Monday, August 26, 2013

An Open Letter To Ms. Jamilah Lemieux by Obsidian

#BlackPowerIsBeingAbleToClaimVictimhoodFromYourPerchAtEbonyDotCom: An Open Letter To Ms. Jamilah Lemieux

7:54 AM 8/23/2013 Fri

"lol, @JamilahLemieux aka #SistaToldja, can run but she cant hide; she needs to address the arguments..."
-@ObsidianFiles to Jamilah Lemieux via Twitter, Mon, Aug 19, 2013

I knew it wouldn't be long before the word got out about my recent missive wading into the catfight between Black and White Feminists, and which involved disgraced academic Prof. Hugo Schwyzer; as I often do when my writings are published, I made the announcement on Twitter, and invited Ms. Lemieux and anyone who agreed with her position, encapsulated by her hastag #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen, to respond. And "respond" Ms. Lemieux did - she and I had a brief skirmish via Twitter that Monday afternoon, during which she ducked, dodged and twisted about in the rhetorical wind, not actually dealing with my arguments, and of course, peppering her mini-responses with tinny accusations of my supposedly being a "sexist" and "misogynist". I suppose Ms. Lemieux has been too busy parlaying her former blogging hobby into a real dough-ray-me gig to notice,that playing various cards out of the "Sexism/Misogyny" deck done got old a long way back. Even her fellow Sistas are starting to roll their eyes at such wolf-cries nowadays. 

And well they should, for Ms. Lemieux's recent attempts to pile-on what Ms. Mikki Kendal started earlier this month - trying to change the subject from one of the very real fact that Feminism has never been about Black Women and in truth has always been about at least nominally if not outight upper middle class and above White Women, into a crying game about the supposed myriad of ways Black Women are done in by Black Men, not only comes off as odd, it's downright unseemly at best, patently self-serving in a way that only Hugo himself could appreciate at worst. I mean, am I the only one to get the irony of a Black Woman who is the editor of one of Black America's premiere publications, calling for a kumbayah session over how Black Women are supposedly so behind the eightball?

It reminds me of when certain pro atheletes "complain" of being "slaves", all the while making more money than some small countries around the world. The entire premise beggars belief. 

Nevertheless, Ms. Lemieux's demand for attention on the supposed behalf of Sistas everywhere took hold - itself a damning commentary on the state of Black America's cognitive sharpness, or the distinct lack thereof - and generated a few days' worth of social media activity (to be brutally frank, it doesn't take a media expert to observe that, when it comes to what can be rightly described as Black Social Media, it don't take much to generate buzz). Perhaps the highlight of said activity, was a mea culpa letter scripted by what can only be described as a Cabal of Simps - otherwise known as "Brothers Writing to Live" and headed up by Duke professor Mark Anthony Neal. In their own open letter, they respond to a number of the "claims" made by respondents to Ms. Lemieux's rallying cry, and I'd like to respond to their responses in this article. 

But before I do that, I want to respond to a premise put forth by Ms. Lemieux, and those who think like her: the idea that Black Men writ large, are retrograde knuckledraggers when it comes to Women, Black or otherwise, isn't just a fallacy, it's downright foolish and belies the ignorance of those who hold such views. A quick Google search will confirm, for example, that a Black Man was not only in attendance at the first ever gathering of Feminists in the Western world - the Seneca Falls Convention - but that he insisted on the importance of making the case for the right of Women to vote. Just like Crispus Attucks - a Black Man, was the first to die for the principle of American democracy,Frederick Douglass was the first Black Man to take a stand in making ours a more perfect union when it comes to equality between Men and Women. 

Nor are these historical anomalies; they continue into the present day. Indeed, in her recent article for Slate, where she notes the reality of what is known as "hookup culture" on the American college campus, academic Lisa Wade carefully notes the fact that Black Men do not participate in such behavior, in part due to their far more egalitarian views of (Black) Women than their White Fratboy counterparts. Then, there's of course, the very existence of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, who has made his support for Feminism in general, and Black Women in particular, a centerpiece of his presidency (far and away more than anything he's done for or on the behalf of Black Men -other than to wag his finger derisively for being "deadbeat daddies") (Preview. His administration takes the concerns of Black Women very seriously, proofed by the fact that the first piece of legislation he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act, guaranteeing equal pay on the job for Women - Black Women will most definitely benefit from that Act. Then, there's the recent case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist who operated an office/practice here in Philly; he was rightly adjudicated and punished for his crimes in the service of providing abortion services to poor and needy, and more often than not Black Women; but, as I noted in my column on the case, what cannot be denied is that Gosnell, a Black Man, was firmly in support of Women's reproductive rights - as is Obama. They stand as stark examples of the Black male perspective on the issue: overall, Black Men support a Black Woman's right to choose. This is even more important to note, because these are Black Men of Real Privilege, not some phantom notion conjured up in the minds of some aggrieved ladies. They chose to use their privilege in the service of aiding and assisting Black Women wherever and whenever they could. 

So, with that out of the way, let us now address the "concerns" raised in the Cabal's recent open letter:

@BougieBlackGurl writes: “I am supposed to give a cookie to the BM who are involved in their children’s lives while Single BW carry the blame #blackpowerisforblackmen”

You're kidding me, right? As Edin and Nelson have made clear in their recently published book, "Doing The Best I Can", the married sociologist team do a yeoman's job of uncovering the many layers of hatin' on Black Men going all the way back to former US Senator and former NBA star Bill Bradley's attempt to tar and feather all poor Black Men fathers as "hit and run" guys who just want to duck out on their responsibilites. Please note that Bradley, like Obama today, isn't just a Democrat, but is considered to be among the more liberal, uh, I think the proper term today is "progressive" Democrats of the era. Bradley's law set in motion the official demonization of Black men daddies at the federal, state and local levels, and fostered a culture of anti-Black male father animus, suspicion and recrimination. Bougie Black Gurl, if you're out there, please do yourself a huge favor, and read the book - or just this lengthy excerpt of same - and do get a clue?

@monifabandele grumbles: “#blackpowerisforblackmen when trying to discuss gender privilege is black male bashing.”

No, it's not "Black male bashing"; it's just plain ole silly. As I've noted in exhaustive detail at my personal blog, "Tackling the Bugbear of Black Male Privilege" the chief problem is the glaring imprecision on the part of those who craft such faulty arguments. All Black Men do NOT have "privilege" - only a small percentage do. The vast majority of Black Men sit behind the eightball in a myriad of ways and measures - life expectancy, incarceration rates, education levels, (un)employment rates, you name it - indeed, on many of these same life measures, Black Women as a group pull way ahead of Black Men(!). Quick, name me the Black male equivalent of the Black Women's Health Study, which is some 20 years old at this point and running? I'll wait. Oh, oh, I got another one - who drops out of highschool more - Black boys, or Black girls? Here's my favorite - who's out of work more, Black Women, or Black Men? Chicago, Obama's home turf, boasts a Black male unemployment rate of upwards of 50%; here in my hometown of Philly, the numbers are similar; in Motown, its even higher, and that's despite nearly a half a century of continuous Black political and civic leadership, at least some of which, was/is Black female. So, no, the entire argument about "Black male privilege" is in fact specious, and a thinly veiled attempt on the part of certain Black Women who are unlucky in love to assauge their butthurtness.

@YoloAkili asserts: “#BlackPowerisForBlackMen Becuz I can’t think of ONE national march that black men organized becuz a black woman was raped or killed.”

That's because you're either too young to remember, or too ignorant to be aware of, the Rev. Al Sharpton's championing the case of one Ms. Tawana Brawley, who asserted that she was viciously gang-raped by a group of White Men in NYC back in the 80s. In fact, the cause celebre was what put Sharpton, and his National Action Network on the map - look it up. Alas, as we all now know, Ms. Brawley's story just didn't add up, and is today paying back the city of New York the monies she was awarded. Not to be outdone, another Sista asserted that she was put upon, and Black Men, like Prof. Neal, dutifully responded - Crystal Gail Mangum, of the Duke Lacrosse Scandal infamy, nearly a decade ago. Neal was among more than 70 Duke academics - quite a few of whom were Black, and at least a few who were, like him, Black and male - who signed petitions trying and convicting the White Men accused of the crime. Of course, and again, the case fell apart in the rightful place where such things are to be examined, in the court room. North Carolina's prosecutor was disgraced for his shameful handling of the case, and Ms. Mangum would herself be jailed for murdering her domestic partner, who just happens to be a Black male. 


@YoloAkili ain't done:  “#BlackPowerisForBlackMen becuz even in the Black LGBT community MALE voices (cis/trans) r still privileged over all women&genderqueer folks.”

You can't make this stuff up, folks. OK, "Yolo" - does the phrase "on the downlow" mean anything to you? It morphed from a term that could be found in the Urban Dictionary, to the rallying cry of arguably millions of Black Women across the country, who scapegoated Black Gay Men for the reasons why they were unlucky in love. Out and out homophobia against Black Gay Men was routinely (and still is!) visited on them by Black Women; suddenly, every Black Gay Man was a sexual and romantic competitor against Black Women for (desirable) Black Men. Not to be outdone, Oprah Winfrey herself fueled the flames of this Black Gay Male bashing, and by the time the truth and the facts came out, the damage was done: the reason why Black Women were not only coming up on the short end of the romantic stick, but was also being infected with HIV and AIDS at alarming rates, was due solely to the machinations of Black Gay Men everywhere, forever and ever, amen. I have always asserted, that some of the biggest homophobes in America, comes from the ranks of Black Women themselves. 

Moreover "Yolo", consider this: quick, name me a Black Gay Male organization that has anywhere near the kinds of pull, that the Combahee River Collective did, and still has, today? I'll wait...whew...

@PrestonMitchum wonders: "#blackpowerisforblackmen because as sad as it already was, what if Trayvon were a woman?”

If Trayvon Martin were a Woman, he'd be Hadiya Pendelton. Next question?

@Blade_Varzity rightly observes: “#blackpowerisforblackmen Can someone explain exactly how BM are stopping BW from addressing ANY of these issues they’re tweeting about?”

Speak on it, Brotha; speak on it. Again, please note the supreme irony here: Ms. Lemieux, writes her tweet from her perch at EBONY MAGAZINE. Another Black Woman, hasn't just been a fixture in daytime chat tv for more than a quarter of century (in other words, Ms. Lemieux, born in '84, cannot conceive of a time when Oprah didn't exist!), but now has her OWN CHANNEL - it's all Oprah, all the time, literally. Politico upstart Helena Andrews, a few years back, got a convo started about how "Bitch was the New Black"; and in more recent times, Ms. Zerlina Maxwell was able to parlay a FOX News segment with Sean Hannity into a national platform for her and her pet causes. That's not including Mara Brock or Shonda Rhimes - two Black Women who have proven massively successful at telling the stories of Black Women, real or imagined. That doesn't include the plethora of Black female writers, from McMillan and hooks, to Campbell and Morrison, to Zane and Walker, all of whom center unapologetically on the lives and experiences of Black Women, often to the detriment of Black Men. 

The truth of the matter is that, when it comes to the public discourse on what it means to be Black, Black Women not only have a voice at the table, they often run it. 

@systris2h murmurs: “cause tyler perry and steve harvey are deemed worthy of telling US how we should be living? #blackpowerisforblackmen”

Actually, it's the other way around: if Black Women didn't deem Perry or Harvey worthy of anything, they would vote with their feet and their purses. But they didn't - Black Women have made Perry and Harvey very, very wealthy Black Men, in large part because both Black Men cater almost exclusively to the lives, interests, concerns and anxieties of Black Women - neither has expressed any interest in the least of giving even the pretense of equal time towards examining the lives, inner or otherwise, of Black Men. Heck, for his part, Harvey has gone on record in saying why he WON'T write a "Think Like a Man" book aimed at Black Men (Previewso there goes the idea of a Black Male United Front. And as for Perry, please note that virtually ALL of the Black male parts in his films were little more than living props and tropes for the Black female characters, often cast in the most simplistic of lights: either beyond Satan evil, or beyond Step n Fetchit minstrels. 

Perry and Harvey are notable however, for this reason: they stand as stark exceptions that prove the rule I noted above; in the main, Black Women drive the public discourse of Black ideas, thoughts and belief in Black American life, proofed by the cultural products they produce and consume - and if Black Men want a piece of that action, they have to be willing to cater to the Black female market to make that happen. 

@charlenecac angrily declares:  “#blackpowerisforBlackmen because Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Denmark Vesey would never end up in a sex tape spoof.” 


“Uncle Rush and Co. didn’t just pick a nameless black woman. They picked our ‘Black Moses.’ The gun wielding guide to freedom.”

Two responses:

1. No - they just don't mentioned at all; and

2. The way to get Uncle Rushcard to see the light is by voting with your feet. Don't buy Baby Phat and related products of his, if you're that upset with what he's done or greenlighted. Don't watch Global Grind. Divest yourself of any and everything Mr. Simmons has a hand in - it's easily found out online. Black folk are stuck in the time warp of the 60s, when marching was all the rage. That stuff is dead, oldhat. Nowadays, it's about the Benjamins, and Simmons is a capitalist par excellence. Trust me, when droves of you Sistas stop buying his Baby Phat gear, he will change his tune. Until then, trying to appeal to the angels of his better nature is at best, a futile effort. 

People don't respond to morality; they respond to incentives. That's not Obsidian saying it; that's simple Econ 101.

At the end of the day, the Litany of White People's Problems in Blackface sounds like, well, a Litany of White People's Problems in Blackface - and only buttresses the points made in my previous column. Black Womanists stuggle for relevance at a time when all of the goals of (White) Feminism have not only been achieved, but Black Women especially have been able to directly benefit from same. Sure, there are some knuckleheads among the Black male Brothahood - no doubt. But in saying that we also have to notice that said knuckleheads always seem to be rewarded by the sexual favors of the same Sistas who bemoan their being mistreated so badly. Maybe of Black Women focused on how their own behaviors, choices and actions influence others around them, they just might be able to make change in those areas of their lives that remain relatively untouched by Feminist thought and belief. 

After all, personal agency, was what Feminism, was and still is, all about. 

Now adjourn your arses...

The Obsidian
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