African Women, White Men, Sex and Don Imus

Submitted by Mark P. Fancher on Tue, 04/17/2007 - 18:00
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FancherLilKimby Mark P. Fancher

The notion that Don Imus was somehow inspired by African American culture to casually refer to Black female athletes as "nappy-headed hoes" amounts to an inversion of history. White racism and male chauvinism shaped the image of Black females - and males. For centuries, this culture countenanced mass rape of Black women and emasculation of Black men. Unfortunately, this culture has also influenced the thinking and behavior of some segments of Black America - an internalization of self-hatred. But make no mistake about the root cause of the pathology: a horrific history of dehumanization of African Americans of both sexes.

 

African Women, White Men, Sex and Don Imus

by Mark P. Fancher

"It is no longer enough to simply point fingers at rap artists whose lyrics reference ‘hos' and ‘bitches' and somehow imply that Imus was inspired by African youth."FancherFlav

It is likely that on countless street corners throughout America, young Africans continue to ponder with great bewilderment how a crusty old racist with a radio show caused the national spotlight to focus on them and what they believe to be their music. Imus's vile pronouncement that the women of Rutgers' basketball team are "nappy-headed hos" triggered expected condemnation from "Black Leadership." But like a tornado that first wreaks havoc on a trailer park and then skips gingerly across several miles of grasslands before causing more destruction in a distant location, the leaders' criticism moved swiftly from Imus, landed at Hip-Hop's door, and lingered there.

The misogyny and self-loathing racial references of Hip-Hop are indefensible, and "Black Leadership's" instincts were on target. However, Africans in America find themselves in a moment when the struggles for liberation, human rights and justice demand that every blow that a "leader" strikes for the people enjoy the benefit of informed analysis rooted in an accurate understanding of history. It is no longer enough to simply point fingers at rap artists whose lyrics reference "hos" and "bitches" and somehow imply that Imus was inspired by African youth. Very basic questions must first be asked about whether Hip-Hop recordings released by mega entertainment corporations represent the honest expression of African youth culture, or whether they are instead products of white middle-aged executive male fantasies that have been tailored to appeal to the white, suburban teenaged demographic that accounts for more than three-quarters of all Hip-Hop music sales. Questions must then be asked about what drives the handful of young African "artists" who engage in Hip-Hop minstrelsy.

"The Imus affair is but a 21st Century manifestation of a white American pathology that has very deep historical roots."

Even the most cursory research reveals that the Imus affair is but a 21st Century manifestation of a white American pathology that has very deep historical roots. From the earliest days of their nightmarish, but nevertheless glorious sojourn in the western hemisphere, African women have been pegged as "hos" without any regard for their actual conduct. In a well-researched little book titled Ar'n't I a Woman?, historian Deborah Gray White described not only the experiences of African women on slave plantations, but also the attitudes held by white society. She wrote: "One of the most prevalent images of black women in antebellum America was of a person governed almost entirely by her libido, a Jezebel character."

White explained how proponents of the Jezebel idea used African dance styles, African women's sparse tropical clothing, and instances of polygamy as evidence of lust and lewdness. Victorian-era white women who dressed in layers of satin and lace looked with disdain on African women who tied their skirts around their upper thighs as they labored in water-filled rice fields. White men who took to routinely referring to African women as "wenches" convinced themselves that every African female they encountered looked upon them with lust. White quoted one white visitor to the antebellum south as stating: "...in almost every house there are negresses, slaves, who count it an honor to bring a mulatto into the world." This notion of black female sexuality became the foundation for an unspeakable history of mass rape. Countless enslaved African families endured the horror of having slave masters break into their homes and sexually assault a mother, or even pubescent and pre-pubescent daughters - sometimes as the family watched in helpless terror.

"The notion of black female sexuality became the foundation for an unspeakable history of mass rape."

There is much about the slave era that Africans themselves internalized. The word "nigger" became not only a derogatory word that accompanied acts of racial terrorism, but also a word long used by Africans themselves as a term of endearment. It is but one of numerous manifestations of self-hatred and a widely-shared inferiority complex. It is no wonder then that African men and many African women also internalized racist notions of black female sexuality.

While some might suggest that Hip-Hop misogyny is entirely home-grown, history indicates that the denigration of women is at odds with much of the culture of traditional Africa. For example, men not only recognized the genius of the Angolan queen, Nzinga, but also followed her into battle repeatedly in an ongoing war against the Portuguese. Likewise, the Ashanti Queen Mother Yaa Asantewa enjoyed universal respect, as did many other African queens. Among even the common folk, matrilineal succession was a distinct feature of certain traditional ethnic communities. As Africa's cultures were impacted by Arab and European influences, attitudes toward women changed. U.S. male chauvinism has certainly affected the attitudes of African males in America, including those who are willing to use the worst names for their sisters in recordings that they make for large corporations.

"U.S. male chauvinism has certainly affected the attitudes of African males in America."

While it is important to remain vigilant in the quest to purge Hip-Hop of its misogynist language, and racial self-hatred, it is perhaps most helpful to be armed with an analysis of its origins. The young brothers on the block who are puzzled about why they are being blamed for Don Imus's racism deserve a complete, informed explanation and not just finger-wagging condemnation.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney, essayist and activist. He can be contacted at mfancher@comcast.net

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Why do people think blacks are so bad??

Submitted by caitlin olive (not verified) on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:14.

I'm white and i mostly grew up with them. they are NOT BAD PEOPLE!!! In fact their music to me is some times relaxing depending on what mood i'm in. People should'nt judge others because we all get judged in the end!!!!!!

hi

Submitted by 7asan (not verified) on Mon, 08/04/2008 - 10:26.

me is 7asan
plz give me mail of this windows my email is anaa7lashab@hotmail.com and is so thangs for you
then bye

Power from within

Submitted by Maxine (not verified) on Tue, 08/26/2008 - 16:26.

How do you erase centuries old pathologies from the African consciousness. I'd like to think that I'm a modern black woman on the verge of breaking free of our horrifying past but these emotions run deep. I am most definately am not speaking for any other black women but, I have to admit that being brought up outside of the black community in Orange County I seek white male approval. I straighten my hair, have dated only white men, and would like every white man I come into contact with to lust after me. I know that this is not ok but how do we stop this cycle of self-loathing. I don't want to feel this way. It is a burden. I'm sure it is because of the disdain and rejection I felt from white adult males in particular. I was never praised as a young girl ;only regarded with a mild sort of contempt. Years of this treatment has taken it's toll on me in the way that I have described. To add insult to injury even attractive African males have overlooked and disregarded me opting instead for the perfect and supremely beautiful and desirable white woman. I'm an attractive woman who should feel empowered and beautiful ,but instead I feel trapped and ashamed.

You disgustin' Maxine

Submitted by LaKeesha Q. Jefferson (not verified) on Sat, 10/04/2008 - 16:01.

You anotha' pig. You dont be goin' for approvel of honkys. You could damn well be a sick byatch!

Poor you be cryin' bout seekin' white menz. You think yo' black pussi too good fo' a brutha?

Dem white boyz and menz just be usin' yo' ass for they own perversions.

They dont be wantin' on you! Dey jus be usin' your blak cunny!

You stupid byatch! I wish I be kickin' yo blak azz!

GAIL A. BACON

Submitted by GAIL A. BACON (not verified) on Mon, 01/12/2009 - 04:11.

124-54-5220 9/10/61

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