ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK
The preceding discussion is intended to frame this collection and to provide a point of entry for reading the essays. The remainder of this introduction sets forth the structure and organization of the book. The essays are organized into four parts. While each part has a certain thematic coherence, the authors speak from different and sometimes contradictory ideological positions. Full summaries of each essay can be found at the beginning of each part. A brief preview of the four parts of the book is provided here.
Part I raises questions about antiracist sexism and antiracist heterosexism in the context of discussing the significance of the Million March Man. How did participants in the March, such as Cornel West, negotiate concerns about gender and sexuality? How did these individuals respond to the claim that supporting the March was tantamount to supporting Minister Louis Farrakhan and endorsing his sexist and homophobic ideology? And how did nonparticipants, such as A. Leon Higginbotham, justify their decision not to march or support the March, given the grass roots nature of the March and the extent to which it energized and politicized many Black Americans?
Part II explores the ways in which heterosexual Black men function as paradigmatic racial victims within antiracist discourse. Focusing on Black people’s responses to the Mike Tyson rape trial, the O. J. Simpson murder trial, and the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, the essays in this part provide specific examples of how antiracist discourse is framed to privilege the victim status of Black man. The essays in Part II demonstrate that the gendered realities of Black women occupy a subordinate validity to the gendered realities of Black men.
Part III exposes the failure of antiracist proponents to examine the relationship between (homo)sexuality and race. If Black gays and lesbians exist, why do they remain invisible in antiracist discourse? Aren’t they Black, too? The essays in this part force us to grapple with the fact of Black gay and lesbian life. This part provides provisional frameworks for integrating sexuality into antiracist politics and for the re-envisioning of Blackness as multiplicitous identity.
Finally, Section IV raises the question of whether Black men can participate in women’s equality struggles without controlling and/or defining the agenda and without being paternalistic. Can (Black) men be feminists? Derrick Bell’s essay, for example, considers these questions in the context of a discussion about his decision to leave Harvard Law School in protest of the school’s failure to tenure a woman of color.
Though the essays in this collection cut across disciplines and employ different methodologies, each represents an effort to grapple with Black identity politics, each is concerned with ameliorating the impact of racism in the Black community, and each attempts to articulate the role Black men can and should play in (re)shaping Black antiracist practice and theorizing to reflect and respond to intraracial Black difference. My hope is that this volume will inspire Black men to take up antipatriarchal and antiheterosexist positions as they engage in antiracist politics. This volume is dedicated to Black community building across differences.
1. The Combahee River Collective, The Combahee River Collective Statement, in Barbara Smith, ed., Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (New York: Kitchen Table, 1983), 272. "The Combahee River Collective was a Black feminist group in Boston whose name came from guerrilla action conceptualized and led by Harriet Tubman on June 2, 1863, in the Port Royal region of South Carolina. This action freed more than more 750 slaves and is the only military campaign in American history planned and led by a woman" (ibid.).
2. Of course, Black women had, prior to the 1960s, raised concerns about gender within Black antiracist movements—from antislavery to Black liberation efforts. For a discussion of Black women’s political engagement in America, see generally, Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia (Brooklyn, N. Y.: Carlson Publishing, 1993); Paula Giddings, Where and When I Enter (New York: William Morrow, 1984). My point here is that it is not until the late 1960s that Black feminism emerged as a self-conscious political and intellectual movement.
3. In the context of this article, antiracist discourse is narrowly defined to mean black legal and political scholarship, activism, and discussions aimed at eradicating racism against black people.
4. Home Girls, supra note 1, xxvi-xxix.
5. Cheryl Harris, "Myths of Race and Gender in the Trials of O. J. Simpson and Susan Smith—Spectacles of Our Time," 35 Wash. L. J. 225 (1996): 231.
6. Kristal Brent Zook, "A Manifesto of Sorts for a Black Feminist Movement," New York Times, Nov. 12, 1995, F86.
7. See Jimmie Briggs and Maria D. Davis, "The Brutal Truth: Putting Domestic Abuse on the Black Agenda," Emerge, Sept. 1994, 52 ("For many [black people] Simpson is another victimized Black man, not a man with a history of brutalizing his wives.").
8. One could argue that the subordination of domestic abuse-related issues in the antiracist discourse about the Simpson trial was unproblematic. After all, Simpson was on trial for murder, not domestic abuse. Moreover, Nicole Brown Simpson was white. It is certainly true that Simpson was on trial for murder. And the fact that he committed domestic abuse does not mean that he committed murder, but it is relevant and probative of that determination. Many Black people had little difficulty using evidence of police misconduct in the case to argue that Simpson was innocent of murder and to discuss the extent to which racism pervades the criminal justice system. They rightly asserted that Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman’s actions were relevant to the question of Simpson’s guilt. Invoking police conduct (which does not prove Simpson’s innocence) to discuss racism in the trial and the criminal process is legitimate. So, too, is invoking domestic abuse (which does not prove Simpson’s guilt) to discuss the violent nature of the Simpson marriage and the fact that domestic abuse remains one of the Black community’s "dirty little secrets."
9. bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End, 1990), 61-62.
10. See "Drawing Lesson," Time, Oct. 9, 1995, 36 (quoting Jill Nelson). In fact, "when you think about the average young African American, O. J. Simpson is not symbolic of that kind of police victimization" (ibid., quoting John Mack, President of the Urban League, Los Angeles).
11. See, e. g., Michael Thelwell, "False, Fleeting, Perjured Clarence: Yale’s Brightest and Blackest Goes to Washington," in Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing
Justice, Engendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality (New York: Pantheon, 1992), 121.
12. Karen Baker Fletcher, "Tyson’s Defenders and the Church of Exclusion," New York Times, Mar. 29, 1992, 17 (observing that Dr. Theodore J. Jemi – son, president of the National Baptist Convention U. S.A. Inc., the nation’s largest black denomination, initiated a "cry for mercy" rally for Mike Tyson in New York). Benjamin Hooks, the former President of the NAACP, was present at this rally, and Maya Angelou "sent a letter stating that she wished she could have attended." David Potter, "Tyson Is Not a Hero; Rally Was Disgusting," Orlando Sentinel, June 22, 1995, C1.
13. See Joe Treen and Bill Shaw, "Judgment Day: Payback Comes to Sexual Predator Mike Tyson, Who Broke All the Rules—Until a Victim Fought Back," People, Feb. 24, 1992, 36. According to the authors:
The record of Mike’s relations with women has always been sordid, dismal and violent. . . . At one point, one of D’Amato’s trainers. . . pulled a gun on Tyson after the teenage fighter allegedly fondled [his] 12-year-old sister-in-law. And nine months before becoming a heavyweight champion in 1986, Tyson turned violent in an Albany shopping mall after a sales clerk he propositioned turned him down.
That same evening a furious Tyson was tossed out of a local movie theater after another woman rebuffed his advances. . . . In December 1988 Sandra Miller and Lori Davis both sued Tyson for grabbing their breasts and buttocks. . . . Later that same year, [Robin] Givens’s former publicist Phyllis Polaner sued Tyson for physically and sexually assaulting her. . . . In his biography of the boxer, former lightweight champion and ex-Tyson buddy Jones Torres quotes Tyson as saying, ‘I like to hurt women when I make love to them. I like to hear them scream with pain, to see them bleed.’ (Tyson has denied the quote.)
Quoted in Darci E. Burrell, "Myth, Stereotype, and the Rape of a Black Woman," 4 UCLA Women’s L. J. 87 (1993): 88 (student note).
14. Manifesto of the Million Man March on Washington (1995) (emphasis in the original).
16. Waheema Lubiano, "Black Ladies, Welfare Queens, and State Minstrels: Ideological Wary by Narrative Means," Race-ing Justice, supra note 11, at 346.
17. See, e. g., Patricia Williams, "Different Drummer Please, Marchers!" Nation 261, no. 14 (October 30, 1995): 493-94.
18. Michel Marriott, "Black Women Are Split over All-Male March On Washington," New York Times, Oct. 14, 1995 (quoting Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law).
19. bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism (New York: H. Holt, 1995), 2.
20. Michael John Weber, "Immersed in an Educational Crisis: Alternative Programs for African American Males," 45 Stan. L.Rev. 1099 (1993): 1099-1100.
21. Thomas E. Midgette and Eddie Glen, "African-American Male Academies: A Positive View," 21 J. of Multicultural Counseling & Development 69 (April 1993).
22. In Garrett v. Board of Educ., 775 F. Supp. 1004 (E. D. Mich. 1991), the school board stressed the statistics of black males’ high incarceration, homicide, unemployment, and drop-out rates in support of the all-black male academies. In rejecting their equal protection claim, the district court noted, "Urban girls drop out of school, suffer loss of self-esteem and become involved in criminal activity. Ignoring the plight of urban females institutionalizes inequality and perpetuates the myth that females are doing well in the current system" (at 1007; citations omitted). See also Jacqueline Pope, "The Clarence Thomas Confirmation: Facing Race and Gender Issues," in Robert Chrisman and Robert Allen, eds., Court of Appeal: The Black Community Speaks Out on the Racial and Sexual Politics of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill (New York: Ballantine, 1992), 165, 167 ("Witness the furor concerning ‘at risk’ African American males. According to the powers that be, they are in a crisis. True enough, but all African Americans are in serious trouble, financially and culturally. Women and children encounter dangers equal to those that men face. To focus on the hardship of half the race is foolhardy. As a result we find ourselves rushing to protect the male while neglecting the female.").
23. Walteen Grady Truely and Martha F. Davis, "Public Education Programs for African-American Males: A Gender Equity Perspective," 725 N. Y. Rev. of Law & Soc. Change 21 (1996): 733-36 (discussing how black girls’ educational opportunities are affected by pregnancy, sexual harassment, and the fact that black girls have a "heightened sensitivity about their bodies and an awareness of their expected participation in the domestic and household work").
24. See Spencer Holland, "Providing Positive Male Role Models for Young Black Inner-City Males in Primary Grades, Journal of Equity & Excellence 1 (1990): 1 (arguing that male teachers should instruct male students because females "cannot teach the boys how to become men"); "Black Male Classes: Step Forward or Back?" Detroit News & Free Press, Nov. 18, 1990, 14A (comments by a black male teacher that "[g]irls are a little bit more mature at this age than boys, and they may learn a little better, so they’re often showing the boys up in class. . . [and] this can lead to bad behavior, and just turning off to learning").
25. For example, one advocate of all-black male schools states that "both statistical analysis of problems in the inner city and scientific research of the differences between males and females in general will add new dimensions to the arguments in favor of single-sex education." Comment, "Public Education: An Inner-City Crisis! Single-Sex Schools: An Inner-City Answer?" 42 Emory L. J. 591 (1993): 643.
26. See Nell Irvin Painter, "Hill, Thomas, and the Use of Racial Stereotypes," Race-ing Justice, supra note 11, at 213 (observing, in the context of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearing, that "[m]ore, finally, is at stake than winning a competition between black men and black women for the title of ultimate victim as reckoned in terms of racism").
27. Derrick Bell, "The Sexual Diversion: The Black Man/Black Woman Debate in Context," in Don Belton, ed., Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995): 147.
28. For a good discussion of this issue, see Margaret M. Russell, "Lesbians, Gays and Bisexual Rights and the Civil Rights Agenda," 1 Afr-Am Law and Policy Report 33 (1994).
29. E. Franklin Frazier’s book, The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939), is perhaps one of the earliest articulation of the Black family as matriarchal and (thus) disorganized. Frazier’s work provided the basis for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s publication, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1967). Moynihan’s work provided the political and sociological foundation for the promulgation of a variety of welfare and educational programs designed to eradicate the matriarchal "deviance" of the Black family. Though Moynihan’s thesis, at least in the academic world, has long been repudiated, the notion that single motherhood is responsible for the demise and instability of the Black family persists. See Kimberle Crenshaw, "Demar – ginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics," 1989 U. Chi. Legal Forum 139 (1989): 163-66 (discussing the extent to which certain antiracist literature reflects the notion that "the proliferation of femaleheaded households [is] dysfunctional per se").
30. Elaine Showalter makes a similar point with respect to gender: "all speech is necessarily about gender, since in everyday language gender is a grammatical category, and the masculine is the linguistic norm." Elaine Showalter, "Introduction: The Rise of Gender," in Elaine Showalter, ed., Speaking of Gender (New York: Routledge Press, 1989).
31. See "Demarginalizing the Intersection," supra note 29 at 139 n.3 (highlighting a more explicit linguistic problem of identity representation, namely the "conventional usage of the term ‘Blacks and women,’" which excludes the possibility of analyzing black women’s perspectives).
32. Employing the classification "homosexual," Joan Howart makes a similar point. She writes: "You, me, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, J. Edgar Hoover: we are all gay together. In this way ‘homosexual’ . . . is a generic term, like, for example, ‘human being’. But we know that the alleged inclusiveness masks. . . [the fact that] the classification homosexual. . . submerges race, class, and gender." Joan W. Howarth, "The First and the Last Chance: Looking for Lesbian in Fifties Bars," 5 S. Cal. Rev. of L. Women’s Stud 153 (1995).
33. Bob E. Myers, "Fixing the Faggot: Black Subjectivity as ‘Autocartography’ in the work of Lyle Ashton Harris," this volume.