Women’s Day (March 8th) just passed. Introducing “Women’s History
Month”, IWD came into being in the early 20th century as a result
of the struggles of women workers in New York. Women around the
world commemorate that day as a day of struggle and recognition
of women’s on-going efforts toward achieving freedom and dignity.
in Black America, for the most part with the exception of the Black
Left, little attention is paid to International Women’s Day. This
has always struck me as odd since Black America is not just made
up of men. I suppose that it should not be odd in part because,
as African Americans, we are so focused on issues of race that we
often subordinate or ignore issues facing women, or issues of gender
should also not surprise me because of the way that “women” are
often defined in this society. Take, for instance, our recent presidential
campaign. Whether in the Hillary Clinton campaign or later with
Sarah Palin, the term “women” came to represent a description of
white women. It was not an all-inclusive term to describe women
of different colors. When it came to a candidate speaking to issues
facing women, the assumption was that it would be a white woman
for the most part speaking to the issues of white women.
reaction to that there seems to be a tendency within Black America
to act as if raising anything about male supremacy or the inequality
of women is somehow subordinating the struggle for Black Freedom.
In fact, I have gotten into countless discussions with other Black
folks where, when the issue of the rights of women arises, someone
will inevitably say that such issues are only or mainly the concerns
of white women and that they are of little concern to Black America.
views such as those cited are patently untrue, what is nevertheless
intriguing is that there is often a reluctance to discuss this or
debate this publicly. An example of this came up at the time of
the 1995 Million Man March. While there were those who supported
the views of Amiri Baraka [who said, who goes to war and leaves
half their army at home] and Julianne Malveaux, who both were critical
of the march for being all-male and focusing rather exclusively
on the Black male rather than the partnership between Black men
and women, this was not an easy discussion, and in fact it was a
discussion that was suppressed at the time.
America focuses a great deal of attention on the plight of the Black
male, but as a people we spend precious little time on the issues
facing Black women. We may mention, in passing, the high HIV/AIDS
rate among Black women, but when we speak of HIV/AIDS, we tend to
think about Black men. We correctly focus on the loss of manufacturing
jobs - a fact that is destroying Black America’s living standard
- many of which are held by Black men, but we tend to spend little
time on under-employment among Black women, not to mention unequal
salaries and job opportunities. There is little attention focused
on matters of daycare, though we will regularly hear challenges
to Black men to be better fathers. And we seem to be embarrassed
to have public discussions regarding sex and sexuality, not to mention
discussions regarding rape and partner abuse.
am hoping for a rethinking of International Women’s Day within Black
America. While we certainly need renewed attention to Black women
historical figures, we especially need attention paid to the centrality
of women in Black America and the challenges that they face (challenges
often brought about by Black men, I might add).
may be too late to do this for IWD 2009, but then again, March 2009
is not over yet.
Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University
of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor
in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.