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  • Writer's pictureThe Black Syllabus

Response to a comment left on my Instagram page ...

So I just want to briefly address this comment that I received on my latest giveaway post that includes Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading this book yet, but I plan to in the near future as I know it's a significant piece of Black literature, and that McMillan is one of the many Black women writers who have impacted Black readers and influenced Black writers who came after her. My mom loves McMillan and has read several of her books, and told me a little bit of what Waiting to Exhale is about. What I gathered is that this book is essentially about a group of Black girlfriends who are struggling to find good Black men to date, constantly dealing with the mistreatment and abuse that often comes with dating men in general. It makes sense that a man who is lacking in both self-awareness and societal awareness would find this narrative threatening.

Simply put, equating Waiting to Exhale to the vitriolic discrimination and violence of the KKK is completely absurd. To imply that any criticism or negative depiction of Black men is propaganda against them is entirely too extreme. The fact is that Black women, historically and today, have been subjected to mistreatment and abuse by Black men; that is a fact, not propaganda. You can look up the statistics on intimate partner violence against Black women.

We live in a society where men benefit from systemic gender disparities, and the oppression/suppression that women face, and that is ALSO TRUE within the Black community. There is no shame is discussing it or depicting it in literature, movies, or other art; in fact I believe the first step to moving past it is to address it. (I also want to acknowledge that this comparison between a Black woman’s narrative and the motivations of the KKK as equal threats to Black manhood is not only laughable and offensive, it completely disregards the threat that Black women and nonbinary people face from these same white supremacist forces, but that's a discussion for another day.) This comment, so concerned with the negative depiction of Black men, further suggests that those concerned with Black rights should be *prioritizing* Black men at all costs, even at the expense of Black women & non-binary people. Kimberle Crenshaw touches on this flawed approach when she defines intersectionality.

The Black Syllabus is run by a Queer Black Woman **gasp**. This is a safe space for ALL Black people and our allies, regardless of your gender, sexuality, or perspectives. I only draw the line at individuals who perpetuate and support discrimination/oppression/violence against ANY Black person (or anyone really) regardless of how they identify, particularly those of us who are multiply disadvantaged (see again: Intersectionality).

I acknowledge that Black men deal with their own set of societal struggles that even Black women do not necessarily deal with at the same rate or for the same reasons. I understand that it isn't easy to be a Black man in our society. And while we need to continue to fight against these injustices that Black men deal with, we need an intersectional approach. Centering Black men in anti-racist activism is just as flawed as centering white women in feminist activism. “The adoption of a single-issue framework [Black or women] for discrimination not only marginalizes Black women within the very movements that claim them as part of their constituency but it also makes the illusive goal of ending racism and patriarchy even more difficult to attain.” We need to center the intersectional discrimination that the most disadvantaged segment is facing. “If their efforts instead began with addressing the needs and problems of those who are most disadvantaged and with restructuring and remaking the world where necessary, then others who are singularly disadvantaged would also benefit.” Your activism needs to include women, nonbinary people, TRANS PEOPLE, queer people, poor people, disabled people, and all of their intersections. As a Black man, I need you to look behind you and acknowledge what the rest of the Black community goes through, and dead this narrative that you are the only ones suffering.

Did I mention that not only do Black women, trans, and nonbinary people deal with violence and oppression from outside of our race, but at the hands of Black men too? Your oppression doesn't give you a pass to oppress the rest of us.

I will always and forever center Black women and queers in my personal life and activism. I will also, always be an activist and ally for Black cis hetero men. But I firmly believe that centering the most privileged of a marginalized group will only lead to the exclusion of those of us who are intersectionally disadvantaged.

With that said, Black men, please remember who is at the frontlines fighting and marching for you when you experience oppressive violence, and listen to us when we criticize your treatment of us.

We are Black women born into a society of entrenched loathing and contempt for whatever is Black and female. - Audre Lorde

** All quotes are from Kimberle Crenshaw’s paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex unless otherwise specified.

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