“I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been. No one has ever laid open garment by which I am concealed. The fruit which I brought forth was the sun.” – Inscription written on the Temple of Neith
From time to time, my mood shifts from great and joyous to sorrow, combined into one. Sorrow for my Nubian sisters who view life as a continuous struggle: both within and without; joyous, for the Goddess signals to me that she is with me with every beat of my heart. I juggle between two titles: feminist and womanist-the latter is the most personal and deepest struggle for it brings me back to the subject of race in gender-specific female politics: a Black woman. For one’s edification, when I go about my day-to-day life, I am aware of who I am…that is the name given to me at birth and all my best and worst qualities that make me…well, me. Below that layer, I am consciously aware that I am a woman. This awareness is often signaled during times of attractions with the opposite sex or when my children call out “mom” or “auntie.” It is also signaled when gender politics arise, or the issue of sexism. Other than that, my identity as a whole takes over. Finally, there is the last consciousness that is two parts: 1. Being Black, 2. Being a Black woman. The latter only comes into consciousness when the topic of race comes up or when racial issues arise (either positive or negative). Yes, I am the type of person who loses myself in a predominately Caucasian environment, not realizing that the majority is Caucasian and I am the sole Black person in the room. Oftentimes, I don’t notice it until someone points “it” out to me. When that happens, I take great joy from the magical experience of my eyes “unveiling” the color lens. I realize the lack of constant awareness to my race and race mixed with gender is due to my life experiences and environment that I was raised in. I understand that other life experiences and environment, opposite to my own spectrum, can cause an individual to see life in a constant racial lens.
I personally feel it is a magical blessing that I am able to “shut and turn on” the racial lens and, at times, the gender the lens. Yet, my typing is not about the times that my magical race sensors are “turned off.” This piece is regarding the times that they are turned on.
The first step is to acknowledge that I long for the day where there need not be two definitions for individuals who seek equality of both genders, and women who fight for the equality for all women. The term womanist was coined by Alice Walker. It is to designate the personal struggles of women, of non-Caucasian women, more specifically, Black women. It gives voice to inequality of not only gender, but race. In the world of gender politics, it is a known fact that women in general make less than men in the same occupation on the dollar. Nevertheless, the “pink elephant” in the room under the “feminism” umbrella rarely speaks of Black women that make less on the dollar than white women, more specifically, than any other racial group of women. Therefore, there are two fights: Black feminist-womanist battle: for all women to make as equal as men in the same occupational sphere-regardless of race.
That is not to say that non-Black feminists do not address these issues. There are many who do, as equally as those who don’t, for they either may not know or unintentionally believe a fight for women is specific to all women…unconsciously not realizing that there is discrimination within our own gender. Take, for instance, the general fight for women to be paid equally to men. Which men are we speaking about? As equal as White men? Asian men? (FYI-statistics report that Asian men make more than White men in managerial positions) Black men? (Black men make more to the dollar than White women; White women make more to the dollar than Black women) Hispanic men? Who are we speaking of? When we, as women and men who believe in the equality of women, ask for equal pay for equal work: what specifically are we asking? For White women to make equal pay as White men, Black women to make equal pay as Black men, et cetera, et cetera?
The “battle” of equality of sexes cannot exist without discussing, openly and honestly, the “battle” between ethnic group and races.
In politics, recently, there has been a strong resurgence of anti-choice politics. Most notably, “method” of attack by the anti-choice group was the grim statistic of Black women having the highest abortion rates. I’m sure this “general” interest pretty much catalyzed due to the election of President Obama and the energized Black vote. In addition, to the same Black vote, who voted for Obama in a landslide in California was the same Black vote that voted down same-sex marriage. To clear my conscious, I am for same-sex marriage and resent those who automatically believe that all Blacks are socially conservative. As mirrored in “mainstream” America, as in predominately Caucasian, so it is in “Black community.” The loudest voices are oftentimes the ones that spew out venom. Not all Black folks are socially conservative. It just appears that the majority is, or the majority speaks, the loudest (more like holler).
It is also the loudest who plastered bulletins throughout various parts of the country for the anti-choice movement with the slogan, “the most dangerous place for African-Americans is in the womb.” Now reading those words without imagery, my first response was, “Are they implying Black women are crack heads who give birth to children addicted?” It was not until later that I realize the “true” message that the conservative anti-choice, Black Americans’ point was a recent statistic that Black Americans have the highest abortion rates. Immediately, the womanist stepped up and spoke up. Womanist as in Black men and women who are fighting for equality of not just gender, but race. There were two different arguments going around the Black media sphere.
Argument 1: Women have the right to choose.
Argument 2: Individual women, men, and family have the right to choose.
Argument 3: Why do we speak so harshly to each other? One can eloquently make a point on the abortion debate without broad harsh statement. If the billboard solely stated, “African-American women have the highest abortion rates. We are here to help. Contact…” Whatever pregnancy crisis center number, address, and/or website, for example.
Another study recently revealed that 1 out of 5 women have children with multiple fathers. This is a statistic for all women, regardless of race, socio-economic class, and education. This statistic INCLUDED women who were married, divorced, and remarried (as in: they have children with their 1st husband and 2nd husband, for an example). Another one-sided study for this example did not include how many men have children with multiple mothers. Again, this is not only a human issue (even though I personally believe if the children are being taken care of, there is no issue). If the all fathers are active in their children’s life, there is no issue. If all mothers, as in lesbian households, are active in their children’s life, there is no issue. As long as the kids are not neglected and their well-being is healthy and being addressed-there is no issue). The “new report” is an overall attack on women. Not only is it an attack on single motherhood, it is an attack on women who felt “safe”, by having children within the “ideal” wedlock, yet being under attack. The full research is making an issue with women who actually do get married and have children. The broad statement of the research doesn’t care if you found love again due to divorce or the untimely death of a spouse. The fact that a woman chooses to bring life into this world must fit in some sort of “unspoken” box that is “only by one man.”
What is more disheartening out of all this “judgmental” presumption without taking into consideration of INDIVIDUAL circumstance, is that Black media outlets used the same report to hone in on Black women, omitting the fact that the statistic in the report took into their analysis ALL women regardless of race.
This brings me back to the need to unveil the Black Goddess of ancient societies in our modern times. Correction, for Black women to unveil their own eyes and take notice of her. She is in ALL women. However, more “pronounced” in every Black woman, waiting for each and every one of us to see her, not through her. As we want others to see our individualism, not through us. While it seems as though the world may spew venom into our bloodstream, she is the antidote that asphyxiates its toxins. SHE knows our potential, for our potential is her own. She knows our silent tears for she has shed them for a million years…now immune and stronger each passing day, with the next. She realizes the demonizing is only brought forth by the fearful souls, the souls who too fear her inscription upon every, Black woman’s DNA. She understands the prejudices of the world since time immemorial.
When I deal with racial gender issues, I call upon her: Ezili Dantor, Wadjet, Auset, Bangwa Anyi, Oya, Osun, and over a thousand more. Their life stories remind me that my own is not as unique as I desperately, may or may not, want them to be: to therefore cease personalizing them for it takes away from being objective and expressing yourself objectively. Her warmth allows me to see the underlying issues versus the superficial. She, out of all, knows all about superficiality-for it began with her, as it will end with her.
In political conversations and/or discourse of women’s issues, although entwined, but I must separate, Black women’s issues, I’ve called upon the “mainstream” Black goddess, Auset (Au Set) to set an imaginary bifocal upon my eyes. One half to see what is general women’s issues and the other specific Black women’s issues, Hispanic women’s issues, Latina women’s issues, Middle-Eastern women’s issues, Asian women’s issues, Pacific-Islander women’s issues, and White women’s issues. In addition to racial issues, what are the cultural issues within that race that stand out uniquely among the others?
Auset knows how to dance in the middle of “left” and “right.” She is the goddess of all people under her Greek given name, Isis. All along, she is the goddess of Black women, under both names of Auset and Isis. She adapted herself through millennia, either through name or portraits of the Black Madonna and/or Mother and Child. Through her various names, within various cultures, she never lost sight of her own identity. She understands oppression; directly or indirectly, and consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously. It has been proven throughout the millenniums…and still she stands proudly, arms outwardly for embracing, lips tender to kiss the wounds, and with a tongue sharp to defend her children. She is the switch holder that turns off and on the switch within me. When to see and speak upon issues that affect all women and when to see and speak upon issues that is more specifically aimed toward a “subgroup” of women.
Acknowledging that, as a woman, there are unique qualities that we must overcome, work in harmony, and/or balance with our male counterparts under my self-proclaimed title as feminist. It doesn’t necessarily equate that I neglect my self-proclaimed title as a womanist (feminism for Black women). In simple terms: Feminism is the degree and/or major; Womanist is my specialty. In the field of medicine, all doctors and nurses must educate themselves in all areas of medicine. After they graduate, or complete their rotation, they branch out into other areas of the world. A cardiologist can change his career of specialty mid-way through or can balance two different specialties at once. Being a Black girl child of the goddess, (I am the latter) my general practice is feminist, my area of specialty, due to experiences, is of a Black woman. Or, as my fellow Nubian sisters would eloquently place it, A Black Wombman. It is time for us to bear together and support one another, despite whatever our indifferences may be. The time is long overdue for us to educate our children and their children of their full potential, not societal perception, but their own inner perception. It is Hel about time (yes, I spelled Hel for a reason) that we, as women, shall not discredit that race, nationality, and spirituality/religion, creed, and sexual orientation shouldn’t be overlooked when we seek harmony and equality with the other gender.
“…I am Yesterday, ‘Seer of Millions of Years’ is my name. I pass along, I pass along the paths of the divine celestial.” – Inscription written on Temple of Neith