Tag Archives: social justice

Time to Stop Deferring the Dream of Black Women

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’re coming in at the very end of an inspiring project, #HerDreamDeferred, sponsored by the African-American Policy Foundation and a host of other social justice organizations.

Black women have long mobilized against the multiple forms of discrimination they have faced in the pursuit of better lives for themselves, their families, and the well being of their communities. Black women’s activism has been marked by their high levels of civic engagement, robust voting participation, and their leadership of racial justice movements.  Black women have led campaigns against lynching,   segregation, voter suppression and state violence. They have also been at the forefront of movements against sexual violence, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workforce, and have led efforts to expand the contours of reproductive freedom and political representation.  Yet even as Black women’s advocacy continues to reflect commitments to an inclusive vision of racial and gender justice, many of the specific challenges that Black women face are relegated to the margins of racial justice campaigns.   

Acknowledging the centrality of Black women to our history and social fabric while recognizing the uniquely gendered and racialized challenges they face is critical if we are to build  movements that are fully inclusive and successful. 

One of the movers and shakers behind this project, which finishes tomorrow (April 3) with a radio interview on the topic of “Are Racism and Patriarchy Making Us Sick? Black Women, Societal Inequity and Health Disparities,” is Kimberlé Crenshaw. In an interview with Carla Murphy at Colorlines, Crenshaw calls the lack of information about Black girls and women an “information desert.” She says:

The fact of the matter is that our communities are made up of the life chances of men and women. Many of the circumstances that we’ve come to accept as justifying an exclusive focus on men and boys are in fact directly related to the social-economic challenges facing their mothers—and those [in turn] are directly related to some of the challenges facing girls. …

We shouldn’t back into this idea of racial justice by thinking that programs that go to boys will somehow solve the most critical problems and we can allow girls to receive trickle-down impact. Trickle-down racial justice doesn’t work anymore than trickle-down economics….

As long as people believe that black women and girls are doing fine—which they will as long as black women and girls are excluded from public dialogue—then the call for inclusion will be heard by some as a call to exclude or marginalize the boys. We just have to fight back and say that’s a silly argument. We’re the last people that should be endorsing a zero-sum mentality for social justice.

These are important truths, rarely spoken and even more rarely heard. Whether or not black women and girls are “doing fine,”  is difficult to find out, because of the information desert. What’s more, nothing about “black women and girls” is universally or even stereotypically true; looking at real black women and girls is the only way to find out what’s happening across a broad spectrum.

Crenshaw and her colleagues view #HerDreamDeferred as a way to start a conversation that desperately needs to be started. When asked what they hope to accomplish, she says:

We hope to raise awareness about the social and economic status of black women and its relation to the well-being of the black community as a whole. And we’re starting with the assumption that there is a desire to lift up members of our community who need attention, and that the real issue is that people are just not aware of it. So this is a beginning.

This assumption is at least as important as the crucial conversation about black women and girls. You can go months in America without ever hearing anyone say that we believe, or assume, or even hope that people care about each other, that there’s a social desire to address this kind of problem, that anyone in the country (except for a few “bleeding hearts”) gives a damn about anyone outside of their own families.

You will hear a hundred news stories about how people hurt each other before you read one about how people work together. If you Google “Detroit water liens deferred,” you will not find this story anywhere, even though it was a national outpouring of phone calls and emails, supporting strong local action, that won this temporary victory. Heartwarming news is “dog finds family,” or “girl selling lemonade gives money to charity.” The big, life-changing ways in which people pitch in every day to make things in their school, or their neighborhood, or their church, or their friend network more fair are kept under the radar. Because we never hear about them, we don’t believe in them. And because we don’t believe in them, we often don’t act in accordance with our impulses to be part of a movement towards fairness. (And, just to be clear, black women and girls have been in the forefront of so many efforts to make things more fair for everyone.)

In fact, that’s what Kimberlé Crenshaw and #HerDreamDeferred are doing right now.

The Fourth of July

Marlene says:

Cross posted from Fukshot

I love the fourth of July. I’m conflicted about parts of it, but uncomplicated relationships are for uncomplicated minds. I loathe the standard fare patriotism and invented right wing history that this date invokes, but the negatives associated with this date don’t outweigh the positives for me.

Historically, July 4 is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. A bunch of moneyed white men got together to complain about their taxes. That doesn’t sound too unfamiliar. Does it? They selected a passionate writer and speaker, slaveholder, rapist, inventor and rabble rouser Thomas Jefferson to draft a declaration of their distaste for being told what to do by other moneyed white men.

In spite of all his shortcomings, Jefferson penned (literally) the foundational document of the American Revolution and, perhaps more important, the foundational document of what we now think of as social justice and human rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed (snip) with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This was a declaration of the rights of people to govern themselves for their own well-being, benefit and purposes. This was the assertion that the rights of individuals were greater than the power of monarchy. This was the beginning of not just the American Revolution, but of many revolutions to come. Over the next fifty years, monarchies all over Europe would fall. Later, the promises of freedom in the Declaration would inspire progressive political thinkers such as Karl Marx and Emma Goldman. It is the promise of the Declaration that inspired abolitionists in the mid nineteenth century in the USA, and anti-colonialists all over the world in the mid twentieth century.

Ho Chi Minh quoted the American Declaration of Independence in his own and sought support for throwing off his French colonial rulers from the United States, who he assumed would be sympathetic because of our history as an exploited colony. Unfortunately, like Fidel Castro, his requests for assistance in establishing independence and freedom were denied and he was forced to seek support from the Soviet Union. The same segment of the Declaration was quoted by the Black Panther Party and they too were seen as an enemy by the US government.

On the Fourth of July, I celebrate the moment at which the political ideals I subscribe to, those of individual freedom and collective effort and sacrifice for the collective good, were set in motion for the first time in a way that is recognizable to people struggling in our time.

Jefferson himself predicted that rights should be ever-expanding and that it would be correct for future generations to look back on his age and see barbaric suppression. We do. I expect the same to be thought of my current ideas in the future, or at least I hope for that.

In the mean time, I also really like fireworks.