Genocide By Another Name: “Debasing” the Black Race through the Black Woman’s Vagina

The Black female experience during reconstruction was a unique one in the way that slavery was perpetuated through it. After emancipation, white people still sought control over the movement and freedom of Black bodies and did so through public expositions known as lynchings, but also through more subliminal methods which this reflection aims to discuss. Prisons and convict farms quickly become another space of confinement for Black people and even “reports of the prison officials [that show] large numbers killed in attempting to escape,” evoke a visual of the slave ship where escape is equivalent to death, and freedom can sometimes mean having control over how you die (Wells, 2). Yet, the White home becomes another space of confinement and the Black body itself becomes a prison for the women who inhabit it.

Specifically, the reaction to Black women insisting freedom was torturous and lethal, as Black women continue to receive the brunt of the white man’s hatred for emancipation. “Rape was a powerful weapon and tool of debasement,” often used by white men to exercise and reinforce their “right” to control Black female bodies (LeFlouria, 28). Debasement is a term used in relation to coins or commodities which involves the reduction in quality and value; to lower in rank, dignity or significance. White men during reconstruction sought to debase Black women, and Black bodies in general, as an expression of their belief that if Black bodies cannot be used to white benefit then they serve no purpose; thus, have no value. Rape, sexual mutilation, and “whippings were highly sexualized rituals that customarily involved forcibly stripping victims before or during a Klan attack,” as in the case of Mary Brown (LeFlouria, 29).

White people aimed to debase the entire Black population in America post-emancipation with the main purpose to “[reassert] their authority over former slaves,” (LeFlouria, 28). Post-slavery structures that mirror slavery and the actions that took place during, such as the slave-master relationship enforced between white men and Black women. Wells spoke about the young Black woman who received a six month sentence to a Mississippi convict farm for fighting, and expressed that “[this woman] and other women testified that they were forced to criminal intimacy with the guards and cook to get food to eat,” which we can connect to a slave-master dynamic that still existed for Black woman on convict farms (Wells, 2). This dynamic also existed at work for Black women because “more than 90% of female wage earners in Atlanta engaged in some form of household work,” (LeFlouria, 31). Remnants of slavery become evident during reconstruction and beyond, such as the idea that Black women belong in the house as a tool for the white family. “Domestic service placed African American women in close proximity to white families and perpetuated the antebellum master-slave relationship,” (LeFlouria, 32) while also maintaining those lingering elements of slavery that allow us to remain a commodity and central function in the white household.

Another remnant of slavery that still exists is the Black woman as the reproducer of slavery. The Black female body is abused because it is seen as the powerhouse of our race, and whether we are sterilized or forcibly bred, “the consistent factor was white control,” (Washington, 205). Margaret Sanger, the woman responsible for the development of birth control believed in preventing Black women from procreating because we are the root of a dysfunctional family. By proving the criminal nature of Black women one is allowed to make a conclusion of our whole race since, “the ‘Negro district’ itself, we are told, is ‘headquarters for the criminal element,’” (Washington, 196). If the Black woman is the site of reproducing slavery, criminal nature and inherent feebleness, then it is easy to convince the public that she should be sterilized. This is done in an effort to preserve the purity that is white society, just as Black men are typically lynched on accusations of rape, while Black women, who suffer silently and repeatedly from sexual terror, were most likely to be lynched for attacking a white person or “resisting rape – daring to testify against white male terrorists,” because she is the criminal (LeFlouria, 29).

The key to detoxifying a nation of its biggest pests is by criminalizing them, as they are, and using their nature as grounds for their expulsion. For example, since “eugenic scientists and their disciples constantly confused the concepts of biological hereditary fitness with those of class and race,” there would be cases, such as the complaint filed with the National Institutes of Health, in which Black women who’d gone to the hospital for prenatal care and advice, but instead were tested “for drugs without their consent, then reported [] to the police,” (Washington, 191) (Washington, 211). There is also the reality that forced sterilization is a form of punishment and a way to reprimand Black women who exercised their criminality – such as the fact that “black women who abuse drugs are ten times more likely than white women to be subjected to court-ordered long-term contraceptives or sterilization,” (Washington, 211).

Our bodies can be manipulated and reduced to the myths of Mammy or Jezebel to compartmentalize an identity that is still used by the white man and the white household; the presence of these myths are an attempt to justify a Black woman’s existence.The sexual revolution sought to divide sex from procreation; ideally the hypersexed and vile Jezebel could persist in her inherent sexual nature without polluting the American population or the white race. However, this division really means that the white race does not have to suffer pollution as a result of a white man’s lack of self-control in the presence of a Black woman.

After Sanger’s influence became more obvious, the idea arose that “federally financed birth-control clinics in their neighborhoods were attempts to discover the best way to limit or even to erase the Black presence in America,” (Washington, 198). This effort is rooted in the post-slavery idea that if Black bodies can no longer be federally recognized as commodities, then there is no need for them here. Our lives become disposable once they cease to be useful.

When our bodies are manipulated, this manipulation determines the fate of Black presence in America, but white life also depends very much upon it. The voice and power of white men bury themselves in “the judge, juries and other officials of the courts [who] are white men who share these prejudices. They also make the laws,” and these laws govern the most private parts of our body (Wells, 1). Through insidious forms of policing our bodies, our sexual organs remain commodified by the system. Our vagina is the avenue through which Black life can be nourished or strangled. While punishment for Black men was lethal and emasculating, punishment for Black women was also defeminating and dehumanizing. As in, the very function that we’ve always been told determines our existence, that makes us female and human, can be controlled and regulated by white men.

References

LeFlouria, Talitha L. “The Gendered Anatomy of ‘Negro Crime.’” Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. University of North Carolina Press, 2015. 21-60. Print.

Wells, Ida B. “The Convict Lease System.” The Reason Why The Colored American is not in the World’s Columbian Exposition: The Afro-American’s Contribution to Columbian Literature. Chicago, 1893. Print.

Washington, Harriet A. “The Black Stork.” Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Anchor Books, 2006. 189-215. Print.

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All Of Me.

You don’t see the world through my eyes.

So how could you expect to find my place in this world? 

You could only do so through eyes of your own. 

Which would make that observation,

a projection of your perspective,

on to me.

 Which would make me more of the person that you 

want me to be, 

and less of the person that I am.

And, most of all,

Would make me unfaithful to the side of myself,

that you cannot see.

The side I have to face

every night before I sleep.

And so that place in the world, 

in which you believe I fit, 

would actually be fit for a part of you

Instead of for all of me. 


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My biggest hope for the next generation is that there is no singular life path that they are pressured to conform to. No more predetermined rules, you make your own. No right or wrong way to live. No reason to pursue the life ahead of you, other than your undivided devotion to yourself and your vision.

They will be told:

 “Write your own ticket. You know what you’re passionate about, so go after it, be smart, and stay vigilant.”

The best part about your ticket is that nobody knows what it looks like other than you. Until your ticket is shared, and until the ticket is expressed through your own self, nobody has a clue what your ticket looks like. Only you can either choose or write your ticket, because this ticket is meant only for you, and lives only as long as all of you does.

Instead of being told that their passion isn’t worth pursuing or considering because it doesn’t make enough money, or doesn’t provide enough jobs. That philosophy is a product of the capitalist society that we will undermine. As long as you have passion, be smart, and stay vigilant – trust in yourself to follow your vision. Trust that in following the path that was carved for you, by you, fruits will be reaped from your labor. There is a job and a career that is meant for you – that you have the potential to consistently excel in. You must find it for yourself.

Once you do, don’t ever let anybody put a glass ceiling on your vision for your life.

It’s not worth it.

Word,

Starr

Ain’t Scared Of Your Jails

 While we are fighting battles that are less blatant, and less apparent to the
uncritical eye, they are still battles that address an injustice that has been embedded in our culture. Modern day movements such as Black Lives Matter aim to address those injustices that are subliminal, because although they could pass as ignorable, they are just as problematic as those issues that were fought by the students in Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1960s.

The message of the Black Lives Matter movement is partially directed toward 453548876.jpgthe prison industrial complex, and the cycle it creates within impoverished and mrginalized communities that happen to be predominantly Black. We address the mistreatment endured by these people, the classification as second-class citizen, and the removal of these voices and visuals from society; this is what we are trying to combat. We are trying to de-stigmatize brown and black bodies.

Two important elements that I witnessed in the documentaries were both the preparation for violent resistance that came with training of students, and establishing an organized plan. Also the relentlessness, the idea that even if one group of us are arrested, we have another wave of students on deck to show that this movement was thoughtful and persistent.  Those methods of preparedness and laser-point focus on a particular outcome is what we can use as a model for our movement.o-SITIN-PROTESTS-570.jpg

We will start by addressing some elements within our society, and then bring light to those provisions within our constitution that allows retardation of our movement. because policy change depends on social change for any real implementation of said policy. Any element of society that has created the dominant voice of a common understanding that is dissatisfactory to a member of the citizenry, that element should be addressed. “Create a crisis so that the federal government could be compelled to enforce federal law,” which was the rationale for the Freedom Ride, and could arguably serve as the platform for the Black Lives Matter protests and rallies. The Governor later stated that it is out of his ability protect people who are “not going to do what [the police] say; who are not going to obey the police,” without recognizing it is not within the citizen’s expectations to obey the police; at least, certainly not to the degree of which the police are expected to protect the citizens. This idea is well understood, now this brings us to questioning who we, as a society, truly regard as citizens. This leads up to demilitarization of the police serving as one of the major principles of the BLM movement. “We wanted something for ourselves and for our children,” and what they wanted has become to be regarded as fact; we’ve almost forgotten that it was once fought for in the same way we are fighting for justices that seem like a far cry.

I noticed that the students are often called “agitators,” and Gov. Patterson Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.27.21 PM.pngsays “I think when they learn that when they go somewhere to crate a riot that there’s not someone to stand between them and the other crowd, they’ll stay home.” This statement is basically a testimony to the idea of silencing a movement when it is widely criticized, or seen as a disturbance or agitation to white life, and that, although someone should, nobody is going to stand between your movement and white agitation. “You can’t guarantee the safety of a fool, and these people are just fools,” Gov. Patterson continued to say, and this 1960s philosophy is clearly embedded in the responses toward the Black Lives Matter movement; I remembered all of the instances of BLM protestors being called “hoodlums,” and “thugs.” This philosophy is directed toward both the Black lives that were taken or jeopardized, and the lives of protestors within BLM movement and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

As I continued to watch, the foundation upon which we currently stand begun to unfold, because as Diane Nash stated, “if the Freedom Ride had Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.34.28 PM.pngbeen stopped because of violence… the impression
n would have been given that once a movement starts all you have to do to stop it is massive attack.” It is understood by those within the current Black Lives Matter movement that we cannot be stopped by any massive threat, and I once inquired where we extracted this courage, and it is from those who have come before us. We have not created this movement; we are simply continuing the one that has been created to save our lives.

In both the cases of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, similar symbols in the Black community as ignition of the peak of their respective movements, the men who committed the murders were found not guilty, which was a devastating result, but the verdicts were not the outcome of these incidences. Instead, “the [final] outcome would be decided by how we in fact channel the energy,” of those verdicts, and the resistance to our movements.

Watch the documentary,

it’s only about an hour long,

and pretty informative.

 Ain’t Scared of Your Jails

Word,

Starr.

What Is So Important About Demonstration?

Demonstration has a way of responding to the call for help exuded by those who are unable to convene for their own liberty and justice.

 We are continuing the efforts of those who granted us the right to vote, the right to understand what equal representation in the workplace looks like, and the right to have integrated public facilities. To those who have given us these rights that were once seen as privileges, we must honor their efforts by continuing them to full fruition. But I think it is okay to recognize when we have not fully reached our goal, and to remind society that “in too many places and in too many ways [the color line is still being drawn].” Some of the declarations made in the Program of the March on Washington Monument could still be protested by us, as they have not been addressed in their entirety. Such as “legislation to enforce the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments,” and arguably, “colored and minority group representation on all administrative agencies,” because we are still not given adequate representation when one or two people of our skin color are entrusted with the welfare of our entire race, or socioeconomic status. In this case, the overall goal to allow these groups “recognition of their democratic right to participate in formulating policies,” is not met, as we still have provisions for voting such as the I.D. requirement, or even just a gap between the poor community and their access to a political voice.

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            I loved the quote from the Why Should We March? section of the Negro March on Washington Movement, wherein Randolph states that “a community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person [in society] can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.”

This statement rings with both truth and irony, because America, to my understanding, as the poster child for democracy, has never truly granted this ability to the lowest of society. I think this is the most important thing to note, and the most prominent reason for why we should continue to demonstrate in the name of justice. I’ve heard people say, in an effort to silence me or just in general, that DSCN8742-Trayvon demo-a.jpg“protest, rallying, or anything that you do won’t bring Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, or Freddie Gray back to life, so why bother?” It is because the murders of these innocent Black lives have “summoned us to mass action that is orderly and lawful, but aggressive and militant, for justice, equality, and freedom.”

            Just as we must continue to convene for those who are incarcerated for unjust reasons without proper representation. So, as were those of the Southern Negro Youth Conference, we have been called upon by these instances of injustice to “achieve the full blessings of true democracy for ourselves, our people, and our nation!”

And, this is why we march.

Word, 

Starr.