Welcome

This blog is a course requirement for English 5355: Black Women Writers, a course at Armstrong Atlantic State University. The main focus of this blog is to illuminate and discuss the issues that black women face as they try to maneuver in a world that considers them to be  “the wrong color, the wrong race, and the wrong gender.” (from June Jordan’s, A Poem About My Rights).

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BEYONCE ON BABY BLUE
I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever felt because I’ve given birth. I have never felt so connected, never felt like I had such a purpose on this earth. The best thing about having a daughter is having a true legacy. The word ‘love’ means something completely different now.

In an interview for People Magazine for an issue in which she was named World’s Most Beautiful Woman, Beyone Knowles equates being a mother with having purpose.

And Ain’t I a Black Woman? The Invisibility of Minorities With Disabilities

The following excerpt is from a 1998 interview with Johnnie Lacy, a black female activist for people with disabilities prominent in the 1960’s and 1970’s, conducted for UC Berkeley’s oral history archive. In the excerpt, Lacy recounts what it was like growing up black and disabled.

“I believe that African Americans see disability in the same way that everybody else sees it [perceiving people with disabilities as] worthless, mindless ”without realizing that this is the same attitude held by others toward African Americans. This belief in effect cancels out the black identity they share with a disabled black person, both socially and culturally, because the disability experience is not viewed in the same context as if one were only black, and not disabled. Because of this myopic view, I as a black disabled person could not share in the intellectual dialogue viewed as exclusive to black folk. In other words, I could be one or the other but not both”(Lukin).

As a black woman with a physical disability, I know all too well what it means to have my disability ignored in exchange for being accepted as black or woman. Yet, even with the support of Lacy’s statements to complement my own, it is still rather difficult to explain how I can be either black or woman, maybe both, but never black, woman, and disabled. I am made aware of the impossibility for me to exist completely just as Lacy was made aware; by attempting to engage in discourse about the black experience in a universal sense. As our Black Women Writers course has attempted to talk about the commonalities of the life experiences of  black women in our discussions about what it means to be a black woman, the stories and lives of black women with disabilities have been noticeably absent as if to suggest that the only black women that exists are those who are able-bodied persons. Even as we have tried to stretch our definitions of the black woman outside of the archetypes commonly applied to black women, no stretch of the imagination has allowed us to think of what it means to be black, woman, and disabled.

Toni Morrison’s short story, “Recitatif” exemplifies how minorities with disabilities are often alienated from other self-identifying factors such as their race or gender by the way of an ongoing dialogue between Twyla and Roberta. As the narrator of the story, Twyla introduces us to Maggie of whom she describes in several descriptive factors that are typically associated with disability. In the beginning of the story, Twyla describes Maggie as “the kitchen woman with legs like parentheses”(Morrison 264) and goes on to say that in lieu of being able to remember if Maggie could speak or not, (another important characteristic of Maggie related to disability that is actually of great debate throughout the story), “[she] only remembers her legs like parentheses and how she rocked when she walked” (Morrison 264).

Readers are introduced to Roberta’s perception of Maggie when Roberta accuses Twyla of kicking Maggie on the playground where all of them were tormented by the older girls. When Roberta says to Twyla, “You’re the same little state kid who kicked a poor old black lady when she was down on the ground,” (Morrison 269) we are made aware that Roberta sees Maggie only in terms of race. As exhibited by these examples, both Roberta and Twyla only have the ability to see Maggie in terms of her gender and race or gender and disability but neither are able to see her as a black woman with a disability. Even though Twyla does recognize that Maggie is sandy-colored in  her first description of Maggie, readers are made aware that Twyla doesn’t see Maggie as black when she replies to Roberta’s accusation that she kicked an old black  lady by stating that “she wasn’t black” (Morrison 269).

Still, the question remains of why Maggie could not exist in her entirety as black, woman, and disabled.  The fact that both Roberta and Twyla express a desire to harm Maggie physically provides insight to why Maggie and actual people with disabilities are alienated by groups that they would otherwise belong to on the basis of race and gender. Although both women throughout the story express that they feel oppressed in their own unique ways, neither felt guilty about wanting to harm a person that was just as oppressed as them, if not more, on the basis of being disabled, black, and woman.Disability as a justification for oppression is a part of a historical narrative that Douglas C. Baynton illuminates in his essay, “Disability and the Historical Justification for Oppression,” in which he proves that the idea of  disability has been used as rhetoric to validate the oppression of African Americans., women, and immigrants(33).What is also as important as recognizing how disability has functioned historically to oppress so many groups of people is the recognition that these oppressed groups have had no qualms about viewing disability as a valid reason for oppression, which is undoubtedly the reason why Maggie  could not be viewed equally as black and woman.  As her 1998 interview reflects, “Lacy was exquisitely conscious of the freedom that even those who might oppose race and sex discrimination felt they could exert in oppressing people with disabilities after a San Francisco State University professor successfully organized a movement to stop her from studying in his department because he saw no place in his profession for wheelchair-users” (Lukin). In Lacy’s view, the allowed discrimination was the result of her being disabled as she stated in the interview that “[her] final and departing shot to him was that if I were just a woman, he could not do this to me; if I were only a person of color, he would not be able to do this to me; and . . . the only way that you [are] able to take this unfair advantage is because I have a disability(Lukin). Lacy’s final statements implies that she felt alienated from members of her race and gender because she didn’t feel as though her rights were being fought for and protected.

If I stated that I have a better understanding of my place as black, woman, and disabled, I would be lying. As a result of this realization, I can only end this essay with my the same question that I begin writing with and of which is a tribute to Sojourner Truth’s legendary speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.”

Ain’t I a Black woman?

 

 

 

 

Works cited

Baynton, Douglas. “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History” The New Disability History: American Perspectives, eds. Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky. New York: New York University Press, 2001. Print.

Lukin, Joshua. “Activism.” Black disability studies. n.p. 2006. Web. 28 Apr 2012.

Morrison, Toni. “Recitatif.” The Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women’s Literature. Valarie Lee. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc, 2006.261-274. Print

Hip Hop’s Misguided Tributes to the Black Woman

Popular among African Americans during the Black Nationalism movement was a strong desire for blacks to be economically and politically independent from the dominant power structure that had excluded them.  Along with this separatist ideal came a call for every form of creative expression to reflect the political and social aims of the movement as author Larry Neal proclaimed in his essay titled, “The Black Arts Movement” published in 1968 that “the Black Arts Movement is radically opposed to any concept of the artist that alienates him from his community. Black art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept” (Neal 2039). Neal’s usage of phallocentric language to describe the aims of the Black Art movement highlights the male-centered focus of black art which has either excluded the black female completely or has deemed the interpretations of the black woman from the viewpoint of males as sufficient and accurate representation of the black woman.

Feminist have long ago realized the potential dangers of the representation of women being controlled by men. However, little has been said about how hip hop illustrates the presumption made by many patriarchal males that the representation of women by the way of men is both accurate and sufficient portrayals of women. Hip hop, a creative field of expression that employs the use of rap and rhythmic music is one art form that is representative of these sexist attitudes because  the black male voice is used to speak for black women  Even with the popularity of black female rappers such as,  MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and the female rap duo, Salt and Pepper, the dominate representation of the black woman in Hip Hop has come from the opinion of black males. A song titled, “Illest Bitch Alive,” written by Wale, a 27 year old rapper from Washington, D.C.  that appears on his sophomore album, Ambition is illustrious of the fact that black males in hip hop audaciously assume that they know  the needs and struggles of the black woman and therefore can also take full reigns in the uplifting of her voice.

Even though the title of the song may not suggest it, the song is Wale’s version of a tribute to the black woman as he raps in the chorus of the song, “Illest bitch alive/ illest bitch alive!/ Yeah, that my sista and I’m so proud how she hold it down” (7-9). Wale’s view of the black woman’s position in society is made evident when he raps,

No one notice your plight

No one notice your struggle

No one know what it’s like

How you hold in emotion

While holding in life (18-22)

According to these lyrics of the song, the plight of the black woman often goes without recognition. Although Wale’s  sentiment may appear to be a movement in the right direction toward making black women visible,  Wale’s opinion of the black woman’s plight  unaccompanied by  the actual  input of black women only uplifts the black woman from a male point of view and not her own. In other words, the black woman is still not being seen in her solidarity and is only visible when she is given visibility by the way of a black male.

Perhaps the most devastating way that Wale’s tribute to the black woman actually contradicts its goal of uplifting the black woman is Wale’s exertion of himself as the black woman’s  savior.  Wale’s position in the song as the black woman’s savior is made apparent when at the end of the song he raps, “And when you take off your jeans you get all the me that you need/ That you allow me to work it ’til you know what your actual worth mean/And for what it’s worth, I wrote a couple words to help you see. “

In the final lines of the song, Wale not only suggests that he can ease the pain of the black woman by satisfying her sexually, he  is also suggesting that his sexual prowess  and maleness is the way that the black woman will come to acknowledge and recognize her own worth. Although Wale’s song is only one representation of the patriarchal male within hip hop, his song is  the epitome  of the problematic nature of the representation of black women being dependent upon black males because  many of these representations are shallow, sexists, and lack authenticity because they never come from the authorship of black women.

 

Neal, Larry. “The Black Arts Movement.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. McKay, Nellie Y., and Henry Louis Gates Jr. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.2039-2050. Print.

Wale. “Illest Bitch Alive.” Ambition.  Warners Bros, 2011. CD.

Natural Hair Blogs: Recursive History of Call and Response and the Multiplicity of Safe Spaces

The desire for a safe space, a place of sameness, acceptance, and belonging is part and parcel of the black experience in congruence with the long history of the othering of people of African descent. Othering is a concept commonly used in Postcolonial theory in reference to the treatment of individuals or a group of people as less than human. However, othering can also be more subtle to mean any ongoing action that makes a group of people or person feel inferior. The othering of blacks has occurred in many different forms, but the othering of the black body has been the most influential and longstanding method to illustrate how blacks do not fit within the European ideal of normality.  This has been especially and painfully true for the black female body, such as the one belonging to Saartjie Baartman, derogatorily known as Hottenot Venus, her body and countless others considered to be illustrious of the Hottenot Venus prototype  were often publicly displayed in full nudity and scrutinized and violated by whites both male and female.

As is true with all methods used to oppress African Americans, centuries of the othering of the black body has not been accepted by them without outright rebellion. Take for example, the gigantic Afro’s of the 1960’s and 1970’s parlayed as the African American symbol of rebellion against the white hegemony and beauty standards. However, what many scholars have coined to be the Call and Response of Jim Crow is truly indicative of how blacks have responded to othering.  The Call and Response of Jim Crow was the construction of safe spaces such as churches, barber shops, restaurants, theaters, hospitals, insurance companies, political parties etc that blacks created in response to being denied access to public facilities due to racial segregation. The recognition of these safe spaces authored by blacks in the 20th century is necessary because of how these types of spaces have reappeared in different forms in the twenty-first century. By the way of natural hair blogs, black women have embraced the function of the safe spaces indicative of the Call and Response of Jim Crow in terms of community, overarching purpose, and multiplicity in function.   

Just as the safe spaces of Jim Crow were a part of an era, natural hair blogs are a part of a movement; the rather recent movement away from the use of relaxers as a permanent hair straightening method by many black women around the world, which is often referred to as the Natural Hair movement.  As the name suggests, natural hair blogs are websites or blogs dedicated to providing information to black women about how to care for their hair in its chemically unaltered state. These blogs are the embodiment of safe spaces for black women because they are focused on uplifting the beauty of the black woman’s hair in its varieties of textures and are an immediate opposition to the mainstream beauty standard for women to have long, straight hair, which has made black women with their hair of curls, kinks and coils feel ugly and inferior. These blogs are even in opposition to the Afro’s of the 1960’s and 70’s because having a short afro is not frowned upon today as it was back then, as a matter of fact, it has been embraced as a natural part of the process of a black woman’s hair becoming free of chemicals to such an extent that black women have coined a phrase to describe this process, which is lovingly and excitedly known, as the Big Chop. As exhibited by these functions of natural hair blogs, natural hair blogs have fully embraced the nature of Call and Response by being spaces created in response to the othering of black women’s hair.

     Natural hair blogs also foster community much like the safe spaces of Jim Crow created by African Americans fostered community on a local basis, however, the spatial reach of natural hair blogs due to their existence on the web have enabled them to create a  global community of women to include black women of the African diaspora & Africa. In this way, natural hair blogs have made real what was once viewed as an irrational sense of connection, on the part of African Americans, to their African heritage through their hair. One way that natural hair blogs have connected black women all over the globe is by giving black women a format to share their hair stories.  This is usually done in a question answer format where visitors of the site have the ability to answer a series of questions about their experiences with their hair growing up and their current experiences with being or moving toward becoming natural, which often times leads to them talking about their feelings toward their hair in relation to influences within their neighborhood, state, or home country.  These narratives, which are placed on the natural hair blogs for readers to read, comment, and share, undoubtedly enable black women to feel connected to one another and foster a sense of community among them as many women who meet on these blogs decide to meet up in person, a practice that has become so popular that they are known as Natural Hair Meet-ups and have already occurred in various cities and states.

The possibility for global and communal outreach created by natural hair blogs gives insight to how they have also embraced the multiplicity of safe spaces. As it is commonly known, the safe spaces of Jim Crow such as churches and barbershops, served many functions other than what they were initially created for. For instance, black churches not only enabled blacks to free themselves from the white church that often preached the doctrine of inferiority and submission of blacks as biblical truths, they were also spaces where blacks came together to plan non-violent resistance to their oppression such as  marches and sit-ins.

Natural hair blogs are indicative of the multiplicity of safe spaces created by blacks because along with providing black women with the best hair care tips, black women are also given the opportunity to receive tips for a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Some blog posts may cover health and fitness while others cover the issue of self-esteem and relationships. On one of the most popular natural hair blogs titled, CurlyNikki:Hair Therapy, black women are given the opportunity to share their personal life stories that do not have to be in any way related to their hair and may instead include an inspirational message or moral and may be a therapeutic release for each woman who tells her story.

The most important feature of natural hair blogs in relation to ending the otherness of black woman’s hair is that they enable black women to be in control of the representation of their bodies and also give black women the ability to see themselves as the ideal beauty standard within a community that they can call their own.

The Intersectionality of Disability, Race, Gender and Oppression

On Killing the Black Body:  What would have happened to the Eugenics movement(sterilization of women,  blacks, immigrants and the disabled) if the public opinion/ perception of disability was different? What does the strong relationship between the oppression of blacks and women to disability say about the feelings toward disability in our society?

Disability as Race, Gender and Sexuality**

From Dr. Baynton’s Essay, “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History.”

“Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent in the histories we write” (Baynton 52)

(On disability)

“While many have pointed out the injustice and perniciousness of attributing these qualities to a racial or ethnic group, little has been written about why these attributions are such powerful weapons for inequality, why they were so furiously denied and condemned by their targets, and what this tells us about our attitudes toward disability” (Baynton 41).

The appearance of disability within the texts of black women writers that we have read in this course begs the question of just where does disability fit in our discussion of race and gender?  Whether disability has been used metaphorically as exhibited in Toni Morrison’s Recitatif, as a part of a historical narrative as it is within Dorothy Roberts’ Killing the Black Body, or as a result of an incestuous relationship between daughter and father within Sapphire’s Novel, Push, an undeniable connection between disability, gender and race is evident and deserving of critical analysis. In light of the prevalence of black males being placed in Special Education classes at such a higher rate than other ethnic groups and disability being used to justify the sterilization of black mothers, an understanding of gender and race as disability is also critical to the furthering of civil rights in the 21st century.

In Black Skin, White Mask, Psychiatrist Frantz Fanon illuminates the connection between language and oppression with his declaration that to speak “a language is to take on a world, a culture.”  By using language to describe racial groups, particularly African Americans in terms typically associated with disability, an appropriation of disability to African Americans through language has occurred and is historically explicative.  The same appropriation of disability through language has also been true for women.  The implications of disability language being used to describe African Americans, women and other oppressed groups have been explored by Historian, Douglas C. Baynton, in his essay, “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History.” In his Essay Baynton writes, “while disabled people can be considered one of the minority groups historically assigned inferior status and subjected to discrimination, disability has functioned for all such groups as a sign of and justification for inferiority.”  How disability acts as a justification for the oppression of Blacks and women is particularly relevant to Roberts’ and Morrison’s texts as each deal greatly with the issue of oppression from the perspective of race and gender. In  Dorothy Roberts’  text, Killing the Black Body, it is evident that the reproductive rights of black women have been challenged due to disability language being used to describe Black children as Roberts states that ”Poor Black mothers are  blamed for perpetuating social problems by transmitting defective genes, irreparable crack damage and a deviant lifestyle to their children.”(Roberts 3)  The use of language such as defective genes, deviant lifestyles and irreparable crack damage  to validate the controlling of black women’s reproductive bodies either by sterilization or health hazardous birth control shows how physical disability(Irreparable crack damage, defective genes) or behavioral disability(defective genes, deviant behavior) has been used to oppress black women.

How disability relates to racial oppression in Toni Morrison Recitatif is not as easily noticeable but does further reiterate the connection between race and gender. Toni Morrison combines the common depiction of the subaltern as mute with racist physical qualities akin to the Sambo character popularized in Literature and theater with her inclusion of Maggie in the story. Throughout the  story, Maggie, a black female character, is described as having ”bowed legs like parenthesis” that made her sway from side to side when she walked and also as a mute. In this way Morrison combines possible perceptions of disability (muteness, difference in walking) with the pictorial depiction of the Sambo as having legs like parenthesis or bowed legs. It is interesting to note that the meaning of Sambo has been traced to ”Hispanic or Portuguese sources  in which the word Zambo means, bow-legged or knock-kneed”(Nurrudin 252). The relationship between disability and racial oppression is explained in historical terms by Baynton’s admission that “blacks were  often physically depicted in terms of deformity, specifically as having exaggerated lips, amusingly long or bowed legs, grotesquely big feet, bad posture, missing teeth, crossed or bulging eyes, and otherwise deformed bodies” (40). In regards to how the proposed physical deformities of blacks were related to their oppression; these types of depictions were often used to prove that blacks were inferior and in turn was used to justify their enslavement, disenfranchisement, and state of poverty.

The film adaptation of the novel Push also illuminates the connectedness of race and disability through the naming of Precious’s daughter with Down syndrome as Mongo. Mongo, which is arguably the shortened version of Monogoloid, is historically a term used to describe the physical features of  racial groups(Asians, mixed children) and also people with Down Syndrome. As it is commonly known, the intermixing of blacks and whites in sexual terms were said to result in the production of a mongrel race but the historical background behind the term Mongolism provided by Baynton reiterates just how connected race and disability truly are. According to Baynton, “Down’s syndrome was called Mongolism by the doctor who first identified it in 1866 because he believed the syndrome to be the result of a biological reversion by Caucasians to the Mongol racial type.” As exhibited by this historical anecdote, racial inferiority was often viewed in terms of disability.

What is important about the understanding of the connectedness of disability,race and oppression is to come to the realization that discussions about race and gender cannot fully exist without an inclusion of disability within the discussion due to the stigmatizing of blacks and women with the stigma of disability. What must ultimately come out this inclusion is a rethinking of how disability is perceived within society and treated within the world of academia and disciplines concerned with the uplifting of oppressed groups.

Sources:

1[pdf issuu_pdf_id=”120316071936-3b825a86fa924912949bd40d45a7bd42″].

2. Nurrudin, Yusuf. “Sambo.” Encyclopedia of African American History. Ed. Leslie Alexandria, Walter C. Rucker.  ABC-CLIO: United States, 2010. 252. Print.

Choice in Black Women’s Literature

According to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is Humanism published in 1946, choice is the epitome of autonomy for all human-beings and the cure to the historical self-alienation of man. It is then no wonder that the prominent focus of black woman’s literature has been on the ability of women to make their own choices. As a group that is suffering from dual self-alienation due to the oppressiveness of both race and gender, choice is no longer just a metaphysical abstraction to aid man in his struggle against self-alienation; it is the greatest form of power and freedom for women in their possession and the greatest form of captivity when a woman’s right to choose is not her own.

To understand the importance of choice in June Jordan’s , A Poem About My Rights, it is important to note how Jordan establishes herself as a self-alienated being within the poem. In the poem Jordan writes, “I am the history of the terrorized incarnation of my self.” The separation of my from the self can be interpreted as a separation from her ability to make her own choices due to the constraints that her physical body(her gender and race) puts on her. The bare premise of self-alienation is that human beings are suffering from a separation from their subjective nature(ability to reason/make choices) due to the physical or worldly conditions such as class, gender or race that prevents an individual from being able to make their own choices.

It is important to note how Jordan references her inability to make her own choices about her identity in historical terms to further understand how Jordan’s race and gender are preventing her from executing her autonomy.

Jordan writes:

I am the history of rape.

I am the history of the rejection of who I am.

I am the history of battery assault and limitless armies against whatever I want to do with my mind

And my body and my soul….(Jordan 255).

By placing the restraints put on her personal identity in historical terms, Jordan further illuminates how unable she feels to be able to take control over how she is treated, how she can act and behave, or how she can look physically as a woman because the taking away of a woman’s right to choose is a historical and global experience. If the controlling by patriarchal society of women’s physical, mental and spiritual identities is a historical and global experience, women have little hope in being able to execute personal control over her identity.

The Importance of Choice in Octavia Butler’s Blood child:Choice As a Man’s Right

By attempting to switch the expectations of gender between man and woman by making Gan, a male character in the book reproduce, Butler illustrates that a woman’s right to reproduce is not her own and that only a man would be given the right to decide for himself whether or not he wanted to reproduce. When it is time for Gan to be used by T” Gatoi for reproduction, Gan threatens to shoot himself and says in question of his decision to kill himself that “at least it would be a decision that he made”(Butler 312). Gan’s statement is representative of the difficulty that women often have with being able to make their own choices due to the constraints that patriarchal society places on the personal identity of women. Butler leaves us wondering if a female would have been able to make that decision. Typically, guns are representative of male power, so the likely answer to this question is no, a woman would not have been able to make the choice that Gan was able to make.

Also, Hoa who is Gan’s sister could only be saved from being used for reproduction by her brother’s own intervention. This idea coincides with the idea that within feminist theory that a woman’s right to choose what to do with her physical body is never her own and is instead dictated by patriarchal society. It is also important to note that T’Gatoi states that Hoa will have an easy time being used by T’Gatoi for reproduction because she had always expected carry other lives in her” (Butler 313). This is Butler’s most direct reference to the control that patriarchal society has over a woman’s identity and illuminates the social construction of gender roles that mandates that women should be mothers.

The Colonized Consciousness in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth As a Barrier To Self-ownership Over Identity.

The concept of the colonized consciousness is a concept within Marxist theory that deals greatly with the commodification of identity. The commodification of human identity is especially relevant to the discussion of Black women and the power that they have over their physical bodies because of the commodification of black bodies dating back to the slave trade and the modern commodification of the female body by the beauty industry. What is most important to the application of the colonized consciousness within Marxist theory to choice within black women’s literature is that the colonized consciousness as enforced by the media, education, men and the beauty industry keep women from having self-ownership over their physical identities.

My reading of the Miseducation of Irie Jones is supported by the opening advertisement in chapter 11, the advertisement reads: Lose Weight to Earn Money and is an example of the commodification of the female body because the advertisers were seeking to put a price on the female body. However, more important than the literal commodification of the female body exhibited by the ad is how the ad is functioning as a control mechanism that is convincing women that the beauty ideal of straight hair and slender body is the superior beauty ideal. Smith writes in the chapter that Irie knew that the ad was speaking to her. How to diminish the enormity, the Jamaican posterior? (Smith 222). Early on in the chapter, Smith alludes to the idea that Millat, Irie’s male best friend plays apart in the commodification of the black female body and the selling of the European beauty ideal to Jamaican women. Smith describes Milliat’s work in the shop as, “a little Caribbean flesh for a little English Change” (Smith 222).

Education is also used as a control mechanism to colonize the consciousness of Jamaica women and rob them of their ability to have self-ownership over their identity. While talking about Shakespeare’s sonnet 127, a poem that references a woman with black coliy hair and dark skin, Irie is told that it is unlikely that the woman in the poem could have been a black woman. By dismissing the possibility that the woman in the sonnet could have been black, the teacher is using Shakespeare to colonize Irie’s consciousness to make her associate whiteness with superiority and beauty. Considering how well-known and respected that Shakespeare was as a writer, if the teacher had entertained the possibility that the woman in the poem could have been black, she would have been uplifting black women to a status equal to whites by suggesting that Shakespeare also wrote about black women in his poetry just as he had written about white women.

The European beauty standard is also used to colonize the consciousness of women in the chapter by the way of an African-American beauty magazine being present in a Jamaica beauty shop ( Smith 229). The end result of Irie’s attempt to be align with the European beauty standard of straight hair is that she loses all of her hair. I think that the literal loss of Irie’s hair is a metaphor for the loss of self-ownership over her identity that plagued Irie throughout the chapter.

Choice in Latent Rapists by Ntozake Shange

The right for women to have control over their sexual bodies and sexual identity is an issue that is in the forefront of feminist theory. Ntozake Shange brings the issue of women’s right to choose to the forefront when she writes the lines:

Lady in Blue

Bein betrayed by men who know us

Lady in purple

& expect like the stranger We always thot waz comin

Lady in blue

That we will submit

Lady in purple

We must have known

Lady in red

Women relinquish all personal rights in the presence of a man who apparently cd be considered a rapists.(Shange 316).

As represented by these lines in the poem, a woman’s right to choose who she will have sex with is controlled by patriarchal society that defines the boundaries of consent based upon what will benefit men the most. By deciding that a woman can never be raped, patriarchy robs women of their ability to have personal ownership over their physical bodies.

The Privilege of Not Knowing: Choice is never Color blind

Being able to choose to be oblivious to social surroundings is a choice that Toni Morrison illustrates in Recitatif is a choice that only whites could make. The importance of knowing one’s societal surroundings for African-Americans dates back to the Jim Crow Era when not knowing the social etiquette expected of them when interacting with whites could result and often did result in them being killed.

Twyla’s reaction of indifference to schools being integrated illustrates that she had the ability to be unconcerned about an event that was extremely dangerous for the black students who were among the first to go to integrated schools. Integration was never an issue that African-Americans during the 50’s and 60s were indifferent about because for them it meant the difference between their children being well-educated or receiving a really poor education.

Socioeconomic status as a barrier to being able to choose family dynamics.

“So much was raged against these connections”(Cliff 303).

Philosopher Adorno made the claim in his essay, “Free Time” that the concept of free time is a fallacy because what we consider to be free time is mediated by our work schedules and is therefore not free time at all.

As exhibited in Michelle Cliff’s Abeng in chapter three., incredible strain is placed  upon black families who are poor and have to make a living serving others.  As a result,  poor black families do not have the luxury of choosing how they can live and relate to each other personally because these factors are decided for them by the people with provide them with money. It is important to note that what would commonly be associated as the means to be able to determine family dynamics(economic autonomy) actually takes away that choice for poor black families who are essentially slaves to their own labor. In this way, societal constraints placed upon women and men by their duty to work by serving others mediate family dynamics in the same way that our duty to work mediates what we consider to be free-time.

In chapter 3, poor black families are broken apart due to their socioeconomic  status and the happiness of the women are set aside because taking care of the family is their priority.  Cliff writes, “the women of Tabernacle had their spaces of need but for most of them, the space had been reduced over time so that the filling of it became a matter for family.” ”To the women fell the responsibility for kin-sisters, mothers, children”(Cliff 303).

Also the socioeconomic status of poor black families also result in a division between husband and wife. In order to support the family financially, many of the men in the story left for America or England and this put a strain on the ability for the women to raise their children properly as Cliff writes that “[without their husbands], the women  supervised the rearing of their children the best they could. “ (Cliff 303)

In this chapter from Abeng, Cliff illustrates that the right to choose the dynamics of one’s own family is often not an option for poor families.

The Picture That Will Never Be Forgotten And The Women That Make Me Feel Alive

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