“One and one and one is three”

Today on TheRoot, I saw what appeared to be an in-community tiff between Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Jimi Izrael. Both are columnists on the website, intellectuals: one a professor, one a journalist. Both represent intelligent and creative facets of culture and political critique, always with the black community’s interests at heart. Differences of opinion are to be expected, but one of the qualities of The Root is that these are always incredibly respectful discussions between colleagues, untouched by the name-calling and anger that is found on many other internet sites.  So I was surprised when I found phrases hurled back and forth such as “unrelenting misogyny,” “faux sense of independence”, “[not] intellectually honest.” What’s all the fuss about?


Mr. Izrael wrote a column, insinuating that a young, 13 year old girl on myspace was a criminally aggressive black Lolita. Ms. Harris-Lacewell, fed up with recent events like Michelle Obama being called “baby mama” and R. Kelly getting off, fired at him accusations that he was an unrelenting misogynist. Mr. Izrael caught word and posted his response on her column.

Jimi Izrael has a history of writing things I consider distasteful to feminism. He is a VERY outspoken advocate of black men, but when it comes to women, of all colors, I find him tossing them blame instead of sticking by them. Mr. Izrael has fountains of deep intellectual thought, but it seems to be used to illuminate only on the historical and everyday processes that affect black men, not women.

It’s about time someone said something. And who better to say it than Melissa.

The way I see it, both the African-American movement and the women’s movement haven’t had a great history of inclusion. Power play, even in civil rights and equality movements, has always been at work. Those in power have neglected the differences, similarities, and NEEDS of those left behind. Black men have had a history of leaving black women behind. White women have had a history of leaving black women behind. Notice a pattern here?

The 2008 Democratic primaries have brought to the surface a lot of the brewing tension between feminists, particularly between white and black women. White women have cried sexism during Hillary’s campaign, and rightfully so. But they failed to step it up during Michelle Obama’s recent trials, and more importantly, failed to reject Hillary’s questionably racially charged comments. They have let their sisters down.

Similarly, Jimi’s column brings to light some of the inequalities within the black community. Citing that black men are seen as “dangerous, inferior animals” and the issues of incarceration, he calls himself –not anti female— but “pro male.” He says its a stance we don’t see often enough. Excuse me while I burst out laughing.

He says:  “the feminist among us can’t embrace a faux sense of independence on one hand and cower as victims on the other.” Sounds suspiciously like the media’s outcry at Hillary Clinton’s tears. “A self-proclaimed feminist!” they cried. “A powerful woman, showing emotion???” These two things were completely contradictory in their eyes. But why should this be so? The point of feminism is not to be devoid of emotion, to be non-human, and pointing out hypocrisies and sexist speech is NOT “playing the victim card.” Shame on you, Jimi, for buying into that.

Yes, there is suffering in the black male population, and yes, yes there is suffering for white women. But not only is there ALSO suffering for black women, there is SILENCE. When black women are denied their voices, their agency, their complaints, they are betrayed and pushed into silence. Jimi’s quick dismissal of Melissa’s complaints is patronizing and silencing and completely out of touch with the underlying processes and truths at work here. For someone who seems to do a good job of illustrating the subtle inequalities and truths for black men, he is nothing but a hypocrite in the end.

Feminist Linda Hirshman is guilty of silencing women of color too. Her blaming tactics for black women not stopping Clarence Thomas’ ascent to the Supreme Court is similar to Jimi Izrael’s shaming of black women in sexual deviance.  Her recent article in the Washington Post basically asserts that the only way feminism can succeed as a movement is by focusing on “normal,” white women’s issues, and not bringing women of color into the forefront.

People, none of this makes sense to me. We are all strongest against oppression when we are TOGETHER, NOT APART. Do not allow yourselves to be caught up in your own issues while denying the agency of your friends. I don’t see how either movement can gain ground without including key populations of the affected parties.

If we can’t all move together, we’re all standing still.



Read the article at: http://blogs.theroot.com/blogs/downfromthetower/archive/2008/06/15/unsafe-to-be-black-and-female-call.aspx

Explore posts in the same categories: silence

3 Comments on ““One and one and one is three””

  1. Nova Says:

    Excellent post. Very sensible and truthful words spoken here.

  2. I enjoyed your writing style and I’ve added you to my Reader. Keep these posts coming.

  3. Cecelia Says:

    I liked your post (Real Women Have [Different Sizes of] Curves) in the feministing community section so I decided to add your blog to my blog roll.

    I responded to it also!

    Cheers Sister!

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