Mark Twain said, in effect, that when a country enslaves a people, the first necessary job is to make the world feel that the people to be enslaved are sub-human. The next job is to make his fellow-countrymen believe that man is inferior and then, the unkindest cut of all is to make that man believe himself inferior.
A good job has been done in this country, as far as convincing them of their inferiority is concerned. The general white community has told us in a million different ways and in no uncertain terms that “God” and “nature” made a mistake when it came to fashioning us and ours….
[S]trange as it is, I’ve heard it echoed by too many Black full-grown males that Black womanhood is the downfall of the Black man in that she (the Black woman) is “evil,” “hard to get along with,” “domineering,” “suspicious,” and “narrow-minded.” In short, a black, ugly, evil you-know-what.
As time progresses, I’ve learned that this description of my mothers, sisters, and partners in crime is used as the basis and excuse for the further shoving, by the Black man, of his own head into the sand of oblivion. Hence, the black mother, housewife, and all-round girl Thursday is called upon to suffer both physically and emotionally every humiliation a woman can suffer and still function.
Her head is more regularly beaten than any other woman’s, and by her own man; she’s the scapegoat for Mr. Charlie; she is forced to stark realism and chided if caught dreaming; her aspirations for her and hers are, for sanity’s sake, stunted; her physical image has been criminally maligned, assaulted, and negated; she’s the first to be called ugly and never yet beautiful….
Raped and denied the right to cry out in her pain, she has been named the culprit and called “loose,” “hot-blooded,” “wanton,” “sultry,” and “amoral.” She has been used as the white man’s sexual outhouse, and shamefully encouraged by her own ego-less man to persist in this function. Wanting, too, to be carried away by her “Prince Charming,” she must, in all honesty, admit that he has been robbed of his crown by the very assaulter and assassin who has raped her. Still, she looks upon her man as God’s gift to Black womanhood and is further diminished and humiliated and outraged when the feeling is not mutual….
At best we are made to feel that we are poor imitations and excuses for white women.
Evil? Evil, you say. The black woman is hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, resentful, frightened and evil! Who in the hell dares suggest that she should be otherwise? These attitudes only point up her perception of the situation and her healthy rejection of same.
Maybe if our women get evil enough and angry enough, they’ll be moved to some action that will bring our men to their senses. There is one unalterable fact that too many of our men cannot seem to face. And that is, we “black, evil, ugly” women are a perfect and accurate reflection of you “black, evil, ugly” men. Play hide and seek as long as you can and will, but your every rejection and abandonment of us is only sorry testament of how thoroughly and carefully you have been blinded and brainwashed. And let it further understood that when we refer to you we mean, ultimately, us. For you are us, and vice versa.
We are the women who were kidnapped and brought to his continent as slaves. We are the women who were raped, are still being raped, and our bastard children snatched from our breasts and scattered to the winds to be lynched, castrated, de-egoed, robbed, burned, and deceived.
We are the women whose strong and beautiful Black bodies were—and are— still being used as a cheap labor force for Miss Anne’s kitchen and Mr. Charlie’s bed, whose rich, black and warm milk nurtured—and still nurtures—the heir to the racist and evil slavemaster.
We are the women who dwell in the hell-hole ghettos all over the land. We are the women whose bodies are sacrificed, as living cadavers, to experimental surgery in the white man’s hospitals for the sake of white medicine. We are the women who are invisible on the television and movie screens, on the Broadway stage. We are the women who are lusted after, sneered at, leered at, hissed at, yelled at, grabbed at, tracked down by white degenerates in our own pitiable, poverty-stricken and prideless neighborhoods.
We are the women whose hair is compulsively fried, whose skin is bleached, whose is “too big,” whose mouth is “too big and loud,” whose behind is “too big and broad,” whose feet are “too big and flat,” whose face is “too black and shiny,* and whose suffering and patience is too long and enduring to be believed.
Who are just too damned much for everybody….
We are the women whose husbands and fathers and brothers and sons have been plagiarized, imitated, denied, and robbed of the fruits of their genius, and who consequently we see as emasculated, jailed, lynched, driven mad, deprived, enraged and made suicidal. We are the women who nobody, seemingly, cares about, who are made to feel inadequate, stupid and backward, and who inevitably have the most colossal inferiority complexes to be found.
And who is spreading the propaganda that “the only free people in the country are the white man and the black woman”? If this be freedom, then Heaven is hell, right is wrong, and cold is hot.
Who will revere the black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protection, and keeping, and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?
“Who Will Revere the Black Woman?” was written by the late Abbey Lincoln in 1996. Learn more about her life as a jazz vocalist and civil rights activist here.