Thursday, May 26, 2005
Black Women Matter, Too
I don't value others on the basis of their "masculinity" or "femininity". But I'm not blind to the fact that most people do view others (and themselves) in this way. So I'll try to tackle this issue from that angle.
Racism does indeed emasculate men -- and it also defeminizes women. At least racism against black American women seems to work that way. For most people, being feminine is about being beautiful and/or sexy. And black women are often portrayed in an asexual way. Even with the Halle Berry and Beyonce explosions (who of course must still meet a strict standard), many people reserve the "feminine" label for women who aren't black. I don't desire to be feminine, but I can see why other women do. It certainly takes a toll on your self-esteem if you're seen as otherwise. And yeah, I see it from a skinny white woman's perspective -- someone who is automatically assumed to be feminine.
I live in Iowa, a state that is about 94% white. While we obviously don't have a lot of black people here, we do have racism. This became more apparent to me when I worked a blue-collar factory job. Some white folks were openly racist; they didn't try to hide it. Then there were the white women who only dated black men. I have no problem with that. But what I do have a problem with is that, while those white women were always quick to defend black men against racism, they hated black women. That is a generalization, of course. But in my workplace, it was painfully true. And what's worse is that those white women really didn't think they were racist. In fact, they thought they were so enlightened.
It seems logical enough that, if you see women as second-class citizens, then racism against black women doesn't matter. It's just the emasculinization of men that counts. I'm sure that's not what the commenter on Adam's blog meant, but it is what some so-called liberal white people think.
The way this admittedly sheltered and sometimes ignorant white person sees racism, is that it's a human rights violation. It takes away your own self, your personhood, your individuality, your dignity. And that affects both women and men equally.
I realize that not everyone in the world is either black or white. I chose to address this in a black/white context because that's all I have observed. I am reminded of this post on Karentainment, where Karen blogs about being attacked for dating a white dude (and is therefore some sort of traitor to Asian men). The comments she had to deal with smack of racism and typical double standards.
Regarding interracial dating, black and white men are those sought by women, and white and asian women are those sought by men. It seems to me that there isn't a lot of sympathy for asian guys (supposedly "unmasculine") as well as black women (supposedly "unfeminine").
So do asian women catch a break in the educational and working world for being "sexy?" Same for black men? Whereas black women and asian men don't receive similar treatment? Having benefited from such attitudes and carried an attitude not dissimilar to that, I'm now going to make a conscious effort to be aware and act fairly because it IS wrong. Unfair to those parties who don't get a chance and a bit insulting to those parties that do. "We're only giving you a chance because you're fuckable".
I'm a little ashamed to realise that I've been ignorant about it. Well, I will change that, going forward.
My wife has a, shall we say, heavy black colleague, a fellow nurse practitioner. She has pretty much no prospects in the romance department. It's sad, but I really don't think there's a racism component to this. There are simply different preferences among the races, and the black females get the short end of the stick. (Insert pun here.)
I've been dwelling on race relations a bit on my site lately.