This past summer, I made it my duty to get in touch with myself: who I am, who I want to be, and taking the steps to achieving and maintaining those goals. Prior to this ambition, I had attended high school and community college in a predominately white area in Howard County, Maryland. I had not taken notice of it, but at the time, I never thought of who I was while I was there. Before moving to Howard County, I was living in a much less admirable location in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which holds mostly African-American and Latino residents.
Growing up in PG County, I was always aware of my blackness or the fact that I was African, since my parents had moved here from Nigeria in the 70s. I was in touch with my African side and my African-American side all at once, embracing the two cultures, but I never felt connected to my roots while I was in Howard County. This was a place where conformity was the best policy, and most people prospered by sticking to what they knew, which was usually some sort of washed-out mainstream trend from TOM shoes to Vera Bradley handbags.
When I graduated high school in 2013, I expected to be free from the place where everyone was comfortable with doing the same thing. Even in a community college, I naively believed that things would be different, that everyone would do their own thing and embrace all sides of life that didn’t include buying into the fads of social media.
I was wrong, and far more than being wrong, I was suffocating in my inaccuracy.
Community college was High School Part Two and apart from not really having any friends, I never felt connected to anyone because nothing presented itself as original; most people still persisted to believe that following one another was the way to go, but I knew that there was more out there, more to who I was as a black individual trying to make it in white America.
As a female in today’s society, there is a certain “something” that is expected of me. Recently, this “thing” has turned into a being, a lifestyle, and is practically forced onto anyone who says they believe in equality. Feminism has sprung up in the past few decades and every strong, hardworking female is practically required to live under this title. It wasn’t long until I realized I didn’t want anything to do with it.
I am a woman who believes in equality between men and women, but feminism has come across as a bit of a distraction to what black people are really trying to do here. As Kovie Biakolo, a frequent writer for Thought Catalog, puts it in her article entitled Why Black Men Hate Black Women:
second-wave white feminism has interrupted the Black movement, causing countless numbers of Black women to leave the latter for the former.
A black woman initially does not have many rights in this country considering the fact that we lay at the bottom of society’s scale. We are constantly an afterthought when it comes to various jobs such as hiring a social worker, or choosing an actress to star in the next hit movie. Nevertheless, we have no one to protect us. As we continue to support our black men in what they do—right or wrong—it’s hard to say that not many of them do the same for us.
Apart from being a black female in America, I find feminism hard to follow. Feminist often present themselves as man-haters who claim they can do it all on their own, yet expect men to still play their parts and be chivalrous, providing for, and protecting us. How can men do so if the roles they were given by nature are taken by the ones who are supposed to be the subject of their being? There are also statements made by famous feminists that make me wonder if this movement is one we should be promoting at all. Influential poet and Ms. magazine editor Robin Morgan once said, “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.” And the late American author, Marilyn French held no shame in saying that “all men are rapists and that’s all they are.”
Hmm, does this mean that black people have the right to say, “All white people are racist and that’s all they are?” Doesn’t sound too good, huh? To promote hatred in one oppressed group means that hatred is allowed in all other oppressed groups, leading us back to square one.
Even hearing the word “feminism” doesn’t spring up any feeling of love; love and respect should be the foundation of all activist groups. Without it, what are we really promoting here? Of course there are those few feminists I look up to, such as Emma Watson, the United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, who carries herself with grace and natural respect for both men and women, but that’s still not enough for me to adopt the title. American feminism isn’t as responsible as it should be. There are issues I just do not care about because I do not find them important enough to fight for: women being allowed to walk around topless, or having the right to sleep around as we please without being slut shamed.
While there are other matters that really matter—military and reproductive rights; women in Saudi Arabia who are not allowed to own a driver’s license; and the women in Pakistan who are attacked with acid for reasons such as refusing someone’s marriage proposals—they are put on the back burner here while petty issues steal the spotlight.
Back to being black. There is no question as to who has it better in society. White people do. As Biakolo puts it, “racist ideology [puts forth] that Whiteness equates to purity and the further away one is from that, the worse off one is.” As untrue as people want that statement to be, we have to open our eyes and look around. There is still racism and there is still prejudice and black people are the fundamental targets. We don’t want to play victim, we just want it to be over.
As far as black women defending our color and who we are as individuals, it’s a distraction to stand up for all the women in the world when we haven’t even established our home here. Really, where do black women belong? When campaigning for feminism we are actually fighting for the white women who already have a chance to speak for themselves and are now fighting to be heard, but where does that leave black women who can’t even sit at the conference table or, better yet, enter the room? We need America to accept us as black people first, and then we should worry about gender.
There are times I feel guilty about not being involved in the feminist movement because I am a strong woman who believes in equality for all, but certain things must come first. The day I become a feminist is the day black people are complete equals in America. Until then, I’m booked.