I have been recently noticing a number of different programs & individuals pushing the whole “Save our Sons” campaign in the Black community & it always leaves me feeling like they are missing something vital. But what could it be??? Hmmmmm…. oh, yeah, BLACK GIRLS/WOMEN!!!! What is with this whole “We only need to save our sons” mentality amongst the Black community??? Your daughters deserve/need your help too!
While this piece is not in any way about ignoring the plight of African men & their struggle, I do want to point out that fact that they do NOT struggle alone & in many instances their struggles are the struggles of African women & in many ways African men oppress African women via misogyny & patriarchy via systematic sexism. This male privilege in the Black community leads us to devalue our beautiful daughters as we raise our sons up. The focus or emphasis on our sons has a cost & that cost is our young women. We baby our sons, pacify them, encourage them, invest in them & in many cases we leave our daughters to have nothing.
While NOT all Black/African men & women do this to their daughters, nieces, sisters, etc; an alarming majority do behave in this manner. Black men & women raise their sons & daughters with a deference towards their sons. This male privilege is due to a paranoia & fear that one day our sons will be slaughtered by the Police, American Injustice System, Racist Whites on the Job, etc.. But we forgot a very apparent point: our daughters have to face the SAME thing. In many places African/Black women deal with the worst versions of every form of systematic oppression. African/Black women are held up against a Euro-American system of beauty and seen as the most unattractive being that could exist in America because of White supremist racism from the broader American society & colorism from the African/Black community. Let’s discuss how Euro-American beauty standards relentlessly attack African/Black women for a moment. Shorter-Gooden & Jones point out that, “Using data from the National Survey of Black Americans, Verna Keith of Arizona State University & Cedric Herring of University of Illinois at Chicago found that Black women who were lighter in skin color were more likely than darker women to be better educated, to have a higher status occupation, & to have a larger family income. These differences were true regardless of their parents’ educational level, occupation, & socioeconomic status. This same pattern did not hold for Black men. Using the same data set, Margaret Hunter of Loyola Marymount University found that on average lighter African American women are married to more educated men than their darker sisters. Hunter talks about light skin color as “social capital” for women of color, allowing them to attract a more desirable man” (2008:182). Our own community embodied the White supremist racist & colonial mindset of the Europeans & Americans who enslaved us & what we created was a monster just as ugly as racism called colorism through the lily complex; this sick idea that light skinned women are better in every way than their darker sisters. The devalue of the Black woman/girl is something that White America & in some ways Black America plays into & it is a dangerous game. Shorter-Gooden & Jones say it best, “Oftentimes for Black girls & women, the mirroring comes from parents, friends and extended family. But it’s not uncommon for the negative & stereotypical messages of the larger society to get through & to be co-opted by members of the Black community, or for the Black community to impose its own alternative but equally rigid standards” (2008:183).
We invest in & develop our young men while we leave our daughters to stumble on their own. This assumption that African/Black girls are stronger is often a rationalization for the mistreatment the community commonly gives them. African/Black girls need just as much love, concern, investment, development, & care as our sons & its about time our community starts sending love their way.
So when we treat/raise our children like this what types of people do we create? We create young men who also devalue Black women. We create Black women who either over compensate to prove their worth or we create Black women who never realize their beauty & potential because they internalized the poisonous message fed to them over the years. It is a viscous cycle.
As an African/Black woman who is part of a family that devalued their daughters for generations & continues to do so till this day, I can definitely say that the damage caused by Black Male privilege is shattering, terrifying, & relentless. For example, I have 2 BAs & I am a PhD student, I will be the first person with a doctorate degree in my family & my family seems to ignore my accomplishments until its convenient for them to brag to people for credibility but I am treated like a door mat on a consistent basis, my opinions are deemed insignificant, & I’m not allowed to have any emotions. These interactions & experiences can destroy the soul & spirit of young Black girls & women. While the world oppresses African/Black women so does their families, the men they love, & their communities.
I hope that this piece has caused you to think about these unhealthy habits that have spread throughout the African/Black community. Remember that our ancestors cherished their women in their matriarchal societies, they valued & protected African women. We need to look to our history & Black feminism to recreate a rhetoric, discourse, message, & positive propaganda that builds up our sons & daughters EQUALLY.
Dr. Patricia Hill-Collins’ “Black Sexual Politics”
Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden & Charisse Jones’ “Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America”
Thomas Sankara’s “Women’s Liberation & The African Freedom Struggle”