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  • Double JeopardyTo Be Black and Female
  • Frances M. Beal1 (bio)

In attempting to analyze the situation of the black woman in America, one crashes abruptly into a solid wall of grave misconceptions, outright distortions of fact and defensive attitudes on the part of many. The System of capitalism (and its afterbirth...racism) under which we all live, has attempted by many devious ways and means to destroy the humanity of all people, and particularly the humanity of black people. This has meant an outrageous assault on every black man, woman, and child who resides in the United States.

In keeping with its goal of destroying the black race’s will to resist its subjugation, capitalism found it necessary to create a situation where the black man found it impossible to find meaningful or productive employment. More often than not, he couldn’t find work of any kind. And the black woman likewise was manipulated by the System, economically exploited and physically assaulted. She could often find work in the white man’s kitchen, however, and sometimes became the sole breadwinner of the family. This predicament has led to many psychological problems on the part of both man and woman, and has contributed to the turmoil that we find in the black family structure.

Unfortunately, neither the black man nor the black woman understood the true nature of the forces working upon them. Many black women tended [End Page 166] to accept the capitalist evaluation of manhood and womanhood and believed, in fact, that black men were shiftless and lazy, otherwise they would get a job and support their families as they ought to. Personal relationships between black men and women were thus torn asunder and one result has been the separation of man from wife, mother from child, etc.

America has defined the roles to which each individual should subscribe. It has defined “manhood” in terms of its own interests and “femininity” likewise. Therefore, an individual who has a good job, makes a lot of money and drives a Cadillac is a real “man,” and conversely, an individual who is lacking in these “qualities” is less of a man. The advertising media in this country continuously inform the American male of his need for indispensable signs of his virility: the brand of cigarettes that cowboys prefer, the whiskey that has a masculine tang, or the label of the jock strap that athletes wear.

The ideal model that is projected for a woman is to be surrounded by hypocritical homage and estranged from all real work, spending idle hours primping and preening, obsessed with conspicuous consumption, and limiting life’s functions to simply a sex role. We unqualitatively reject these respective models. A woman who stays at home, caring for children and the house, often leads an extremely sterile existence. She must lead her entire life as a satellite to her mate. He goes out into society and brings back a little piece of the world for her. His interests and his understanding of the world become her own and she cannot develop herself as an individual, having been reduced to only a biological function. This kind of woman leads a parasitic existence that can aptly be described as “legalized prostitution.”

Furthermore, it is idle dreaming to think of black women simply caring for their homes and children like the middle-class white model. Most black women have to work to help house, feed, and clothe their families. Black women make up a substantial percentage of the black working force and this is true for the poorest black family as well as the so-called “middle-class” family.

Black women were never afforded any such phony luxuries. Though we have been browbeaten with this white image, the reality of the degrading and dehumanizing jobs that were relegated to us quickly dissipated this mirage of “womanhood.” The following excerpts from a speech that Sojourner Truth made at a Women’s Rights Convention in the 19th century show us how misleading and incomplete a life this model represents for us: [End Page 167]

“...Well, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be something out o’kilter. I tink dat...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1547-8424
Print ISSN
1536-6936
Pages
pp. 166-176
Launched on MUSE
2008-07-23
Open Access
No
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