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By August 28, 2013

The Fire This Time: James Baldwin and Feminism

My life changed forever the summer I turned 14 – the year I read the works of W.E.B. Du Bois (The Soul of Black Folks), Ralph Waldo Ellison (The Invisible Man) and James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time). An avid reader from the age of six, nothing I’d read before to that summer affected me on a visceral level. The penned words of these three men – vastly different in education and life experiences from one another – were at once powerful, angry, introspective, condemning, haunting, and motivating. The many emotions stirred by their writing was almost overwhelming to one so young.

In short, I returned to school that fall a changed person. I left Girl Scouting, toys and childhood innocence behind in an instant.James Baldwin Rage

Changing how you see the world is like witnessing a bad traffic accident. Imagine that you’re driving or walking along when suddenly you hear tires screeching. You can’t help but turn in that direction. Once you do, you see the vehicles smash into each other, metal bending is accompanied by the smell of burnt rubber. You’ll see massive amounts of blood, and hear the blood curdling screams and moans of the injured. Shaking, you can’t believe what you just saw as you stand there wondering what to do.

Yeah, it’s just like that. Once you see something horrible, you can’t unsee it. The image of blood, guts and twisted metal is burned into your brain. Once you know the ugly truth, you can never return to accepting pretty lies. I realized that the world as I’d known it… as I’d imagined it to be, didn’t truly exist. What I’d always thought the world was – a place of love, safety and security – was not the reality for many children my age.

What I’d always thought the world was for girls – a place where your Dad loved his family and where the men in your life protected you instead of hurt you, was not the reality for many girls and women I met as I matured. What I’d always thought the world was growing up in San Francisco – a place where children of all races and ethnicities went to school and played on the streets together without incident – was not the reality for millions of black boys and girls across the country.

What I’d always thought the world to be – a place where young women were cherished, supported and encouraged to be great was not the reality for millions of girls who were sexually molested, raped and beaten by men.

That summer I began to see the world and the people in it for what they were, and became cognizant of the ugly history of America with regards to gender and race.

Why Women Must Get Angry for Change to Happen

The struggle of the 1960s was for racial equality; the struggle for black women always is and always will be for GENDER equality. I fight for the mental, emotional and physical freedom of women. Why? Because I am a woman first, black second. When one is raped, it is not because of your color, but because you are female. When one is denied access to birth control or medically safe abortions by lawmakers, it is not because of your skin color, but because you are female. When one is is told “you can’t do that because you’re a girl!” its certainly not because of your race, but because you are female.

We are women first, black second.

On the way to becoming the outspoken advocate of women that I am today, I’ve noticed two very interesting things:

#1 Black men use the word “angry” to describe women in a way that clearly communicates their disdain. They see women who fight for respect, financial compensation and opportunities just like men have as a threat. To these guys, black women are supposed to be smiling, happy, glad to “have a man” and do what he wants to get and keep him. Feminists they say, are the sole reason for the destruction of the black family; and

#2 Black women are afraid of the anger and rage they feel towards men. Most are fearful of their anger because they’ve never been taught how to channel it effectively. Others are afraid of showing men that they are angry because they’ve been socialized to please men. They’ve been told how much men don’t want to come home to an angry woman, they want someone smiling and happy 24/7. Millions of black women are therefore terrified at the possibility they might be labelled as “angry” and lose men’s favor and the possibility of marriage.

But I’ve spent several decades watching, reading and listening to case after case, story after story of how women are treated by men. I’ve received thousands of letters from women around the globe in my advice column. I’ve watched co-workers and friends be destroyed emotionally and financially by men who claimed to love them. I’ve watched males change laws to force women to have children they don’t want, and create avenues for pedophiles to “marry” toddlers and grade school aged girls. Women have recounted story after story of molestation as children, rape, beatings, abduction, human trafficking, attempted murder, stalking, birth control sabotage and forced pregnancies, daily verbal and emotional abuse, physical abuse so bad it required hospital stays and surgical repairs, financial abuses, and denial of opportunities by men.

How could a woman with a sense of justice, a desire for equity NOT BE ANGRY??

The Leo Roar is a Danger Signal

Women are socialized to please men – this is a fact. The training of girls begins at birth when girls are given soft toys and dolls, while boys are gifted with footballs and microscopes. Girls are put in frilly dresses with ribbons in their hair and made to sit down and be quiet, while boys are allowed to run and play and climb and challenge each other and themselves. As girls get older, they’re taught to focus on “getting and keeping a man”.

This gets tricky because the pressure is on females to be freaks in the bedroom, while simultaneously keeping their legs closed so they remain chaste and virginal. So how is it that women are supposed to learn how to be this super freak a man is happy to come home to at night? Young women are also trained to focus on love, commitment with one man, bearing and raising children, running a house, and cooking. But as boys mature they’re taught to play the field, lie to get sex, avoid marriage at all costs, to deny paternity and to conquer the world of women by any means necessary. Such utter nonsense!


(continued on page two below)

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