Black Women and (or vs.) White Women: Are They Really Our Allies?

7 years ago

Last Sunday I was at a metal show, taking pictures. The show was at a small, dingy club and there weren't too many people there. I had plenty of room to move around in front of the stage, which was not even a foot off the floor.

So thank goodness I had a strap around my camera and it was around my neck because all of a sudden, this woman not only walks in front of me mid-shot, but butted my shoulder - hard - knocking my camera out of my hands. To this day I don't know if she did it on purpose or is night-blind but I'm kinda ashamed of what I did next - without even hesitating.

I went after her.

As I approached her (yelling what the f#$k) I felt an arm around my shoulder, pulling me away. I turned around and it was this older white dude, who I guess was her boyfriend/husband because he was behind her, and saw what had happened. He was trying to pull me away and I violently shrugged him off. I glared at the couple who smirked at me. By their appearance - expensive clothes, the woman had long frosted-blond hair, stilettos and too-tight jeans, they looked about 40+ but really wanted to be 20 - and didn't exactly fit in. But as a black woman, neither did I.

Wanting to get shots, I muttered some not-so nice obscenities and went back to what I was doing. I am desperately trying to practice with my new pro camera, as photos really accentuate my music journalism. I was incredibly pissed but at the time I didn't let it slow me down. In hindsight, I realized it was because of what she looked like that made me so angry.

She was White. She was somewhat attractive, obviously privileged, and looked like she didn't have a care in the world. Even though she didn't look like she should be enjoying technical death metal, she would always 'fit in' more than I ever would.

The metal scene is not the easiest scene to be in, but being in it is a big part of my writing career and I am passionate about it. What I am not so passionate about is the grief I occasionally get for being a black woman - usually the only one - at shows. 

I am somewhat lucky because my male colleagues take me seriously. But I had to work my ass off to get their respect - after they got over the shock. I also take my photography very seriously, because I want to be recognized as a somewhat good photographer. So when this woman butted me, I took it personally. It was as though she thought I wasn't even there and then her husband / boyfriend who tried to patronize me made it even worse. It coincided with a couple of incidents at a show I had gone to review a few days prior which had also left me angry. But which is worse: people who visibly let you know that you aren't wanted in "their space" or people who just choose to deem you as invisible?

Another part to why I was a bit salty that night: A few weeks ago I was in NYC to review a show and to interview a metal musician for my book. The musician, who is well-known in the industry told me point blank that white women hate Black women. To clarify because that is a blanket statement, we were talking about record sales, etc. So when I asked him about the potential of a Black female metal musician being able to sell records, he was doubtful. "One of the things that drives people to buy albums is that the listener feels some similarity with the artist. I don't think White women ( who mostly buy albums) would find any with a Black female artist."

This week on the blogosphere there were a couple of blog posts that inspired me to evaluate the almost-beating I laid on the woman at the show. Posts that while didn't validate my almost-violent behavior, made me think about the divide between Black and White women.

While many believe - as I did once when I was about five or so- that all women have this weird solidarity thing goin' on. That we are supposed to support each other and be a bit more sensitive to each other because we all have a vagina and breasts, but it isn't so.

Women can be just as racist, sexist and assholish as men. And when they are, most often, it is even more hurtful then when a man exhibits that behavior. As we all know, Tiger Woods is in some hot water and the blogosphere has not only been speculating why he had his car crash, but what part, if any, his white wife played in it.

Many believe that Woods was confronted by his wife who then took a golf club to his face (yes, there is a hint of irony there). So people have been asking (and some black women have been gloating) "life ain't so perfect with a White woman, is it, Tiger?"

From Me, Myself, an Eye:

When Tiger married a blond nanny au pair/model, I wasn't surprised. We knew he wasn't bringing home no sisters. I didn't expect him to find a fellow mixed race woman and I didn't see him finding an Asian woman like his mother either. It was par for the course (HUZZAH). I didn't have any comment on his marriage until this weekend's events put the relatively low-key couple in the spotlight.........The image of the violent, angry wife is often associated with Black women, but it was Tiger's stereotypical blond trophy wife who allegedly bloodied his face and ran up on him with a golf club. In fact, Woods himself revealed that he bought in to that stereotype when he told a friend that his wife had "gone ghetto" on him. Oh. The. Irony.

There is a SMALL (but loud) group of Black men that seems to believe that White women are a safe haven from the loud, angry, emasculating Black woman. That White girls will lay down, submit and put up with foolishness a man offers them. If any good can come from this incident, I hope it's the death of that notion which is incredibly offensive to both Black and White women.

Then there was an article from Melissa Harris-Lacewell in The Nation about the recent  negative portrayals of black mothers in the media. Harris-Lacewell made the near-fatal mistake of comparing the common thought of black women having illegitimate children with Sarah Palin:

It is worth noting that Sarah Palin's big public comeback is situated right in the middle of this news cycle full of "bad black mothers." Palin's own eye-brow raising reproductive choices and parenting outcomes have been deemed off-limits after her skirmish with late night TV comedians. Embodied in Palin, white motherhood still represents a renewal of the American dream; black motherhood represents its downfall.

If you read the comments, you will see that people tore a strip off of the author, but what was most interesting was the way how people avoided the point of what Harris-Lacewell was trying to make - which is true - that there is more disdain for Black mothers who are (sometimes legitimately) bad mothers than White women who make the same mistakes for perpetrating the same behavior. Instead the commenter's slammed her for even broaching the topic.

I must note that outside of Palin's daughter becoming pregnant at a young age (which is not uncommon and beside the father being a jerk, not a big deal) what bothered me was Palin using her son, Trig, who has Down's Syndrome - as a marketing tool during her campaign.  

The avoidance of talking about the differences between Black women and White women in society is not uncommon, as well as noting important issues that historically caused that divide.  But I believe that in this "post-racial" society we supposedly live in, it is going to cause more problems. A good example is a post that was sent to me by Blogher CE Sassymonkey on the book Gone with the Wind.

 Justine Larbalestier responds to this post in which the author conveniently dismisses the racist overtones in the book:

Of all the strong females, perhaps Mammy is the most galling for ardent critics of the film. Black, enslaved and conforming to 1930s stereotype of the loyal, usually overweight, woman who offered cheerful servitude to her owners, McDaniel's Mammy is nevertheless a complex and confronting creation. Indomitable and opinionated, she largely does as she likes, whether her masters like it or not. ("I said I was going to Atlanta with you and going with you I is," she tells Scarlet at one point.)

Justine writes:

To echo Meryment’s language, it is galling that a book first published in 1936, when the civil rights movement in the USA was already underway, and turned into a movie in 1939—the year that Billie Holiday first performed and recorded “Strange Fruit” about lynching in the South—could be so astonishingly blind to the evil that is slavery. That it could spend a gazillion pages and hours glorifying a system that was built on the kidnapping and enforced labor of hundreds of thousands of people appalls me. The glorious south that Margaret Mitchell is so nostalgic for was built out of exploitation, murder, and rape. But it’s even more galling that here in 2009 there are still people trying to pretend that Gone with the Wind isn’t profoundly racist so they can enjoy all its other aspects.

So, what to do? Well, Tami from What Tami Said has two posts that discuss how non-Black folks can be allies in the fight against racism. Here is post one and post two. From post two:

First, marginalized people are the owners of the anti-racist and feminist/womanist movements. The outcomes of the movement are about our humanity, our treatment, our futures, our children. Our fight is based not on empathy, but lived reality. Yes, racism and sexism ultimately effect everyone, no matter their race or gender. But, for instance, women involved in the feminist movement feel the urgency for change much more strongly than our male allies. We are more invested, I think. I say this not as a slight against men. It is the rare human being who is not most invested in things that effect them directly. 

I really would suggest reading both of these posts because Tami is spot-on. White folks have to realize that just because they have not personally felt racism, that does not mean that it doesn't exist. In some ways, that's why angry Black women like me, sometimes get frustrated when trying to talk to White friends (yes, I have them) and family members (I have those, too) about race and racism. The feminist movement (the American one) that has been adopted by women all over the world, is not one that acknowledges me and my experience as a black woman in North America.

I do not refer to myself as a "feminist" for that reason, as there is a thought that all women are automatically on the same page and have experienced the same issues. No we have not.

I appreciated Tami's posts because she has articulated a lot of the issues as to why there is friction, and what people can do to alleviate it. Good read.

Want to see my pictures? Head over to my Flick page.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from living

by Rebecca Waldron | 2 days ago
by Cursha Pierce-Lunderman | 3 days ago
by Fairygodboss | 5 days ago
by Fairygodboss | 10 days ago
by Justina Huddleston | 10 days ago
by Aly Walansky | 11 days ago
by Fairygodboss | 12 days ago
by Justina Huddleston | 15 days ago
by Aly Walansky | 25 days ago