This is part one of a three part series, in which I will be deconstructing the idea that sexism has no place in the black community to counter the idea that “feminism is un-African”. To that I respond- so is sexism. Every day on social media, I encounter men who identify as “woke” or “conscious” or “intellectuals” whom want to “save the black community” by enforcing sexist gender roles on black women. As they figure- lack of gender roles in the black community are the cause of a lot of the “dysfunction” in black homes, the cause of absent black fathers, and that women whom are too strong, independent, and educated are a threat to the black man’s masculinity, heterosexuality, and the fabric of time and space as we know it. They claim that this will save the black community from the effects of white patriarchal domination and that it is the ONLY way to do so. And it is nonsense. Your sexism is not revolutionary or pan-African; it is literally the oldest trick in the oppressor’s wheelhouse and has NO pre-colonial African roots. You see- white domination began a long time before the homosapiens that evolved to be known as “white” people ever (re)discovered Africa. The regional/ sociological roots of white patriarchy make sense for the white man/ family. They make no sense for the African. You see- the first humans were culturally hunter-gatherers and nomads. They were gender neutral and they were African. Hunter-gather societies still exist in the world… and they are still gender neutral in terms of roles. The San people of the Kalahari desert in Africa are a collection of South African tribes whom are still hunter-gatherers and are STILL without gender roles in their society. Women have equal work and equal say in making decisions for the tribe (the women gather and the men hunt- it is different work but it is still EQUAL work).This is how most known hunter gather populations work. The San have some of the oldest known and documented mitochondrial DNA (going back 200,000 years). For reference- the first humans are theorized to have migrated out of Africa 100,000 years ago. The San people are at least 200,000 years old. Mitochondrial Eve is about 170,000 years old. The earliest homosapiens (NOT Neatherthals, but homosapiens) migrated from what is now known as East Africa along the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea into Arabia due to what scientists theorize was a lowering in sea level revealing a land bridge between what is now Yemen and Djibouti that allowed early humans to cross without the help of advanced tools like boats and rafts. Early human migration brought prehistoric humans to routes established by earlier forms of pre-evolved humanoids like Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and Neanderthrals along major bodies of water. Over time, the human’s features, like skin tone, facial proportions, and hair color/ textures evolved along with the weather/ clothing necessary for survival in these conditions. Tighter curls/ coils loosened and lightened as humans traveled into places that were colder and required more clothing. Skin lightened as there was less exposure to hotter suns and more clothing necessary. And thus- the “races” were formed as these human evolutions took place over time and space.
Map of Early Human Migration PatternsAs humans moved away from being nomadic hunters/ gatherers, to create settlements- the advent of the invention of religion and gender roles came with it. Early Neanderthal paintings depict worship of animals, like bears and rituals that honored these bear “gods”. All of these early religions either worshipped animals, personifications of natural elements like water, and lightening (as a means for early peoples to theorize explanations for natural phenomenon). These gods were either genderless, multi gendered, or had individual gods of both binary genders present. They were also more shamanic than organized religions. Organized agricultural settling introduced the idea of land ownership, borders, social classes, and aided in the creation of gender roles as well. The early gods of each culture are direct reflections of their cultures of origin. Pre-historic religious systems (before the advent of strict monotheism via Judaism) were all polytheistic, although early hints of quasi-monotheism was present in ancient China and Egypt starting about 3500 years ago. Ancient Mesopotamia is known as the “birthplace” of religion as we know it, with records dating up to 5500 years ago. Ancient Mesopotamian religion believed that humans worked in consort with the gods, and that unity between humanity and the gods kept Chaos in check. They resurrected temples and ziggurats to house their gods, and priests and priestesses would clothe and bathe statues of these gods. There were both male and female gods and male gods. One of the most powerful gods of ancient Mesopotamia was Inanna- who was the god of love, sex, and war. As a result- ritual and religious prostitution was a tenet of ancient Mesopotamian faith and non-religious prostitutes were not considered “dirty”. While women were never “equal to men” in these cultures, women in ancient Sumer had more rights than it’s resulting cultures of Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria. Ancient Sumerian women could own property, run businesses, become priestesses, physicians, and scribes, and act as judges and witnesses in court proceedings. Most women were wives and mothers, and others participated in trade. The Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures were less kind to women. They were considered property of their husbands and fathers. As Akkadians moved away from worship of the goddess Inanna after their ruler Sargon, the rights and protections of women also diminish noticeably. The ancient laws of Assyria and Babylon do not protect women from domestic violence or physical assault. Assyrian women were the most regulated of all these cultures. Their culture is the origin of the idea of covering “respectable” women in veils. Prostitutes were to be uncovered and a woman who wasn’t considered respectable would be killed if found wearing a veil. As the ancient Mesopotamians moves away from goodess worship toward worship of male gods like Ashur around the third century- the culture became more patriarchal and the women become more regulated than the men. Poor women would work, at half the rate of men and for no pay while menstruating. In ancient Mesopotamia, wealth and power being given to men via land ownership and commerce and being increasingly denied to women as goddess worship increased is directly related. As goddess worship and verneration decreased- so did systemic and societal violence towards women designed to control the female sex as subservient to males. Ancient Egyptian religions have records as old as 5400 years old, however it is believed that their religion predates the records as far as 8000 years old. Similar to ancient Mesopotamia, gods and humans worked in concert with each other to maintain ma’at- harmony. Women in ancient history had many of the same basic rights as men. Women could- and did- rule, like Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. Egyptian women could own their own businesses and property, they could hang around men freely without restriction, they could initiate divorce, and they were entitled legally to 1/3 of properties owned by their husbands. They were the most politically liberated women of their time frame. And both god AND goddess worship and reverence is steady and constant throughout ancient Egypt with the exception of Nefertiti and Akhenton whom were quasi monotheists who created Aten. Egyptian religious beliefs included sexual rituals as well until they were conquered after the suicide of Cleopatra. Because the divinity of goddesses was preserved throughout the history of Egypt, the social equality of women in Egyptian society was maintained as well. Ancient Chinese religion prior to organization was a collection of anthromorphic figures and animism, fusion of humanity with animals and nature. Evidence of these beliefs are as old as 6500 years. The first organized Chinese god that was worshipped was Shangdi- during the Xia dynasty, beginning about 3000 years ago in the bronze age. Shangdi was a chief male god over all of the other smaller, regional anthromorphic gods. From worship of Shangdi, came ancestor worship or ancestral veneration. Ancestors acted as an intermediary between Shangdi and the living. Shaming ones ancestors was also seen as offending and losing the favor of the gods. Over time Shangdi became tian… or heaven. Ancestral reverence became tenets of Taoism and Confucianism which also originated in China. Ancient Chinese religions focus on the idea of there being a natural order. This order existed within the family structure in which the father was the leader. There were strong divisions of roles and rights. This was much more pronounced in the upper class. Lower and working classes had fewer pronouncements in gender roles due to women having to take on the work that was considered to be for “men”. Loyalty to the father figure was seen as loyalty to the state. As such, disobedience to one’s father or husband was disobedience to the state and punished as such. Men controlled the income, marriage of the children, and the property. Women’s primary roles were as homemakers and to have sons, whom were favored over daughters. With a singular head male deity- ancient Chinese culture had rigid and oppressive gender roles were the women were only there to be submissive breeders of sons. These ideas continued through Confucianism, Daoism, and culturally continued through the spread of Buddhism. Ancient Indian religions were polytheistic. Hinduism is the most ancient religion that is still practiced in the world. Hinduism has no recorded origins and is believed to be a collection of thousands of years of prehistory religious traditions across India. The first recorded synthesis of Hinduism began about 2500 years ago, however its progenitor religion- the Vedic religion- has texts as old as 3900 years old. In Hinduism, there is one male god, who reflects himself in millions of lesser gods and goddesses, as he is too vast to be understood in a singular form. Hinduism encourages pursuit of knowledge, personal enlightenment, and worship of the more popular regional gods and goddesses like Krishna and Kali. There are principles or aims of life- Dharma (duty, ethics), Kama (desires, passions), Moksha (freedom/ liberation), karma (action, intent, and consequences), samsara (cycle of rebirth), and Yogas (paths to freedom/ liberation). In India, the culture was kind to women and they enjoyed a high and free status in and opportunity to get their educations and pursue religious enlightenment. Indian women ruled kingdoms and enjoyed prominent roles in politics. As the religion of the region moved from the Vedic period to the writing of the Epics- the culture became more oppressive to women as well. During the Vedic period, a woman could have multiple husbands and they married at a mature age. Women played an important role to the recording of the texts of the religion. Sex also played an important role to the spirituality Hindu, as seen in the Kama Sutra. Devadasi women were servants of the gods and were free to have sexual relations with whom they pleased. They held high status in society. Women still ruled Indian kingdoms as soon as the ninth century. Post-Vedic Indian women were protected by law and had equal ownership of the lands and other assets of their husbands. This changed over time. The caste system emerged during this period of time about 3500 years ago and it grouped Indians into a complex system of social classes based on gender, economic class, job/ skill, and religious affiliation. Muslim conquest of the region began around the 10th century and brought along cultural changes. Child marriages and sati (the act of ritual suicide by a widow) followed. Women were forced to wear burqa and niqab and were unable to go anyway without a guardian. Women were restricted to certain areas of the house. And they were prevented by sharia law from inheriting property. Devadasi were reduced to sexual labor and child prostitution. Muslim and British colonization of India are linked to the denigration of the role of women and the sexual oppression of Indian women. As Hinduism tenets merged with Islamic beliefs, the women of India had their rights and humanity stripped away from them. In studying anthropology, there seems to be a clear, direct, and unambiguous link between sexism, denying the divinity of women (either through discarding goddess worship or through embracing monotheistic male gods), and denial of land ownership and rights (depending on whether a people were nomadic hunter-gatherers or agricultural). As once spoken by Marimba Ani “Your culture is your immune system”. As an atheist, I do not believe in any god or gods, but I do believe that gods are representative of the cultures that created them. Ancient African gods were not sexist because we were no sexist. It is time that we give the oppressor their sexism back and begin to work towards rebuilding our gender relations on terms that are truer to our precolonial cultures and roots.
On Sexism, Rape Culture, And Slut Shaming
There is an intimate and dangerous relationship between slut shaming and rape culture. Rape culture is defined as a society whose attitudes have the prevailing effect of normalizing or minimizing sexual abuse and assault. Slut shaming is the act of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in consensual sexual relations. The two go hand in hand. A society where a woman is penalized for saying yes is a society where a woman has to give half yesses for sexual acts that she actually desires. A society where a woman’s body is seen as a consumable that belongs to a man is a society where she cannot say no without fear. In this society, women are penalized both for saying yes and for saying no- effectively rendering her agency, autonomy, and voice in between unheard and yelled over... never listened to.
This grey area does not protect women, it protects abusers and I theorize that this was exactly the goal. Sexism was not erected with the intentions of keeping girls and women safe or honoring their voices. Sexism was erected as a system with the specific goals of keeping women in check by making sure that all of the land and power was under the control of men.
Sexism and all of its children- homophobia, transphobia, slut shaming, misogyny, gender roles, rape culture, and toxic masculinity/ femininity- need to die. Sexism is un-African. Give it back.
Crabs in a Barrel, An Anti-Black Trope Unpakced
I have always hated the idea that black people were our own worst enemy, even before I did the unlearning of imperialist thinking that made us believe that in the first place. The Crabs in a Barrel trope is one that can ring very true for interpersonal relationships but it falls short as systemic analysis tool in the framework many black people use when they are referencing this idea/ metaphor. Many people apply it to both and say that because they have issues within their interpersonal relationships with black people, that means that there is no racism and that our real issues are just with each other. Obviously this is reductive, misguided, uneducated, dismissive, and, above all else, UNTRUE.
Black people are not our own worst enemy. We never have been. We never could be. So, today I am revisiting a post I wrote in 2016 on Facebook where I unpacked the idea of "Crabs in a Barrel". Upon reviewing and sitting on it I found that the trope was actually very accurate as a descriptor of black people in America- specifically those of us that are the descendants of kidnapped Africans- but that it was not accurate for any of the reasons that we were taught.
"Crabs in a barrel is actually a perfect analogy for the black community but not for any of the reasons you think
1. The natural habitat of the crab is not a barrel. They were captured and forced to be there. 2. The crabs are disoriented and thus must take on new behaviors- some dysfunctional- for survival. 3. The crabs don't intend to bring each other down. They latch on to each other hoping to go over the edge as well. They don't realize the weight of them all is bringing the leader down until it's too late. They don't realize that distributing the weight evenly would be the best way to get everyone out 4. Crabs that do succeed in making it out of the barrel never come back to help- they only return if they're captured and forced there again.
So yea. It's a great analogy. Just not for any of the reasons you've been taught. The crabs aren't each other's worst enemy and neither are black people each other's worst enemy. The enemy is the fisherman and the barrel he put us in. The crabs are just misguided."
Everyone notes the behaviors of the crabs in that barrel. No one notes that they were forced to be there for the consumption of people with no concern for their health, safety, progression, or lives. Black people- it is time we break the barrel, and focus on the real enemies and threats to our person-hoods. Who are our fishermen?
Why do we view crabs in a barrel as one being pulled down instead of several desiring to be pulled up? Crabs are not highly intelligent creatures but we, as humans, are. We can answer these questions, but we are too focused on attacking and blaming each other for our circumstances when none of us had control over the barrel that we were placed in, the barrel we didn't belong in, the barrel we don't own. Our barrel is mental. Our fishermen are not. Resist the real enemies.
I Cheer for the downfall of abusers...Unapologetically
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"... only if the "whole world" has a continuous pattern of doing harm. I’d like to believe that a person who loses one eye would have enough sense not to lose the other, but abusers abuse even past the point of reason, rationality, and common sense. That is what makes abusers different from everyone else.
We have a tendency to view abusers as wild cards who act angrily and without thought, but that’s actually the exact opposite of what is true. Abusers are calculated and systematic in their approaches. Abusers are willful. They seek to actively separate their victim from their support system, they systematically and regularly destroy their victim’s self-esteem and break their will to resist, and they also control their victim’s means of escape to create a cycle of dependence. Abusers are not just "troubled souls"; they are sadistic mental, physical, and emotional terrorists who are fully aware of what they are doing. Abusers are willing to lose both eyes to be able to harm others and they are committed enough to find a way to abuse while blind.
I have no tears for abusers because any and all tears that I have are saved for their victims.
Any time that you are demanding the demographic that has been harmed by an individual to mourn, grieve, or have empathy or sympathy for them and their misfortunes (including but not limited to their death), you are making a statement that their harm is dismiss-able, forgivable, and erasable. You are making a statement that they have more of a duty to provide emotional labor to the potential mental health issues of this individual, than that individual has to their own. You are making the statement to the victims that the issues of the abuser are more important and valid than the issues that have occurred as a result of their abuse. You are saying that you are more for abusers and those abusers they are entitled to their victims’ labor. Whether you are aware that this is the message that you are sending or not, this is what you are saying.
Yes, abusers “could” change. Chris Brown could’ve changed after his assault of Rihanna, and yet he’s gone on to establish a pattern of abuse and assault in the decade after. R Kelly could’ve changed after his marriage to Aaliyah, and yet he continued a pattern of sexual predation on black and brown girls in the decades since.
When you give an abuser more opportunity, a larger platform, and more resources- they usually just use it to further their violence.
Just as often as abusers change- they don’t. According to research conducted by a batterer rehabilitation program in the Bronx by Nora K. Puffett & Chandra Gavin, 8% of domestic violence arrestees will be arrested for the same reason before their court date. 62% of the 1300 cases studied were rearrested by the end of the program. Is the harm that was ACTUALLY done to 800 victims worth less thank or have less priority than the potential the 800 abusers had to not be abusive? I say absolutely not. In most cases death is not the solution, but the criminal justice system is so lax with dealing with abusers (I theorize this is because of the high rates of domestic violence that are present among law enforcement officers) that it makes the act of reporting a daunting and intimidating task that furthers the cycle of isolation, helplessness, and dependence upon the abuser that the abused experience.
The criminal justice system has a responsibility to view the abuser as a potential innocent. You- as a person who is not a part of the legal system- do not have that same responsibility. Where the law fails to hold accountable, you have the power to support victims. You have the power to create a social paradigm wherein abuse is unacceptable. You have the power to revoke your sympathy and support from these figures. You have the power to knock them from the platforms that they use to kick others down. You have also the power to shut the fuck up being mad about those that do take advantage of this power because you refuse to or don’t desire to because you don’t give a fuck about victims. You have the power to stop demanding emotional labor and reactions for and to abusers.
And you are accountable for the sides that you chose.
Abusers deserve to burn in the hell of their own making. Whether or not you cheer at its existence, you shouldn’t be more vocal about the folks that are happy about their hell than you ever were about the victimization that occurred. You are transparent and exposed and I see you.