Like White People, Black men (in the most general sense) only differentiate between others when it serves them in a “positive” way. Hypermasculinity/homophobia and femmephobia, to an extent, all factor into the ways in which the average Black understands his “manhood”. Men will acknowledge the existence of gender roles when it means they get the big piece of chicken or can sleep around without judgment or accountability—anytime where it can be used to assert dominance and entitlement. But when it’s time to acknowledge what that dominance costs Black women, then “we’re all black”. When it’s time to raise kids, though, and take care of the home, that’s “women’s work”.
“You’re black first.” a black man says to me, presuming that my ethnicity plays the most profound part in the ways in the which the world perceives me when in reality, the world cannot separate my femininity from my blackness. Neither is “first”; they co-exist.
By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor
Anytime I write about issues that face people with intersectional identities, I inevitably get feedback that the conversation I spawned is creating division. Which is fine because we are, in fact, divided. But those division aren’t inherently negative. These difference have been assigned negative connotations that, in turn, affect people with those difference negatively. And when we talk about those negative effects (misogyny/homophobia/queerphobia/fatphobia/classism/ableism/etc.) we create less room for them to exist. Which, you know, is a good thing.
So, why do black people get so skittish when we get intersectional? For the same reason White People do—because it challenges the status quo and that means challenging one’s perspectives in a fundamental way. We want to believe that parts of our identities don’t “matter” in the sense that we’re all human beings and that’s truly what’s important. I don’t disagree, but that does nothing for the imperfect realities of society.
People aren’t obsessively committed to unity, they just like perceived unity. I know this because when people attempt to silence conversations about intersectionality by decrying the prioritization of “unity”, they only mean unity on their terms. A unity that does not disrupt their (privileged) harmony and allows them to be comfortable and complacent. They’re not interested in community solidarity that manifests itself as hearing out and understanding the perspectives of others because if they were, they’d just listen.
Human solidarity, black solitary, POC solitary, etc. are great and amazing, fantastic things. Fewer things get my hype like People of Color joining hands and speaking up for the unique issues each of our groups face. But that cannot be done when we fail to acknowledge those difference in the first place.