“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, only after they’ve tried everything else.”
I knew it wouldn’t be long before the Sistahood shrieked their outrage in response to the very White, very blonde Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette’s backstage remarks about how all the Darkies were to show the Nice White Ladies of America(TM) some love in appreciation for all the good things they’d done for us, and one Ms. Brittney Cooper – the self-proclaimed “Prof. Crunk” of the Crunk Feminist Collective fame, didn’t disappoint. In yesterday’s column for the well-known left of center wesbite Salon.com, Cooper defiantly proclaims that she has now “gone on strike” from attempting to lovingly correct/educate/whatever White folks – which really means the Miss Annes of the world – and I for one breathes a sigh of relief; “it’s about time!”
Unfortunately though, Prof. Cooper’s grand announcement that she is packing up her ball and going home, leaves a lot to be desired when one actually examines the record.
Although she is right to say that Black Feminists have been around since at least the latter part of the 19th century, what she leaves out is that Black Feminism as we know it today – and which greatly informs the current cabal of loud shriekers such as herself – got their beginning a bit later in the historical timeline. The “second wave” of Black Feminism can be traced back to what has become known as the Combahee River Collective, founded in part by Ms. Barbara Smith, and it has been more than four decades since that halcyon gathering of afro-wearing fist-pumpers. A powerful question emerges: what have they accomplished for Black women in more than four decades?
Let’s count the ways, shall we?
1. Black women get more abortions than anyone else: thanks to Roe v. Wade – a White case that was fought by White lawyers before a White US Supreme Court and and advocated for by White feminists. Quick, name me the Black feminist who played a role in any of that? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
2. Black women currently enjoy the highest educational attainment of ANY racial, ethnic or gender group in the country. Can our Black Feminists point to one in their number who played a pivotal role in this development? To ask the question is to answer it.
3. Black women’s health concerns have enjoyed at least two decades of sustained longitudinal study and presidential attention; indeed, the single biggest problem Black women face in our time isn’t one of malnurishment, but one of eating too much of a good thing in the land of plenty. After all, as the good professor bears witness to herself, Black women as a group certainly aren’t missing any meals. What do Black Feminists have to do or even say, about these facts?
They can suck their teeth, stamp their feet and roll their necks until the cows come home, but the harsh, brutal truth of the matter is that Black women enjoy the lives and rights they do along gender lines, as a direct result and actions of White Feminists – NOT Black ones. But, fear not, my Sistas – since Prof. Cooper now has quite a bit of free time on her hands due to her having claimed to give up her obsession with Miss Anne, here are some ways Black Feminists can actually make a difference:
1. Cooper is right to point out the fact that Black women as a group have the lowest net worth of any group of women in the country – but she misses the mark as to how and why. It isn’t because of some vast White-wing conspiracy to keep them down and out of the job marlet – it’s because Black women are the least partnered group of women in the country, proofed in dramatic detail by the fact – FACT – that more than 70% of all Black kids are now born out of wedlock. Every study, suvery and research project known to humankind has confirmed the fact that not only do kids born into such a state fare markedly worse regardless of racial or even economic background, but the single best way for the average American to accrue assets and build wealth is to get married and work together with your spouse to achieve the American Dream. White feminists know and understand this, which is why they ain’t as many Baby Mamas among their number, and the majority of them have hubbies or stead partners. Cooper and her Black Sistas-in-Arms can meaningfully address these facts.
2. As noted above, Black women are the heaviest cohort of Americans in the country, again proofed by all manner of study and research. Prof. Cooper can demonstrate by example that it is possible for Black women enmasse to improve their health and flatter their figures, by her backing away from the table, hitting the gym as hard as she hits her keyboard churning out Id Monster-fueled diatribes in response to anything a Miss Anne type says or does, and encouraging Black women everywhere the importance of staying in shape. She can turn to fellow Sista Feminist, the aptly named Ms. Feminista Jones, for advice and counsel in these areas, as it is well known and documented that she has lost a formidable amount of weight in recent years, and does spend quite a bit of time on her appearance, to great effect; it is my understanding that Ms. Jones has successfully landed a mate. Moreover, Prof. Cooper can use her position as a columnist at Salon and as a professor at one of the country’s best known universities to expound on these and related points to her audience, of which Black women play a major part.
3. Black women have an image problem of being irascible, uncooperative, loud, and sometimes violent; Larry Wilmore spoke the truth about one of the reasons why Black women as a group are the least partnered and married, is in part due to their being so “bossy”. Nor is this necessarily a respector of class or station, as Sorority Sisters, Real Housewives of Atlanta, the various iterations of Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives and what must be thousands of videos on YouTube and Worldstar Hip Hop easily attest to. What if Prof. Cooper and her Sista Feminists took it upon themselves to go on a Charm School offensive for the Sistahood? Not only would it be good for Black womens’ overall image, it, along with the aforementioned slimming down would make them much more attractive as wives for many Black men – who, make no mistake about it, ARE “going on a strike” of their own – they have voted with their feet when it comes to saying “I do.” Again, I’m NOT saying that the only reason as to how and why Black women have the problems they do, is totally of their own design; what I AM saying, is that Black women have a hella more agency and real power to affect their own lives, than Black Feminists, who ironically drone on and on about “agency” in the first place, gives them credit for.
4. Picking up on point #1 above, Prof. Cooper and her Sista Feminists can address the fact that Black women fritter away what relatively little money they do have, on hair weaves, extensions, and “creamy crack,” to the tune of well over $1B USD annually – and despite the facade, everyone and their mama knows the reasons how and why so many Black women literally put their lives on the line to do so – to try and ape Miss Anne. What if Prof. Cooper and her Sista allies took to the streets to really educate their fellow Black women about this, the monies involved, and how to love and accept themselves for who and what they are? Quiet as it’s kept by the way, Black men do NOT like these looks on their ladies; they want Black women who actually look like, you know, Black women – not a cheap White/non-Black woman knockoff.
And that brings me to the biggest point: Black Feminists have shown themselves to be massive failures when it comes to getting their Miss Anne sisters to accept them – it didn’t happen for Audre Lourde, and it won’t happen for today’s Sistas either. For more than a century, even longer than that, White feminists have made it abundunatly clear that they don’t want Black feminists in their ranks, other than to occasionally be used as cannon fodder and toilet bowl scrubbers (recall “The Help”), and here Black feminists are, refusing to take “no” as an answer and pathetically trying to insert themselves into any and every conversation that White feminists engage in or start, by shrieking “Me too!” Every time Cooper or any other Black feminist knee-jerkingly reacts to anything a Miss Anne White feminist says, this is exactly what is going on – and please do not fool yourselves into thinking that no one else notices. They do. And they’re all laughing AT you.
Instead of trying to get a group of White women to accept you into their club, or trying to get White folks enmasse to like you/us, what Black feminists could actually try for a change, is doing something about problems they and other Black women have direct control over. The items outlined above, speak directly to that, and what’s even better, they don’t require White approval, permission or even awareness of, in order to make an impact. Nor do they require some massive and amorphous government intervention scheme – these are things Black women, individually and collectively, can do RIGHT NOW – and they can and will WORK.
So there – I’ve outlined four clear, and devastatingly simple, areas where Black feminists can redirect their energies and efforts – areas that most directly impact the lives and well beings of Black women enmasse, and which can make a real difference. Black feminists have a golden opportunity to make themselves relevant and meaningful, in ways no one else can or even has shown an interest: by really improving the lives of Black women.
The burning question that remains, is whether Cooper and her Sista allies will do just that – or whether they will continue on in their Quixotic quest to be the center of attention, always failing to crowd out the Miss Annes of the spotlight. You see, when you accept the rules of the game as defined by others, you’re really playing to lose.
Black feminists need a new game.