An Uppity Perspective: The 20/20 Rihanna Interview And Why Some Black Women Need To…

rihanna interviewThis is for those who don’t seem to get it:


That being said, here goes.

As our respective Twitter followers discovered last Friday night, me and Thembi of What Would Thembi Do? got into a discussion surrounding the Chris Brown and Rihanna domestic abuse situation.  As I understand the situation, Chris Brown was wrong.  There’s no way he should have beat his girlfriend the way he did.

And that’s usually about where I get off on the bandwagon with people.

I get off because generally I go elsewhere with how to address the situation.  First for me, I always ask what did the woman do to provoke the man.  Yes, by far there are some crazy men like Blair Underwood’s character in “Madea’s Family Reunion” but then there are some men who are henpecked and just snap, or their are other men who seriously have been provoked by the woman beating on them or hitting on them unnecessarily.  Usually when I bring up this subject with black women in the blogosphere it somehow causes some of them to go into angry black woman territory.

And as a side note, I have a history of falling out with black women in the blogosphere.  Just ask about Christian Progressive Liberal over at Jack and Jill Politics.  Had to do a whole blog about that.  And believe it or not, we fell out on the same subject of Chris Brown and Rihana.


It seems that when I admit a fault about black men–those who can’t keep their hands to themselves–that the women acted as if, pardon the pun, their shit don’t stink.  I’m not at all advocating a black woman who should be docile and quiet, but there are times when black women I think ought not be so provocative.

That’s IMO.

black queenFrom hearing younger black women and older black women at my school, black women have been severely hurt and traumatized by the society we live in.  They’ve had the double negative of being black and being a woman in a world run by white heterosexual men.  You easily hear stories about black female angst however.  Take Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” or “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman” or even the famous choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf”  and not to mention the world famous “The Color Purple.”  But often times, those works of art that we in the black community hold near and dear to us elevate black women at the expense of black men.

I remember my mother when I was about nine or ten and watched “The Color Purple” for the first time that my mother was quite clear that she had a problem with their being not one good black man in the entire movie–not even Shug’s daddy who was a preacher because he put her out when she was a young girl.  Now, as I got older, I see why the black feminist and womanist movement exist, but this idea that “we don’t need men” is detrimental to the black community and ultimately the black family.

Usually the black trumps the man when they say “we carry your babies for nine months and go through labor.  If it wasn’t for us there wouldn’t be you!” and storms out the room.

What kind of asinine thinking is that?

Hell, what’s wrong with saying that we both help in the pro-creation process and that we need each other?  I guarantee that if there weren’t any men, women wouldn’t be falling on each other expecting babies to magically appear.

Black women have their own set of issues that, from my point of view, generally some how come around to placing blame on someone.  Namely the black male.  I’ve never heard an argument here in grad school or undergrad that spoke about the powers that be or anyone else, but generally spoke to how black women have to go it alone with jobs, kids, and other issues and that if the black man stepped up to the plate everything would be alright.

Well, I have news for you sistas: even if more black men stepped up to the plate, we’d still have issues because both genders have their own specific issues that need to be addressed communally and not individually.

#1 First for me is the idea of gender roles. Black women still want to be Miss Independent, but then still want a man to open the door for them and pay for their meals–without questions.  I’m all for equal pay in the workplace and that sexual harassment is just abominable, but then attractive women know how to play the game and use their beauty to get what they want.

Let’s just admit it’s a double standard.

Which brings me back to the domestic abuse case surrounding Chris and Rihanna.  We easily take on Rihanna as some petite, fragile creature who’s a woman = she can’t defend herself and how dare the big bad and burly Chris Brown hit and such a delicate and beautiful young woman.  Well, I wanna know what happened to the women’s empowerment platform?  Couldn’t she have knocked him back or scratched him up or something?

Juanita Bynum and Thomas WeekAnd I know the black community had a totally different reaction to the Juanita Bynum and Bishop Charles Weeks III incident.  It was much more common to hear on the morning black radio shows of Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey and Ricky Smiley about Juanita Bynum possibly having incited her husband to pushing her to the ground.  Seriously, what’s wrong with that image?

In all seriousness, gender roles really are asking one to define what is masculinity and what is femininity.  As I’ve discussed concerning the skinny/fitted jeans and metrosexual fashion, those traditional paradigms concerning masculinity are changing and are being challenged.  Fact of the matter is that some black women said they’re not attracted to it–I still think it’s code for “he’s too gay” and whatever else that means.  By the same token, some women are.  What I will say is that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with communally, not by going off somewhere to address it.

#2 Be aware of outside forces. Yes, black women have gotten the shaft, the ROYAL shaft, but I beg the sistas to be aware that so have the men.  While women have the gender privilege of always going off, and voicing their opinion ad infinitum and even being the stereotypical nag, black men have the gender privilege of being quiet and holding it all in.  Black men of my dad’s generation and definitely older, can easily count on their one hand the number of times they saw their father’s cry, and still have fingers left.  Black men were required to endure just as much as black women were–just different trials.

While black women were forced being raped physically in the antebellum and Jim Crow days of the South, I think it was just as much of an emotional and spiritual rape for black fathers and men to know about it and not be able to do anything–and frankly I don’t know which one was worse or if they should even be compared.

That being said, historically, there’s been tracked pathologies as to the government breaking up the African family, all the way from slavery to at least the 1960s.  I mean, in order to receive a public aid check, the black male couldn’t be caught living in the house with the woman.  Which means that there was always some kind of cat and mouse game that had to go on with the father whether he could actually live there, sleep there or just come and visit–whatever the case, the black man wasn’t at home like he should have been.  And even if he was, it was hard as hell for him to get a job that would easily support his wife and kids.  Far as I know, black families have always been double-income families.  Don’t know of many black stay-at-home mothers.

I mean, just think in “Good Times” where you had a black man killed by the system and everyone focused on the woman–not saying she didn’t need anything–but it was done so at the expense of the black man: hell he was dead!

So now, when we see the after effects of black men not being in the home, we have this cycle of violence that Thembi appropriately pointed out that must be stopped.

I really don’t have time to go into the details of the crack/cocaine conspiracies, the lack of opportunities, the lack of education, mistrust from the police, the failure of public housing and just how humanity has failed black males to fully give voice to the myriad of concerns surrounding black males.  But I will say this, it’s not as simple as it seems.

#3  Be willing to work together. I’ve never heard a black man say that he doesn’t need a woman, but I’ve heard a few black women say “I don’t need a man.”  And then black women wonder why some black men are running to white women.  Well, why in the hell would I want to get with someone who said she don’t need me?!!?

Commone sense people.

Black women need to understand that we’re on the same team fighting for them; that black men are not the enemy.  Stop pushing us away and we’ll stop going to others looking for comfort.  It’s true, other races don’t give us as much guff for being men, and moreover for being black men.  On a practical basis, again, why would I want to get beat up for being a man?  Seriously, I wanted to tell Yvette in “Baby Boy” to “shut the fuck up” in Bernie Mac style (check minute 2:55) a couple of times, despite Jodie being the epitome of an immature black male.

Also, black women need to realise that some times black men marry white women because they actually grew up in white neighborhoods.  I have a cousin who went to school in Iowa and he married a white woman–big whoop! I’da been more shocked if he had married a black woman.  At the end of the day, they have a marriage that works and they have four kids who are my blood relatives–anyone who sees it as different needs to get their mind checked.

Let black women tell the story over 50% of black men are in interracial relationships.  Only 6.6% of black men have married a white woman of the 8.4% of black men total who are in an interracial marriage.

Of the issues that are numerous in the black community, separating the genders isn’t going to address these issues.  By telling black men to go off and get their ish together then come back and holla at the sistas is a recipe for disater unparalleled.  I guess for me, doing the opposite of what was done to you–the oppressed becoming the oppressor–does nothing but perpetuate a vicious cycle on some phantasmagoric merry-go-round from hell that spins so fast no one can get off.


For interested parties, this was really the timbre of the discussion that spurred from me and @thembithembi from What Would Thembi Do? as we were all watching the 20/20 interview with Dianne Sawyer interviewing Rihanna.  Make sure to check out her blog and much love and respect to her.


For my actual take on the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation, that interview didn’t change much of my original take on the situation.  To know how I felt check out my earlier posts “Things I Learned From Chris Brown and Rihanna” and “Oh, P.S., On a Final Note…Since I Have The Floor.”

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

3 thoughts on “An Uppity Perspective: The 20/20 Rihanna Interview And Why Some Black Women Need To…

  1. RI RI Lied shes tring to be the face of abruse when she is also a abrusor she fights her men she just got checked this time soon all will find riri out

  2. I have to agree that something still isn’t right about the whole Rihanna and Chris Brown thing.

    But on the issues with black women and black men, I have to admit that black women don’t take into consideration the suffering of others. Sometimes I feel like we’re always trying to one up each other on who’s struggled the most, which is just plain ridiculous. I think we’ve created a false equation where struggling = strength. The problem with this equation is that there are about 6 Billion people on this planet and out of that six, there are probably 5.9 billion who can say that they’ve experienced some form of struggle/pain. I think sometimes we forget that struggling is a world wide phenomenon, not something that’s exclusive to black women.

    It’s things like this that make me wonder for a brief moment if Republicans are right about government help. I don’t think people would try to play up their victim status or belittle the suffering of others if they didn’t think they had to compete for the sympathy of the government. we would probably have more compassion for each other if we didn’t feel like competing for the compassion of others was a possibility.

    Its a lot like what happened in the Garden of Eden. Instead of Adam and Eve just admitting to God that what they did was wrong, they tried to place blame on other people. Adam tried to blame Eve, and Eve tried to blame the snake. And in the same way, Black women try to blame black men and black men blame the system. Perhaps if Adam and Eve would have just admitted their wrongdoing and take responsibility for it, maybe God would have allowed them both to stay in the Garden. But because they were trying to compete for God’s sympathy, they both got kicked out.

  3. Wow.

    I have to say, I am sick to death of people making derogatory comments about black women. As a student on a college campus put it, “Black women are the bottom of the food chain”, and yet people have the audacity to take offense at our every effort to come up.

    “Black women don’t take into consideration the suffering of others”? Are you serious? It may be because we don’t see anyone who is getting it quite as bad as us. Don’t forget, you still have the good fortune of being born male, and there are real privileges that come with that. So we do consider your suffering, it’s just that it is dwarfed by our own. Everyone is going to have their own story, and some people’s troubles will far outstrip others even those in ‘more disadvantaged’ categories, but on a general level it is a social disadvantage to be black. We both suffer that. It is also a social disadvantage to be a woman. You don’t suffer that. So unless you’re disabled or old, quit dismissing our coping with a very real dual social disadvantage as us simply ‘competing for who suffered the most’.

    That’s about 20% of the answer.

    The other 80% is that no-one helps us. I’m saying this as a working woman who pays the bills, pays school debt and rent, helps out my family, etc., not as someone on welfare. It’s the truth, ask any self-supporting black woman: no-one helps us. We’re expected to get an education (despite being shunned at college as undateable – if you went to a mostly-white school where even the black guys prefer their cup of joe with lots of sugar and cream but no black coffee – which makes our college experience very different from “average”). We’re expected to hold down jobs (where our colleagues express surprise when they find out we’re not just secretaries or receptionists but actually have our own offices). Corporate America is still white, so we’re expected to do our bit to please the white people (such as getting our hair done every week lest it look “too black”, not complaining about our boss bringing us along when he’s meeting black clients but never when he isn’t, being allowed to be offended when a colleague says something racist but being expected to forgive him immediately upon the weakest of apologies which sometimes aren’t even apologies just carve-outs i.e. ‘I didn’t mean *you*’ or ‘you’re different’). Maybe we have a client dinner that night after work and if it’s not bad enough being the only black in the whole restaurant much less at the table, some random person does something humiliating like ask when we’re going to take their order, assuming we’re part of the staff even though we just walked in with our nicely straightened hair and our i’ll-forgive-your-racist-hatred smiles and asked for a table in our persecuted-childhood-but-ebonic-free english. We tried so hard our whole lives to get to this point, and some fool tore it all down with a few careless words (he might as well have said, “yer still a n*gger to me”) and now even our colleagues are embarrassed for us.

    So after a hard and humiliating day when we’ve been nothing but stepped on and over, we come home to you and you’ve had an equally grueling day because you’re dealing with the same sh*t we are, but then, all of a sudden, you pull the male privilege card out of your back pocket, and your needs are expected to be catered to over ours! Your grueling day is over, but our night shift of cooking, cleaning, laundry, watching sports without complaint and attending to your libido has only just begun! I understand *mutual* support, we’ve both had a rough day struggling against the world, so we need comfort from each other at the end of it. But the number of times I’ve heard black men make allusions to “white women treat us better” and when I ask for clarification I find out what they really mean is “white women put our needs above their own”. Why would your needs belong above my own when I’ve just been through the same sh*t you did?! Aren’t our experiences equal? Why are you supposed come first?! Ah, because you’re a man. And it’s part of your male privilege to expect catering at home regardless of whatever trauma the caterer herself has just been through. So what those men REALLY mean is “white women respect our male privilege and never question it’s integrity”.

    Well, we black women have the same ancestors you do, so we know the battle our ancestors fought and won (with help) to secure the rights we enjoy today. So, as children of slavery who know how our people suffered under “white privilege”, we get real antsy about the assertion of any kind of privilege, period, and that includes male privilege. As black people, in our collective experience we’ve been told that person X is better than us, just ’cause (they’re white). And now as black women, we’re told that the needs of person XY have to come before our own, just ’cause (they’re male). Anything less than our full and unqualified acknowledgment of male privilege is deemed “not knowing how to treat a man.”

    I can tell from the article and the comments that you lot are working from a caricature of a stereotypical rabid man-hating black woman who is secretly a ball-busting lesbian, and drawing all of your conclusions from this illusory type. I challenge you: get to know the women you’re talking about this way. Because they each come with a story and maybe if you knew the particulars, you would be appalled by the unequivocal assumption of privilege by the men who did them dirty. I hear about it all the time, the law student who works 9-5 to help pay the bills then takes night classes for her law degree and when she finally gets home at 10:30pm, her husband expects her to cook something so he can eat it for lunch the next day, oh and iron his light blue shirt, the one with the stripes, so he can wear it to work tomorrow. But that’s totally reasonable, right? I mean, she’s his wife, she needs to treat her man right. Besides, I’m sure she’s blowing the whole situation out of proportion by having a breakdown, you know what these angry black women are like…

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