Bankole: In defense of black women
African-American women, especially those who are single, have been taking a beating lately in the public square regarding the state of the black family. They are being blamed for all the challenges facing the black family despite their enormous contributions. But the evidence suggests the contrary; great achievers like LeBron James, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others came out of the resilience of single black mothers.
That's why every black male raised by a black woman ought not to keep silent as the nation undergoes another racial and gender current that thrusts black women into the spotlight. This is exemplified in the widely viewed eulogy of Aretha Franklin by the Rev. Jasper Williams, whose attack on single black women during the funeral of the Queen of Soul, was filled with gross misinformation and erroneous statistical representation about their plight and contributions.
Instead of a message of love and justice that would have been in perfect accordance with the legacy of Franklin, who single-handedly raised four boys, Williams chose to engage in a charade of a tribute claiming black women can’t raise black boys to be men.
As if the cruel tongue-lashing and humiliation of black women at Franklin’s funeral wasn’t enough, days later, it was international tennis superstar Serena Williams’ turn to be publicly shamed after she told the umpire at the recent U.S. Open final that he was unfair to her.
For Serena Williams, it wasn’t just that she lost Saturday’s championship in a controversial game to Naomi Osaka, she instantly became the face of the “Angry Black Woman,” stereotype on social media. She was caricatured by Mark Knight, an Australian artist at Melbourne’s Herald Sun, who portrayed her in a cartoon as an imposing big-mouthed black woman in a rage during the game. Her opponent Osaka, who is Japanese-Haitian was depicted as a slim blond woman.
Who’s next after Serena Williams?
What we fail to acknowledge is that throughout history, the denigration of black women carrying the insignia of the shame of the institution of slavery have always subjected them to the worst forms of creative suffering. They have been the victims of persistent and dangerous stereotypes that deliberately seek to minimize and undermine their immense contributions to this nation.
In the black community today, women for the most part are not only raising children by themselves, but they are also the breadwinners in many households including Detroit. According to the Michigan Women’s Foundation, about 80 percent of households in Detroit are headed by a woman.
But despite the fact that they are oiling the economic engines of their households, black women remain disadvantaged when it comes to wealth building opportunities.
“In spite of the fact that home equity accounts for the largest proportion of wealth for most middle-class families, only about a third of single black women (33%) are homeowners compared to a slight majority of single white women (57%). Among those whom are homeowners, black women trail far behind white women when it comes to equity ($47,000 vs. $74,000),” according to a 2015 report from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
For those engaging in vicious ad hominem attacks against black women, it’s important to understand the myriad of challenges these women have to deal with including raising children.
I, for one, was raised by a black woman with no father and I take pride in it. Against the most difficult odds, it was my grandmother who raised me. I watched her struggle, and with the sweat of her brow, she fought to give me the basic necessities in those early years. I’m a product of the strength and power of a black woman. It would be a tragic violation of the memory of generations of powerful black women for me to remain silent.
In order to appreciate black women, we must begin to embrace black girls too, as 11-year-old Naomi Wadler, reminded us earlier this year during the March for our Lives demonstration in Washington D.C.
“I am here to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,” Wadler said. “We know life isn't equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong.”
Life hasn’t been equal for black women.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Superstation 910AM.