Letters to the Museum

Internalized Racism

I came across your web site in surfing, and was very alarmed to read your article on the dysfunctional predatory process that both black men, and particularly black women have had to endure to reach a reality that they are actual human beings with minds as well as bodies.

I wasn't aware of the extent to which black women were used, as described in your article about Jezebels, and I grew up down South but not in the deep South. Therefore, I'm sure that most white women are not aware of the extent of stereotyping that apparently prevails among males that make it so difficult for black women to achieve self respect and self esteem. It explains a lot to me, but doesn't present a very admirable white male, as most white women expect of their white husbands. The number of issues this brings up are varied as you might imagine.

One striking one that has yet to seem understandable is why black men would perpetuate the illusion, and capitalize upon the vulnerability of their black women in making the kinds of rap music songs that continue to offer the protocol for that kind of image. Surely, they understand their own history, and how difficult it is for their women, and themselves, to escape from these stereotypes. Despite the attempts at civil rights of recent years, the lyrics of these kinds of stereotyped songs cannot serve to reduce or eliminate that kind of thinking.

In fact, the advent of civil rights might be viewed as a conversion of this type of stereotyping onto mainstream America to also include white women so that by some estimate it could be considered to have shifted onto white women, though not entirely divorced from black women.

The disaster is why a nation of both black men and white men would allow their women to be used in this manner, to be mocked and ridiculed, and tortured by sexual aggression failing to recognize the harm it causes. For all practical purposes, it reveals all men as sadistic and irresponsible which is certainly not a good role model for children, or for the men who aren't.

Because the stereotypes for black women, or for white women, are primarily male generated, it's unlikely that women have much control over the attitudes of how males choose to disparage females. Certainly they are in no position to demand greater respect, and lack political efficacy sufficient to mandate it. But from first impression, this male problem that profits from female oppression is a problem that men must take upon themselves to cure, if it's possible for that to be done after so long a period of indulgence and accommodation.

As it becomes increasingly public, it's possible that many more men might be willing to draw the line at what most could only consider unreasonable predatory injustice. But then, if I'm wrong, perhaps men prefer an environment where males are supreme and females are little more than animals as characterized. My instincts suggest that there are males who feel and understand the injustice of that premise, and would be willing to stand up for human rights for all. Where black males have long been subject to similar characterizations, one would think they might be leading the charge, and perhaps they already are though we are unaware of it. It would be unfair to expect that white males shoulder the entire burden of these racial realities, however, given the lyrics of rap music today, and the breakdown of the black families.

Obviously, your presentation shows that the affliction has gone on too long, and too far, to be fixed easily, under the parameters of most social conditions which flourish like social diseases, so it is no small challenge, and most of our media presentations that idolize sexuality are not helping but serving to extend the fault line. For black people, it might be ideal that whites are now included in the disparaging process because it takes the issues out of the racial bias and into the mainstream where it can be addressed not as a racial issue but a social issue.

Few women prefer to be enslaved by sexual objectification just as black women may have preferred not to be, but as you have described, they may be helpless to prevent it with prevailing attitudes of male privilege, or as in your account, white male privilege. Since much of this goes on under the radar of so many, perhaps bringing it out into the open may be the ideal solution where the process and practice can be examined, explored, and addressed within the confines of Constitutional rights, privileges and expectations in a context of human rights.

Thanks for posting your articles and analyses. They are difficult to read, and for most, that would be understandable since they reveal the shame of predatory instincts that are outside the boundaries of human rights for anyone, much less the persons caught up in what can only be called a despicable, schizophrenic attitude toward human rights, and an insensitivity to human life that is beyond descriptive words to express. Congratulations on your courage to reveal it and to properly characterize the practice and the dilemma.

Pat Ross, Boston
-- April 3, 2005


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