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Musing on Harry Allen, Black Nationalism and Black Feminism

April 23, 2010

This post is by Renina from New Model Minority, and is cross-posted here.

Barkley L. Hendricks Sweet Thang (Lynn Jenkins)

Yesterday,  I had a conversation on Twitter with @harryallen,
about Black nationalism and Black and White feminism,

It all started when I tweeted:

If White feminist examined the ways in which they were dominated by white men more closely, they would have more solidarity w/ Black feminist.

Harry responded saying:

Not a chance. Black feminists underestimate the strength of the relationships between white people, and, thus, overestimate……the value of what white females get from Black females. They do derive benefits, but compared to what they get from white…

He still disagreed with me and contended that: The definition makes clear what I said: You can’t prove “feminism” exists from it. All the things it seeks to do are undone.

Apparently, Harry’s understanding of a social movement means that a social movement ONLY exists to the extent that it accomplished what it set out to do. Which is an interesting read of both social movements and history as they tend to not be this linear at all. Peep the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution, Womens Suffrage in the US, US slavery abolition, the American Revolution, etc.

I then responded by giving Harry the link to my post “Black Feminism Crib Sheet{101}.

I didn’t share this with him yesterday, but as I thought it I realized that  my thinking around Black men, White women and Black feminism is rooted in the Combahee Collective, whose statement says:

Black feminist politics also have an obvious connection to movements for Black liberation, particularly those of the 1960s and I970s. Many of us were active in those movements (Civil Rights, Black nationalism, the Black Panthers), and all of our lives Were greatly affected and changed by their ideologies, their goals, and the tactics used to achieve their goals. It was our experience and disillusionment within these liberation movements, as well as experience on the periphery of the white male left, that led to the need to develop a politics that was anti-racist, unlike those of white women, and anti-sexist, unlike those of Black and white men.

Earlier yesterday, I asked him if he thought he needed to prove that the Black Nationalist movement existed. He said no, because it doesn’t come out of white supremacy.

So Feminism comes out of white supremacy and it doesn’t exist because it didn’t set out to accomplish its goal?

This is absurd, as it leads to the logical conclusion that the work of Soujourner Truth, Ella Baker, Ida B. Wells, Ann Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terell, Paula Giddings, Darlene Clark Hine, Barbara Christian, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Marian Wright Edelman, Hortense Spillers and thousands of others was and is rooted in white supremacy.

The work of all these Black women is rooted in the Liberation of Black women, men and children.

Full stop.

Which leads me to the questions:

What is Black Nationalism?

Has it accomplished it’s goals? And if it hasn’t is it still a movement?

Harry and I have had conversations before about gender and race.

The last one stemmed from me tweeting that “Race is no longer useful as the primary category for organizing.”

We disagreed on that as well.

I understand that I can center women, food/social justice or gender as a unit of analysis because I am being trained to. I see engaging with him and writing blog posts like this as an opportunity to share what I have learned.

According to bell hooks patriarchy is  another way of saying institutionalized sexism.

I wonder if patriarchy prevents Black Nationalists from centering  not only race, but gender and capitalism as a unit of analysis.

I was reminded of the ways in which patriarchy be ALL UP THROUGH my life. A couple of weeks ago gentleman friend, insisted on walking on the outside near the curb. I understand. It’s his Brooklyn steez. But that shit was absurd to me, so I called it patriarchal. His response to it was that I was calling HIM patriarchal, and felt like I, like many Black feminists was alienating an ally. For him patriarchy became a four letter word. OUCH.

I asked him what he sought to accomplish by walking on the outside? That if a car jumped the curb, his body was going to stop ME from being pummeled as well? He answered yes. But I knew he couldn’t be invested in that answer. He is way to brilliant and loving for that.

Love listen, it was hard to stand up to me to stand up to him. Here I am decked out, we are eating cheese eggs,  and he reaching over kissing my hand, IN THE RESTAURANT.#ummp.

Who wants to challenge the person who drops that kind of attention on them? But I did, and we had beef.  *Big beef.

I Love Black men.

However, my Love for them does not include consent to be dominated by them sexually, spiritually, verbally, violently or any other way.

This means that statements such as “feminism” doesn’t exist because it did not do what it seeked to do must be dealt with head up. A literal binary read of social movement histories erases the work of all the women and men who allow me to have the life that I have today.

But for them, I would be picking cotton, rather than writing blog posts, or telling people that they have the right to be who they are.  Nor would I be challenging awesome Black men (and women) on how Patriarchy ain’t they friend.

*Beef was cleared up, but daggumit if that wasn’t hard.

Black feminism null and void?

What do you do when patriarchy shows up on dates?

Did you find this post useful, if so how?

If you are interested in learning more about Black women, White women and Feminism, Social Movements:

All the Blacks Were Men, All the Women Where White, But Some of Us Were Brave
Still Brave
Rules for Radicals
When and Where I Enter
Ain’t I a Woman
Local Black Freedom Movements in America
Sisters in Struggle, African American Women in the Civil Rights Black Power Movement
Want to Start a Revolution: Radical Black women in the Freedom Struggle

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