Dwayne Moore, University at Buffalo
I’ll never forget the first time I was called a faggot. I was in the second grade. I remember engaging in a trivial argument which ended in “that’s why you’re a faggot.” I had no idea exactly what a faggot was, but just hearing it was enough to shatter me. I resumed the rest of my day tattered in pieces. That night, dragging my head, I proceeded to ask my father what a faggot was, and why I had been labeled one. He answered to the best of his ability ” A faggot is someone that is gay, and if you are not gay, the word should not bother you.” Not really having a clear understanding of sexuality, I responded “ok” and left the room filled with questions of what being gay was and why I was associated with it. As I grew older, I realized that the boy who decided to name me a faggot, unaware of the complexities of sexuality, was not commenting on my sexual preference. He was effectively using it to label me as less than a man, saying I carried feminine traits society ascribes to women, therefore I was a faggot.
That little black boy, fresh-eyed in the world, already carried his hatred for black women in his heart as a dagger and was already using it to inflict indirect harm, even without saying it to the girls in class. That boy already understood that anything in resemblance to little girls was negative, and not only had to uphold his ability to not simulate a girl, but also act as an authority making sure every other little boy he encountered was aware not too also. Being a little boy who would sneak into my elder sister’s room to play with her Barbie dolls or help my aunt paint her nails, I was confused as to what exactly made me less than. But as I grew older, I too would assimilate and subconsciously form my own dagger that I would use to prop myself up at the expense of black little girls.
As black men, the pressures of systematic oppression and the expectations that come with being a man of color in a white world is surely damning and tiring. Yet, the answer is not grasping onto our last bit of privilege on this earth and turning black women into our foil, demanding they absorb whatever form of abuse or injustice we push upon them in an attempt to protect our manhood. Black men have been men first, black second, meaning our superiority as men historically has far outweighed our obligation of being black and demanding equality for all. We have shoved black women beneath us as we built our place in society on their backs. I have overheard and partook in too many conversations reducing black women to nothing more than their sexual elements. Just as in slavery with the reduction of black bodies to labor, black men have reduced and normalized the bodies of black women to sexual objects that they own and use to their disposal for sexual pleasure. We insist on keeping a “body count” to remind ourselves of how many bodies we have taken for pleasure and reduced to nothing more than a mere number. As much as many black men are impassioned about discussing white supremacy and racial injustices, they ignore how they have absorbed these same oppressive traits that they fight against.
What white men are to black men, as black men are to black women in every shape of the form. Black men continue to contribute to the demonizing of black women for profit no matter how disrespectful or degrading; selling the pain and struggles of black women for laughter and money. Black men such as Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy have made millions off of false representation of black women. Hitting at some of the most painful realities black women experience and making them into a joke, all while selling it to white audiences. Black women are not even allowed to profit from their own experience, much more profit from making a mockery of the black man. Black men have even locked black women out of the ability to attempt to redeem the word “nigga”. Nigga was a gender-neutral word used to demonize blacks of all genders by white people and is now used as a term of endearment to acknowledge one’s connection to the struggle. We have now gendered it, associating a “nigga” with a male, locking black women out of the ability to reclaim a part of history that has affected them just as much, if not more; creating a subcategory, referring to them as "bitches", which is nothing more than a mere female dog.
I’ve watched the hate for black women be displayed in conversations about sexual assault, where black men use a platform for women to speak up and bring awareness to such a painful topic; only to victim blame and demand women take responsibility for their own assault, their own harassment, their own rape. Policing what women wear and how they are allowed to express their sexuality, as opposed to looking in the mirror and changing how we respond to it. The hatred for black women extends to all the ways we subliminally tell black women they will never be good enough, imposing Eurocentric beauty standards just to invalidate their every attempt to be acknowledged as beautiful. We demand black women have straight long hair like white women. When they react by spending hours perming their hair or buying weave, we respond by saying they are not authentic enough, moving the standard to natural hair, and shaming their efforts to adjust to what was demanded of them. We remind them that whatever they do, they are still not up to par.
I have witnessed too many times how many black men, once acquiring fame and money, abandoned the black women who were often responsible in some way for their success- for a white woman. Thus, reminding black women that regardless of their loyalty, sacrifices, and labor on our behalf, wealth is white and to acquire that, you can no longer be a part of the picture. I have no problem recognizing that not all black men fit the descriptions listed, but the reality is these problems exist, and just because you may not actively participate in oppressing black women, silence on the topic is just as dangerous as it gives approval to those that do. I could continue to compile ways in which black men continue to show their disdain for black women, but even through all the hate that is thrown in their direction, making them the default punching bag of society, they continue to blossom; showing the world their continued resilience and brilliance regardless of whether it is acknowledged or not.
Black women continue to be the main support group for black men, sacrificing for the advancement of everyone but themselves. Even with that reality, black women still out-educate, out-perform, and are out-earning black men. For years black leaders expressed the role of male leadership, assisting in the erasure of the important role black women have played in society (as black women have literally been the basis of every social movement in this country), for nothing more than ego stroking and the appeasement of their white counterparts, who will never see them as equal. We are in an era where considering black, heterosexual men as the sole leaders of the black community should die quickly. We must learn as black men to finally get rid of the hatred for black women that is so rampant in our culture, and finally allow black women to publicly lead, as they have done privately for so long without credit. We must not be afraid to acknowledge guilt and take the proper steps to fix it. We can no longer raise our black daughters to be secondary, to fear black men and be accepting of whatever pain or trauma we induce. We must change the narrative and raise our black daughters to lead, be unapologetic about their blackness, womanhood, their sexuality and lead us men to a better future where we all can live in peace and equality.