This is article four of five in a patriarchy series—from the mouth of a Black man to the ears of Black men—written by the multi-talented Daniel Johnson. Subscribe via email.
Often, the loudest voices raised against patriarchy are those women that it oppresses the most harshly, quite similar to the way that the loudest voices heard raised against racism are generally Black men who are often perceived as the most oppressed by that particular system. It seems to be the nature of oppression to hear a loudly unified cry against the system and shrug it off as though the legitimacy of it is a thing that can be easily dismissed as outlying personal narratives. When the personal narratives become as overwhelmingly one-sided as they have, is the critical point when we who wield power and privilege, even unrecognized power and privilege, have to stop plugging our ears and blindfolding our eyes and pay attention.
In a previous article, I mentioned that Black women would call out street harassment and then Black men would recount their issues with our so-called street harassment without the understanding that the street harassment that Black men face is nowhere near as societally imposed as the street harassment of Black women. We do not receive death threats when we tell Black women no. Black men sound exactly like clueless White people when we talk about the oppression and the gestapo tactics of the police and they recount the two or three times they have been harassed by police, as if to say, “Look guys, it’s not a systemic issue! It’s not even about race!” I would caution Black men to listen intently when Black women rail at and point at the problems contained in patriarchy. We should observe how it serves to oppress Black women as it pertains to their dynamics when dealing with Black men, both in romantic relationships and their daily societally imposed aggravations. The simple truth of the matter is that it is not on the oppressed to end oppression, but it is on those with power to leverage their social and political capital to address said oppression. To that end, it is not on Black women to smash patriarchy and end this oppression of them. It is on Black men to give up our relative privileges in order that Black women would be able to not just survive, but thrive in this socio-political climate.
The simple truth of the matter is that it is not on the oppressed to end oppression, but it is on those with power to leverage their social and political capital to address said oppression.
You may wonder exactly what privileges you enjoy in an America that will push forth a Donald Trump as a viable candidate for the office of President of the United States of America, you may wonder what privileges you enjoy when you stand an increased statistical chance of being shot unarmed by the police, and you may even wonder what privileges you enjoy when your chances of being hired are lessened because you have a name that “sounds Black.” As bad as these things are, I assure you that you have a layer of protection that Black women do not have. Trump may be bad for Black people as a whole, but when things are bad for Black men, they are generally worse for Black women by far.
The common narrative of extrajudicial killings is a gendered narrative, where people know and are willing to name the problem as one of an irrational fears of Black men, but too few Black men know the names and stories of the Black women who are victims of state sponsored violence, often without much fanfare or media attention. Victims such as Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Rekia Boyd, and India Kager.
In the corporate world, Black women are the lowest on the totem pole, often making 64 cents to every dollar made by white men and dealing with sexual harassment/gendered comments on the job, things which generally speaking, Black men do not have to deal with at work. To be clear, there are definitely certain advantages to being a Black man in America. Even if you do not see these advantages, they are there, and that’s what is commonly referred to as privilege. Therefore, when Black women expose the systemic issues they face at the hands of Black men, Black men cannot pretend that Black women inventing these anecdotes. What we have to do as Black men is to listen to them and see what exactly we can do to not only signal boost these legitimate concerns, but we have to also ask the question: What can we do to end this destructive culture?
Since it is not, nor should it ever be the duty of Black women to end the systematic subjugation of themselves, that question then falls to the men—the Black men who serve as a buffer zone, if you will, between Black women and the larger society. It is our duty as a whole is to listen to what women say, talk with women, and come up with ways to improve or even abolish the concept of antiquated gender. This should apply both in society and home, and we should then to work to improve the place and position and view of women within this larger society. We cannot remain silent about the oppression of women, the endangerment of women, and then expect for them to support us unconditionally.
We have to be vocal, we have to disturb the comfortable nature of Whiteness, even as threatening as it presents itself, we have to be resolute and not blink when it threatens us and attempts to turn us against Black women by way of threats or other disenfranchisement techniques. Either we stand up for Black women in this system or we silently oppress them. In a war, there is no middle ground, there are only those who support the resistance or the empire. For far too long, Black men in general have been silent service-members of the empire as Black women resisted alone. Let Black men now rise and revolt against this machine of patriarchy while there’s still a sizable resistance. Our survival depends upon it.