The Creflo Dollar story was a major talking point recently. Does a 50 year old man really have the right to choke his 15 year old daughter and then deny any wrongdoing in the pulpit? It brought several issues to the fore; the role of new Christian churches in the Black community; are charismatic preachers truly men of God or opportunistic snake oil salesmen and most importantly, why are the rights of Black men constantly pitted against the rights of Black women?
I have always believed that Black women need a different type of feminism to counterbalance the challenges they face. Unlike White women, Black women have both White and Black patriarchy to contend with. I find the level of vitriol levied at 15 year old Ms Dollar very distasteful. She was demonised as a liar, unruly and deserving of the physical abuse she suffered. My father raised two daughters without raising a fist or a shoe.
The most dangerous aspect of Black patriarchy is that it supports the lie that only Black men suffer from the negative effects of racism. Somehow, Black women are exempt and their main role is to prop up Black men and the rest of the Black community. Admittedly, young Black men do run a greater risk of racist violence/death – the Trayvon Martin and Stephen Lawrence murders being clear examples on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the Black community continuously underplays the exposure to racial violence that Black women have faced. There are between 154 to 159 reported cases of Black female lynching in the U.S. The vast majority of these women were also raped. (Source: henriettavintondavis.wordpress.com) Scores of young female students were also killed in the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa. Black women were also hosed and mauled by dogs during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Black women and men share the same history, the painful legacy of slavery, colonialism and racism.
Modern day institutionalised racism continues to affect both genders. In the UK, Black men are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police (Source: The Guardian). According to Law Professor Michelle Alexander:
‘More African American men are in prison, jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.’
(Source: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness)
Yet this is not a gender specific problem. The levels of Black female imprisonment are also at endemic proportions. In the US, 93 out of every 100,000 White women were incarcerated by mid 2008. During the same period, 349 out of every 100,000 Black women were incarcerated. (Source: http://www.wpaonline.org). There is a definite inference within the Black community that Black women are somehow immune from the affects of racism. Anecdotally, I have met several Black men who believe that they are owed patience from Black women because their lives are infinitely harder. That is obviously untrue but it does beg the question, why is there such a lack of support for Black women within the Black community?
The answer is Black patriarchy. It is a system which places the needs of Black women below the needs of Black men. A clear example is the Creflo Dollar case, where the liberty of a violent father is considered to be more important than the emotional and physical well being of a 15 year old girl. In the R.Kelly case, the only important factor should have been whether he ‘allegedly’ had sex with an underage girl not the young lady’s sexual history. I also never understood the overwhelming support that OJ Simpson received from the Black community when he had sought to distance himself from them as he became famous. This was a Black man who would have never married a Black woman yet, the moment he found himself on the wrong side of the law he expected support from the Black community.
In researching for my film I met and read the thoughts of Black women online that refuse to date Black men. The main reasons cited for their decisions were lack of trust. They believe that Black men only want to use them are unable to remain faithful and have little desire to become loving husbands and fathers. It is none of my business who people choose to love and I wish the very best for anyone lucky enough to love and be loved in equal measure. That said I find it desperately sad that there is a growing number of Black women who feel this way. I know that I am lucky; I have been surrounded by loving Black men my whole life – my father, my partner, uncles, cousins and nephews. However, the Black community champions people such as Steve Harvey who promotes the idea that all men are players and that Black women just need to get used to it. Dark skinned Black women are invisible in music videos and in general. Hip hop artists refer to women who most resemble themselves as bitches and hoes. Various Black churches advise Black women to pray, wait and put the needs of everyone else ahead of theirs. Black patriarchy offers no protection, care, and respect for Black women.
I want to be very clear; this is not an anti male piece. There are many Black women who collude with Black patriarchy. These women encourage other women to become pregnant for a man who offers little, to justify their own life choices. With limited emotional and financial support, these women are promoting a life of hardship. Why not encourage young women to pursue enterprise or education, to become financially independent and make life decisions from a position of strength? These are the same type of women who wrote horrible comments about Rhianna after Chris Brown assaulted her. Their support condones domestic abuse. We have lonely women who blindly follow charismatic preachers. The New Testament states that we all have the same spiritual power; a preacher/pastor/priest’s role is to teach the word not to tell people what to do with their lives. I am not a subordinate; I am equal partner in a mutual beneficial relationship. There are also women, who put their boyfriends/romantic interests ahead of their children’s safety. They expose their children to men of questionable integrity all because they want a man to validate them. There are women who will take on board the opinions of men such as Steve Harvey, when it is clear that being thrice divorced proves that he knows little about marriage or how to make a woman happy. There are women who put down other Black women for being too dark, too Afrocentric, too demanding, not being submissive enough, too ambitious, too fat, too skinny, too stuck up or for not having a big enough butt.
Black patriarchy brings division within the Black community. Without harmony between the sexes, there is no platform to deal with the negative effects of institutional racism. We need a new brand of feminism to counteract this. There is no need to burn bras as Black women are already progressing educationally and financially. The lack is an emotional one. What we need is a greater expression of love. A daughter should expect her father to protect her from harm, a girlfriend to be cherished by her lover, for young black girls to be protected from sexual predators and for the Black community to call for justice when a Black woman is attacked even if the aggressor is a Black man. That love needs to spread throughout the community. We have had Black power, the time has come for Black love. Black men should become feminists too. We need to develop an appreciation of ourselves. Too often our sense of worth is dependent on external factors: wealth, status, the validation of others. This puts us in such a precarious position, ripe to be exploited by smooth talking charlatans, or by hip hop artists who spew the self hate that too many believe to be true. Love is powerful; it gives the recipient hope, purpose, faith, inspiration and courage. These are all of the ingredients needed to live a life worth living. Black patriarchy promotes dominion instead of co-operation. It benefits the few at the expense of us all.
Please let me know your thoughts