History / Identity & Culture / Relationships

White supremacy and the hierarchy of womanhood

Women of colorIn a chapter of his satirical take on Black life, Negropedia, blogger Patrice Evans (The Assimilated Negro) encourages Blacks to assimilate to mainstream culture for a number of compelling reasons, including being able to land a job, move out of the ghetto, and date White and Asian women. Huh? On this last point, Evans expounds:

“That’s right, homey. Start living life as an Assimilated Negro and have access to girls you’ve only dreamed about. You know those fly light-skin mamacitas strutting around looking flawless, like they’ve been airbrushed by God? The ones you only see in the hood when they’re looking straight down, walking with a steady, determined pace toward the nearest exit out the ghetto?”

Though I chuckled when reading this section, fully aware that it was meant to be comical, I still felt a sharp pain somewhere within my psyche. Maybe it’s because somewhere in the depths of my consciousness, my mind was connecting Evans’ joking piece with a very unfunny piece by Yale-educated Judge Tom Brady, taken from his (1955) book Black Monday, a rage against the Brown vs. Board of Education decision which ended racial segregation in U.S. public schools:

“You have the negroid man, the modern lizard…and then you have the loveliest and the purest of God’s creatures, the nearest thing to an angelic being that treads this terrestrial ball…a well-bred, cultured Southern white woman or her blue-eyed, golden-haired little girl.”

So, Evans’ piece invokes the White supremacist notion of White female superiority. This line of thinking argues that White women are inherently better (and thus more desirable) than Black women, and that even within the Black race those Black women who more closely resemble non-Black women (light skin, thin facial features, long/straight hair) pull rank. Of course, this is not new. I guess that’s why it’s so disturbing…it’s not new, and it’s still around.

Internalized racism still pervades the Black psyche in such a way as to create in many Blacks a preference for the intimate company of non-Blacks. And because of the particular racial/sexual history of this country, with White men continuously raping and romping with Black women (despite the awareness and resentment of their “well-bred, cultured” White wives) and then projecting their sins onto the Black male, White womanhood has been over-idealized to a ridiculous level.

In her book Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement, writer Lynne Olson describes in great detail how:

“…the sexual assault of of [black] slave women by white men was ubiquitous throughout the South. Indeed, it was regarded in some quarters as a rite of sexual passage for young white men…teenage girls were especially vulnerable, never knowing when they might be preyed upon by their master, the master’s son or other relative, the overseer, a neighbor…Perched firmly on their pedestals, white women – supposedly timid, modest, and pure – were forced to deny any sexual feelings of their own. Black women, on the other hand, were pictured as passionate animals…Female slaves were seen as lusty temptresses who seduced white men, luring them away from the sanctity of their homes and wives.”

White men created and relentlessly perpetuated the myth of “pure, lovely, and angelic” White  womanhood in order to justify their continued sexual exploitation of Black women (who could then be portrayed as sexually promiscuous, even if the sex was non-consensual) and brutality toward Black men. The myth of White female superiority constituted one of this country’s earliest mass marketing (propaganda) campaigns, and people of all colors bought in and continue to buy in unwittingly.

What we are left with is a hierarchy of womanhood – White women on top, Black women on the bottom, and other women occupying various positions in between (ranked based on their proximity to Whiteness). For Black women, stereotypes of sexual wantonness are now accompanied by perceptions of Black women as unattractive, gold-digging, domineering, and overall less valuable than other groups of women.

When I talk about White supremacy, I am not referring to the hood-wearing, swastika-sporting type. No, I mean the kind that permeates the air that we breathe, the TV we watch, the music we listen to, the lessons we learn in school, the websites we visit, and the people we prefer to spend our time with. In the 21st century, those are just a few of the battlefields on which we are all (black, white, brown, red, yellow, and tan) being attacked on a daily basis by archaic notions of White superiority.

Why, in 2009, should the results of the Clark doll studies, originally conducted in 1939, have been replicated with such precision?

And why in 2011 should rapper T.I.’s preschool-aged son be able to express a preference for having a White woman (apparently a reasonable consolation prize for his not being able to actually be White himself)?

The answer: the myth of White supremacy. Plain and simple, alive and well. Happy New Year.

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