A seemingly impervious narrative dominates today’s social discourse in the Black community where Black men are painted as more vulnerable victims than their female counterparts. This far-reaching myth typically arises along with discussions about gender inequality or sexism where claims are made that Black women face less hardship than their male counterparts, or even — as stated in Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele’s latest essay on The Root titled “Michael Brown’s Death Reopened My Eyes to My Privileges as a Black Woman” — are the recipients of privilege not bestowed to Black men.
Many fail to recognize and understand that the pervasiveness of this myth represents the truest form of marginalization where society is so disconnected from the plight of Black women, that we can trivialize and even minimize the extreme hardship faced by women who struggle against not only racism but rampant misogyny and sexism as well. This is exacerbated by White feminism that — to a large extent — co-opts the Black female struggle without truly giving a voice to Black women to speak on behalf of themselves about the difficulties they face.
For that reason, it is essential that we create public spaces where the struggles of the Black woman are enumerated, reverberated and heard throughout the nation without the cloak of White feminism or the Black man’s narrative. This is not a matter of furthering some “feminist agenda,” this is a matter of giving voice to a marginalized group that is not only oppressed by a system of racism, but also a system of male-dominance that threatens its physical and emotional well-being. With that in mind, here are 12 reasons Black women are not more privileged than Black men:
1. Patriarchy. It seems that a long forgotten fact in the Black community is that the United States was founded not only by a system of racism, but a system of patriarchy. White women and Black people were all considered property and disallowed basic dignities award White men including property ownership, the right to vote and the right to inherit both wealth and land. This patriarchal system, where White men dominated White women, created male-dominated financial and political spheres that barred women from participation. The results of this are evident in the fact that Black men were allowed to vote before White women were and a Black male was elected president before a White female. This translates to a particularly dire reality for Black women. Because White women had access to resources (healthcare, money, education, etc.) through their White male counterparts, the effects of this affront to basic rights would not have had the same egregious effects as it would on Black women. Today, Black women are struggling to not only play catchup after decades of disenfranchisement, but they are also battling to enter typically male-dominated spaces that are not particularly open to female participation.
2. History tends to marginalize the struggles of Black women. History books are riddled with imagery and accounts of the brutal reality of slavery and the atrocities inflicted upon Black bodies — typically illustrated with images of enslaved Black men — despite the fact that both women and men were whipped and lynched. Furthermore, largely absent from that narrative is the degradation of the Black female body. For example, J. Marion Sims, also known as the father of modern gynecology, founded a controversial medical practice on the experimentation of Black female slaves without any anesthesia. Black women were also regularly raped and forced to watch the murder or abuse of their children, a grave affront to their humanity and reproductive rights that is very often obscured.
3. Innocent Black women and girls are also murdered by police, but we rarely hear about it. Though widespread news coverage of both the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have prompted a very necessary nationwide debate over the mistreatment of minorities by law enforcement, one face is oddly absent from television screens and newspaper front-covers: and that is the face of the Black woman. Despite the fact that dozens of Black women and girls — including 93-year-old Pearlie Golden and seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was shot in her home — have been targets of the police’s deadly use of force, these stories fly under the radar and receive little to no attention.
4. There is no democracy for Black women. Carol Moseley Braun was America’s first and last African-American female senator. Of the nine African-American individuals to ever become senators in the United States, only one has been a woman. It has been a longstanding truism that all demographics should be afforded political representation in order for a true democracy to exist. Black women have separate issues and needs that must be addressed, even independently of Black men. Was it not a young America that decried “no taxation without representation” and took to task Britain, the nation that helped to found it? And yet, some 200 years later, we find the entire population of African-American women, many of whom have roots that date back to the beginning of the country’s history, without adequate representation.
5. Black women are grossly underrepresented in power positions. Ursula Burns is the only Black female Chairman and CEO. There have been 15 Black executives Fortune 500 companies, beginning in 1987 when Dr. Clifton R. Wharton Jr. became the first Black man to hold such an esteemed position. Since then, only one Black woman has risen to that rank.
6. Black women face brutality outside of and within their own communities. Black women are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence than their White counterparts and experience intimate partner violence 35 percent more. It is estimated that 29.1 percent of Black women are victimized by their partners — approximately 3 in 10 women.
7. The music industry detests women — especially Black women. There is no space more public and riddled with intense sexism and misogyny than the music industry. And while many Black women have broken down barriers for themselves and claimed high positions in the industry, the imagery associated with and employed against Black women in the mainstream music culture speaks to a larger issue that persists despite those accomplishments. Everything from hip-hop lyrics that overtly refer to Black women as sex objects, hoes or bitches, to music videos where scantily-clad Black women are used as sex-props for the male gaze represents the deep-seated sexism that permeates American culture — including Black American culture.