Friday, August 01, 2008

At the Root: Get Real about Race & Gender

[Torchy Brown was a comic strip heroine in the 1930s. Read on for more details about her inspiring author/illustrator.]

Today I'll commence by sharing someone else's pithy blog entry, sent to me by my east coast buddy, who like me, regretfully (yet happily), lacks cable access and therefore didn't get to see "Black in America" the CNN series that many folks were awaiting with curiosity and tempered optimism.

It doesn't seem as if the series was that great.

But I encourage you to check in at "the Root," where you'll find Walker's article and some related strong, critical thinking by authors who write about mixed race kids and their identity questions, taser-killings, why some Black people are getting sick of the onus of constantly "defending" Obama against the right. And a lot of commentary from people who are working stuff out.

Regarding the (somewhat hastily written but powerful) blog entry, "Black in America: Ain't I [a] Woman?" I agree with its writer that race conversations need to include "women who have a critique of corporate media. Or women who might bring up the issue of light-skin privilege. Or women who view economic disparities between black men and women as something more than a reason black women should consider marrying white men."

Below her photo are some excerpts from her comments at the Root:



"It's not pretty, but I'm going to tell you what I think.

A lot of black women are pissed that the first segment of CNN's Black in America was even less complex than the second.

Not able get a man? Unprotected sex? 40 minutes to get a tomato?

Get real."

...(she says more)

"Instead of a woman who can get a gun easier than a vegetable, what about the black women who are using vegetables as guns in their commitment to change the way people of color eat? What about the ones who bring ideas about natural foods, homeopathy, and spiritual balance to their families and communities.

The ones who design innovative strategies for addressing mental illness, encourage healthy same-sex eroticism and partnership, and emphasize the need to define ourselves as global citizens. What about the ones fighting environmental racism?

What about the black women who have such a deep concern about the fallacy of racial constructs, they don't even identify as black." (Read the rest.)

True, and there's more than a mere lack of understanding about race, class and gender, of course, at the busy intersection of blackness and femaleness. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich wrote a piece, entitled "Black Women Are Touching the Sky," which does a great job of pointing out the real damage done by these kinds of stories. That is, they render invisible the Black women who are there and HAVE BEEN THERE ALL ALONG; she raises the following example:
"I have observed, for example, that every photo of the historic civil rights marches, demonstrations and rallies of the 1960s shows clear images of Dr. Dorothy I. Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women; Dr. C. Delores Tucker, president of the National Political Caucus of Black Women; Mrs. Coretta Scott King, president-emerita of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and several other unnamed women.

They were photographed marching and standing right beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Urban League's Whitney Young, the NAACP's Roy Wilkins and the Congress on Racial Equality's James Farmer. But national media did then, and still do, refer to the 'Big Four' of the civil rights movement, ignoring the ubiquitous Black women leaders."

What can we do? Sometimes we need to change things immediately. As Rebecca Walker said, perhaps CNN should just have a do-over. I think that's a great idea. I think a little instant gratification would help us to rewrite our cognitive narratives suggesting, reinforcing, and incessantly proving that inequality is so deeply inscribed that there is no quick fix, only historical long-suffering.

The work of two inspiring Black women might freshen up that drear perspective--oppression is so tiresome, really.

First, check out the NPR story about Jackie Ormes, a smart and incredibly sassy Black woman who was also a comic strip producer (illustrator and writer) for the Courier in the 1930s to 1950s, and then follow the links to sample some of her comic strips!

AND we should READ Louise Bernikow's books and articles, and seek out her current traveling lecture and slide show about activism called "The Shoulders We Stand On: Women as Agents of Change."

She can be reached at louise@womensenews.org.