Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Opinion about the State of Black Women's Empowerment Sites (BWE)

I have been blogging for a long time. I think I started in 2004. I think that was before BWE even started. I remember reading Black Women Blow the Trumpet before it became private. I was there when What About our Daughters started. I tried to get involved, it went bad, and I quit blogging for a few years. I kept reading things here and there and found I really liked Beyond Black and White and after a while I was asked to write there. I like Christelyn Karazin, I haven't interacted with many of the founding members of BWE, and I have had negative interactions with some of them. But I prefer Christelyn because she is less extreme, more open to differing opinions, and respectful. I also appreciate that she saw something that interested her and tried to help and bring resources to the movement. I believe in what Dorothy Height said, if we worry about who gets credit then the work doesn't get done (or something like that). If the goal is to improve the lives of Black women then who the hell cares who started BWE and who makes the most noise as long as the job gets done? So after the whole hubbub about Christelyn happened I definitely did not want to be involved with the founding members and their rules. My opinions are based on what I have seen and I have the right to comment on this as an observer.

I was really surprised at what happened to BWE. I have the Canadian experience where maybe 90% of the Black media I'm exposed to comes from AA women (including bloggers). So it's rare that I would see a Black Canadian woman or Caribbean woman in the media or online. That is the experience for many non-AA women so that is why we have an opinion about the AA media we consume and how they portray Black women. It's all we have really. There may be some non-AA women we watch but they are often in American films anyway. All the models, advertisements, music videos, and songs are the same ones you are exposed to but BWE sites are saying our opinions don't count, we don't know what we are talking about, and we are "the enemy" now. Just as AA women complain that they are not represented enough in the media and make do with what the White majority gives them, non-AA women are not represented and have to make due with what the White majority AND AA-minority provides. Yet we are not asking for them to represent us more in the media, we are asking that they represent themselves better for their own good, and for the good of Black people all over the world. What they present affects all of us so we should have a say.

Furthermore, if as some sites say, there is a more positive view of Caribbean and African women then why not look at some of us for ideas just as Black women all over the world frequently look to AA women for ideas? It seems that they only want the influence to be one sided and ignore the fact that non-AA women have lived with their outside influence and are still able to maintain unique parts of themselves. Why can't you look to other women for ideas and influence as many of us look to others including yourselves? If your goal is the be better respected and date interracially as many non-AA women do, wouldn't it make sense to figure out what non-AA women do and start enacting those things? I have no problem looking to AA, Asian, and even White women for ideas about how to do things. I look to men for ideas about how to do other things. Observe, learn, and make it your own for your own benefit while remembering who you are.

Unlike what I have read on BWE sites, I don't see the success of AA women as taking something away from me. AA women looking good does not make me look bad so I don't want them to fail or be mistreated and I do care. Unfortunately it seems like BWE sites are telling AA women to view success of any non-dark skinned or non-AA woman as a personal rejection and as taking something away from them. That is how our experiences and reality differ so I'll leave that alone. I am all for diversity of skintones and features but you can advocate for that without the anger and personal attacks on light or biracial women. It would be great to see someone writing who has a perspective similar to my own. It would be great to see all women of African descent, regardless of how long their ancestors have been away from Africa, no matter their skin colour, be able to discuss the improvement of their global image which happens to be strongly influenced by the American media. BWE writers can see that the White majority has the control over how Black people are represented in Western countries and still feel they should have a say, even when they don't control the industry. Well, AA-people are overrepresented in the media presented to Western countries, and even though non-AA people don't control the industry, we also want to have a say, and what we want is to see YOU better represented. This isn't just a media thing either. We want AA-women and Black women everywhere to be viewed with higher regard. Those same Eurocentric standards apply to all Black women, not just AA-women.

I think what BWE sites are suffering from is groupthink and group polarization. Groupthink happens when a group of people makes decisions, there is a charismatic leader/leaders, many people think the same, and dissenting views are discouraged or strongly rejected. This leads the group to ignore different perspectives and not weigh all facts and possibilities. In BWE, by ignoring dissenting views, views from outsiders, or refusing to weigh alternatives or play devil's advocate, they are in danger of making unwise choices (e.g., fostering hostility towards biracial/light-skinned women while ostensibly advocating for interracial relationships that produce biracial children, or trying to do everything alone and starting from scratch instead of using trying to benefit from what other people have already done). Group polarization happens when a cohesive group becomes more and more extreme when compared to a group with more diverse membership. BWE is becoming extreme. It's narrowed itself from being about the improvement of all Black women down to only AA-women (who don't have recent African or Caribbean roots), who are not light skinned or biracial.  So anything that supports someone who doesn't fit that mold is rejected, criticized, and called the enemy. Their views are extreme (e.g., reject other Black people, reject all media and make your own, boycott almost everything, don't listen to many people who could have good ideas, don't support anyone who isn't AA, and not supporting the end of atrocities in other countries like those 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria...yes seriously that happened). How can sites support interracial marriage that produces light-skinned and biracial children and at the same time call those women the enemy? 

When a group like this wants mainstream change they will not appeal to the mainstream if they are so extreme. They will lose the support from women who are light-skinned, biracial, or foreign who BWE writers have said have advantages and privileges they could extend. I'm all for AA-women advocating for their best interests first but I think these other women could be allies that can help by playing devil's advocate, being less emotionally-involved, and having a different perspective. I stand by my belief that when you are drowning take whatever help you can get and make due. If you are starving take whatever food you can get because you may not get anything better for a long time. Use these other people as a crutch until you can walk on your own. If you want to eliminate something from your life go ahead but there is no need to be so hostile and cruel to people who choose mainstream views and are doing just fine. We all have choices, the right choice for you may be an unnecessary choice or the wrong choice for others. Promote dark-skinned women all day long but don't burn bridges insulting people because they don't want to get on your bandwagon because they may be beside you for your next cause.

I know that BWE sites like to compare how they are treated by Black men and feminists and talk about intersectionality to defend their right to put themselves first. As a Canadian woman I am not asking AA women to put anyone else first or put their needs to the side. That is the difference between non-AA Black women, Black men, and feminists so please remember that. Women like me want AA women to do better and live better and if they make that a priority it's fantastic. I am not asking them to put non-AA women, Black men, or White feminists first so please don't compare the situations. I am not trying to sabotage you. I am trying to help you avoid groupthink and group polarization that is causing strife in your group and turning off the less extreme members. If you want mainstream change you need to make views acceptable to mainstream Black folks with moderate views, that's just the way it is. The more extreme and narrow your message, the more disparaging you are of people who are attracted to your sites (e.g., Black women around the world with various skintones), the less support you will get from those people and others who care about those people. You may feel you can do all of this on your own, but ask yourselves, how well is it working?

11 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I have been observing the increased leaning towards excluding and silencing of comments from non-AA Black & biracial women on BWE blogs. The curly Nikki, natural hair issue has made the whole issue worse. I agree with you that burning bridges with potential allies is not a wise move. Your comments about groupthink and polarization are spot on.

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  2. I agree with this post because I was kind of offended by the fact that many of these BWE blogs and sites were only geared towards AA women. I am American born but my heritage is Jamaican and I didn't think it was right that foreign Blacks and light skin/biracial Black women were seen as the enemy. I guess my mother will be seen as an enemy since she is a light skin Jamaican born woman. LOL

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    1. Yes it is, Simi. How did you know it was me?

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  3. The confusing thing is these so called Black empowered women are advocating interracial marriages for themselves and other black American women; and with the same breath, they insult biracial, mixed, non black American, and white women.They are incapable of seeing what many can see, especially non black American men( who they want as husbands) , that they are not ready to be the wives of non-black men and mothers of biracial children. I hope they know that Jose, Doug and Ling Ching don't like drama.

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  4. The sad thing about some of the women on the BWE sites is they do not know how to agree to disagree. It is always about fighting and taking things personally by throwing around insults. I watched with sadness how they went after Gina of WAOD and thrashed her for no reason at all, simply because she does not follow their beliefs.
    And Gina has told them over and over that her blog is not a BWE site, but their problem is that if you don't sound like them, you are an enemy. Much of the BWE's ideas come from Rev Lisa Vasquez who have taught them a whole lot, and now they have the nerve to trash her simply because she identified herself as Puerto Rican.
    My husband is Anglo Irish and many of his friends are of diverse white ethnic groups and they get along fine. Whites are very proud of their diverse ethnic groups. We blacks should be proud of ours too.
    Quarreling with non African American women and pushing them away simply because of these differences is foolish.I laugh at their rejection of multiculturalism.They are incapable of seeing they represent the first spectrum of multiculturalism.
    Most Americans are not black.The main culture of this country is Anglo European and this will never change. Anything else is is part of a minority culture and thus multiculturalism. The very reason why Black American culture is seen as foreign and Black American women are not selected as marriage partners by many non-Black American men is because black American women are perceived to be outsiders or belonging to outside of what the normal culture is.
    Rev Vasquez was the one who talked about divestment, someone changed it around with" following the money trail".
    Rev Vasquez was the one who talked about moving away from black areas, they coined the term moving out of " Blackistan".
    Rev Vasquez talked about forming alliances with individuals and other ethnic groups and making sure there is reciprocity. And she went into depth in this area.
    And this is the area that African American women have the biggest problem with even more than African American men because black men can move smoothly among many groups in this country but black American women have a serious problem adjusting to outsiders and are the most isolated women in this country.
    Haitians, West Indians and Latin black women don't have a problem here, somehow they always appear friendlier to non-blacks than African American women who rarely leave the comfort zone of their ethnic group and always appear to be uptight when dealing with non-blacks and foreigners.
    And this is what we are really seeing on their sites, the inability to deal with people who are not like them. They need to see what they are doing wrong; and this is why often most of the black women married to non-black men belong to the foreign black groups.
    I tell young black women to choose their friends carefully and to try very hard to associate with non-black and foreign women, and to enter non-black circles because this will help them to get out of their isolation. This is the only way black women will know what the real world is and nor from the mouth of those who are isolated themselves.
    A large number of the BWE sites were created to rile up against American black men simply because they have married out. Black American men and women have an ongoing back and forth hatred and they need to keep it to themselves.
    The sad thing is a good many white men know this. Many of the BWE sites are the result of Black American men marrying out and the resentment by many of these women, and it has led to many of them now calling out for marrying out too. It is simply a retaliation against Black men marrying out.
    Non-Black men are not foolish.


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  5. Continuation:
    In the Western world,Caribbeans, Haitians and Black Latin women have always been marrying out. The only Black women in this hemisphere who have always been against it or had a history of shunning it were African American women, and maybe to some extent the Jim Crow laws of segregation was one of the reasons for this. Those laws never existed in South America and the Caribbean and therefore the ones marrying out were usually black women and not black men.

    And I am for the success and prosperity of Black women worldwide therefore the plight of African American women is my concern too.
    The same way white people living in the most powerful country in the world (USA) impact on other whites worldwide, Blacks living in the most powerful country in the world also impact on Blacks worldwide.
    It is in the interest of foreign Black women that African American do well and prosper because we have always looked up to them and aspire for their best interest, when often they do not know or care about our stories, martyrs and heroes and we have always known theirs. And last, I just hope these black women this side of the globe understand and realize when they finally open the door and walk out of their dreadful isolation and enter the real world, they will have to interact with Becky, Mei Ling, Marisol, biracial women, foreign black women and light skinned women. Living in an isolated world with Jose, Doug and Ling Ching is practically impossible .

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  6. Black Women Empowerment. 'Empowerment" for black women is basically continuing of the lesbian mindset of a lot of black american women This group is the woman's equivalent of the men's feminization movement masquerading as mens rights groups. It's total insanity.

    African Americans are doing a racial purge of those whom they think are impure. Basically if you're mixed or biracial you're not really black. This is really affecting individuals like myself who are mixed but was raised as AA. Many of us are thinking about forming a separate group.

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  7. "African Americans are doing a racial purge of those whom they think are impure. Basically if you're mixed or biracial you're not really black. This is really affecting individuals like myself who are mixed but was raised as AA. Many of us are thinking about forming a separate group."
    My response:There are enough black women worldwide who are just simply proud and delighted to be black.Just in case, Transient Indigenous you have not been able to see, there is nothing wrong with being black. Black women are human beings.

    As for me, I personally believe that attaining happiness is our ( Black women worldwide) natural birth right.

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  8. Awesome Post! I think we should lay off the extreme colorism because 3 generations ago today's "light skin" people were bi-racial. Check out my blog leaninkeisha.com! Southern Black Girls Twist on 'Lean In'|| Professional Development for the young Black Feminist

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  9. The more I dive into BWE Empowerment sites, blogs and forums, the more disguised I am by the actions of many women who participate in these sites, blogs and forums. Many of the women on this site are very White male identified, insane in mindset and thinking and hurt by those in their lives so they bring out their angst and anger on many women whom they disagree with or see as blocking their ways. Many would throw Black women under the bus for White approval and to look good in the eyes in Whites and non Blacks. It is sickening.

    I know not all Black women in BWE are like this but many are. I have met some decent and genuine Black women who are for Black women and their best interests in these blogs and sites but these nutty Black women who are only out for White men outnumber these decent Black women.

    I tolerated it for almost a year but a few days ago, the last straw came. I was tagged in a link by a friend in BWE Empowerment about Marilyn Monroe on Facebook. This Black woman attacked me for giving my opinion about Marilyn Monroe and said that me and this other woman had inferiority complexes. Honestly, I don't have anything against Marilyn Monroe. I like her but I don't like the idol worship of her in the media. Mind you, she is attacking another Black woman over a dead, White celebrity. I told her off but nonetheless, it just shows me that the woman is only out for White interest and people at heart, not Black women. And this ticked me off.

    I am thinking of taking time off of Facebook and staying off many of these BWE sites and blogs to keep my insanity in check. What I am seeing in many of these BWE centered blogs and sites is just insanity bordering alongside cultish. Everyone is expected to go along with what is ''right'' in the eyes of Black women and if one doesn't agree, she is attacked and called every name under the book. The group think and polarization that you mentioned in this article is a huge problem because it enables those to not think for themselves and go along with what everyone else is thinking. To me, this is early signs of a cult. And I don't want any part of it.

    Instead, I want to focus on college, meeting new friends and enjoying my youth. And I want to read Black feminist/Womanist theory and how both race and sexism affects Black women in America and other Western countries. I don't know but I don't think this BWE thing is for me at all.

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