Written by: Publishers Vibe August 2018
Some eight years ago I wrote an expose about the sexual harassment and downright abuse prevalent in many local businesses that employed young women of color–owned by men of color. The response by some of those employers who saw themselves (figuratively of course) in my story made them apoplectic. The vitriol spilled over into veiled threats and as I write, there still remains in some quarters, feelings of hostility and anger toward me. But it doesn’t end there, the collateral effect of that expose’ was that I also angered a bunch of women who felt that getting and keeping their boss’s attention was one sure way of getting ahead. Was I surprised by that? Not at all, the paradox is that there are still too many women who believe that … but why? Why do many women still believe and are convinced that it’s normal and ok for men who have power over them to routinely invade their space or harass them? So, they too expressed their anger at me, for what they perceived as my interference and intrusion in what they felt was a good thing.
Where does that thinking come from, does it have some root in the way some mothers have raised their daughters versus their sons? Have they conditioned their and daughters, aided and abetted by society, to practice acquiescence and docility? If this is true, then take one look at the history of women, in particular women of color, isn’t it one of abuse, oppression and suppression, degradation and exclusion? I would like to believe that (perhaps) the little joy they experienced came from teaching their daughters the art of survival, the only way they knew–acquiesce, be compliant, and hopefully, their daughters may survive the worst. Were they wrong? Did they have a better choice for survival? Other choices were far too risky, resistance and defiance meant risking everything, family, livelihood and possibly loss of life; society dictated the woman’s life. That’s why I feel compelled to pay homage to my Mom, Gladys M. Peart – Williams one of the rare exceptions who said, “Damn you! You can’t and won’t ever determine who I am, or what I can, or can’t do.”
It was my Mom who gave me a peek at the world to come, she and other Jamaican women like her were determinedly changing the game – no fanfare, no bra burning, no man bashing, but just a quiet but assertive effort, to regain their dignity and demand the respect of their male counterparts. Some were going off to college to be teachers, nurses and medical doctor’s, others opened businesses like my Mom, while still others were pursuing public office. I now realize I was on the cusp of the inevitable evolution of women’s rights; this is something that white men have feared forever and black men refused to embrace. Bob Dylan’s genius is expressed in his immortal anthem, “the times, they are a changing,” truly mirrors the way my mother felt about the future of women and she made sure I understood at an early age that I should be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Somehow I believe I got it, either through the insistent efforts of my wise and loving Mom, or through osmosis or maybe a combination of both; I got it! Women deserve way better, as equals they must be heard and listened to, as men our survival is contingent on that interplay, that cooperation, that interdependence. As men of color we can only continue to flounder until we recognize the evolution that’s taking place and partner up with our women and support their efforts to change the balance of families of color on every level that matters.
I understand that not every guy is going to get it, for that matter some women won’t get it either, but since it’s clear that we’re wired for survival, the evolution of our women will not be contained or restrained by their diminishing and dying oppressors. So,to those of you who believe in the fire of this evolution, lets help to accelerate it, let’s throw some fuel on it making sure that the flame of awareness and wakefulness prevail,as we burn out misogyny, objectification and just plain ignorance and join our sisters in the fight for families of color.
Dr. King reminds us that, “It’s not the words of our enemies that we remember, but rather it’s the silence of our friends.”
Is it cultural, behavioral, or is it a societal disease for which we need to find a cure? It would seem to be an amalgam of all the above and we badly need to wake up. Guys, things have simply changed. Your misguided and twisted notion about how women should be treated demands a complete reform; but first a definite change of heart and mind.
Men wake up! And stay WOKE!