Sunday, September 02, 2012

Seek out spaces where you are Valued - Part 2

After last week's post, a commenter made me reflect on some other stuff that I had noticed at the barbecue; how black men and white men presented themselves in markedly different ways in terms of how they interracted with others. I responded to the commenter Samadhi:

That’s a good question. I think on some level they are doing the dance expected of them. I will write up a bit more on these thoughts in the next post but I was actually watching the actions of the white men at the barbecue versus the black guys. Most of the white guys performing any function were well behaved, went out of their way to be helpful and courteous, and assist people without judgement or telling anyone off. It seemed/s to me to be expected that the black guys were going to act 'some kind of way' possibly have outbursts, tell folk off, or transgress the social etiquette and rules of decorum, with people gearing up to make allowances for these expected responses. Even at work they receive patronage and the funding keeps rolling in if they fit the stereotype of the misunderstood black male, or if they play to the 'black men cant help themselves but react angrily', theme. Very sad because it keeps them in the cycle and they cant break out (because it is being rewarded)and be better than all that!

To add to this observation, as a result of work I am exposed to the dynamics of interaction between black men and women. I know a particular woman who has a black man on her team and I am struck by how she, his manager, treats him more like a son or younger brother. Whenever she asks him to take care of a piece of work she is almost up in his face imploring, meanwhile with her black female team members, she issues straight forward directives which she expects them to comply with pronto. I find her body language very revealing; when she is talking to him he is turned away while she is turned towards him almost up into his armpit.

With any other person, his kind of body posture would be deemed rude or would register as insubordination. It appears to me that there is this Caribbean cultural thing, where black women are supposed to be positioned as the pursuers of the affection, attention and the response (and good will) of black men who themselves maintain maintain an air of aloofness to all her efforts. While women adopt excessive obsequiousness, act all pleading and placating towards black men black men adopt a posture of entitlement to black women’s, indulgence, protection and extreme patience.

I find that if invited into an inner circle of black folks you are expected to actually adopt these rules and conventions for relating to black men if you are a woman and they will test that you understand and comply.

Lets talk about the good example of seeking out spaces where you are valued
Summer is music festival time. This year I attended a four day festival of world music. I haven’t camped in such a long while and my poor back complained bitterly after the first few nights. The music menu was varied and sumptuous; Turkish, Irish, Scottish, African, name it (the highlight for me was a Norwegian singer Ane Brun (absolutely sublime performance of 'Undertow' and 'What's Happening With You & Him').

On the second day I attended an Irish band session. There was no black person in the audience though quite a number could be seen at the festival itself. When the band leader called for some volunteers I put my hand up and I was selected (just as I knew I would be when he announced before hand that he would ask for audience participation). I was so sure that I discreetly put lip gloss on and secured my purse as soon as he made the announce. Why not, I was the only black person in the audience of maybe 100. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the probability of being picked was very high for me. They would definitely love to have me up there on stage trying out their Irish dance routine. I got a signed CD for my efforts!

I don’t think I need to spell out the moral of the story, there are places where your presence would be sought. I contrast this with so many 'black spaces' where black women love to frequent yet there is a pained expression on the faces of the black men when they show up! Where jokes are made about their weave, their 'attitude,' and black men are so eager to show how much they detest these black women and prefer the few white or mixed race women in their midst.

A lot of us have not tossed the idea that black spaces are best for us even though our experience tells us otherwise. At the same time so many of us will swear up and down that white folks are hostile and don’t want us in their midst and will do A, B, C. Yet we don’t know any such thing for certain, (we have heard it second hand) neither obtained it from experience because we have never yet 'integrated' any white spaces to know that such would be our fate. We are cowed and limited by the phantoms we created in our own minds about white spaces and when we enter them we sit huddled together in a conner with other black women because of our fears! We might even have experienced some discomfort or an awkward situation in white spaces but compared to our trails in black spaces these are nothing.

Do you know that off the top of my head I can list 5 places in my local area where I am sure to see one or no black woman, and thus such a venue could be used to my social even career advantage.

I am sure some people (one woman in particular), must have been peeved that I got called up over them, maybe they are Irish and love all things Irish and 'Who the hell is this interloper'. But who cares. In black spaces they would have a ball. Non-black women in particular are given premium value over regular black women even the most devoted black woman who would lay down her life for black unity. Many white and almost white women understand the game in black spaces and play it to their advantage to the very hilt and at the expense of black women, and give no apologies. Why shouldn’t black women find where they 'fit in.'

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ak said...

Halima said:

'I find that if invited into an inner circle of black folks you are expected to actually adopt these rules and conventions for relating to black men if you are a woman and they will test that you understand and comply.

That's the whole reason why most of my life being in all black circles have been very uncomfortable with the exception of family member. How can you have a 'Black Comfort Zone' when all the women 'have to comply' while the men don't have to do a thing (or at least don't have to do any positive things)?

samadhi101 said...

I think BW are scared of being seen as "different" when their in predominately non-black settings. I'm sure we all at some point have gotten the "You don't act like a BW *insert insult veiled as a compliment*" comments from non blacks. I've even had some non blacks tell me "I'm blacker than you!" lol It seems like peoples interpersonal skills sharply decline when speaking to us. Those comments used to make me insecure (it didn't help that I was very shy) but, when I started college, I practiced being more outgoing and I became unapologetic about enjoying "non black" activities. For every close minded moron I met, I also met people who were kind and intelligent and who enjoyed my company. I also I got asked out a lot (all WM), something I wasn't used to since I used to be focused on BM for romantic relationships in high school (lets just say I didn't date a lot in high school). I also started online dating and letting my non black friends take me to "nice" places lol We actually went to Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, 560, here in Dallas. I was pretty nervous! I couldn't help noticing how at ease my friends , a WW, AM, and 2 WM , were despite how fancy the place was. I then learned that once non blacks pay for a nice experience, they unapologetically enjoy it (BW take note!)

The other minor stumbling block BW may face is being resented by BM in non black spaces. I used to think I was imagining things when I'd join a club made up of non blacks and one BM , and the BM would act as though I encroached his territory. Sadly, I can only recall two BM who were friendly and are still happy to see me. I recall cold and resentful stares from the others. One eventually "accepted" me when a WW he had a crush on became one of my best friends. I wonder why ? lol I would advise BW to be friendly but indifferent, focus on those receptive to your friendliness . One thing I'm trying figure out though, is what to do when resentful BM in non black groups start openly bashing BW to score points, in the presence of BW. I've always just said "Just because you spotted one example that confirms a stereotype doesn't mean all BW are ,X,Y,Z. I mean their are BM ex cons taking classes here, but I don't believe that all BM taking classes here are ex cons." It's a cheap shot but it usually elicits laughter from the entire group and the BW basher stops. I know they see us as competition but their irrational pettiness can really kill the mood when your just trying relax with friends.

Dee Dee Russell said...

I have admired and followed you for years.
This post calls out for a response.

I do most of what you advise and still, some BM will get through. I was at a festive event in a private home. Several BM were there, I and another BW were the only 2 BW there the rest of the crowd of 100 were nonBlack. None of the BM approached me with greetings. They watched or ignored me. Of course, I await gentlemen to introduce themselves and had fun with old and new friends.

Over the course of the night I, and others, videotaped a dance. One of the BM came to intrude upon my space. It was blatant. I felt his jealousy. He was not videotaping just elbow hogging to get me to move. I did something that I rarely do: told him (quietly, between him and I, what I thought of his behavior without cursing, of course.) He proceeded to laugh and tell me it was all in my head.

Then I left him where he stood and went to the protective space of my friends, big & tall men. I ignored him the rest of the night.

I was in a pink dress tossing back my head in laughter with my friends. Every so often I'd catch him glaring but I don't fear BM in mainly WM spaces.

Its like, they just don't want us to have fun they have to show us how much they either want to control us or show contempt.

I have another event to attend this week and after that situation, if one of them hasn't spoken a greeting but come to invade my space I'll just move as fast as possible towards the host but no matter what, I refuse to allow them the pleasure of getting under my skin.

Connie Fused said...

Your post reminds me of a study I read in undergrad. Here is a quote and if you like I'll send you the PDF;

"Data collected from participant observation and interviews show how a
predominately female Black student political organization privileged
male members to increase the group’s prestige and ensure turnout at public
events. The group accepted the men immediately, forgave their failures,
and assigned them high profile tasks. While the women worked
behind the scenes, they often chose men to represent the public face of
the organization. These seemingly minor privileges allowed the men to
outpace the women in accruing cultural and social capital."

I don't know the "Black" doctrine in the UK but here in the US there is this idea that Black Women have a support deficit when it comes to black men even though the evidence proves otherwise.

But besides that I worry about the quality of life for black women and girls. The prior post you did about the BBQ showed a hostile environment. How you felt in that instant made me cringe a bit because I know there are black women and girls who have constant exposure to that kind of hostility day after day. That would make me insane.

maria cummings said...

Great post. I got to a point where I completely avoid going to places where blacks usually hang out. My theory is that black men hate black women and they want us to be poor, destitute, unhappy and at home raising their bastard kids all my ourselves.
When I see young black single mothers I feel so much sadness for them, they do not realise that this is exactly where black men want us. They abandon us with kids which makes it even harder for us to attract quality mates. Let's face it, most men when looking for a companion, prefer women who don't have kids.
The reason why those black men where hostile towards you is because they're jealous. You are out there enjoying life, not stuck at home raising their kids and living off welfare. The black man believes that a black woman doesn't deserves to be happy and well off, it's that simple. But then again I can be wrong, like I said, it's just a theory that I have.

Dee Dee Russell said...

@maria cummings wrote "The reason why those black men where hostile towards you is because they're jealous. You are out there enjoying life, not stuck at home raising their kids and living off welfare. The black man believes that a black woman doesn't deserves to be happy and well off, it's that simple. But then again I can be wrong, like I said, it's just a theory that I have."

I have carried these same beliefs. My city has a very small Black population and of that small number half of the men are homosexual and STILL the scant BM here that come in contact with me try to give me some sort of hell. I have just had a conversation with a BM friend about it he says they're jealous but it's so ridiculous and annoying to see men act in such a lousy fashion.

GlitterandRoses said...

I caught onto this sometime ago. I had a white girlfriend who I am no longer friends with, who was into dating black guys. She'd always want to go to the most ghetto clubs where she knew it would be crawling with them, whereas I preferred more up scale places. She had the nerve to tell me that I'm better off going to clubs where there's more black men because I was more likely to get a date HA!

You mean the same black men that are more interested in dating white girls such as herself, those are the men that are 'more likely' to date me, really?

One of the guys she dated ended up in jail for murder...need I say more.