fuck. We really don’t. We aren’t really that surprised when successful black men have white wives. Omari Hardwick’s wife is white, black women STILL watching Power. (I’m not, but that’s because I think it’s wack.) A few Twitter mentions, screenshots, and an article on Bossip does not hatred make.

2) We decided to write about his sexual assault case in the MANY, many mainstream publications that we write for: “The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, and TIME.” (“This is what bored black women on the internet who don’t like you do by the way.”)

Variety “broke” the story, which had been on Parker’s Wikipedia page for years. His low-profile kept it from being an issue.

3) We wrote negative reviews for the film.

There were a number of critical reviews about the film which was full of plot holes and problematic editing, but very few of them were written by black women. Prior to the allegations surfacing, and Parker’s unrepentant demeanor, most black women including myself were excited about the film.

4) “And to black women… We are petty, we are insecure, we are destructive, we have more social and political power than our male counterparts than we’d like to acknowledge and we need to use it better.”

Bihhhh, if you don’t shut the entire fuck up.

I wasn’t going to respond, but the piece was so awful and then was being shared all over my Facebook timeline with men putting clapping hands emoji’s like, “Finally! Finally, one of y’all told the truth! #WellWritten.” One of my heroes, the gawd Kris Ex said that he wasn’t responding to it because it wasn’t his fight. It was a case where a chick needed to be checked but only another chick could do it.

I’m that chick. I’m the chin-checking chick.

Sis, I don’t know what motivated you to write this mess. I really don’t. I can only assume it was your desire to get your PayPal popping, and I hope for your sake that it popped, because you have effectively shot yourself in the foot. There is not one decent writer that I know who respected what you wrote, it was ridiculous and an insult to not just black feminists, but black women in general and you should be ashamed of yourself. I can only assume that you don’t know what feminism or womanism is, so here comes the lesson.

What you call “Black Feminism” we define as Womanism which is “a social change perspective based upon the everyday problems and experiences of black women and other women of minority demographics, but more broadly seeks methods to eradicate inequalities not just for black women, but for all people.” The Womanist Reader-Layli Phillips, 2006

Womanists are concerned with the needs and problems of black women first, but also all people. The term, “womanist,” was coined by Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple, which was womanist af.) It allows for black women to be feminists while still recognizing and distinguishing themselves and their issues as separate and distinct from those of white women. Whereas feminism is seeking the full inclusion of women in the participation of the full range of human activity, like politics, education, and work, womanism hits a little closer to home.

Womanism is associated with the tradition of activism that is inherent to the black community. It is formed and defined by our conditions and values as one people. It recognizes that while the goal of mainstream feminism is to end subjugation of women by men, there are things that are even more important than that. We are focused on the health, safety, knowledge, spirituality, love, and growth of black women first and then everyone else. In the same way one should put on their oxygen mask first on a plane, then help others.

Womanism is no threat to black men.

In fact, we love black men. We have fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, lovers. We love black men so much WE started an entire movement to save their lives #BlackLivesMatter.

We even love Nate Parker. The fact is that black women are not to blame for the *air quotes* failure of Birth of a Nation. Gabrielle stood in solidarity with it and so did Aunjanue, eloquently, validly, and beautifully.

Britni Danielle gave him room to speak in Ebony, which he did eloquently. Then he went on television for his promo run and bombed all of his interviews appearing defensive and angry, when people wanted contrition and empathy for the victim. That was where the turnoff happened. Black women are not to blame for that. Nate Parker is to blame for that.

And yes, there were many, MANY deep pieces about Nate written by black women who felt that they could no longer support the film after the allegations surfaced. Roxane Gay decided that she (and many others) could not “separate the art from the artist.” And that’s okay. That is our right. It is our right to not support something that triggers us, is painful, or just plain turns us off.

The idea that black women HAVE to support each and every black man, despite his flaws, his problems, his treatment of us and others is preposterous and sad.

Your piece was so demeaning, Sis, that I am scared for you. I wonder what’s going on with you. Are you good? Everything ok? Because you had so much hatred for a group of women that you labeled and judged and then put all that hatred in the atmosphere to spread like gospel.

Because unification is a key tenet of womanism, I’m gonna tell you that despite the fact that I wanna run up on you in them ATL skreets, I forgive you for your sins. You have been brainwashed to feel this way about womanism and about yourself. All of the vitriol you spewed about us is really only your own internalized pain.

Beloved Alice Walker describes a womanist as: “A woman who loves another woman, sexually and/ or non-sexually. She appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility…[she] is committed to the survival and wholeness of an entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically for health… loves the spirit…. loves struggle. Loves herself. Regardless.” In Search of our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose. Alice Walker, 1983. p.xii.

That is who we are. These women you describe as a “black feminist mafia.” We are peace loving. All we want is to love ourselves. We don’t see any separation between us and you, between us and black men. We only see wholeness.

So in case no one has told you lately, I love you. We all do. We, the women you called inherently petty, we love you, girl. Because that’s what we do.

And to all the black men who felt the need to share the piece, who constantly comment negatively on every self-loving Facebook post that I write (subsequently getting blocked), who refuse to see or hear that being black and male comes with privileges that being black and female doesn’t, I only hope for you. I hope for your daughters. I worry for them. We are crying out in hurt and pain about the suffering and the weight of the burden that we are carrying and you keep shutting us down and just adding more to it.

You refuse to see that we live under a different set of rules than you. We have to be on guard constantly because at any time, we could be victimized. We get murdered by our lovers and then we get the blame.

There is a civil rights movement that we are all fighting for protection against law enforcement officers many of whom seek to brutalize and incarcerate us. We are all fighting the prison industrial complex that seeks to lock us up too, and when they lock you up, we suffer as well. We are deprived of you. We need you, and yet, sometimes we fear you. Sometimes we are fucking sick of you. That’s a fact, but it doesn’t change our love.

Daniel Johnson wrote: “You are not Pro-Black if You are not Pro-Black Women,” and beautifully ended with “being pro-black means being pro-black everybody.” A concept that seems easy enough to accept, yet check the mentions and the comments most of those by men start with, “But…”

Black women are being made the scapegoats for the fact that Birth of a Nation underwhelmed, which Very Smart Brothas eloquently ethered Roland Martin for. We don’t deserve the blame, we aren’t to blame, but here we are again.

It’s really exhausting. It is standing in a storm and screaming for help. It is a daily battle that is so challenging and exhausting to fight just to be loved. Yet, we will continue to do so.

I am a “black feminist” a Womanist. I am not petty. I am not a man-hater. I am not to blame. And, I am not here for your bullshit.