During slavery the Black woman was the backbone of the Black family because she had to be and more importantly, she was allowed to be. She was not seen as the threat Black men were accused of being. She was also possessed of a variety of resources and uses. A Black woman could work in the fields, bear the children, nurse their children and the slave owners’ children, work in the house at any age without the ever-loooming thought that they might ravage the white woman if given half the chance, however, she could be ravaged by the slaveowner whenever he chose. Much like lighter skinned Black people received privileges, so t0o did women because of proximity if nothing else.
In all of this, most Black women used every advantage they had to keep whatever semblance of a family they had intact if at all possible. But it was also necessary to make sure their children knew their place. It was better to break a child’s spirit than see one broken, killed or sold away. Thus, the practice of whippings that sometimes left children bleeding and uncomforted. And the instances of Black children learning for the first time that they were not the same as white children, in fact they were less than, they were the livestock and whatever their former playmates now “masters” said or did was right and they were wrong. It’s devastating enough for any child when they learn their parents are not indestructible. Imagine the child of a slave learning their parents station in life and their own.
These practices did not simply stop. No more than slavery simply stopped when outlawed. Jim Crow roared in with lynchings, segregation and humiliation. The horrible, inhuman image of Emmitt Till that no doubt, loomed in every Black person’s mind and was burned into their souls accompanied the knowledge that he was, by far, not the only one nor the last one to suffer that fate. So believe you me Black children’s spirits stayed broken by the system and by their parents and as Dr. Joy DeGruy asked in a seminar on her ground breaking research on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, “Does anybody remember any therapy?” After all this trauma.
No. The breaking of the spirit was passed down through the generations. The boys being given particular attention for obvious reasons. But the girls were expected to take on much more than they ought to at younger ages. In my little rural community the girls took care of the younger children. I was eight years old plaiting my little brothers hair, changing his diapers, and later, getting him and my sister ready for school. I remember being expected to be tough or get beat down. As a dark-skinned girl, I was expected to take care of myself and be very careful. Because that cute boy you were talking too and decided to have sex with might take you to his house where his friends were waiting to gang rape you and it would be your fault for being so fast. Chilvary? Please child. Black feminity was not valued. Our brand of feminity was simply expected. Next.
Now here we are in 2016. Technology is rampant but knowledge is sparce. The old ways of raising Black children, for the most part, remain the same but without historical context and what do we see on TV? Happy white families gathered around the dinner table. Tiny tots attempting to pore up a cup of juice for themselves, making a mess of it and here comes mom to the rescue with some name brand paper towel, smiling brightly. No harm, no foul. And how much care-free fun is being had by that porceilined skinned woman while washing her face. Lord knows I have never had that much fun washing my face. In other words, that ain’t my life but I’m being told left and right that it could be, should be. And while ads have become more diverse, Black people are still more than likely represented at the light end of the color spectrum.
Is there any wonder we have boys and grown men, especially those raised in a single parent household, believing that the root of their problems lie with their mothers and by extension all Black women. As I watched Jesse Williams’ now legendary speech at the BET awards, I thought to myself, would he have been so generous to Black women had he been raised by one. I think of OJ Simpson’s love for his mother but we all know how that story ends. When a Black woman is killed by police why are there women on Twitter wondering where the outrage from Black men is. #SayHerName they say. Speaking of #SayHerName I wonder what Korryn Gaines son will think of her as he grows. His mother’s words had to frighten him more than police outside their door. I’m sure she did not mean her son harm. She meant to protect him. How will he process what happened?
Perhaps those Black men who pretend to believe Black women hate them, simply hate Black women and are torn with guilt, confusion and more than a little self-hate. Organizations such as the Black Isrealites propose to seek the healing of the community but there can be no healing in division. We must look at every issue facing the Black community from the poorest to the richest. Because we are all in this together whether we like or not. You can run from being Black but where the hell are you going to hide. If there is hate for one another for whatever reason, remember what we came through, start with compassion for youself and then for one another. Jesus said love your enemy. That’s a hard thing to do. We are not each others enemy so the loving ought to be easy. Black women don’t hate you. We love you more than we love ourselves sometimes but we all need to relearn how to show it.