In relationships between dominant and subordinate groups, the subordinate group members always possess a far greater understanding of the dominant group members and their culture than vice versa. Harriet G Lerner.
This blog site, fromtheheartsoul, is my voice: the voice of a first generation Black British woman, from African-Caribbean descent. In my voice is African, Caribbean, British, and Woman. I speak, and come, unapologetically, from that conglomerate of experiences, present and historic. In my bloodline have come the traumatic experience of slavery, and the experience of being a minority in the Western World. I still struggle to know which box to tick on E. O. P monitoring forms- I would like a category that includes African-Caribbean & Black-British; all together…Perhaps African-British could be where I leave my mark in the box marked “other.”
This week I heard again that Jamaica was the place slave owners placed the Africans who fought against slavery from all the different places/countries that held Africans captive. It was thought and hoped by slave owners that these individuals of rebellious Africans would not fare well on that inhabitable Island of Jamaica with its dangerous highlands.
This makes me feel kinda proud…It makes me wonder if this is where my tenacious spirit comes from, as whenever something, or someone tries to knock me down, as peace-loving and amicable as I am, I instinctively rise up and stand up for myself- whoever the person thinks they are in hierarchy.
I can struggle with being “Black British,” though I am happy to be it, because my ethnicity must include my Africanness. It must include the genocide of slavery that runs through my ancestral veins, and the emancipation there from. It must include the ruin of the richness of that cultural heritage, and its massive – and unrecognised- contribution on the world stage, one I had to go off and rediscover for myself.
It has to include the colonisation and re-framing of Africa as “uncivilised,” and “third world,” needing to be saved and to swallow wholesale western ways of seeing, living, being, doing, to be considered worthy of the same rights and consideration as my white counterparts, so my ethnic identity is not clearly and straightforwardly set for me.
The following piece has been inspired by unfair treatment at work which forced me to resign, as I know myself and what belongs to me and what is absolute nonsense. Too long in the tooth to waste precious energy and time fighting unnecessary battles…Here goes..
Being from that subordinate group, who’s able to see “all angles,” I can struggle with feminism, because the founding feminists, who names themselves thusly, were white privileged women and they have an active history of being my oppressors and have not wrestled enough with that themselves-with that uncomfortable truth, still. Their prejudice is oftentimes unconscious and difficult for them to willingly recognise. I see this in your fear of my assertiveness, and your speediness to swiftly turn that assertion in your minds into an angry negative; into the out of order black woman.
You, my feminist sister, you wanted to get out the house and go to work; we, your darker hues, long/longed to feel and be -financially and other wise- comfortable and esteemed. To have had the choice to stay home and override having to do it all, the world made that a luxury for the likes of me. To stay at home, nurse our children, take them to and from school, that would have be wonderful! Ain’t I a woman, too?
You see, that 4 acres and a mule did not get us very far; some of us are still very much on historical catch up, just like someone coming from childhood adverse experiences, when in recovery thereof, as adult is on psychological catch-up too, emotionally and developmentally.
I have seen other minority groups, for example Asians from China and India, look down on black people from an heritage such as mine, only happy to include the likes of me and mine when they need the money from our pockets to line their own. Or when others, still, needs our numbers to increase the power in their particular minority struggle; using us as it suits them- including politicians. How very useful we can be; until we ask, “What about me!”
To me, the True Feminist has done the healing; has done the uncovering, and recovery of privilege and that false sense of identity and security that once afforded them. True Feminism has looked at and understands their internalised prejudice and the ways they hold dear to it when it suits them.
The True Feminist can allow the black woman (in this instance) to her voice and to hold so called “feminist” accountable when they start to zone out and become unconscious. The True Feminists have gone off themselves and done the work, instead of expecting black folks to teach them; instead of expecting black folks to open eyes that deep down prefers not to see so use it is to occupying the role of patriarchal victim. Unless you can do this, and hold to maintaining this true feminist perspective, your Cause will not reflect me & mine bottom of the pile, unique perspective.
Just like, to me, a True Christian is out in the world making waves; giving vent to legitimate anger when he or she sees ignorance masquerading around like it’s all learned and shit! A True Christian, like Christ, is kicking down tables in synagogues, holding others accountable; putting themselves and their lives on the line, risking being crucified! Same too for true feminism; she is supposed to know how racism, from her own subjugated (though privileged) perspective, possibly taste, and feels- and detest it. She does not pick and choose injustice, depending on whose company she is in in that moment: she, like Christ, like me, calls shit out, wherever shit is, Period!
So, being a woman, I do not feel myself to be a feminist- I don’t believe that movement is totally for me and mine, not quite yet. Just like if Christ came back, He would kill himself, seeing what has happened and is being done in His name. The fight against Injustice is inclusive, not temperamental; not sentimental; not momentarily; not occasional. You have to roll up your sleeves and risk getting dirty deep in shit if you are a true fighter of Injustice. At times you will not be liked; you will be laughed at; ostracised; crucified; burnt alive; hanged from a tree; scapegoated, continuously.
And in especial regards to the workplace, true feminism does not follow patriarchy worn out privileged policies & procedures; they are everyday pioneers; fighting the good fight inside and outside of work; in and outside of church- not just on Sundays; not just Monday-Friday 9-5pm. True fighters of injustice also detest the straight jacket that is bound up in the word “professional.” In the workplace “being professional” oftentimes means being hard-hearted and without conscience; stepping on people you feel are below you; holding tight to hierarchy; leaving feeling, intuition and emotion out of the equation…that which makes us human!
Maybe “being professional” should be replaced with states of being such as Integrity, Emotional Intelligence, Self-awareness, having conscience; kindness, cooperation…
Maybe then institutions would not be a huge malignant world and law unto themselves; oppressive toxic spaces, where all that is most humane, has no place, and is oftentimes driven out. I read a quote yesterday that says, “People do not leave good workplaces; they leave toxic work cultures.”
How very true…
The True Feminist understands when I get angry and does not use my (legitimate) anger against me. The true feminist works hard at setting aside an unconscious negating envy that oftentimes becomes unnerved when I stand up for myself and assertively call out injustice when I find it. Instead of getting defensive, consider my more all-seeing all-angle perspective as wisdom, and hear -not fear- me. In this more true and unified position, we all can, and do, win.
For now, I prefer to play with Bell Hooks ideas taken up in her 1981 book “Ain’t I a Woman? Black women and feminism. “Also taken up by Alice Walker in her idea of Womanism. These ideas, at this current time, are more befitting to me.
We have come quite a way, but we still have a ways to go…
So, to you, my sisters, and others in a struggle, heed the following:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lila Watson
From The Righteously Angry Articulate Self-Loving Black/African Woman….
Back To Love..🧡
Peace & Love,