Tuesday, November 27, 2007

African American Women On NBC News

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams kicked-off a 5-part series entitled:"African American Women: Where Do They Stand" tonight.

Some of the observations offered is that women make up 64% of all African Americans in college. It is said that African American men are outnumbered "7 to 1 in some colleges" across the US.

Rehema Ellis reports that the rise of African American women in business is just as impressive. And that many African American women hope that this "positive revolution" will continue.

See the first installment below:

More black women taking care of business
More black women taking care of business

Though this series is aimed at African American women, tonight's opening segment raises the now habitual question about the relative 'failure' of African American men in general.

In my experience this is the kind of topic that can grab and hold the attention of students in a class that deals with race/class/gender in the US.

Most everyone will want to know why African American women are succeeding and what this means for the relationships between men and women?; Are successful African American women a threat to African American men?; What are consequences for the African American family?; are among the kinds of questions that may be posed for discussion (often heated).

The problem with this kind of surface analysis is that it focuses on race by making race a marker of identity while also making the historical racialization of the workforce opaque at best.

The unequal gender stratification between African Americans is a product of slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. In effect, racism is the dominant reason that explains why African American men find themselves outside the oppressive patriachal benefits that favour their white counterparts.

The more pressing questions would not be a comparison between African American women and men, but African American women and white women. Tougher questions would have to be posed. For example, why do white women still earn more than African American women? Or, why are white women still more likely to be employed above the povery line than African American women and men?

And, if the conversation is made even more complex we would have to factor in the experiences of Latinas and Native women in the same comparative context.

What is quite apparent in this prototype liberal posturing is the assumption that the US is mostly an egalitarian society where 'success' is linked to personal initiative. It is the old boot strap theorizing which hides whiteness (racism) and wants us to see the failure of African America men as a matter of personal, but also collective dysfunction.

This is absolute nonsense that serves hide the face of racism and its structures that disfavour African American, Latino/a, and Native life in general. What is also advanced it the usual benign success of whites without referencing racism or whiteness and its default privileges.

What is interesting about this series is an earlier linked report which looks at African American women who date white men. In this report African American women who are middle class and above are found to be frustrated with the absence of men from their community who meet their relationship needs.

The outcome of this 'frustration' is that more and more African American women are dating, and marrying, white men.

Again, the social capital of African American men is shown to be so lacking that the success of African American women is leaving them frustrated enough to consider white men as relationship material.

You can see the NBC report on African American women dating white men below:

Love, in black and white
Love, in black and white

Am I the only one who is absolutely fed up with this inane type of analysis? I am interested in your thoughts.


Renegade Eye said...

Very interesting post.

While the discrepencies between races stays severe, it has been in the US almost a taboo to talk about race and racism.


Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment Renegade Eye.

Yeah race/racism is the big taboo in US society for sure.

Nothing like bringing up race if you want to shut conversation down :0)

Thanks for looking in ... great blog by the way.


Dione said...

This is a very interesting topic for sure! I believe that African American women have it the hardest of any group in the American Societal work place. It may be because of the strength of African American women that many individuals have pushed themselves harder to gain any success. It may also be, that many African American men have felt so oppressed like you suggest that they do not always have access to the many privileges that while males have and there may in some instances be a lack of wanting to succeed when they may feel like it will not benefit them.
I still feel like just from my own personal experiences in the work place, any man, any color has it better in working society. However admittedly this may be the same logic that assumes that we will have a black male US president before we see a white female president, which may not be the case.
Slightly off topic, I had a visiting professor in college stress in class that black girls in West Africa were preventing black boys- (and this is how he put it) - from succeeding, because they are so much better in school, and that this factor was making the boys gay. I found this to be an outrageous statement, and I told him so despite what grade I might have received. I guess this discussion reminds me of this, because as Ridwan points out much of the African American men’s decline in college for instance has to do with slavery and the issues plaguing them, rather than women vs. men. Something else that may be significant is that there are still traditional roles that all men and women still accept, which may contribute to the African American males decline in college since they may be out there forced to earn the money, while many women may feel it ok or appropriate to remain in their childhood homes, or having the ability to stay in school longer. I would tend to find this the case in probably almost any race, and this aspect may be culturally based.
Thank you for the interesting article.

Lindsay said...

I think that the lack in opportunities for african american men is a really important point to mention. african american men have been targeted for prison and long term incarceration in order to fulfill the governments need for slavery. Crack was the vehicle for this. the fact that there is a 100-1 separation for crack sentencing compared to cocaine sentencing is the sole example of how the US government targets young black men. school for a lot of young black men seems like a waste of time, especially when you have to provide for your family at 13. the systems and structures set in this society are not set for african american male achievement and success. it is not their failures but the failures of the government and society showing themselves in the form of blame and degradation towards african american males, which is done to hide the truth about the US government's racism.

Ridwan said...

Dione thanks for your comment. Sorry for the late acknowledgement. I discussed some of this in two of my classes and it was interesting to see that many students found the NBC analysis lacking too.


Ridwan said...

Hey there Lindsay I have been waiting for your much needed presence on this blog :0)

Welcome and thanks for adding the needed complexity to the post.

It amazed me how NBC glossed over reality of racism in the American workforce, and elsewhere.

I guess the "myth of the Black man as deviant" still sells.

Peace and struggle,

nunya said...

I discovered this blog while voting in the best new blog category

It's a biracial couple.