Saturday, August 29, 2009

Civil Rights Was Not Supposed To Be The DESTINATION!

Note: I wrote this well over a month ago but haven't been able to finish this the way I want. Then I realized it's a blog post not a graduate dissertation (perhaps it's the start of one) so I'm posting because it needs to be discussed. So have at it!

Civil Rights WAS supposed to be part of the CONTINUED journey of the collective advancement of African-Americans. Sadly it became the end of the road. As we who have eyes can see it has all gone downhill since then.
"A ballot is like a bullet. You don't throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket. "When you take your case to Washington, D.C., you're taking it to the criminal who's responsible; it's like running from the wolf to the fox. They're all in cahoots together". "Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn't need any legislation, you wouldn't need any amendments to the Constitution, you wouldn't be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now." "You and I, 22 million African-Americans — that's what we are — Africans who are in America. You're nothing but Africans. Nothing but Africans. In fact, you'd get farther calling yourself African instead of Negro. Africans don't catch hell. You're the only one catching hell. They don't have to pass civil-rights bills for Africans." Ballot or the Bullet excerpt.
Malcolm X described his continued commitment to Black nationalism, which he defined as the philosophy that African-Americans should govern their own communities. He said that Black nationalists believe that African-Americans should control the politics and the economy in their communities and that they need to remove the vices, such as alcoholism and drug addiction, that afflict their communities.

If "we" as individuals and our (hold-overs from the 60's & 70's, self-appointed & future wannabe) MISleaders actually did GOVERN instead of defending all manner of mediocrity and depravity blacks in this country would be much better off. Govern is defined as:
  • To bring into conformity with rules or principles or usage
  • Impose regulations direct or strongly influence the behavior of
The African-American women who did all the grunt work behind the scenes were expecting to be rewarded for their loyalty later on. Many (most?) were cast aside and today with few exceptions are forgotten.
As Olson recounts it, the day after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, the city's black leaders held a mass meeting to promote a boycott. It was December 1955, and the meeting was packed with ministers and others who wanted to speak, among them Parks. The crowd never heard from her. "You've said enough," one of the leaders told her. And with that, Olson says, Parks became a shining example of the role of women in the Civil Rights movement: they got things started and the men took the spotlight. Freedom's Daughters excerpt
How many of us have considered the physical danger these women and children were put in?We have to remove the blinders or romanticism to properly assess the retaliation that went on behind the scenes. You'd have to imagine if law enforcement would let an attack dog loose on a person in plain sight something even worse occurred in absence of photographers and television crews. Think of Abu Ghraib.

The women who participated in the Freedom Rides and other resistance were likely exposed to untold abuse including sexual assault. I'm sure that was a message the male "leaders" didn't want to get out. Neither would the women want to expose themselves to the public scrutiny. Being raped is traumatic enough but if it was coupled with efforts for equality.....I just can't imagine going through something like that.

If anyone is reading this who personally knows some women in their late '50's - 80's who'd be willing to step forward without shame and tell the TRUTH...try to get it recorded somehow. It's a vital part of our history. Not just from a race perspective, but a feminist/womanist one. Could this also explain why so many women initially held tightly to the idea of "black love" and pairing only with other African-American males?
  • Pauli Murray
  • Maria Stewart
  • Fannie Lou Hamer
  • Ella Baker
  • Septima Poisette Clark
  • Diane Nash
Here are some names you may or may not be familiar with. Without them we wouldn't have had a Movement. There are also many unknown contributors we owe a debt of gratitude to. We know Hamer was beat up and considered less than so it wouldn't fall out of the realm of possibility that some women may have been assaulted as well. Those entrenched in supporting white supremacy murdered white people so nothing was off the table.

We also need to reexamine what we believe the Movement was about. If you start to dig deeper and look at things more critically you'll see a pattern emerging where the African-American men who took prominent roles (or small) were interested in advancing their own interests above the collective. That included seeking out mates who were not black. It was a driving impetus for this "equality" fight. They wanted equal access without retaliation by white men to white women.

I'm reading a review by Paige Turner of the book: Freedom's Daughters The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970 by Lynne Olsen. Now with my analysis Ms. Turner has a few problematic beliefs that fall into the typical indoctrination of marginalized black women who diminish themselves: the "save all our people" complex as she titles her review, "Women Hold Up the Sky" and her willingness to dismiss Stokely Carmichael's clear contempt of women with his quote about women's best role as "prone". dear. Anyone who makes "jokes" and does bad "satire" displaying racist images as we saw last year means it. Anyone who makes light of rape and tells women their purpose is solely for the sexual gratification of a man is SERIOUS.
Freedom's Daughters draws strong connections between the plights of black and white women, both being in the same powerless boat. There is a good exploration of the complex and conflicted relations between white mistresses and their black female slaves. This conflict was never eradicated but reared its ugly head during the 1964 Mississippi "Freedom Summer" when the inequality of sexual attention given to the female SNCC workers created a permanent schism. "The clash between black and white women in Mississippi seemed to stem in some cases from the fact that each appeared to have what the other wanted. Unlike many white women, black women were not restricted to office work or the Freedom Schools. They were out on the front lines with men, canvassing, organizing, going to the courthouse and in general asserting themselves in no uncertain terms…[but]…when the day was over and there was time to relax, the men took out [their white female co workers]. "Our skills and abilities were recognized and respected," Cynthia Washington noted, "but that seemed to place us in some category other than female". (Sexism, patriarchy, jealousy, focusing on non-caliber men, the unresolved issues of sexual assault of black women by white men.)
Had Ella Baker had her way people would have been charged with taking more responsibility for themselves instead of looking to one decidedly male leader as Messiah. I don't know that the masses would've complied but a few more key individuals would've been great! We can see that legacy being played out TODAY with how many African-Americans are resistant to the idea of true accountability for our "first black President" with their excuses at the ready. Ranging from "give him time to do x,y,z" "I trust him" "he's the President of the US not of black people" those that are afraid to simply ASK for their due because they VOTED for the man at the highest rates of any other group have fallen into the pit of apathy, inaction and learned helplessness. I've discussed how I volunteered, that I was excited about the election and he was my preferred candidate but I have a list of things I expect be done. Like health care being passed with the public option. A lot of my support has always been about ensuring the prominent role of the African-American First Lady & First Daughters being used as an impetus for the rest of us to be elevated not just in the United States but the world. This is our best opportunity to do so and help secure more prominent futures for the next generations.

An important revelation in Freedom's Daughters is the way male and female leaders perceived and wielded power. The legendary and greatly respected Ella Baker of the SCLC, NAACP and SNCC had a completely different view of people management than did Martin Luther King (as I mentioned above). "King ran the SCLC in the same authoritarian manner that he and most of the other ministers ran their churches. To them power meant control over others. Baker had a completely different view of power. She believed that King's job and the SCLC's should be to nurture people, to help them find the power within themselves to change their own lives and the society in which they lived."

Of course someone reading this might protest and ask, "Why are you mentioning the black man and his "failings" or being critical" My reply: Look at the state of black people in America and ask yourself how did we get here? The men declared themselves the LEADERS! They abandoned their roles as fathers and husbands AFTER Civil Rights were won. The 30% marriage rate for blacks [married to each other], the 80% OOW birth rate and the 70% unmarried rate for black women did not happen by osmosis. So the buck stops with them.

There was a point where so many black women stopped looking out for their BEST interests and decided saving the race was more important. There's a handful of black female bloggers discussing this error but NOBODY else is from. I'm certainly not finding groups of black men talking about how we are doing too much and they need to step up and hold themselves accountable. If there are feel free to leave their (names & numbers, lol) blogs in the comment section! SOMEBODY has to speak out. Really, I'm not trying to rehash but we need to fit some more of the missing pieces. I believe many black women are STILL thinking it's certain "undesirables" who are acting up the way I used to before my revelation that it's the majority of men (with an increasing number of women) who are [DBR] damaged beyond repair/recognition (of normative behavior).

I am reading and researching so many stories of WOMEN who risked LIFE and LIMB for the benefits we enjoy and squander so readily and it makes me angry to see their efforts be spit upon by those of us 1-2 generations beyond them and our endless litany of excuses about how we have it so "hard" now. People are struggling but some people are ALWAYS struggling. When is it ENOUGH? There is not enough money in the world to throw at people who'd take it and burn it while offering even more excuses about why they can't function and how it's someone else's fault.

How did things fall apart so quickly AFTER Civil Rights was passed? The foundation must not have been strong to begin with. Why is ANY critique met with a rush to silence or attack the messenger? Why were the women marginalized and shut out? I'm not so sure I'm willing to say it was all or mostly their "fault" either. There would've been an internal war had women stood up. Yes, I think from my lofty perch I can say they should have revolted but perhaps they were thinking a compromise was better than complete failure for the Movement. It's too bad that we won a battle (Civil Rights) that was miscalculated as a war, only to lose the real war (the entire population going to hell in a handbasket). Diane Nash put herself in physical danger because the "men" thought it wasn't safe to march. Other women followed suit. Perhaps she thought being a female would protect her. It didn't. Now I have to ask the obvious, what kind of coward lets a woman risk physical harm?


Let's repeat that shall we?

No African-American women = No Civil Rights that we all got to "enjoy".

No movement can be sustained strictly by the sheer force of will by a handful of women. Eventually they had to pass away. The men who were made "Gods" were killed. Since no one else has stepped into a leadership role BY EXAMPLE of course things have fallen apart. There's a lot of talking and a lot of lying. There's a lot of personal gain and a big giant collective failure.

It's just a shame that we've regressed. African-American women have been doing EVERYTHING for soooo long most don't even know how NOT to.

So put down your axe, pick, club, etc. Stop the hard labor and LEAVE the plantation. Your Emancipation came years ago only you were too busy SLAVING AWAY to notice. YOU ARE FREE!

Bookmark and Share


Anonymous said...

Morning, Faith...thought provoking post, as always!

I'm going to re-read it and I definitely feel you on the whole "dissertation" thing! There has been A LOT swirling around the atmosphere that requires an in-depth study and evaluation...I digress!

But the thing that struck me initially when I read the post is the gross dysfunction and lack of leadership within black communiites. I think about the city I grew up in most of my life, East Palo Alto. EPA has always been considered a "dark cloud" over the prestigious Palo Alto, and while in recent years there's been a concerted effort to bridge gaps, the powers that be are trying their hardest to keep the gap WIDE open.

What comes to mind is the recent resignation of the PA police chief for her actions that saying suspicious POC coming from East Palo Alto should be stopped and questioned. Understandably, this caused an uproar from the citizens in EPA, and the PAPD was reacting to a stream of high crime in the city. I'm removed from the incident because I had already moved when this happened, but now that I have on my critical thinking cap, I wonder...was the PAPD justified???

Justified in the sense that PA was trying to stifle/eradicate a problem in their community. ciizens voiced a concern and the leadership took action. EPA is seriously lacking in quality leadership on the city council, a very diverse community with racial tensions boiling to the surface, whites moving BACK into the community but into the newer, costly housing, and many of the "civil rights/nationalist/Nairobi Village" is a cliquish unit in the city. Young people are running around shooting and killing each other without stable homes, proper education, and constructive activities to occupy their time. Do I think the PAPD acted with some racist motivation? Yes. Do I think that they were justified to react the way they did? Partly. Do I think there needs to be a overhaul of EPA city leadership, city-wide responsibility and accountability? Yes. Am I disheartened by how far the "black community" has regressed? Very much so. I hope we can make it...

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Sassy J: Good Morning and thanks for replying. I normally wouldn't say I think a post is a work in progress or disjoined but it's how I feel whenever I think about the sacrifices THE WOMEN made and how most not only don't appreciate it but have spit on their efforts.

It's a combo of bad strategy, believing a lie, broken promises and outright war. I do think it's very important that those of us with some common sense left distance ourselves in every way possible and perhaps rather loudly because the entire collective has been written off.

I followed the blonde hair blue eye shadow 20 year racist lady cop as well.

It was too close geographically to ignore being in San Francisco and around election time when we were supposedly "post-racial" and all.

Now I reevaluate even discussing these continuing sagas of black men would be criminals/white racism stories because they are NEVER ENDING and black women/violence and disdain from black men is never discussed in the canon of black oppression.

Thanks again!

Khadija said...


Thanks for this post; I hadn't heard of that book.

The aspect of having AA women and children on the frontlines with violent racists has always bothered me about the civil rights movement. Even as a preteen, I remember being uneasy for that very reason about the nostalgic presentation of the movement.

I didn't understand how it came to be that those women and children were out that: UNPROTECTED, VULNERABLE, LITERALLY THROWN TO VICIOUS DOGS.

I recall asking my parents about this: "Why did those kids' parents let them do that [put themselves in harm's way]?" I don't remember what their answer was, but I do recall asking the question.

Those pictures were incomprehensible to me as a preteen because I KNEW that my Dad would NEVER allow such. First of all, he would not have allowed Mom, my brother or me to put ourselves in physical danger like that. Second, any individual racist would only get to strike ONE blow against Mom, me or my brother before they ended up with a bullet in their head. I always knew (without having to ask anybody) that my Dad would never let anybody put their hands on us. And that anybody who was dumb enough to do that would have a heavy price to pay.

That "only the victims are 'nonviolent'" civil rights march scenario only worked the way it did because the particular AAs involved were willing to tolerate that. I'm not just saying this as an AA from the North. Not every AA man in the South was having that mess with their women and children. From Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams & the Roots of Black Power:

"In 1964 black veterans in Jonesboro, Louisiana, organized the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a self-defense organization that soon claimed between fifty and sixty chapters in five Southern states. Though these figures were vastly inflated to intimidate the Ku Klux Klan and the police, the legend of the Deacons encouraged similar groups to spring up across the South.

'We had to arm ourselves because we got tired of the women, the children being harassed by white night-riders.' Deacon spokesperson Charles Sims told and interviewer." pg. 291.

From my perspective, it's unfortunate that the Deacons for Defense mindset was apparently quite rare among AA men, and never gained the popularity of the "let's throw our women and children on the front lines to deal with the racists that we're too scared to confront" mindset. I'm also annoyed with our general ingratitude and failure to remember, much less support, those (few) AA men from that era who DID stand up and "handle their business" as men. From what I recall, Mr. Williams and his wife Mabel had to flee the US for some time. WITHOUT AAs organizing any real support for them. That lack of reciprocal support for the risks they took for our collective liberation was a disgrace.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Khadija: Thank you for the info on Deacons for Defense. I'm not surprised people had to literally flee for their lives. Isn't Assata Shakur still in Cuba! Obama being President certainly isn't helping her......

It just seems the more we share information and research we see how so many vital ppl who would have had corrective behavior tactics to be deployed were chased off. It wasn't just COINTELPRO it was other blacks leaving them to fend for themselves. So it's no wonder those who were left are so weak.

It also seems to indicate to me more and more (as if that's even possible for me to be surprised or disappointed or to realize how dire it really is) that it's pretty much over for the black collective. I wish more ppl thought that so that something could be salvaged but I'm not going to waste my time trying to convince ppl of this when I could instead use this time to prepare myself.

These conversations have been painful, difficult and almost under cover of night for the lack of oversight but very very necessary.

You are blessed to have had a father/male role model who protected you that you knew would do so as well. It's what every child should have but doesn't.

tertiaryanna said...

Faith, thank you for this post.

Dr. No, Really said...

It seems as if from the post and comments that the break down of the African-American community and proper functioning of gender roles broke down MUCH earlier than most people would like to believe.

In reading Deborah Clark Hine and Nancy Bercaw who both write about gender and family construction amongst African-Americans immediately before and after the Civil War some things have become apparent:

(1) That under slavery enslaved men and women practiced a greater degree of gender equality. Slavery exposed both men and women to great dangers and each contributed greatly, yet uniquely to the maintainence of the slave household. In some ways this was a type of partnership.

(2) After slavery many, but definitely not ALL, African Americans married and attempted to put to work a functioning patriarchy similar to that operating amongst whites at this time. This largely FAILED. In order for it to work properly African Americans would have needed a greater degree of economic self-sufficiency, which most did not have.

We went from a type of gender equality, in terms of risks and labor, to failed patriarchy. Within both of these models black men rarely protected black women. So, why would we expect the majority of black men to have attempted to keep black women and children off the streets during the Civil Rights Movement? This would have been rather spontaenous, no? I wonder how many of those women and children out on the streets were part of whole, functioning, healthy family units.

Moreover, I believe putting women and children on the front lines was a strategy purposely developed by male leaders of the CRIC. The CRM coincided with the rise of television. What better way to pull at liberal white American and foreign heart strings than to have women and children getting sprayed down by waterhoses and bitten by dogs? Men would not have proved to be such sympathetic subjects, unless they were elderly.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Lauren: You said: After slavery many, but definitely not ALL, African Americans married and attempted to put to work a functioning patriarchy similar to that operating amongst whites at this time.

Your interpretation of the work Hine & Bercaw caught my attention. I'm not familiar with them and will do some research at another time. Perhaps you can provide a link to specifically reference what you're discussing for the lurkers.

Nor do I want to pull too far away from the purpose of this post but had to comment. I don't think those formerly enslaved were modeling having an intact family structure based on white people. Many Africans had done that well before they were sent into captivity. Coupling and having families is part of normal human behavior. I also don't subscribe to wanting emotional/familial stability due to patriarchy. If all men were suddenly wiped out and women ruled they would still want to have someone else care for them.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

tertiaryanna: Thanks!

Dr. No, Really said...

I don't think that wanting emotional or family stablity is necessarily tied to patriarchy, but a large theme that is discussed by various BWE bloggers is male accountability - specifically male protection. I believe that the desire of many males to protect is rooted in their understanding of patriarchy or male privelge, however problematic that is. This even goes back to cavemen - They protected what they saw as "their" women. When you have a bunch of males running around who don't see women as "their's," they do not see a need to protect. For example, many men differentiate between their mothers, sisters, and other female relatives and other women they encounter. Perhaps that's why some CRM male leaders had no problem offering up other's people's wives and children.

Also, in some ways I find it some what problematic to point to Africa. Not because I don't believe in cultural survivalisms, but because it constructs the contact enslaved men and women had with Europeans as amounting to naught and makes African and European gender systems equivalent. Perhaps there is a middle ground between the two. Because we could also say, "In some African societies, women were warriors," meaning that for black women to be abused for the purposes of the CRM is valid.

Also, I wanted to comment on the distinction you drew between King and Baker. As you mentioned King ran the movement as if he were running a church, while Baker advocated people taking responsibility for themselves and growing a more organic, less hierarchial cadre of workers. I think most people are unfortunately, uncomfortable with Baker's model. African Americans love to have a HNIC, as following is easier than leading. Also when you blindly follow, you don't have to THINK CRITICALLY. You just do. We need to build and legitimize new models for movements, leadership, contracts, and alliances.

As to this: "How did things fall apart so quickly AFTER Civil Rights was passed? The foundation must not have been strong to begin with." I think you already answered your question in the post, no? A false contract existed between black men and women, whereby black women believed they would benefit equally. But black men were primarily concerned about themselves. The foundation was not strong because it was based on selfishness. Once black men got what they wanted, they broke for the door!

The Clark Hine is Arn't I a Woman and the Nancy Bercaw is entitled Gendered Freedoms.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Lauren: I think we have some ideological differences here and other issues at play. I'd love to read a post from you deconstructing this with those extra dimensions. I don't know if people had such a problem with the accountability that Baker proposed so much as the MALE MIS-LEADERS did. They wanted all of the glory for themselves with as little of the risk as possible. Which is the antithesis of their purported religious beliefs mind you. Adam Clayton Powell threatening to ruin King politically by outing Bayard Rustin is one such example. My question about how things fell apart was rhetorical.

Unknown said...

It was learning about Ella Baker that made me change how i approach leadership and the raising up of young people. From her, I learned that as a leader, i cannot expect to be a "leader for life." I have to raise up those who come after me to continue the struggle.

This post is dope and i wished you had posted it sooner (i am reading it way after the fact)

But i feel you 100% about the leadership. these old coots need to give it up... NOW

Anonymous said...

brilliant post and great analysis. I remember watching the movies about the movement and wondering were the women of the movement were. They always show the men and the women are erased.I will check out those books.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Zindzhi: Thanks!