“Contrary to the widely held misconceptions that Black Lives Matter was founded solely for men or boys…Alica Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and I created Black Lives Matter for Blackwomen!” – Opal Tometi (BLM Co-Founder) The article on the March for Black Women held in Washington DC was interesting. A few hundred Black women strategically combined with another March for Social Justice to acknowledge the plight of Black women in America.
I’ve said this before, the formal organization was exclusively not made to include Black men. The larger movement was already in motion before BLM joined it during the death of Michael Brown which initially included Black men and women across class, and although it later absorbed the theme of BLM—the two remained distinct. Having interviewed activists in Ferguson, they confirmed the same. BLM appropriated the deaths of such as Brown (because it attracted international attention & favor) to develop a political platform for middle-class Black women. Black men were just a useful fuel for an organization that just needed an issue (any issue) big enough to galvanize people…at least until we we were no longer useful.
To put context to it, the class differences between African American men and women have yielded a difference in response to oppression. Middle-class frustrations inspire protest—which is reformist—while lower/underclass frustrations inspire (potentially revolutionary) non-conformism. This is why the Ferguson unrest was split between middle-class educated Black women (with some outside pastors) and street brothers. This might also explain Black men’s tepid (yet nonetheless present) participation in protest ventures, albeit with an understanding that protest doesn’t yield much that changes the lives of the Black underclass. Nevertheless, Tometi’s statement confirms this dynamic.
Still, some Black women claim that pointing out this dynamic means I (and others like me) hate Black women. That’s patently false. That’s like if three Black men start an organization to deter breast cancer (an issue that effects about 2% of breast cancer sufferers—Black men, but really mostly women), only let men play leadership roles in it, then claim they started it for Black men. And if Black women critique it, they must hate Black men. Smh.
Strange, when I say it, I hate Black women. But when she says it?
Anyway, remember how many Black women said they protest for you and you ungrateful cats didn’t grovel enough when thanking them for their service? Well, that strange feeling in your gut referred to this. Although many understood how an issue that overwhelmingly effects Black males impacted Black families as a whole, many weren’t protesting for Black men. They were mobilizing (and legitimizing) their new all-Black female political base. Here, Black men were either monsters, terrorists, or victims that needed advocation—but only to the extent that it’s politically useful for Black women. How to best accomplish this? Keep Black men out of any leadership positions in the organization. That way, they have no influence on the next phase of advancement for this group. If you’d like to know who was included to be a part of the new Black leadership class see the image below…
Due to higher graduation rates, this group has its roots deep in both electoral and grassroots leadership platforms, and Black men are largely absent from both. Can’t see it? Don’t worry. It’s been happening for quite a while but you’ll see it soon enough.
Bleh… Ok. I got that out my system.
To be clear, I don’t begrudge Black women for being set for leadership. It is an obvious inevitability due to multiple generations of greater higher educational access. The use of Black men in higher level organizational and electoral leadership positions has been more symbolic than not since the 1970s. Such leaders are as much “boomer-aged” as they are male…but this belies the reality that the next few generations of “leaders” will be young, highly educated, middle-class Black women.
That actually doesn’t bother me. After all, the last two generations of Black males have been single-mother raised, so Black women’s leadership is actually not a shocking thing. It’s quite familiar. But let me be more precise, the absence of substantive Black male leadership does bother me to the extent that it’s not organic. Had Black men’s leadership roles evolved naturally into Black female leadership, then fine. But as it is more a result of structural, oppressive issues I find it highly problematic, but still, it’s not Black women’s fault. Rather it’s a result of the economic and educational underdevelopment of Black men in ways that Black women do not necessarily directly experience to the same extent (but they do experience it indirectly). Still, the extent to which Black feminist-nationalists purposefully stay oblivious to why Black men live different realities does bother me. So, too, does the disengenuous and manipulative way in which some forms of Black female leadership have taken form. Black feminist-nationalist formations of Black women’s leadership has been exploitive of both Black men’s deaths and their quality of life (especially in regard to stats used in the articulation of Black oppression) while organizations such as Black Lives Matter’s disregard for even mentioning men’s roles in families (see their website) suggests their invisibility despite the use of their grotesque deaths. This has left a bad taste in many men’s mouths, as few have talked about this dynamic outright. As long as it continues to go unregarded, the distrust many Black men feel will remain so. (And although many Black men haven’t developed the vocabulary to say so, many who withdrew from public activism were doing so partially due to this.)