This is a big question.
I’m not sure if the answer is NOT QUITE, NOT YET or NOT EVEN IN THEIR OWN MINDS.
The Black woman in America is a political half/caste creature, way too black for some and not enough woman for others. If one is a Black feminist, life can be full of contradictions, disappointments and loneliness. Where the battle lines are drawn between Blacks and women, as they seem now to be since the nomination of Barack Obama, the Black feminist has been mostly left out of the conversation (if she were, indeed, ever in it), on the defensive about racism (and its reverse) and ignored on sexism. Black women, very often stigmatized, disrespected and shunted aside by Black men, in a hurry to make gains for Black men, find themselves the easy targets of the animosity of their White “sisters”who constantly question their feminist bona fides and similar state of female condition which no amount of critical finger pointing at Obama can rectify. The nomination and election of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, using dirty tactics, is proof positive to many, that Black people have “arrived” while “women” (Black not included) have been left in the starting blocks. Does Obama’s arrival demonstrate the real truth of this? No, IMHO, but evidently, the way to balance the scales of Black v. female power is to elect women (White of any political stripe)-using the “Black” strategy(whatever that is)-which, given the rather small numbers and disparities of Blacks, was fairly ineffectual for about 150 years.
This reminds me of a blog discussion where people were encouraged to discuss who built America. The Chinese men were mentioned as contributors to the nation’s greatness. When I suggested millions of African slaves contributed for hundreds of years, the sh*t hit the proverbial fan. Everyone shouted “What about women?” seemingly oblivious that half of those slaves were women. But I digress. This is the end of the story, not the beginning.
The story begins with the arrival of African-Americans brought to American shores as slaves. Slaves everywhere are treated horrifically but African slaves in America, were considered (conveniently) subhuman, akin to animals.
Routinely raped and physically abused, they were clearly not “women” in the regular sense of the word, save for their innate inferiority, with no legal or “natural” rights to worry about. I won’t belabor the point here. Everybody knows the story so I’ll give Sojourner Truth the last words, spoken before a group of female suffragists in 1851, her “ain’t I a woman” speech:
Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!” And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked. ‘And ain’t I a woman?
Did Sojourner Truth recognize the irony that neither woman’s suffrage nor universal male suffrage would get her to the enfranchisement party? So, how would she choose if she had to choose? Isn’t this, in a sense, where we stand today?
After the end of slavery and the beginning of Jim Crow the Black woman was held up as the ugly and contemptible bete noire to the desirable White woman in order to refute the charge of the mass rape of Black women by White men. The Black woman was portrayed as devoid of any characteristic that made her a woman: beauty, nobility, charm, chastity, even decency. Stripped of their womanhood, they internalized society’s contempt for them as females. Even if White women didn’t get the message, we did. But I believe White women DID get the message.
I heard a feminist on another blog admit that she didn’t like Black people. She preferred Asians, she said, because their women are also objectified. Is objectification the price of admission to the club of feminism? Does one have to be turned into a pornographic icon, like Sarah Palin, for there to be outrage at the lot of women? Black women, who have more often been publicly de-sexed or dehumanized probably don’t get admission to that club. Nonetheless, and like it or not, if as it has been said, ALL women are feminists, including anti-feminists, why not include us?