Black people are NOT cowards

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Welcome

What a difference a weekend makes. Before the Don Sterling tape scandal, I had not heard of the Clippers basketball team or of their multi-billionaire owner. The back-story behind this scandal is the stuff that soap operas are made of. From what I have gleaned online it appears that an 80 year old rich White man who happens to own a basketball team takes a young biracial mistress. His wife of 50 (something) years instead of divorcing her husband sues mistress for $1.8 million citing that she is a gold digger using her feminine wiles to extort money from silly old men. Mistress goes to her boyfriend to complain; apparently he shrugs and refuses to offer help. Mistress then makes the recording, probably selling it to the highest bidder. Old man is then banned from owning a basketball team for life by the NBA.

This story is very interesting on many levels. I found it ridiculous that a man would date a biracial woman and then complain when she associates with other Black people. Is she only Black when she is in the company of other Black people? Is he able to overlook her blackness when they are alone or associating with other White people? He objected to her being photographed with Magic Johnson, a respected sports legend and entrepreneur. Mr Johnson is not exactly someone dodgy from the wrong part of town. It does beg the question as to whether Black people can be truly accepted by white patriarchy, even if they are respected members of society. If a former athlete who has been openly praised by former US presidents is not enough for a Black man to be deemed reputable company it would suggest that the answer to the question is a resounding no.

I was prompted to write this piece after reading an article by rapper Homeboy Sandboy titled ‘Black People Are Cowards’. His premise is that African – Americans do not stand up for themselves in the way that the Civil Rights generation did. As a consequence White people are now free to disrespect us. His secondary gripe is that hip hop artists and TV reality stars perpetuate negative stereotypes about Black people which fuels the racism African-Americans face.

It is ridiculous to blame the oppressed for their oppression. The way in which Black people behave or are perceived to behave has nothing to do with racism. Racism is a social construct which exists to determine who controls and has access to the world’s resources. Slurs such as Black people are lazy, violent, feckless, crazy etc are hollow excuses to justify the barbarism of slavery, apartheid and colonialism. A Black person’s behaviour will not protect them from prejudice. Sterling was not impressed by Magic Johnson’s reputation. Respectability politics is a dangerous concept because it offers a false sense of security at the expense of our self respect. I abhor the behaviour of certain Black entertainers or members of the community. I am no fan of misogyny or Black on Black violence. However, I will always champion the idea that we are not a monolith group. When Black people play into the ‘respectability’ game you are ignoring the pervasive power of institutionalised racism and denying our humanity by lumping us as a group rather than a collective of unique individuals with a shared hue. Most importantly this argument lets the perpetrators and beneficiaries of racism off the hook. ‘It’s not our fault that we are racist; after all look at how these people behave.’

Mr Sandboy goes on in his piece to label the NBA players cowards for not refusing to play after the tape had been leaked. These men may very well be multi millionaires but who are we behind the safety of our keyboards to expect them to put their livelihoods on the line. He goes on to label every one of us cowards for not being prepared to do the same should a relevant situation arise. I have no idea how many bosses worldwide hold absolutely abhorrent beliefs. There are very few people who can abruptly leave their jobs without facing dire financial consequences. Is Mr Sandboy prepared to pay the rent/mortgage of the people who do not want to work for a jerk? Racism is a societal problem it is too big to expect an individual(s) to rectify. In some cases the biggest sign of defiance is survival. My own parents suffered a lot of indignities throughout their working life and did this (without complaint) to put food on the table and to provide opportunities for my sister and I. To continue and thrive in a hostile environment is the greatest act of bravery. It takes all of your physical and emotional strength to carry on day after day. The promise of the post Civil Rights era has not been fully realised. Gains have been made in the last 50 years but we have not reached the Promised Land. Black people are still several more times likely to be stopped by police, unemployed and imprisoned compared to their White counterparts on both sides of the Atlantic. If you doubt that we live in a post racial society, this tape is proof enough to remove those rose coloured glasses.

I believe in the power of protest but we must put things into context. We live in a different time from the 50s and 60s. The Civil Rights just like the Arab Spring were not random. They were orchestrated acts of civil disobedience which took years to build its momentum. In order to have a far reaching movement, it requires strategy, patience and planning. If you want to hurt the likes of Sterling, stop watching/attending matches, stop purchasing their sponsors products, then sit back and watch Rome burn. In order to have purchasing power you need to be in employment. Once you have lost your purchasing power you have no voice. I would advise Mr Sandboy to take a class in 101 Economics.

Fast forward a few days, Mr Sterling has been fined $2.8 million dollars and received a lifetime ban from the NBA. (And to think that no Black athletes had to lose their jobs in order to achieve this) I am not naive, once the sponsors feared a serious backlash due to the tape the NBA had to take action. I am glad that such action was taken but I am far from dancing in the streets. Personally, I couldn’t care less who Donald Sterling wishes to associate with and the reasons behind that choice. What I do care about is when someone is able to use their racist beliefs as a platform to diminish the quality of life for others. When he is not busy chasing a woman four times his junior, Sterling is a housing magnate owning vast amount of property in Los Angeles. He has been accused of systematically refusing to rent apartments to Black and Latino tenants. Various court case of discrimination has been brought against him, the most recent being in 2006. In the US and most places at that, where you live greatly determines your safety, the ability to receive a decent education or healthcare. Consigning Black people to ghetto environments significantly reduces their quality of life, potential for social advancement and perpetuates the disparity between rich White and poor Blacks. That is the power of institutionalised racism, when somebody has the authority to put their beliefs into action at the detriment of others.

I am all for all of us doing our part to make the world a fairer place but I am a believer in picking battles. I think it is right that Sterling be taken to task for his abhorrent views but the real fight is how do we tackle the system which allows men like Sterling to live in their ivory towers while they enforce housing segregation in the 21st century. Mr Sandboy would be better served taking his ire out on the powers that be instead of expecting miracles from the have nots.

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious

Is Beyonce a feminist icon?

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Welcome

It has been a while seen I last posted anything. I was beginning to have writing paralysis, over thinking what topic my next post should cover. In that respect, I should thank Ms Knowles-Carter for giving me the impetus to blog again. I’ll be the first to admit that releasing an album complete with videos without any press was a power move,that left her fellow pop princesses in her wake. However, I have been disappointed with certain black feminists declaring that Queen/King Bey is a feminist icon whom we should all ‘bow down’ before and download her cd. Worse still, they have gone on to insult anyone who questions this or critiques Mrs Carter’s feminist credentials.

Do I believe that Beyonce is a feminist icon? The short answer is no. Do I doubt that she is a feminist? For me, that is a moot point. Beyonce is free to self define herself as a feminist, that is entirely her business. Contrary to what many people believe, there isn’t a feminist code. We all have to forge our own path to make the world in which we live fairer to all of its inhabitants. The issue is whether she is a Black feminist icon. I fail to see how her singing songs about ‘getting it on’ with her husband is improving the lives of Black women worldwide. Her personal success does not empower me in any way. I am more inspired by the women in my family, my friends and by those who have made a difference to peoples’ lives not just their record collection. I honestly don’t understand why anyone would fixate on a celebrity’s life instead of their own.

Her fans also repeatedly go on about how she sings songs of female empowerment. This is not a new trend within popular rnb – see Aretha Franklin, Gloria Gaynor and countless others. Many female artists before her have been singing songs about getting rid of a no good man and standing on your own feet. Of her contemporaries, Janelle Monae is the real feminist deal. She has not compromised her art or herself just to get a record deal. Her robotic revolution is a perfect allegory for marginalised peoples including women, people of colour, gays and Black women in particular. I don’t understand why Ms Monae is not being championed in the same way by the fervent Beyonce fans.

Beyonce is a beautiful, talented and hard working entertainer. Her success is also due to the fact that she is probably the least threatening black female performer of all time. Her physical aesthetic is that of white woman with a tan and long blonde hair. She has a look which grants her mass appeal. For her album to be number 1 in US a lot of people of different races had to purchase it. That is just simple mathematics. She does not have to assert her beauty or sense of worth in the same way that Nina Simone had to. Nina’s dignity, views and poise were an act of defiance in a time where Black women were considered non entities. Beyonce does not critique the power structures; instead her music solely concentrates on safe topics such as love and now in her latest album sex, these are inclusive subject matters. Most people can relate to falling in love and sexual desire. Her latest album may not be child friendly but she is not calling for a revolution any time soon.

Jumping on the feminism bandwagon has been a master stroke for Beyonce. It provides her with a new narrative which gives her music and the artist a depth that I honestly doubt she possesses. This has nothing to do with ‘intelligence’ it has everything to do with a willingness to question what occurs in the world and what can we do to change it. Beyonce and her team are more concerned with making money as opposed to changing the world for the better. For example she uses, Terry Richardson who directed Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ video. Now this man has had many complaints of alleged sexual harassment made against him. Where is the sisterly solidarity in employing a man with a reputation for allegedly molesting women?

Then we have the problematic lyrics to ‘Bow Down Bitches’ here she tells other women who are envious of her to bow down before her. This song has been remixed on her album and is titled ‘Flawless’ featuring novelist and feminist, Chimammanda Ngozi Adichie. Beyonce uses a snippet from a Ted talk Adichie gave called ‘We should all be feminists’. Beyonce uses a portion where Adichie explains how girls are encouraged to focus on marriage but boys are not. However, in Chimammanda’s original speech she goes on to talk about the competition among women especially in getting attention from men. Again if you are asking women to ‘Bow Down’ before you where is the sisterly solidarity? Where is the encouragement to the move away from competition among women? I have heard a lot of apologist hogwash in trying to explain this behaviour. One excuse I read was that she was mimicking the grandstanding behaviour of rappers and thus ‘de-constructing’ it. I am of the belief that the truth has an undeniable simplicity whereas hogwash tends to be very complex as its aim is to confuse. The truth is that Beyonce is only concerned with her fame and record sales and not the everyday lives of women. The reason why everyone should be feminists is to make the world a fairer place, where everyone is raised up. We can only do this by creating new ways to interact with each other. It is not possible to use ways of old to create new outcomes.

(If you haven’t already seen it please have a look)

Over the last couple of days/weeks, I have seen the recurring theme of certain Black Beyonce supporters stating that White feminists were somehow upset over the success of her album. On reading the fantastic blog by ‘Blogmother’ on http://www.whataboutourdaughters.com I too googled to see if these articles existed and lo and behold they do not!!! There are certain quarters within the White feminist movement who refuse to acknowledge their own privilege and complicity in the misogyny and racism that Black women face in society. That is a sad fact. However, I refuse to defend a multi millionaire in a made up fight with an imaginary foe. I want to focus on dealing with the issues that affect Black women and girls. Let’s put our energies into bringing the likes of R. Kelly to justice, let’s encourage our young women to be productive and happy members of society. Now that’s a fight I am interested in joining.

The main reason why I felt compelled to write this piece is not to insult Beyonce. I like some of her stuff. I just feel that there is a very dangerous trend of giving celebrities a gravitas that they have not earned or deserved. Being a Black feminist is not an easy path, you are often fighting people who share your gender and in many instances, your race. It is a marginalised position, fighting structures that have placed you at the bottom rung of society. Beyonce provides a very attractive potential poster girl for ‘the cause’ showing that Black women can be successful, beautiful, loved and happy. However, Ms Knowles Carter has done absolutely nothing to blaze a trail for others to follow or to challenge the power structures which binds us. In order to be a leader or an icon you have to create change. Therefore to label her an icon or to state that her album is a feminist manifesto is premature at best and foolish at worst. Beyonce is not going to change the status quo anytime soon, those looking for her to do so will be very disappointed.

I am also very disturbed by the politics of the exception. What I mean by that is that since the Civil Rights, Black people have always been sold on the idea of living vicariously through individuals. Martin Luther King winning the Nobel Peace Prize did not eradicate poverty for the Black poor. Now over 50 years later the gap in opportunity and income between the Black poor and everyone else has increased so much so that it seems that inter generational poverty is an inescapable destination for scores of the Black poor. The Oprahs, Baracks and Jay Zs do not change this fact and the odd Black millionaire should not make us feel that we have all reached the ‘promised land’. A similar PR job is being carried out in South Africa, where the focus on Nelson Mandela’s life and achievements is a desperate attempt by Black and White elites to distract the average South African from the sad fact that their lot has not improved post apartheid.

How does this relate to Beyonce? Mrs Carter’s individual success does not improve my quality of life. I am not prepared to live vicariously through one person. Creating sacred cows out of celebrities only distracts people from dealing with reality. There is a lot of work to be done and concerning ourselves with a rich entertainer to this extent is a waste of time. Irrespective of what you or I think of this album, it will not cross Beyonce’s mind for a second. Instead I will focus on improving my life and most importantly the lives of others. That is what real feminism looks like, its action not posturing or empty rhetoric.

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious

Spike vs. Quentin

Spike and Quentin

Welcome

Fear not this will not be another post about ‘Django Unchained’ I am not in any position to offer a critique on a film that I have not seen. Instead I want to focus on Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino. Spike Lee has been damming about the ‘Django Unchained’ film claiming that it would be an insult to his ancestors to watch it. That in itself did not surprise me but I was really taken aback by the vitriol of some of the Black Tarantino supporters in cyberspace. Some claimed that Lee was nothing more than a jealous, bitter failure throwing insults at a more successful competitor. If we do compare the two it is easy to see that one has a love for his heritage while the other is more concerned with self promotion.

I may not have seen all of his films but there is no denying the importance of Spike Lee to Black cinema, in fact to cinema full stop. There was no taboo too big for him to tackle be it interracial relationships in ‘Jungle Fever’ racism in ‘Do the right thing’ and colourism in ‘School Daze’. I remember when ‘Malcolm X’ came out and the excitement the film caused. The backstory was just as dramatic as the film. The movie studio had allotted $30 million for all filming which proved to be inadequate. Undeterred Spike enlisted the financial assistance of Black celebrities, the likes of Oprah, Janet Jackson, Magic Johnson to name but a few to complete filming. In the United Kingdom the film had a ‘15’ rating and I had just turned fourteen. I begged my older cousin Jacqui to come with me. She was eighteen and I had hoped that her older mystique would assure my entry. It did.

It was the first time that going to see a film at the cinema felt like an entry to a movement. The film itself was a fitting tribute to a man who died because of his love for his people. It was lavish, powerful; it was a labour of love. It was always one of those rare moments in my adolescence were an international event gave me a swelling pride of my history, my culture of my Blackness. The film celebrated the African diaspora with the African American story at its heart. Watching famous African Americans rally together gave a moment for us all to feel proud. The completion of the film embodied truth and audacity. Many will argue that the film is not totally accurate, they might be right. However, the films power lies in the fact that it presented the truthful essence of what Malcolm X stood for: humanity and integrity even in the face of danger. Making a film or any kind of project without funding will take its creators to the brink of madness. Money is the sole reason why my project is not completed. To see a filmmaker create a film on that scale outside of the typical funding mechanics gives hope to any creative without a budget. Trust me, sometimes hope is all you have.

I am not a Spike Lee groupie. I often find that his female characters lack the easy depth he applies to his male leads. Nola Darling’s three suitors in ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ had more to say for themselves than the female protagonist. Likewise, the female characters in ‘School Daze’ were more akin to Stepford Wives than empowered, educated Black women. That said let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. To his credit he did executive produce the outstanding ‘Pariah’ based on the director Dee Reese’s experience of coming out in her early 20’s. We will have more complicated, meaty Black female roles on the big and small screen when we have more powerful Black women in the industry. It is not a coincidence that Olivia Pope is the creation of super producer Shondra Rhimes. I don’t think that she is largely loved by Black female audiences just because she is sleeping with the American President and has a fabulous wardrobe. She is loved because she is complicated, flawed, smart, vulnerable, capable and most importantly human. She is not neck swinging, overweight or the friend in the background. She is the leading lady.

I have not seen ‘Django Unchained’ and I am largely indifferent about it. Just for the record, I don’t believe that only a Black director can make a film about slavery. I don’t doubt that it’s very entertaining and I understand why Black audiences would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Firstly, we have a Black hero shooting at the Klan and managing to stay alive to the very end. Secondly, we have a Black damsel in distress. Sadly, I can’t think of another mainstream film that has a Black female lead that was worth killing and dying for. Thirdly, if there is anything that Quentin does well its dialogue so I imagine that the film is peppered with quotable chunks. Positives aside, it is Quentin Tarantino’s arrogance which has put me off heading off to the cinema to see his latest effort.

His off colour remarks about ‘Roots’ already put me on alert. He claimed that the narrative did not move him. Nearly 40 years on the impact that mini-series had on my parent’s generation is still apparent. I don’t have the words to express what it meant for my parents to see a primetime show depicting their history and their current struggle. To be dismissive of this seminal mini series and to offer a spaghetti western as some kind of definitive alternative is insulting. ‘Inglorious Basterds’ did not receive the same amount of uproar because it was predated by ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Life is Beautiful’ and various factual documentaries/films about the Holocaust. There isn’t the same wealth of mainstream information about slavery and its lasting effects on the African diaspora. Therefore when an opportunity like this comes up, the issues that it raises surely must be more important than its directors’ ego. Spielberg approached Alice Walker’s masterpiece ‘The Color Purple’ respectfully, dealing with issues such as racism, Black misogyny, enduring love and Black womanhood delicately. In comparison, Tarantino has no problem with altering historical fact for fear that details should get in the way of telling a good story.

I am really puzzled by the vigorous defending of Tarantino by members of Black cyberspace as though he is some kind of celluloid civil rights activist. He is a pop culture magpie, taking various elements from here and there. Quentin has no more love for Black culture than he does for Manga anime. He is an ‘auteur provocateur’ and knows that nothing more puts bums on seats than a little controversy. However, what really left a bitter taste was the rubbishing of Spike Lee’s career just because he didn’t join the Django bandwagon. Moviegoers do not need to agree with him but there is no need to disrespect him. Integrity is an expensive commodity and Spike Lee has paid a high price for not toeing the party line. Movie studios, distributors, cinema chains are similar to banks; they give the biggest loans/exposure to those who can make them the most money. A director with a few awards under his belt can command big budgets, big marketing campaigns, big crews, big stars and in turn hopefully produce a big return at the box office. If you lack awards, the second option is to play to the lowest common denominator: make a violent, sensational or a super hero feature which will appeal to the masses. If you choose not to go down those avenues you will soon find that the budgets, distributors, cinema releases shrink at a rapid rate. Spike Lee has chosen to stay true to his art irrespective of the cost. To have a career nearly spanning 30 years without ‘selling out’ is the type of success we all should aspire to. Even if he never again reaches the heights of ‘Malcom X’, Lee proved how empowering, universal Black cinema can be and for that I will always be grateful.

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious

The three letter word

Welcome

Love might be a battlefield but sex is most definitely a minefield. It’s an activity which some fear, some crave and others use as leverage over another. The female form is such a public commodity, yet female sexuality invokes such fear in men that society goes to great lengths to repress the female libido.

The traditional view is that women should be under the gaze of men. We do not have sexual feelings of our own instead our role is to evoke desire from men. So in short women are sexually passive and unless we are attractive enough to be desired by men there is very little point to our existence. We incite but do not receive sexual gratification. This way of thinking is not only ridiculous but it’s very dangerous. It places the responsibility of sexual violence on the victim (typically women) away from the aggressor (typically men). The crime becomes the incitement of sexual violence as opposed to the act itself. It also sets women up to believe that their only value is in their sexuality.

This is a bum deal any which way you look at it. Women are encouraged to become sexual objects and yet are blamed when their objectification becomes violent or predatory such as rape or prostitution. If it’s fair to assume that most men enjoy sex why is there such resistance to women becoming sexual beings as opposed to sexual objects? In 2012, women are still being discussed in terms of their sexuality and fertility. Issues such as contraception and abortion are being debated by men in a Presidential campaign. In various African and Middle Eastern countries, female mutilation is still used as a means to control female sexual activity. By removing the tip of the clitoris, parts of the surrounding labia and sewing up the rest of the vagina just to leave enough room for menstruation and urine; it ensures that the act is so painful that it is unlikely that she will seek extra marital sex. In the West, authors such as Steve Harvey still associate shame with female sexuality, blaming women for sleeping with men early in their relationship as justification for a man not to see her as potential wife material.

Linking shame and female sexuality has been spread by all of the main religions. Traditional gender roles devised by men were endorsed by religious doctrine. I am a woman of faith and as I have stated before only God has dominion over me. That said I could not honestly endorse sexual recklessness as I believe we are all precious and should treat our bodies as such. However, I cannot endorse hypocritical specialist treatment of one group of people based on their gender, race or creed. A woman should be free to express her sexuality free from reproach. There are some women who are completely asexual, others who have no intention of having one sexual partner and those who are waiting for marriage before having sex. No one has the right to coerce shame or influence what a woman does or does not do with her body.

That freedom should be grasped by Black women. At present, Black female sexuality is badly misrepresented. We are often presented as insatiable, exotic nymphomaniacs. In the past I have been approached by White men who were curious about being with a Black woman. I have no idea what they expected, a simultaneous juggling act, fireworks or an accompanying brass band? Women are women. That may have destroyed the fantasy for millions but it’s the boring truth. Within the Black community, Black female sexuality is also very limited. We get three options: the mother, Church/good girl or video vixen/gold digger. The virtuous mother puts her own desires on ice and makes her children/family her only focus. The good girl offers sex in return for marriage. At the other end of the spectrum we have the video vixen type who is one step away from a blow up doll with a pulse. In the music video or in the club you’ll find her shaking that booty for male valuation and cash.

Black women are varied and diverse. I refuse to be stereotyped by anyone. Sexual expression should be determined by the individual. My sexual history is not linked to my worth. I am always very suspicious of men who are overly interested in their partners’ romantic past. I think it has more to do with their low self-esteem and a fear of failing to satisfy their partner. On the flip side there is still the rampant over sexualisation of women. I don’t know why every female pop star has to become increasingly provocative to prove that she is an adult musician. I am also disappointed with the way Black women are presented in Hip Hop videos. These women are nothing more than accessories, making said rapper look like a Lothario at the expense of their self-respect. This isn’t sexual liberation it is sexual manipulation, reinforcing that a woman’s body is her key attribute. Ultimately, it is still a masculine ideal of female sexuality.

Women taking control of their sexuality undermines male’s dominance. It stops women seeking male validation. We are empowered to become more than our bodies and can focus on our own pleasures and accomplishments. It also elevates what women require in a mate, if they require a mate at all. This will be embraced by men who are looking for a union of equals. Those with low self-esteem will be the most resistant to female emancipation. They doubt that when given the choice that a woman would choose them. Black women should not accept any attempt to pigeonhole and stereotype them. I do not have to be a virgin to be valued by men nor do I have to express my sexuality like a man in order to claim the same sexual rights as one.

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious

It’s only hair people!

Welcome

I don’t understand why what Black women choose to do with their hair is such a major topic of conversation. I obviously did not receive the memo informing that me that a simple hair do would reveal so much about my pride in my race or femininity.

The hypocrisy of Black men regarding this topic is just breathtaking. I have read so many online conversations where Black men have stated that they hate weaves/relaxed hair and they wish that women would keep their hair natural. In cyber space these men are only too happy to flex their afro centric credentials. However, in reality these same men are only too happy to fall at the feet of the Beyonce and Rhianna’s of this world. Although equally wonderful, the likes of Erykah Badu, India Arie and Lauryn Hill do not adorn the same amount of men’s bedroom walls.

Not to be outdone, academics are also jumping on the hair bandwagon. Earlier this year a study came out linking agents in relaxers to causing uterine fibroids in Black women. Apparently, Black women are more likely to have fibroids and the majority of these women happened to have relaxed hair, it seemed logical to the researchers at Boston University to connect the two. This thinking is so flawed that I don’t understand how these academics were not embarrassed to utter such nonsense. Black women are probably also more likely to use cocoa butter on their skin. According to this faux science should we also point the guilty finger at the humble cocoa bean as the sole cause behind uterine fibroids? This research was extremely irresponsible, trying to incite panic using the flimsiest correlations as a base for its findings.

The Boston University research had such a condescending tone to it, implying that Black women are so vain and foolish that they are prepared to endanger their health just to change the natural state of their hair. It would be disingenuous not to admit that the relaxer kit was created to remove the natural kink in afro hair and assume a more European appearance. In 2012, the motivations behind Black women self expressions are extremely varied and diverse. I refute any attempt to lump us all together. For the last ten years I have relaxed my hair and currently sport a weave. Convenience and speed are the driving forces behind my choices. Just because I am not sporting an Afro it doesn’t mean that I am renouncing my natural Black beauty. With or without a weave, I doubt that I would ever have to clarify that I am a Black woman.

That said it does sadden me that in some quarters there is a rejection of natural hair. Some Black women claim that they believe that they cannot wear their hair naturally in the corporate environment. My sister and many of my friends happily wear their hair naturally in the workplace. Sadly we still hear phrases such as ‘nappy hair’ to describe natural hair, particularly by other Black people. Only those lacking in self worth would see their skin or their hair as being inferior. This toxic way of thinking needs to be curtailed. Every human being should be proud of who they are. Black women should have the confidence to express themselves without seeking permission. It is also important that we put our choices in context. Relaxing my hair is not the same as putting mercury on my skin in order to lighten it. All women use various methods to change their appearance from dying their hair, using weaves (White women use them too) to having radical haircuts. The line is crossed when you are prepared to damage your body in order to change your appearance permanently. For anyone who is affronted by my weave unless they are prepared to come to my house and braid my hair on a regular basis, I respectfully ask you to keep your disdain to yourself.

All women should embrace self expression. I resent any man trying to get involved in this discussion as it implies that they get a say on how we look and that somehow we should seek their approval. I like to look nice but I get to decide what I wear and how I wear my hair. Getting Black women and women in general to focus on their looks is the original smokescreen. It’s a feeble attempt to distract women from focusing on their empowerment. The modern woman has bigger fish to fry and at the end of the day, it’s only hair.

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious

Think like a human

Welcome

Last week saw the U.S release of the film ‘Act Like A Man’, which has been produced by comedian Steve Harvey who penned the book ‘Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man’. I have never read the book and have no intention of seeing the film. I always thought it sensible to take advice from experts in their field. If I were in need of financial advice, I would happily take on board the thoughts of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. I don’t see the logic in taking relationship advice from a man with two ex wives that he cheated on throughout the entire marriages. What authority does he have to advise anyone on the state of their relationships other than being a celebrity?

In researching for my film, I have come across a few Black male dating/ relationship experts. I am very dubious about those who have had turbulent love lives. If you don’t know what it takes to have a long lasting happy relationship/marriage what real advice can you offer? I recall reading an article that Harvey thought he had learnt valuable life lessons after cheating on his ex wives for years. If he felt that why didn’t he write a book instructing men on how to treat their wives? Why choose women as his target audience? The answer is simple; we live in a society which is used to telling women that there is something wrong with them.

Women are bombarded with 400 to 600 adverts per day with 9% directly relating to beauty (Source: Media Scope). The beauty industry thrives on the insecurities of women; you’re too fat, too skinny, too old and too frumpy etc. With this backdrop it makes perfect economic sense why these ‘relationship experts’ target women. They use the fact that they as male have legitimacy to speak for the entire male population. They don’t conduct extensive research, just rehash a few conversations at the bar or the barbers and suddenly they are a bona fide expert. Harvey presents his information as ‘inside knowledge’ of the male psyche delivered in comedic little chunks. Too many women swallow this whole without question. They provide these entrepreneurs with the perfect malleable audience, waiting to be told what is wrong with them and how they need to improve.

Harvey’s work is aimed at Black women. We are a group who find ourselves under an intolerable level of scrutiny. On one hand we are always compared negatively to women of other races or completely ignored by mainstream media. To add insult to injury our main detractors are Black men. Apparently we are too loud, too dark, too aggressive, too stuck up, too fat and the list goes on and on. It is beyond pathetic that we have prominent Black comedians, rappers, entertainers and so called relationship experts who so easily mock the women who most resemble their mothers and sisters yet, they have the nerve to expect us to purchase their latest CDs/books/films.

I am always curious as to why the burden of creating successful relationships is placed squarely on women’s shoulders. Why don’t these love gurus write books telling men how to treat the women in their lives? Are men totally exempt from bearing any responsibility in making a successful relationship last? Society still sees a long term relationship as something women crave and what men try to dodge at every opportunity. This thinking undermines both sexes. Women do not need relationships to validate them and men are not so emotionally stunted that they do not want to be in happy fulfilling relationships.

It’s really not a surprise that there is plenty of scope to financially exploit Black women’s insecurities. I don’t belong to the doom and gloom brigade telling Black women that there is a man shortage. I think that is simply not true or only particular to Black women. I have many single female friends of every race, who have the same complaints about meeting decent guys. I wish I could explain why, it would probably make me a rich woman. I think that there is a seismic shift occurring between established gender roles and aspirations. I think that these changes within the Western world are largely positive as women and Black women in particular have greater opportunities today than ever before. However, I think that it has made expectations/interactions between men and women more fluid than say a generation ago. We all have more choice regarding dating/marriage/life options. Perhaps it’s the increased level of relationship options that makes it harder for everyone to make a choice in the first place.

Black women should fully exploit greater dating opportunities within and outside our race. However, there are a large number of Black women who only want to date Black men. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Half of my relatives are Black men and I love them dearly, well most of them. However, the main problem is that there are not enough eligible Black men to go round. That is the biggest stumbling block for Black women looking for a Black partner. It has nothing to do with how long you withhold sex or if you uphold a set of dating rules. If these Black male relationship experts really want to do Black women a favour, they need to address Black male unemployment, imprisonment, child abandonment and the acceptable blatant disrespect given to Black women. Steve Harvey and other ‘dating experts’ would make loving relationships within the Black community more likely if they encouraged Black men to continue with further education, and to become loving husbands and fathers. I suppose that philanthropy doesn’t offer the same financial returns that book and film deals do.

What all women need to remember is that the final say is in our hands. We decide where our money goes. It is important to question the motives of those who claim to be offering help. Until the likes of Steve Harvey are able to make one woman happy for at least 25 years, he does not have the authority to tell anyone how to manage their personal life. Patriarchy puts women under a continuous spotlight, encouraging us to vie for male validation. We don’t need to pay attention to men pretending to have women’s interests at heart. Their only concern is for their expanding bank balances. We all want quick fixes for the difficult areas of our lives. Following a set of rules offered by a comedian is not going to help people ascertain whether someone is a good match or not. We are talking about finding a life partner not training a puppy. Ultimately, I don’t need to think like a man, in order to find and keep one. Surely the trick is to think and behave like a loving human being.

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious

Where is the love?

Photo Credit – Copyright New Line Cinema

Welcome

‘Love and Basketball’ is one of my favourite films. Unlike most romantic dramas it doesn’t gloss over the fact that relationships are hard work. It is also one of the few beautiful Black love stories on the big screen. If an alien were to land on earth and watch the majority of Black cinema or mass media in general, he would probably deduce that Black men and women do not like each other very much. The majority of mainstream Black films portray dysfunctional interactions between Black people. Now I am all for tackling tough issues such as child abuse in ‘Precious’ or infidelity in ‘Why did I get married?’ What I don’t understand is why the Black community is so happy to perpetuate and buy into such negative images of themselves? Why are there so few examples of Black love in today’s mainstream media? Are these films not normalising dysfunctional behaviour and presenting it as some twisted version of Black reality?

The Black community is still plagued with incorrect and limiting stereotypes even in the era of supposed post racialism. In reality, Black women have increased their educational and financial opportunities. As a result, the stereotypes of Black women is developing from the overweight maid or finger snapping ghetto queen to the lonely, unapproachable, career woman. Another stereotypical Black female persona is the damaged woman who was either betrayed as an adult or abused as a child and this explains why she is always angry and pushes men away. The upshot is that Black women are either fat and undesirable or attractive and angry. Black men don’t fare any better. The tragic killing of Trayvon Martin only highlights the power of the stereotype that Black men are hyper aggressive predators. If the Black man is not portrayed as ‘get rich or die trying’ hustler the other typical stereotype is the bumbling feckless buffoon. The only threat that the buffoon offers is to his own self respect.

So if everyone in the Black community is completely dysfunctional it would stand to reason why there are low levels of marriage – we are all too crazy to settle down! This is of course hogwash. My parents have been happily married for nearly forty years. The majority of my Black female friends are also happily married to Black men. I have stated that in the UK and US Black men are falling behind Black women economically and educationally. This is making it harder for professional Black women to find suitable partners but it is far from impossible. In researching my film, I came across some bizarre and ridiculous ‘facts’. Apparently an educated Black woman has more chance of being hit by lightning than getting married. I also read statistics stating that 70% of Black women are single. When you remove the unmarried teens, divorcees and widows the figure is a lot closer to 59% (source Surviving Dating.com). Even then this number does not include gay women, cohabiting couples and those who don’t wish to marry.

The more educated Black women become the richer they become which leads to a greater say in society and changing the status quo. The hope must be that if Black women spend more time obsessing about their love lives, less time will be spent on becoming even more prosperous and influential. We live in a White patriarchal society where there are few winners and many losers. It is in these winners’s interest to retain the status quo. White women were fed a similar line a mere decade ago. I recall being constantly bombarded with medical reports stating that women’s fertility goes kaput after 35, the chances of ovarian cancer are raised if you haven’t been pregnant by your late thirties or that successful business women were more likely to end up married and childless. Career women were given a choice, choose either your personal or professional life – you can’t have both. This was scaremongering – pure and simple, an attempt to get women out of the boardroom and back in the kitchen. Unlike White women, Black women have always been expected to work. The lack of opportunities and exposure to high paying jobs meant that Black men and women both had to financially contribute to keep their families afloat. Today, Black women have greater choices and wealth creation opportunities. This should be celebrated not curtailed.

The advancement of Black women has class ramifications also. I have to admit that I am not the biggest Tyler Perry fan. I respect him for being a major player in the film industry and proving that Black enterprise can successfully sell to a Black audience. However, I don’t agree with the messages in his films. They typically depict a successful but cold businesswoman or a detached, damaged woman who falls in love with a salt of the earth janitor/ex convict/blue collar worker. Black women are effectively being discouraged to date/marry men with aspirations. It is not a matter of snobbery if professional women want to marry and date professional men. Should the expectations of Black women be less than women of other races? I doubt that Hilary Clinton would have given Bill a second look if he had been a janitor. As Black women continue to have greater options in life it will also raise their expectations of the men that they choose to have a life with. I don’t think this is a bad thing; hopefully it will encourage Black men to raise their game educationally and economically in order to attract women with higher expectations. To advise Black women to ‘date down’ is an attempt to sabotage their growth. This sabotage does not just affect women; it prevents the whole community from moving forward. It is ridiculous that Black women are deemed to be snobs just because they have higher aspirations; surely it is just common sense to want a man in your life with common aspirations? Opposites attract but similar people tend to stay together.

It’s frustrating how readily the Black community receives and spreads this way of thinking. I recall as a child the furore which surrounded ‘The Crosby Show’. There were members of the Black community who cited that it wasn’t authentic enough, that the majority of Black people were not doctors and lawyers. I don’t recall hearing White people residing in urban areas complaining about the plausibility of ‘The Waltons’. Why do we as a community reject positive images of ourselves? Why can’t we have an ideal to aspire to? Why are we so prepared to accept broken relationships, criminality and mediocrity as our reality? I am straight out of suburbia, not Compton – does this make me any less Black? I refuse to accept that my ambitions and aspirations should be limited because of the colour of my skin, even if that information is coming from other Black people.

Women of all races should expect to have fulfilling relationships. I will not bow down to the naysayers who want Black women to believe that there are no suitable men for us or that we must settle for any man who shows an interest. Yes there is a lack of eligible men in the Black community. I hope that the advancement of Black women will put the onus on all Black men to do the same in equal numbers. If that doesn’t work there are men of other races for consideration. Accepting the status quo means that there will be no advancement in our community. We should celebrate what Black women have achieved in spite of all the obstacles before them. What’s really disappointing is that the majority of Black owned media rarely promote positive images of Black people. They tend to accept stereotypical images. If we accept these mediocre versions of ourselves, how can we hope to achieve or prosper? If we don’t expect to see loving images of ourselves on the big and small screens, it helps build the false belief that loving Black relationships are only for the lucky few. Black women must expect to be loved and must be free to be successful in their professional lives. Yes there is a lot a false statistics out there but as Flava Flav so eloquently put it ‘Don’t believe the hype!’

Please let me know your thoughts

Sudelicious