It’s not… It’s just

A short scribble on my Medium page.

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Some people are not allowed to dream. Some people are not granted the space to think beyond their circumstance and no amount of “hard work” in too many people’s cases can fix that. Some people are only given enough space to think to 6pm that evening when they have to pull off another miracle  to feed all five mouths waiting for  them at home. This thing of living just to survive another day is not okay, that’s what I hear the young lions saying and I don’t see how anyone else can hear anything but that obvious truth.

The country has been burning, things have been falling, people have been arrested, charged with treason, many assaulted but thankfully no longer ignored. Placated in some places with some concessions made, abhorred in others, attacked still, but no longer ignored.

#RhodesMustFall #FeesMustFall #OutsourcingMustFall #AccessMustRise #AfrikaansMustFall

Fallists will probably be my people of the decade. They did what those before them dared not to, in fear of shaking things up too much and as a result losing their promised place in relative comfort. They stood up for not only themselves but everyone else too. Which is why it’s so difficult to hear voices of dissent from their peers, their teachers, their parents and (most disappointingly) the people who are tasked with telling their stories to people on the continent and around the world. 

I don’t deserve to write about the fallists, but I think I am allowed to say I am so proud and continue to support them in their efforts. Yes there have been very unfortunate instances of waywardness, reports about sexual assault and the like along the way – a reflection of the society we live in because academic spaces are mere microcosms of the larger world, not separate special entities where having a degree exempts one from being sexist, homophobic, racist etc. This doesn’t excuse the messiness at all, rather contextualizes it. 

**Quote: Andile Mthombeni, student at Wits

ON: Gentrification

“If you drive over the bridge, you’ve gone too far. Then you’re in the CBD CBD” – this was the warning I would add when giving directions to my friends when I used to live in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. As a student it was public knowledge that crossing the Nelson Mandela bridge, meant leaving the relative “safety” of the patrolled, student filled streets of Braam and entering, “real” downtown Johannesburg.

Patrons at the Motherland coffee shop. Photo: Me
Patrons at the Motherland coffee shop. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

When I lived in Braam four years ago, the prettification of the place had only just begun. The trendy, art decor-ish apartment block I had moved into still had builders coming in and out, paint fumes choking us and an irregular electricity supply. But it was by far the safest and cleanest place around me. Standing on the balcony of my brand new apartment, with supplied furniture and 24-hour security and fingerprint access, were the rows and rows of rusty, bird-shit-stained, peeling walls that housed the bane of property developers and the state’s existence. The blaring gospel music and the sight of panties on balconies became mine.

The run down apartments – housing entire extended families – around me reminded me of Lucky Kunene, a fictional character in a local movie, Jerusalema. Basically this ex “baddie” buys rundown buildings in the inner city, promises reduced rent to inhabitants, collects it then forces the landlords to take the reduced rent. When they fight him on it, he makes running the place and evictions impossible; then buys the buildings when landlords inevitably give up. And when he gets control, the twisted Robin Hood of Hillbrow rids the buildings of drugs, prostitutes and general squalor. The apartments around me are the places we see red ants descend upon where people are evicted after not paying rent because of the lack of services, which are a result of unpaid rent and so on and so forth.

Dictionary definition of Gentrification: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

By the time I was in third year, our prettified part of the inner city had really come alive. Jolling in Braam was now a viable option. You could hop from Puma Social Club, to Great Dane to Kitcheners. None of which had entrance at the time, Great Dane just had a password some nights and if you didn’t have it R20 was your fine. In the daytime there was Post and Double Shot and Father – all of which my student budget could never quite afford but made an effort to save for come allowance day.

“Once you start to notice bike lanes in your neighbourhood – especially if you’re from the hood – that’s an indication that  the neighbourhood is about to be gentrified.” – Negus Korby in Not in my Neighbourhood (2013)

Thrift stalls at Kitcheners Cravery Bar. Photo: Me
Thrift stalls at Kitcheners Cravery Bar. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Then there was that whole “take the streets back” thing Nike had going on, I asked myself “back from who?” but those thoughts were quickly sanitised by the cute banana loaves and frozen lemonades at Motherland. At the time all the change happening on the streets I walked on daily was exciting. I spoke about the “rejuvenation of the inner city” with that hipster smugness we all hate. Without thinking about the people that lived on the periphery of these changes, on the other side of the bridge or even in the middle of these changes but not being able to enjoy the changes because of financial barriers.

I love Braam with all of my heart. As a girl from Pretoria it helped me begin to navigate the city in a way I never would have if I lived in res or at home. Of late, I have had to reevaluate this love. Gentrification and spatial violence in these rejuvenated spaces has come under some scrutiny. I’ve read the articles with an open mind, making me question myself and ultimately feeling guilty for my entire social life being based in one of these questionable spaces.

In 2013 evictions of informal traders in the inner city, saw over 2000 people displaced. Operation Clean Sweep (uncanny coincidence huh) was apparently an initiative aimed at ridding the city of “illegal hawkers”.

One of the things that has contributed to my mixed feelings is Not In My Neighbourhood, a unfinished documentary by Kurt Orderson. I saw the full version  this past week for the first time, screenings haven’t come up to the city of gold yet but I have spoken to him and he assured me it will happen at some point. Watching this actually made me think about spatial violence in our current context. The evictions we see in buildings too close to our little bubbles are akin to the forced removals of apartheid, are they not? But perhaps instead of bulldozers arriving suddenly, we now force people out with the exorbitant rental fees imposed after renovations.

“For inner city street traders, who are increasingly pushed into smaller and smaller spaces… Gentrification is also about – in Johannesburg – urban redevelopment is also about not just a particular aesthetic effect, it’s also a mode of governance.” – Mpho Matsipa in Not in my Neighbourhood (2013)

It had never occurred to me until I wrote this, but there are no street vendors in Braam, there are many little spaza shops and cellphone shops and salons – but no one has a little table set up on the street. Now I’m wondering if this is by design or perhaps there was just never a need for “informal traders” because everyone has a shop? Hmmm.

I don’t have an opinion on “gentrification”, I think I see both sides on this one. I get people who argue against it and I find their arguments valid but I also get people who are in favour of it and think that it brings positive change but for who is the question? I don’t have the answers, I’m just a girl with a blog, thinking out aloud.

 

ON: Sweeping #OperationFiela

Operation fiela. Fiela in Sepedi means “sweep away”. This is the name my government chose as a response to the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in the country.

This year it started in Soweto, when “foreigners” were looted out  of the shipping containers that are their livelihoods. Some kicked, slapped, knifed and burnt. Our leaders said it was all down to criminality, not xenophobia but added that perhaps sharing business secrets with unemployed, discouraged South Africans would help- because it wasn’t xenophobia.

“Foreigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost. They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners,” Lindiwe Zulu, Minister for Small Business Development (January 28, 2015)

Then last month “afrophobic” attacks (the chosen instigator this time) broke out in Durban and copycat attacks spread to other parts of the country. We were told lies about how many had died as a result, reminded that South Africans had also died. This time were even treated to the “third force” delicacy – nice. But back to operation sweep away.

In May 2008, South Africa witnessed its worst wave of xenophobic violence. An estimated 20 000 people were displaced, 62 died during clashes, 600 more injured, over 500 arrested but only 132 convicted for crimes committed during that time.

Screenshot from a short clip I took in Jeppestown, Johannesburg last month.
Screenshot from a short clip I took in Jeppestown, Johannesburg last month.

Often the names given to police or government operations have more bark than the implementations bite. Normally bad things happen, they say nothing for what seems an inordinate window between the occurrence and their reaction. And then (normally) things that make it look like things are happening happen – photos are taken, interviews conducted, live crossings on the scene – some people feel like something has happened because their voices are heard or a heavy police presence alters their daily reality somewhat. Then we all run towards the smoke of another fire in the distance and leave before a pile of ashes can form before us, at the current crisis.

Normally.

Sometimes the (re)action comes in the form of a temporary structure or a wrongful arrest – something, anything that will appease even the skeptics for a few beats.

This time they chose force, brute force and swift broom strokes to deal with the problem.

Every police man or government official I have spoken to has said that Operation Fiela is in no way linked to xenophobia, it’s just a standard joint operation to deal with criminal activity in certain areas (read hostels, informal settlements and other such places where they can stamp their boots with unadulterated impunity). Even though they’re collaborating with the same army that was deployed a few weeks ago and conducted humiliating night time raids.

“Large sections of police were unleashed on people, their doors kicked down and people were asked to show their papers. It was a military operation in the middle of the night,” Stephen Faulkner, Cosatu nine unions representative (May 12, 2015)

This week, Stephen Faulkner said it perfectly, to paraphrase: this entire operation needs  a rethink, we can’t go around unleashing the military on people and sweep them away (deport them) like rubbish.

Wayne Ncube, human rights lawyer, explained that deportation is a lengthy process with many steps, which is why they are concerned with the high number of arrests and possible deportations that have already happened. This week they are working towards consulting with about 400 of the latest victims of such a raid which took place at the Central Methodist Church last Friday.

I have not spoken to a single person who isn’t in government who has stood behind the operation. The raids never made sense to begin with, nor do the arrests. It would be easier to believe that these are “standard joint operations” if they were in actual fact standard. If we knew about weekly or monthly raids to seize illegal firearms, bust prostitution rings and arrest undocumented people it would have been easier.

But the timing – first the limp condemnations a week after the first attacks, then the army deployment and raids two weeks after that – the boasting and plenty photo opps say otherwise.

PS

Born free, but still in chains

Last week I gave an impassioned speech to a group of young, soon to be journalists at my alma mater. I told them that this might possibly be the best time to be a young journalist, the opportunities are endless, and other such brochure stuff.

They believed me. Hell, I believed me. And a part of me still does – there is so much we can do, yes we’ll run into and slog under organisations that are counter-revolutionary but it can be done. We can be authentic to ourselves and each other while running on this side of the tracks.

But a part of me faltered and scoffed at the hypocrisy of that talk we had when I read a report with statistics on everything “born free” and my oh my do the numbers look bleak.

The report, Born Free But Still in Chains: South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation, was released by the South African Institute of Race Relations last week. Luckily their definition of a young person is different from Stats SA (which includes everyone between the ages of 15 and 34), in this report Born Free’s are defined as people under the age of 25.

There were many graphs and numbers broken down and presented in the 39 page report, some of the more jarring (personally), are in this quick infographic I made:

Born free graphic

The statistics aren’t new but I thought about the numbers a lot more personally this time – they are alarming, they are dire, they speak to a crisis even. They speak to the brazen young men we see and speak to at protests, the young girls who want my details so they can get a job (even if it is just carrying my camera bag). They speak to the anger on timelines and the rage that breaks into our homes and smashes windows.

The numbers mattered more now because I see the faces behind those numbers every day and that realisation makes it all so real.

In the report unemployment and education are highlighted as the two biggest concerns we have – unsurprisingly the former is often caused by the latter but not always. The bulk of those unemployed did not complete their secondary (high school) education, and on the other hand almost 400 000 varsity graduates sit without work – so who’s to say having a degree helps these days.

I have no answers at all, but I do know that the columns and warnings about us being a ‘ticking timebomb’ are true. We’re the generation that won’t let the empty promises be the hope we cling on to, we want answers and action and it makes me so happy to know that we are inching ever closer to making ourselves heard. It’s already happening, it’s already here. Like Fanon said we just have to collectively fulfil our mission, I think we have already discovered it.

These statistics cannot continue to rise. That there are people in positions of power who are blase about them (if I’m being polite) is sickening. They should know that their protection now is temporary, if we have to destroy to build they might be collateral – something to think about while they can.

There was a wealth of information in that study that also spoke to how many children are orphans, how many (overwhelmingly black) are child headed households, how HIV/Aids has affected them,  how many have never received any early childhood development, how their living conditions haven’t changed in 21 years (sleeping on the floor, washing and relieving themselves in buckets), their dreams and their hopes.

Read it. Gain some perspective before you run around telling people they are “lazy” – there are millions of children who have to fight every single day just to stay alive, be cognisant of that.

We definitely need new names

I have now written a few stories and filmed footage around the current spate of Xenophobic violence in South Africa. I have had debates about whether its xenophobia or afrophobia, about the good King and the reluctance from our government to shame him and about self-hate/unemployment/ignorance being catalysts for the violence.

I have thought about and consumed information on this topic for the past three weeks but I still feel like there’s nothing I can say. The shame coupled with the guilt and anger and sheer despondency have rendered me speechless.

I have nothing intelligent to add to the “stop xenophobia” calls and campaigns – particularly because I feel that a lot of the talking is happening at a level that doesn’t speak directly to the guys wielding pangas and knives on the streets. The guys who are drunk at 7a.m. with the whole day ahead of them to burn and loot and terrorise. The guys who we rarely think about outside of their sins.

A lot of the rhetoric from the top said: no matter what your frustrations are, you have no right to mete that out with violence against others. Another reminded us of the moral debt we owe to those who sheltered us in our time of need. But within those same ranks we had people in positions of power saying the amount of “foreign nationals” in South Africa was reaching a problematic level.

On the ground the guys I talked to said they don’t want “foreigners” in this country because they steal their jobs, sell drugs and steal “their” women. I didn’t know I was a thing that could be stolen. The same guys who told me that are also the same guys who felt it appropriate to try to kiss me, despite my continuous and unwavering “No’s”.

All of that aside, they were the first people I thought of when I heard this quote last night: “You lose your soul when you feel like the world has forgotten about you.”

I just don’t understand how another person from this continent can be called a foreigner. To me anyone who calls them that has no proper scope of history – they obviously know nothing about the false colonial borders, efforts by those same colonisers to have us identify and discriminate on “tribal lines” and obviously even less about the Bantu migration, we’re from Congo yo (but that is a story for another day).

I don’t understand how we let everyone and their mother walk all over us for hundreds of years then have the audacity to touch another African just because we know we can hit them and nothing will happen. It’s like men who beat their wives when they get home after biting their tongues for several hours saying “yes baas”. He bottles is anger and frustration, knowing that saying or doing something to “baas” will have real consequences, consequences a coward like him couldn’t possibly deal with. So he waits, stores that anger, until he can reach a target he can attack with the conviction that no one will be there to back his victim.

For me the reasons of anger and frustration at broken promises decades after democracy are secondary – this is about our level(s) of self hate. It runs deeps and cuts wide.

I say we need new names because we can no longer claim to be true sons and daughters of the soil, when we treat our own like this – I don’t know which words they might be but any that speak to a deep betrayal and self-hate will suffice.

PS

**Photo: Tracy Lee Stark/The Citizen

Debate Club: Gender agenda

Gender not sex. Womanism not feminism. Patriarchy not masculinity.  These were some of the things brought up at the last debate club meeting of the year on November 25, 2014. The panel steering the direction of the conversation was made up by Panashe Chigumadzi, Lee Molefi and Lebohang Nova Masango.

Feminism, what it is and who it speaks to made up a substantial part of the debate on the night. Some described it as movement that seeks justice and equality. As women wanting to live in a world where they don’t have constantly “check” themselves to stay out of harms way. As vaginas and boobs not being the things that dictate where we belong and what we get to do. The most poignant description for me was:

The way patriarchy shapes what men should and can expect from women was another hot topic. I recall one guy in the audience saying he is all for woman empowerment and equality for “other women” just not his woman. He admitted that he had learnt to expect subservience and as a result that is what he now yearned for.

If I recall correctly he said he’s all for his sister becoming and engineer but his wife should have a more “humble job” as to not bruise his ego and mess with his role as the head of the house. The room, filled predominantly with women, was up in arms at that. This is the kind of thinking that reminds women that they are alone in this struggle, black men aren’t really here for us. Agreed with these comments on gender roles made on the night:

My biggest take away from the night was the fact that so few men were willing to understand what feminism is, some suggested that they can never identify because they aren’t women, that they need to be schooled and feel included to get on the train. In response, the panel said acknowledging patriarchy and how as a man you benefit from it, is similar to white people having to acknowledge white privilege. Something that was necessary to start trying to make things better.

There is a lot more that could have been discussed but time rules us all. This is a very short video of the night made by the good people at LiveMag:

 

Black Wednesday: Remembering the pain

About a week ago, I went to a film screening of a short doccie on Black Wednesday, hosted by the Steve Biko Foundation at the Bioscope in Maboneng.

I imagined that it would be enlightening and robust debate would be had. I didn’t imagine that I would cry throughout the entire thing.

I “know” our history, I’ve studied it extensively in school, varsity and in my private time to make sure that I never forget, I never become complacent, complicit and and and. Some say I am obsessed and I think we need to be if we truly want to “fight” the system – but that’s a discussion for another day.

Black Wednesday: On October 19 1977 three newspapers and a number of anit-apartheid journalists were banned. The movie we saw was about that, linking that day to the broader effort by the apartheid government to weaken the Black Consiousness Movement as a whole.

Seeing a grown man cry about how Steve Biko’s death was more than just a loss but something that left an indelible mark – at which point he cried, I cried. Personally I will never ever be able to forgive that. Killing Biko on September 12, a month prior, was more than an act of extreme hate but a convoluted plan to break a people – and it may have worked.

Anyway there was a cool opportunity for a Q&A session with the journalists who were banned that time, Joe Thloloe and Juby Mayet. Some highlights from that discussion:

Q: There’s a dirth intellectual leadership amongst emerging generations. They engage with Pan-African ideas at a very superficial level because it’s the “in” thing. The black rage they feel is fabricated. Thoughts on that?

Joe Thloloe: When you say fabricated anger, I disagree with that. It’s still the same anger. But we tried to sanitize it and in the process we find it erupting in ways we didn’t imagine… Since 1994 we have started to believe we are a rainbow nation, we are a miracle nation – when in fact the issues of the time still haven’t been solved. That’s the tragedy of our history.

Q: If that’s the case, can we be saved?

Juby Mayet: The black rage that exists today is directed at the current leadership, because there is such a vast gap between the haves and the have-nots. The haves are not necessarily white anymore…There is such a simple solution, don’t do it  for the t-shirt and the free food hamper – think. You’ve got the vote now, use it.

Q – asked by my friend, Shandukani Mulaudzi: What would you have liked to see happen in ’94?

JT: The first disaster was at Kempton Park, where a whole nation was hoodwinked into believing that a miracle is happening. The first thing that should have been negotiated was – how do we make up for all these years of suffering? That question wasn’t answered. And it still hasn’t been answered. We just went right to ululating and saying we are free – when in fact the basic issue was not resolved. Today a few of us have been co-opted into the old apartheid structures – we just have a few black faces there. I wanted us to answer the question of what do we do about 300 years of painful oppression.

Q: The term Black is now being used as a divider, rather than a term to unite. In the era of BCM, it was used to identify all people who were oppressed. The term Black is being abused by the current holders of power. How do you identify yourselves?

JM: When I had to fill in forms in those days and I still do this – where it asked for race I used to say human. If all of us do that they’ll soon chuck away all of the forms.

Q: Recently Minister Lindiwe Sisulu that people under 40 were not affected by apartheid, therefore should not benefit from redress measures like receiving RDP houses. Thoughts?

JT: That’s absolute nonsense. The child who is unable to read and write in Soweto today – is a product of the apartheid system. Is a product of Jan van Riebeeck landing in the Cape. So it’s 300 years that you are talking about and that will not be removed by the wave of a magic wand. When we talk about redress we must be talking about how we fix the systems, the hurt and damage that was done – mental, physical and spiritual.

Q: How do we address correcting the wrongs of the past if we don’t identify who is Black, White, Coloured etc, if we go by the human race definition?

JT: Saying we are part of “the human race” is a nice little intellectual trap we have set for ourselves. We have to be Black or Coloured or Indian to redress the past. Ultimately we are looking at all people who were oppressed, people who couldn’t vote, couldn’t get work, live where they wanted to etc.

JM: Millions are spent on nonsense things like Nkandla, expensive clothes, flying here and there. That money could be spent on other simple things like education. They did away with Teacher Training Colleges – where must our teachers learn to do what they do? There also needs to be more emphasis on reading from a very young age. Open more libraries, have mobile libraries in rural areas. My informal education largely came from reading when I was young – I just read everything that was in the house.

Q – asked by me: I’m a new journalist and obviously a black female. I find myself in a space where I am expected to write about Nkandla being so bad and that minister being so corrupt – when I know that that is not the real issue – white supremacy is. I suppose my question is, how today, as a journalist can I move beyond the anger I feel towards Jacob Zuma and focus on the real issue we have had and will probably have for I don’t know how long? It’s so very depressing to me to think that my children and their children and their children will have to live through this. It’s an all-encompassing frustration and depression that emanates from me not knowing what to do.

JM: You used the term “white supremacy” – there’s no such thing. It doesn’t exist in my world. In ’94 when we blacks went to vote for the first time were so blindsided by this rosey image of what was happening. We need to lay blame at Nelson Mandela’s feet. Yes, he was a terrific person and a great inspiration but we blindly voted for his party because of who he was – we didn’t see beyond him. We need to conscentise one another, to change mindsets.

JT: The media is a reflection of society in general. We have come to glorify the sensational. The media are businesses, they provide society with what society wants. As journalists we need to reflect who we are in our writing, not what the powers that be want. We are guerillas operating in enemy territory – the newspapers and radio stations are not ours but we must use them.

Q (asked audience member from Bolivia): I would like to see South Africa become a clour blind society. Because with this rainbow of this rainbow nation thing, there are just too many tribes – like in South America. It’s another form of apartheid to say black or white or coloured. People use “black” to play victim.

In response I said: It’s useful to label ourselves because there is a bigger system that supports those lables. It is not a coincidence that the people who liv e in dire poverty are people of colour. Until that is no longer the situation, the labeling of ourselves is necessary.

It was a lovely evening and much more was discussed in the hour long conversation. Keep learning, keep growing.

Debate Club – Chats about the truth keep me sane

There are few things as freeing, as validating, as anchoring, as sitting in a room filled with young people talking about our lived realities.

Last month some friends and I joined Debate Club, an initiative by the good people at Live Mag. There have only been two “meetings” but so far so great. It happens once a month at on the last Tuesday of that month at the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein.


The first time we went, we discussed being African – what it means or what it should mean. We had a robust discussion about we can and should be doing to uphold certain traditions, how others should move on with the times and what kind of things “led us astray” if you will. Some of my favourite quotes from the floor that night:

  • “Townships are dormitories for cheap labour” – a comment on the ill notion of glorifying living in townships.
  • “We just don’t know ourselves.”
  • “We’re not living in a context that is made for Africanism.”

Last week at the second meeting, the proverbial heat in the kitchen got turned up a few notches as we embarked on a topic that was bound to be explosive – race. In particular race in South Africa in relation to the so called “rainbow nation”.

To try to sum up what people said would be reductive, luckily I was tweeting like a mad woman. Will embed a few favourites to give a brief peek into what went down:

It was a night for the “angry black” – a night to speak our minds with reckless abandon that brimmed with obvious frustration. It was a night to say we are here, this is what we see and we don’t like it.

It was so necessary, so enlightening and equally depressing. I’m glad that I’ve found this space – I look forward to many more nights like the ones we’ve already had.

Literary Postmortem: Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks

bell hooks hit me with some knowledge and schooled me on black feminism – what it is, the conditions that led to its existence, outlined its challenges/objectives and so much more.

This very short read is filled with pearls of wisdom and earth shattering truths that need to be shared. In keeping with the fashion of alternative book reviews, I’m going to share some of my favourite quotes and lessons learned from the book. Initially I wanted to write an essay but there’s no insight I could give that she didn’t articulate perfectly.

But for a bit of background, Hooks traces the roots of the woman’s rights struggle all the way from American slavery to the present day America (which was the 80s). Her research unearths harrowing facts about the black female experience. I would put the whole book on here if I could because it is that necessary. For example:

“Racist, sexist socialization had conditioned us to devalue our femaleness and to regard race as the only relevant label of identification… We were afraid to acknowledge that sexism cold be just as oppressive as racism. We clung to the hope that liberation from racial oppression would be all that was necessary for us to be free” (page 5).

That is the precursor to a passage on how black men were given the vote before black women and white woman in the late 1800s, a show of the utter disdain for all woman – racism was put aside for sexism to soar.

Chapter 1: Sexism and the Black Female Slave Experience

  • On the slave experience aboard slave ships: “After branding all slaves were stripped of any clothing. The nakedness of the African female served as a constant reminder of her sexual vulnerability. Rape was a common method of torture slavers used to subdue recalcitrant black women” (page 18).
  • Things didn’t get better on plantations: “Those black women who resisted sexual exploitation directly challenged the system; their refusal to submit passively to rape was a denouncement of the slave-owner’s right to their persons. They were brutally punished. The political aim of this categorical rape of black women by white males was to obtain absolute allegiance and obedience to the white imperialist order” (page 27).
  • “White male religious teachers taught that woman was an inherently sinful creature of the flesh whose wickedness could only be purged by the intercession of a more powerful being. Appointing themselves as the personal agents of God, they became the judges and overseers of woman’s virtue” (page 29). Damn, just damn.
  • Sadly: “Most black male slaves stood quietly by as white masters sexually assaulted and brutalised black women and were not compelled to act as protectors. Their first instincts were toward self-preservation” (page 35).

I’ve had fights with my brother about this one. I suppose women were all alone when they were sold to go on those ships and no one stopped it. He argues they weren’t in a position to fight back, they weren’t – but fucking try, If enough men had I like to believe things may have turned out differently.

  • True story: “While racism was clearly the evil that had decreed black people would be enslaved, it was sexism that determined that the lot of the black female would be harsher, more brutal than that of the black male slave” (page 43).

Chapter 2: Continued Devaluation of Black Womanhood

  • Systematic devaluation of black womanhood was not simply a direct consequence of race hatred, it was a calculated method of social control” (page 59-60).

This is a referral to the structural support garnered by the myths that had been circulated around black women’s sexuality. This myth being that black women were loose, had insatiable sexual appetites and were masters of seduction. Which is why raping them was not seen as a violent offence, society had come to believe that black woman basically asked for it. Along with this black men were said to be violent rapists who wanted to harm white women, another myth to keep the races separate through fear.

  • “White Americans have legally relinquished the apartheid structure that once characterised race relations but they have not given up white rule. Given that power in capitalist patriarchal America is in the hands of white men, the present obvious threat to white solidarity is inter-marriage between white men and non-white women, and in particular black women” (page 64).

This is something I don’t think I can agree with. Given that “the power” is in the hands of white men, they don’t need the solidarity of their white women to keep it – they need them to make that grip tighter possibly. I don’t think that inter-marriage is a threat at all, in fact it’s an advantage, that shows just how all-encompassing that power is.

  • The term matriarch implies the existence or a social order in which women exercise social and political power, a state which in no way resembles the condition of black women or all women in American society. The decisions that determine the way in which black women must live their lives are made by others, usually white men” (page 72).

Chapter 3: The Imperialism of Patriarchy

  • “… Emphasis on the impact of racism on black men has evoked an image of the black male as effete, emasculated, crippled. And so intensly does this image dominate American thinking that people are absolutely unwilling to admit that the damaging effects of racism on black men neither prevents them from being sexist oppressors nor excuses or justifies their sexist oppression of black women” (page 88).
  • “At a very young ages, black male children learn that they have a privileged status in the world based on their having being born male; they learn that this status is superior to that of a woman. A a consequence of their early sexist socialisation, they mature accepting the same sexist sentiments…” (page 102).

I have seen this among my own friends – they expect women to be and act a certain way – standards they definitely hold for themselves. Or the women they have “fun” with, only the ones “worthy” of taking their names one day. Le sigh.

  • “While insecure feelings about their selfhood may motivate black men to commit violent acts, in a culture that condones violence in men as a positive expression of masculinity, the ability to use force against another person – i.e., oppress them – may be less an expression of self-hatred than a rewarding, fulfilling act” (page 104). Wowzer.
  • “Since the black woman has been stereotypes by both white and black men as the “bad” woman, she has not been able to ally herself with men from either group to get protection from the other” (page 108).

Steve Biko once said of black people that we are on our own, black women especially so, I feel.

  • “While I believe it is perfectly normal for people of different races to be sexually attracted to one another, I do not think that black men who confess to loving white women and hating black women or vice versa are simply expressing personal preferences free of culturally socialized biases” (page 112). Word to big bird.

Chapter 4: Racism and Feminism: The Issue of Accountability

  • “To black women the issue is not whether white women are more or less racist than white men, but that they are racist” (page 124).
  •  “Animosity between black and white women’s liberationists was not due to disagreement over racism within the women’s movement; it was the end result of years of jealousy, envy, competition and anger between the two groups” (page 153).

Conflict that Hooks says was driven by white males to make sure the two would not be able to find solidarity at any point. She adds that the only way to try and achieve any kind of “sisterhood” begins with actively rejecting and all stereotypes about one another.

Chapter 5: Black Women and Feminism

  • On the Civil Rights Movement: “Those black women who believed in social equality of the sexes learned to suppress their opinions for fear attention might be shifted from racial issues” (page 176).
  • “The fear of being alone, or of being unloved, had cause women of all races to passively accept sexism and sexist oppression” (page 184).
  • “We, black women who advocate feminist ideology, are pioneers. We are clearing a path for ourselves and our sisters. We hope that as they see us reach our goal – no longer victimized, no longer unrecognized, no longer afraid – they will take courage and follow” (page 196).

Was uncomfortable to read the criticisms of Malcolm x and Amiri Baraka, had one eye closed and everything, but ya. It’s astounding that a book written in 1982 could resonate so well with me in 2014 – that we still face many of the same challenges.

Therefore we must take courage as she said. Aluta Continua.