white woman.jpg

 

In a rare, but frankly predictable moment, the police chief of the Minneapolis police force stepped down in the wake of the death of Justine Damond, an unarmed white woman killed by a black police officer. Speaking of Justine, her attorney stated that she was the ‘most innocent victim of a police shooting”.

The statement was shocking in its disregard for the black children who have been fatally shot by police officers – Aiyana Jones was 7 when she was killed by a police officers in a raid, Tamir Rice only 12, not least for the countless innocent black men and women who have been killed by police.  Shocking, but predictable.

White women are always innocent.

In the case of Justine she truly was, and as with any other victim of police brutality her and her family deserve justice.

But white women are innocent even when they’re not innocent.

A recent study on perceptions of black girls that was widely reported on gave evidence to the fact that “adultification” of black girls begins as young as 5*. Black girls are perceived as having less need for nurturing and protection compared with white girls. Stereotypes of black women as angry, more masculine and difficult to deal with are projected onto young black girls.

But this as much about stereotypes of black women as it is about entrenched beliefs about white womanhood.

Since before slavery, white womanhood has carefully crafted a propaganda of innocence, supported by white men initially for their own sexist purposes (which I won’t detail here) but often used by white women to absolve themselves of responsibility in a myriad of situations. White European women are perceived as delicate, fragile, pure, kind and well intentioned despite historically being wholly complicit in some of the greatest atrocities against other humans, many of them black or brown.

White feminism has tried with some level of success to rewrite modern history as a story in which all women are united in a struggle against the evils of a white male patriarchal system, when the truth is that white women have often used this system to their benefit to abuse black men and women. Slavery was not a white male institution. Colonialism was not a white male institution. White women stood alongside white men during slavery, during colonialism and during segregation. In England, white women posted signs on their doors saying “No coloureds, No Irish, No dogs”. More white women who voted, voted for Trump than Clinton – yes, at least half of white women voters were more committed to upholding a white supremacist narrative than a seemingly feminist one.

But white women are always innocent.

A younger friend of mine recently told me of situation in which she was called defensive and aggressive by a supervisor who has been bullying her at work. She didn’t have to tell me what happened. “Let me guess”, I said, “She called you aggressive and said you were intimidating”. More than several black women have had the experience in the work place of being constantly goaded by passive aggressive white women who employ racial micro-agressions and bullying as a form of emotional abuse, and then, when the black woman finally gets angry she is told that she is being ‘hostile’. Because inherent in white womanhoods propaganda of innocence is the idea that black women are the antithesis of it. Even when we are the victims, we are the aggressors. Our inherent masculinity in the white imagination positions us as the constant perpetrators. Even during slavery when white men were raping black women in droves, black women were accused tempting white men away from their wives. Even rape was not enough to make us victims.

The propaganda has been so successful that even in the black community we associate white femininity or proximity to it, as innocence.

The idea that white men are the ‘enemy’ but that white woman are desirable, innocent, even potential  ‘allies’ to black men in their struggle against ‘the man’ often plays out in the ease with which black men partner with white women but historically have recoiled at the idea of black women doing the same with white men.

But white women have always known that the combination of their presumed innocence and black men’s presumed sexual deviancy could be used as a weapon against black men and women. Littered throughout history are the bodies of black men who have been lynched both literally and figuratively by white women who have accused them of being abusive, often sexually. (It goes without saying that not every accusation of rape by a white women against a black man is or was false). Alongside them are the black women who have had to mourn the loss of sons, brothers, fathers, friends not only through death but undeserved prison time.

The rape of black women during slavery is well documented, but less well known are the stories of black male slaves who were coerced into sexual acts by their white female masters. Rape isn’t always about physical strength but it is always about power. Despite white women’s protestations that they are victims of misogyny, it is completely ludicrous to ignore the fact that not only have they historically occupied a position of privilege and power in comparison to black men as well as black women, but that they have used white men’s misogyny as a form of deflection from their own complicity in racial violence. Just as black men can endure racism at the hands of a racist society and still practice misogyny in their own communities, white women have proven time and time again that their supposed innocence is simply a facade when it comes to their  racism.

As adamant as I am that the idea of white womanhood being inherently innocent is mythological I am just as adamant that black women are equally if not more so deserving of being typecast as innocent. While white women wielded their presumed innocence against us, black women often fed, defended, even nursed the children of these white women at their breast. Black women, despite the constant assaults on their womanhood and families, offered and continue to offer themselves as allies in feminist movements that refused to centre them or even peripherally serve them. The role of the mammy, the big black woman forever coddling and nurturing white children while themselves being asexual, undesirable and nothing more but a facilitator of white happiness continues into adulthood – from the sage black woman being a sidechick to white women in a popular film, to black women being asked to lay aside their specific concerns because ‘we’re all women’.

Black women in America, and likely in England also are some of the most faithful church goers. It is no surprise then, that we have been taught to presume that turning the other cheek means turning a blind eye. We sit under the watchful gaze of white Madonnas, benevolent and infantile, a fitting symbol of the propaganda of white womanhood if there was any. Mary, an unwed teenage Palestinian mother of an ethnic minority child, made a pariah by her community who are themselves colonised and governed by the Romans – is ironically almost always falsely portrayed as an innocent white woman.

No human or group of humans can claim inherent innocence. But if there’s any group I had to choose, it wouldn’t be white women.

obama mic

As Obama enters the final hours of his 2 terms as president of the United States, social media, news outlets and  facebook feeds are buzzing. Many are heartbroken – they beleieve their country has traded in an articulate, outwardly progressive, intelligent man for someone who embodies an entirely opposing and distasteful set of values. They are fearful for the future.

People generally fall into two main camps with Obama. They love him or they hate him. A few fall into a more nuanced approach . Various marginalised communities measure his Presidency on what his policies specifically did for their community. In the African-American community, several community ‘leaders’ have been outspoken about the fact that Barack did not specifically target the black community with his policies or create any tangible change for them. Indeed, it’s arguable that black people in America and across the world are equally if not more disenfranchised, downtrodden and disrespected post Obama’s presidency as they were before it.

I speak as somewhat of an outsider being Jamaican-British and I acknowledge that it’s a lot easier for me to have an admittedly more impartial, but potentially less accurate analysis as someone who is largely  affected indirectly by American politics.  I will  hesistantly say though,  that I believe anyone who expected Obama to create any real change for the black community was somewhat delusional. Obama, despite the historicity, despite the tears and moments of pride, despite the cute family pictures and swaggalicious YouTube videos, is a politician. Western politicians, especially at senior levels of government, rarely get there by being completely radical and challenging privilege and power. They get there by acquiescing to it. They might appear, like Trump, to say radical things, but they will almost always either be part of or have to acquiesce to a capitalist white supremacist power structure. It doesn’t matter if they fist bump their constituents or tell them they’re building a massive wall to keep out the rapey Mexicans. At some point they will have to make a choice to play the game.

Obama, as the countries first black president had to be even more careful than any of his predecessors that he was playing the game correctly. He was bound by processes of power that meant that half of his congress had values that despite their protestations were  at least partially rooted in maintaining inequality and upholding white male privilege. He had the burden of not only failing himself, but failing the community. There was a burden of collective blackness that whether or not Barack Obama acknowledged, history would force him to carry. Most importantly, he did not win the election on a mandate of black power – the main groups who voted for him were liberal whites. Undoubtedly, black man and women galvanised around him, but the harsh reality is that a community with very  little economic power has very little political power.

I’m not excusing Obama.  He arguably did more for the LGBTQ community than he did directly for the black community. I agree with every analysis that suggests that he didn’t do enough about police brutality or reverse America’s legacy of destructive foreign policy or dismantle a cruel prison industrial compex. He wasn’t enough. I don’t know that America’s first black president was ever really going to be able to play the game and win if he was publicly seen to be considering the needs of his community as paramount in a country where a significant proportion of the population are deeply prejudiced. Simply put, it was never gonna happen.

Real change has rarely come from the top down, but from the bottom up. It’s the people at the bottom who don’t have enough power and privilege  to be  constrained by the courts and the congresses that can push till the top is forced to look down at them for fear of toppling over. It’s the people who have less to lose that often risk everything to try to change their existence. Desperation is often the fuel that changes societies, not comfort. We, black, white, poor, female , other were never going to find a saviour in Obama because had he had been the radical change you were looking for, he wouldn’t have made it that far.

I remember when Obama got elected for the second time. I watched my Dad, a jamaican man who had come to this country in the 1960’s, walked through the streets of Wolverhampton and had rubbish thrown at his head, stand in the corner of my living room and watch as Obama and his family walked out to a crowd of cheering peooe. I saw the emotion on his face. I saw my Mum’s smile when Michelle Obama spoke. And despite being my usual cynical self, I couldn’t deny the messure of pride and relief when I saw the first family. Entirely black, entirely seemingly in love with each other. Secretly, I wanted my own Obama – or at least what he respresented.

The enduring image from his presidency that I will remember is one of a little black boy touching the President’s head as he bent over in the Oval office. He just wanted to know that the President had the same hair he did. We will never know the countless number of black children across the world who were too young to understand the effects of foreign and domestic policy, but old enough to remember that yes, they can. They can be President. And despite the morality or immoralities of the Obama Presidency, that is in itself significant and enduring.

That’s what Obama’s Presidency meant to me. Not a  departure from neo-liberal values, not a politician that I put my faith and trust in, and certainly not someone who was going to usher in a new dawn of equality or progress.

The Bible says ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God, the things that are God’s. There are some things that belong to the power  structures of this world. Absolute truth, equity , justice, and complete freedom are not those things.Once we recognise that, we can accept Obama for what he was as well as what he wasn’t.

 

kylie jenner

I sometimes like to believe that social media isn’t an accurate reflection of the pulse of our generation, but sadly, I think it might be. In fact, not altogether sadly – there are a lot of great things coming from social media. Some things though, are disheartening.

Not least, the increasing popularity of the “‘black’ white girl”.

Kylie Jenner’s lip fandangle hit the internet some time ago (I can’t keep up with the trends), and she joined the ranks along with her sister in becoming the latest white woman  praised for a feature that generally, although not exclusively, belongs to black women as if no black women before her existed with said feature. It’s old news – Kim’s rear end being praised as some sort of revolutionary object, braids on the catwalk touted as a ‘new trend’, blue eyed soul getting more air play than black folks just singing.

The “‘black’ white girl”, is essentially just another spin on an age old trend of celebrating black features, culture and essence more  when it is exhibited on or in non-black bodies.

Interracial couples are increasing in number and without examination of the trend and the factors contributing to it, we could naively view this as a wholly positive move, bringing us closer to the racial utopia of our dreams. However, white supremacy manages to ruin everything and unfortunately there appears to be a trend amongst some young black men where the epitome of womanhood is a non-black, more specifically white woman, who exhibits all the features that classically belong to black women.

Scour the underbelly of black twitter and you will find a substantial enough number of tweets from black men celebrating ‘snowbunnies’, and crigeworthy hashtags like #whitegirlwednesday or #snowbunnysunday.

What makes this different from hashtags like #blackoutday or #blackbeauty? Quite obviously because the context is entirely different. These hashtags originate with the intention of affirming a group of women  (black women) who are often either sexually fetishised or dismissed as ugly. White women are venerated world-wide as the standard of beauty and there is absolutely no need to continually affirm a standard of beauty that is already incessantly celebrated to the point of being pathological.

Additionally, the problem is that the celebration of white women taking place amongst a certain class of black men is generally alongside the degradation of black women, while at the same time strangely praising white women who have the ‘sexual’ characteristics commonly associated with black women. I say sexual, because it primarily focuses around big buttocks, big breasts and big lips. Never are black women’s skin tones, hair texture or broad nose seen as a standard of beauty by these men. (This is also in fact degrading to women (to everybody) as a whole, as women’s body parts are dissected and assembled merely as a means for male pleasure).

The reason this is important is because it has so many ramifications for the community. The black communities wealth will lie in its ability to pool economic resources and unify in the face of oppression. If young black men absorb, even subconsciously, the idea that whiteness has inherent value and that black femininity is less valuable except as an ‘add on’ to  white femininity, it becomes increasingly difficult for the sense of unity so needed to resist the the institutional and overt racism faced by the community, to develop.

Because despite the white women who genuinely love and respect their partners,the vast majority of the women who have fought for justice, lead the marches in Ferguson and Baltimore, lead the calls for justice for black men who die in police custody in the UK, have been black women. Lose them, and we lose the struggle.

My future daughter deserves to grow up in a world where the men who look like her will not pass her over because they ‘need a girl like Kylie Jenner’, but where her features are celebrated just as much as on her body as that of a white woman.

classism meme

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice..” Martin Luther King

I recently wrote a blog on gentrification (http://girlwiththafro.com/2014/12/07/all-the-rich-white-folk-in-brixton-and-peckham-on-gentrification/) that became semi viral. With it, came the expected comments from well-intentioned (I do try to give the benefit of the doubt), white liberals who told me that it was “not about race, it was about class”. Cue internal groan. I tell ya, if I had a penny….

It’s nice to be a colourblind, white middle class liberal. You get to benefit from the privileges of being white and middle class, while at the same time patting yourself gently on the back in the knowledge that you’re not ‘one of those’ right winging, nose upturned at the poor folk and the black folk, rich white people. So you read your Guardian in the morning, you have a diverse circle of friends who all get along tremendously well and you ‘don’t see colour, because race doesn’t matter’.

Well, unfortunately, it matters to a lot of people. So it not mattering to you is nice, but fairly irrelevant.

I remember a story last year that was splashed across the cover of Tatler magazine. Emma Mcquiston was about to become Britain’s first (to our knowledge, I suppose) black marchioness. I flipped through to read the story, and it relayed accounts of being snubbed by some members of the upper class who were unhappy that a brown face was gracing the aristocracy with its presence. This overt display of racism is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the connection between class and race.

Race and class are inextricably linked. The history of this country  and the United States, in fact, the past four hundred years or so of world history mean that the nature of being black and middle class (or Asian) is completely different to being white and middle class. WIth being black comes the assumption from many, that you are working class, but  being black and middle class does not release you from the stereotypes associated with blackness.

Members of the black middle class are far more likely to have a recent family history of being working class. Not only that, but research in America (more needs to be done in the UK, but there has been similar research with similar results), shows that black families with similar incomes to white middle class families are more likely to live in or in close proximity to poor neighbourhoods, and are therefore more likely to fall victim to the negative outcomes that come from living in those environments. Downward social mobility (i.e. becoming working class despite being brought up in a middle class environment) , is far more likely for blacks than whites. (I’m not entirely comfortable with the term upward/downward mobility, but that’s another post). Essentially, trying to erase race in the discussion of being middle class is in itself a form of racism, as it deliberately ignores the unique interplay between class and race, and completely ignores the experiences of black middle class people. It isn’t just individualised experiences of racism – research shows the systemic differences.

Being black and middle class means being subject to a unique set of racially motivated passive aggressive behaviour that comes from interacting in primarily white, middle class environments. This unfounded idea that black middle class people have “arrived”, and that the only work left to do is help poor blacks reach the levels of their middle class siblings and then everything will be fine, isn’t founded in reality, but rather in a fantastical colourblind society that makes some white liberals feel better. Unfortunately, their primary concern appears to be relieving themselves of the discomfort that comes from admitting the racism that pervades white middle class spaces, as opposed to actually wanting to effect any real change.

Ignoring race and focusing on class alone isn’t possible. And asking black people to do that, yet again, selfishly stifles their voices in order to maintain a status quo. This blog isn’t the place for that.

inter1

So according to national government statistics, or some sort of group masquerading as some sort of official type conglomerate, 50% of black men in this country and 35% of black women are in relationships or married to people who aren’t black. ETA – people have mentioned that I need to provide links to studies , statistic etc so here they are..(http://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/socialchange/research/social-change/summer-workshops/documents/unionsbetweenblacksandwhites.pdf) (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1120963/Ten-cent-UK-children-mixed-race-family.html)

Now I know this is a controversial topic, so I’m gonna start out by apologising to those people who are going to be offended by my opinion. Opinions are like university degrees nowadays – pretty much everyone’s got one, they’re all important in their own right, but some are more useful than others. Mine might be useless to you, that’s cool.

I have to put the same disclaimer at the beginning as I initially put at the end of this piece. I am not against interracial relationships. I am simply discounting the popular narrative that interracial relationships are automatically positive for racial progress. Please re-read that.  Please, please actually read the entirety of what I’ve written instead of jumping on certain things that might rub you the wrong way. Thanks :-).

Looking at the statistics, it’s clear that black people are far and away the only group that dates interracially in such high numbers, especially black men. Most Asian men marry Asian women, most White men marry White women etc. (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/one-in-five-wont-marry-white-1002413http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/one-in-five-wont-marry-white-1002413)

There’s no doubt that it’s becoming increasingly more popular and according to many people, a sign that the people who date interracially are not racist – therefore we are as a society are becoming less racist, that love is colour blind etc. To which I say nonsense, doo-doo, and complete twaddle-wrap.

Firstly, it’s quite obvious that the vast numbers of black men especially dating and marrying outside their race is pathological. The fact that 50% (48% to be exact) of a group of men date or marry outside their race (primarily white women) is a clear sign of some sort of problem within that community, especially when this is not replicated by the vast majority of the male populations of other races. We can bury our heads in the sand and sing Kumbaya choruses and pretend that this is all wonderful and part of Martin Luther King’s dream, but frankly, it’s not, because the reasons why it is occurring in such high numbers are not positive.

1) Black people as a general group have deep seated psychological issues when it comes to self image.

You only have to look at a hip hop video, or a black rom com to see that black people in general idolise beauty standards that are not ‘black’.  A large proportion of  hip hop artists are dark skinned black men. A large proportion of hip hop video models are racially ambiguous. Looking at them, they could be black, they could be Latina or they could be a white brunette with some good fake tan. I know black guys who are as black as a pot of burnt rice who have only dated girls Beyonce’s shade or lighter, and then have the nerve to talk some excrement about ‘preferences’ and how everyone’s entitled to them. Of course you’re entitled to them, but if I’d been systematically brainwashed to believe that beauty was at it’s highest point when it was 5 shades lighter than me, then I think I’d try to revisit my preferences.

How many times have you heard a black person say that they want children with ‘good hair’ or ‘green eyes’? I’ve actually heard black women say they wouldn’t date someone because their hair was too ‘nappy’ (basically too African). This isn’t a small segment of the black population who talks like this, a sizeable amount of us have said or heard someone else make these ridiculous statements at some point.  I’m not sure how the majority of black men or women can be confident that their dating choices aren’t somewhat influenced by the negative images we have of black beauty around us. Little black boys internalise ideals of beauty that tell them the only acceptable form of black is Halle Berry, Beyonce and Rihanna. When they grow up, it doesn’t magically go away. The unhealthy veneration of mixed race people by black people is nothing new, and interracial marriage is only serving to feed this.

2) Many black men and women  who date interracially state that their reasons for doing so are because of issues they have with black men or women, or things that they believe other races of men and women do ‘better’.

If you primarily date black women and happen to fall in love with a white woman, it is entirely different to you spouting generalisations about black women or men as your reason for dating outside your race. “Black men don’t know how to treat a woman”. “Black women have too much attitude”. “Black men can’t handle a successful woman”. “White women are more easy going”. “Asian women know how to treat a man” “Black women don’t wear their real hair”. (Ever considered that black women are just trying to imitate the type of women that black men clearly find more attractive? i.e. Long hair, straight hair or wavy hair?) “Black men are dogs and they all cheat”.

I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it a million times. I know plenty of white girls with attitude. I know plenty of white men who are serial cheaters and treat women like crud. I’m not denying that there aren’t particular attitudes and behaviours that are more common amongst the black community, but a lot of these are to do with class and not race. Black men talk about black women’s apparent attitude, when they only date a particular type of women. I’m sorry that Shaniqua wasn’t wifey material, but have you ever considered that her life circumstances caused her to develop a certain type of attitude to cope? And that if you dated a woman with different circumstances, her attitude would be different? I’m sorry that Tyrone didn’t turn out to be the model boyfriend, but really, you were the one who wanted a Rick Ross lookalike. And you pretty much got a look alike and an act-a-like.

3) Some white women fetishise black men. Some white men fetishise black women.

We (black folk) are a race who seem to suffer from general amnesia. When has the ability of white people to have sex or procreate with us meant that they were no longer racist? Um. Where do you think all the racial mixing in the Caribbean comes from? There a sizeable number of white people who still describe black people as ‘exotic’ ‘exciting’, and rave about ‘chocolate skin’, how good black men are in bed, how black women are more spicy and passionate, how black men are more manly, and how ‘mixed race babies are so cute’.

All these statements are highly problematic and objectifying. What’s even more problematic is that some black men  and women are stupid enough to be flattered by these unhelpful stereotypes, and will go on to date and have children with these people. The offspring of these unfortunate unions often then grow up with defective racial identities and internalised stereotypes about themselves.

I’ve heard the most ignorant and ridiculous nonsense come out of the mouths of white mothers who have mixed race children. I know of people who have had their white wives turn around and call them nigger in the middle of an argument. I know of black women who have married white men only to be disturbed by their deep seated racial prejudices that were not apparent while they were dating them. Just because someone marries someone of another race does not mean they are not racist.

Black people often require very little from the white people they enter into relationships with – ignoring the fact that they have a shallow understanding of black history, white privilege and racial identity. I’ve heard many white mothers being offended when their children are called ‘black’. This shows a woeful ignorance of the politics of race in society and also the shocking lack of care the black man who impregnated these women took in being certain that the mother of their children was going to adequately equip their child to manoeuvre through society.

Many white people are socialised to be racist. They don’t choose to be, they are socialised into it, and many of them have prejudices and stereotypes that cannot simply be erased by having a mixed race child or dating a black person. It takes a significant amount for someone to change thought pattens that have been reinforced from a young age they don’t just disappear because you fancy Tinie Tempah.

4) Mixed race people are being used in popular media to perpetuate erasure of dark skinned black wowen n particular.

It’s quite obvious that presently there is a move for ‘black’ representation to be confined to ‘mixed race’ representation. Most adverts or television shows will have  a mixed race person, or a black person who looks mixed as opposed to a non-mixed looking black person. ( I say looking because phenotype doesn’t have a direct correlation with genotype, and there are any people who identify as black who look ‘mixed’/ or who are technically mixed and vice versa). It is a more palatable and attractive version of black to the general population and to black people. Mixed race black people are a way for companies, magazines, and governments to fulfil a quota of black people whist stating clearly that only a specific type of black is good. The type of black that is mixed with white.  The result is a marginalisation of non-mixed black people, especially women, which is only fuelling a divide between these two groups. I want to clarify, this is not the fault of mixed race people, or of people who marry interracially per se. This is the fault of a system of pigmentocracy that has been present in our community for hundreds of years. What the high levels of interracial marriage does do, is send a direct message to society at large as to how we perceive ourselves, how the relationship between black men and black women is fractured, and perpetuates the hierarchy that has already been created.Ultimately, advertisers, music video directors etc, present what they think will be attractive to the demographic they are targeting. Naturally, if a particular demographic has made it clear about their preferences in terms of attractiveness, they’ll cater to that. If the high levels interracial marriage were occurring outside the context of the historical colorism in the black community and the legacy of slavery, it wouldn’t be at all an issue it would be progress, but because it’s not, it IS an issue. These are cold, hard, unpopular truths.

What I’m not saying:

1)That no one should date or marry interracially.

2)That I will never marry or date interracially. (Although I openly admit that I’m wary, for the reasons I stated above)

3) That mixed race people’s ‘issues’ are any more than other people’s.

4) That mixed race children don’t have the right to self define.

What I am saying:

1) The high levels of interracial marriage are indicative of a deeper community problem.

3)Mixed race identity IS complex and IS something that needs to be discussed more.

4) We cannot love other people positively when we don’t love ourselves.

I hope I’ve generated more light than heat, and I also want to end this piece by saying that in an ideal word, interracial dating would not be a big deal. But in an ideal word there wouldn’t be a system of white, male supremacy. I can’t talk about this issue idealistically because that is not the world we live in.

Peace guys x