The Sisters Are Alright:
Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
A few excerpts from the books that were enlightening to me. Enjoy and purchase the book!!!!! – AcademicHustler1975
“If the male isn’t the primary breadwinner of the family, then the children of that family are forever deviant. It’s right there on the page,” says Jackson. Most single black mothers are not postgraduate, degree-holding pastors, but neither are they the pariahs of the public imagination. The negative perception of black mothers flattens the experiences of single mothers and ignores single mothers by choice, single mothers whose partners are involved in their children’s lives, unmarried mothers who live and parent with their partners, lesbian mothers, and married mothers in traditional families. It also obscures the fact that most black mothers, no matter their family structure, attempt to thoughtfully and successfully raise their children. “Black parenting is never theorized as something that has intentionality,” says Heidi Renée Lewis. “It’s like we’re just . . . popping out babies.”
In 2008 and 2012, black women led the United States in voter turnout. They also played a significant role in turning Virginia “blue” in 2013, leading that state’s voters in turnout for the gubernatorial election.
- Black women make up the most dynamic segment of the Rising American Electorate. In the past two Presidential elections, Black women led all demographic groups in voter turnout. And even without President Obama on the ballot, in the recent pivotal Virginia gubernatorial election, Black women once again, exceeded all other groups in turning out on Election Day. As such, Black women were a key factor in turning Virginia Blue heading into the 2014 mid-term elections. While Black women vote at dynamic rates, They remain woefully underrepresented in elected office. Black women hold only 3% of state legislative seats, and less than 3% of seats in Congress. Additionally, 2014 makes the 15th consecutive year that no Black woman has held a seat in the United States Senate. – National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Black Women’s Roundtable, March 2014
Demonizing single black motherhood does not improve the lives of children. On the contrary, the idea that 70 percent of black boys and girls are congenitally damaged stigmatizes them. “It’s messed up that we have to figure out how to keep our kids from being negatively impacted by generations of misinformation about the way that our households are run,” says Stacia Brown, thirty-five. “I don’t want my child to feel that the way we live is something that we have to defend to the world.” Stacia herself was raised by a single mother. And she learned from her mother to protect her own daughter from the stain of so-called illegitimacy.
Today, Cristal is in a healthy and happy marriage and successfully co-parents with her ex-husband. But she wishes that black women like herself were given permission to own their needs and desires, including their sexual ones. “I know that my girls are probably going to have sex before they’re married, and I am not going to give them grief about it. I don’t want them to wait until they’re married to have sex, because what if the sex was terrible? At the same time, I don’t want them to have sex lightly, either. “When I think about the black women I know, there are very few that I feel like kindred spirits with—women whose sexuality is alive and evolving. I would love to see more women feel free to think beyond this sense of sex as obligation or a chore or something we give away or something we do to keep men, but instead to think of sex and personal satisfaction. [I am a] student of myself sexually—what pleases me . . . what I enjoy.”
Patrice Grell Yursik, founder of Afrobella.com, does her share of counseling black women scarred by a lifetime of beauty insecurity and parents who could not transcend their own conditioning. She shares a memorable conversation she once had with the mother of a young black child with cerebral palsy. The woman confessed to using double the recommended amount of a caustic chemical relaxer on her daughter’s hair in an effort to make it straight. The mother was distraught that despite her efforts, the child’s hair held on to its kinks. “I was horrified. It made me want to cry,” says Patrice. “This poor child who cannot fend for herself and cannot physically take care of herself is enduring this burning on an ongoing basis for what? So she can be what? Why are we doing this?” It should come as no surprise that most black women, rather than wear the braids, twists, Afros, and dreadlocks that black hair adapts to most easily, alter their hair’s natural texture chemically or with extreme heat or cover it with synthetic hair or human hair from other races of women. Let me be clear: black women should be free to wear their hair as they please, including straightened. But as Patrice Yursik urges, “It’s really important for us to ask ourselves the tough questions. Why are we in lockstep in relaxing our hair? Why do we all come to the decision that this is something we have to do for ourselves and our children, [especially when] so many of us hate the process and see damage from it.
Seeming to confirm Liz’s observation, in 2006 Kanye West told Essence magazine, a publication for black women, that “If it wasn’t for race mixing, there’d be no video girls. . . . Me and most of my friends like mutts [biracial women] a lot.” In a society that judges women’s value and femininity based on attractiveness, perceived ugliness can be devastating. The denigration of black female beauty not only batters African American women’s self-esteem, it also drives a wedge between black women with lighter skin, straighter hair, and narrower features and those without those privileges.
The current conversation about black marriage particularly admonishes educated and successful black women for their competence. Comedian-turned-relationship-expert Steve Harvey says in his bestselling book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, “If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol and a guard dog, you’re probably shouting from the rooftops that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we’ll see no need to keep coming around.” Reprimanding women for, as Harvey says, “being the masters of ‘handling it,’” robs us of our accomplishments while convincing vulnerable men that their manhood is dependent on the weakness of women. This is particularly damaging in the black community, which faces an even broader achievement gap between men and women than do other races. (For instance, women make up 66 percent of African Americans completing bachelor’s degrees and 71 percent of those completing master’s degrees.) Forcing black women to justify their success to partners, who should be their biggest cheerleaders, is a troubling message for both black women and men.
Harris, Tamara Winfrey, The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015, ISBN: 9781626563513