W.E.B.

Du Bois Institute

The Crisis of African American Gender Relations Author(s): Bell Hooks, Michele Wallace, Andrew Hacker, Jared Taylor, Derrick Bell, Ishmael Reed, Nathan Hare, Rita Williams, Cecilia Caruso, Carl H. Nightingale, Jim Sleeper, Elsie B. Washington, Yehudi Webster, Kenneth S. Tollett, Sr., Cecil Brown Source: Transition, No. 66 (1995), pp. 91-175 Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2935286 Accessed: 29/11/2010 17:43
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Symposium (

T R A N SITION

THE

CRISIS

OF

AFRICAN GENDER

AMERICAN RELATIONS

A symposium the crisisof genderrelations on amongAfricanAmericans

PROSPECTUS
"As long as African Americans remained outsiders, we were forced to concentrate on the central issue of getting in and, in the process, to downplay the many problems that beset us internally. I think the time has come to confront these problems squarely. When we do so, we find that at the top of this internal racial agenda is the crisis-ridden problem of gender relations between African American men and women." In his article, "Blacklash," in Transition HarvardProfessor of So62, ciology Orlando Pattersonargues that the failure to addressthis crisis is due in large part to the tendency of black feminists "to confine, and confound, the problems of gender-which concerns bothmales and females in their relations with each other-with those of women's issues, or, when relational problems are considered, to privilege the standpoint of women, on the assumption that they are always the victims of the interaction." He goes on to claim that "the double burden argument [that black women are doubly oppressed, as African Americans and as women], while not strictly incorrect, obscures more than it illuminates." Patterson argues that despite the legitimately disturbing social realitiesmost notably the feminization of poverty-facing African American women, the social statistics on young African American men are shocking: that they are far behind not only their white male counterparts but also significantly worse off than African American women. Adducing a series of dire statistics, Patterson claims that young black men "die at a higher rate of natural causes and epidemics like AIDS; are far more likely to be the victims of homicide at each other's hands; and are incarcerated,addicted, and drop out of high school-all at considerably greater rates than women. Most ominous of all, African American men not only perform far more poorly than African American women at all levels of the school system, but are now to be found at substantially lower, and declining levels, at the tertiary level of education so crucial for any kind of success in the wider

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society." The result, he said, was that African American women with four years of college were alreadyearning more than white women, and were fast approaching the median income of black men. Finally, Patterson examines the statistics on suicide: that young African American men commit suicide at a rate almost five times greater than African American women of the same age group, and that figure increases if "victim precipitated" homicide is included. Patterson argues that these statistics serve to complicate theories of gendered oppression: that since the days of slavery, it has always been the case that "whereas the burdensof poor AfricanAmericanmen have always been oppressive, dispiriting, demoralizing, and soul-killing, those of women have always been, at least partly, generative, empowering, and humanizing." Slavery could not destroy the institution of motherhood the way it destroyed black masculinity, he avers; furthermore, the long association of African American women and domestic work has been as much a source of cultural capital as a burden. Patterson also describes the gendered implications of the contemporary styles of young black masculinity among the underclass-"the murderous aggressiveness and self-destructive violence, the hyperkinetic posturing and violent braggadocio, and the misogynistic abuse of women and identification of manliness with impregnation and the abandonment of mothers." Reading the inscription of the trope "motherfucker" in black lowerclass culture, especially the practice of signifying, Patterson argues that various hyperbolic masculine behaviors were symptoms of separation anxiety between son

andmother: anxietyamplified prevan by alentstylesof child-rearing amonglowerclassblacksin the absenceof fathers. Genderrelationsamong membersof the black middle class are differently he strained, went on to argue.Patterson citedstatistics African that American marriagesaretwice aslikely to endin divorce aswhite marriages, tremendous a cultural shift from the era (from Reconstruction until the mid-twentiethcentury)when were actuallymore dublack marriages rablethan those of whites. Patterson attributes pattern two relateddevelthis to of the men opments: scarcity marriageable andthe increased economicindependence of blackwomen. These two factorscombineto undermine institution marthe of blackmen, whose medianincomes riage: are nearlyidenticalto theirblackfemale have a much smallerdiscounterparts, incentive to divorce than white males, who standto lose their home and a portion of their income. Pattersonclaimed thatexpectations marriage for varyalong genderlines, as well. Where blackmiddle-classmen tend to marryfor companionship and love, black middle-class or women emphasizeinstrumental pragsuchasfinancial and maticfactors stability other formsof security. Pattersonaccountsfor the divergent, behaviors pathologies and of class-specific AfricanAmerican as leglife presentday aciesof the "centuries-long holocaustof and its most devastating slavery impact: on the ethnocidal assault genderrolesand relationsbetween black men and women." While middle-class black males ideidentify with the white paternalist of the plantation(a development ology findsstill at work in the idenPatterson tificationof freedomwith manhoodand

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sexual domination in, among other examples, the revolutionary ideology of the Black Muslims), the heartless, nihilistic behavior of underclass males traces back through lower-class heroes like Stagger Lee to the "'bad niggers' of Southern planter lore." Patterson frames his analysis of African American gender relations with a discussion of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy. Patterson describes the Thomas-Hill hearings as a watershed in American history: "For the first time, the most intimate problems of white men and women, how they conduct their gender relations in and out of the workplace, could now be seen in terms of people who happen to be African American. The hearings, and the controversies they ignited, were a powerful expression of the cultural-symbolic change that had taken place in America with respect to the final acceptance of blacks as integral-even if still greatly disadvantaged-members of society." The hearings also served to catalyze discussion of the problem of gender relations among African Americans, the "poisoned relationship" that obtains between black women and men of all classes. Any attempt to alter conditions in such an intimate, complex, and ideologically fraught area of black life must emphasize behavioral factors, individual will, and cultural, moral, and attitudinal transformations. "We can only reclaim ourselves by first reclaiming our past, individually and collectively," Patterson writes. "And we can only do so by returning to its traumatic source and in an orphic grasp of self-liberation come to say, as the widow of Malcolm X said recently at Harvard, that everything we are, and have been, is all 'because of us.' "

FEMINIST TRANSFORMATION

bell hooks
Only those African Americans who have resolutely refused to hear the words of progressive black women and men speaking about the crisis of gender relations in black life for the last twenty years believe, as Orlando Patterson contends at the end of his essay "Blacklash," that "a full recognition of this problem-and its promotion to the top of the agenda of issues for dispassionate study, public discourse, and change-has been a consequence of the Thomas-Hill hearings." Indeed, it is the intense collective sexism of African American men and women that has relegated the gender crisis in black relations to the status of an unimportant agendauntil white patriarchy turned the spotlight on the issue. Suddenly, the Thomas hearings motivated masses of black men (and some women) who daily turn a deaf ear to gender issues to enter the discussion. Like Patterson, however, they did not enter the discussion to seek a greater understanding of the crisis, to critically interrogate whether or not patriarchy(the institutionalized system of male domination) is at the heart of the dilemma black women and men face. They came armed with the rhetoric of an anti-feminist backlash, without even taking the time to study and consider either the destructive impact of patriarchal thinking in black life or to contemplate whether or not conversion to feminist politics might be a constructive way to address this crisis. Patterson cavalierly appropriates my work in feminist theory (especially the observation that black feminist thought

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inist."Black men and women of all classeshave lations when they first accepted the Pat. I mean that it is not written from a tion of the voices of black folks who ad. Patriarchy is a word that is lations in black life such a forum. patriarchy and male domination The editors at Transitioncould just as are identified as a central cause of the genhave easily given equal space to a pro." With this spectacle that is created by the request for thesis.framework. Uncritical allegiance to patriarchalthinking and behavior on the part of the vast majority of black males who dominate both the production and dissemination of African American political thought leads to the Patterson's essay is anti-feminist propagandain blackface critical responses to his essay. "dispassionate" use his term) a rhetoric of care and study-deploying compassion. the underlying premise of "Blackcontent clearly felt it was appropriateto lash" is that patriarchy is not problemgive this anti-feminist essay major "play. our ideas. Patterson's essay is anti-feminist propaganda in blackface.chies in black life and therefore must be terson's essay. silencing. The black male publishers transformed by an anti-sexist politics." atic-that blackwomen and men can solve has To date. Had they made this choice. When I describethis piece as anti-femdevaluing. masking itself as an (to objective. words. Transition given no pro-fem. piece.der crisis in black life. Inand editors of the journal who decide its stead. I can think of no ist oppression are central to the maintebetter recent example of this than the nance of destructive patriarchal hierarpublication in Transitionof Orlando Pat. This atmosphere of an opportunistic spectacle highlights the unwillingness on the part of patriarchalblack males (and their white male associates)to acknowledge that promoting anti-feminism actually addsto the sexist exploitation and oppression that is already endemic to black life in America. thoughts. and poverty grabbing atmosphere of a sensationalist along with racism. And not evoked in Patterson's piece as an ineven though established feminist thinkers stitutionalized structure of domination like myself were asked to respond to this harmful to both black women and men.a poisoned relationship. Patterson asserts: feminist perspective on black gender re.In keeping with traditional sexist black ready subordinated to that of Patterson's male erasure of revolutionary feminist anti-feminist voice. system of racial oppression brewed and they would have forfeited the attention.standpoint that presumes sexism and sexvocate feminist politics. Patterson seeks to efface all the 94 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . are al. theory.our gender crisis within the existing social inist article about the crisis of gender re.has had little impact on African American politics) to support his anti-feminist sentiment. Slavery and the terson piece.first injected that poisoning. He conveniently drops the part of my discussion that holds sexist black male leaders responsible for deflecting black feminist critique. he appropriates the issues in ways that place him in the limelight but do not intervene in a constructive way on the crisis in black gender relations.prolongs it. In actuality. and/or subordina.

For example. he charges that "black feminists. Michele Wallace. unable to engage the gender crisis in a manner that moves the discussion forward. and others).work done by black feminist thinkers to highlight the ways in which the convergence of racism and sexism creates tensions in black gender relations. Even his relentless barbs and attacks on black feminist thought are based solely on his privileging of scholarship written by bourgeois feminists. who dominate the discourse" tend to approachrelational problems with the "assumption that they are always the victims of the interaction. Thinking counter-hegemonically.women whose limited acceptance within that structure requirespassive acquiescence to the status quo. Patterson concludes. are somehow more privileged than their male counterparts Thereis so much mother-blame in Patterson's essay that it's frightening who are not compelled to assume equal responsibility for parenting. Here it is also useful to point out that Pattersonendorses without question the notion that patriarchal father-headed households are the most healthy context in which to raise children. Why are we to assume that these black men are more unfulfilled than their female counterparts?All the advantages. Angela Davis. whether they want to or not. Concurrently. it would be impossible to assert that black females forced to assume this role by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Patterson's strategically undocumented insistence that there are ways that black females benefit from the existing social structure of white supremacist capitalist patriarchymerely distorts reality. I raised the question early on in Feminist as FromMarginto Center to whethTheory: er or not disenfranchised black men who have not internalized the values of the existing social structure (and who have been unable to find employment) might have more positive self-esteem than their black female counterparts. He makesthe assumptionin spite of the fact that feminist work on white GENDER RELATIONS 95 . He continues the strategy of silencing that keeps black men and women stuck. There can be no constructive dialogue between black males and females about the gender crisis in black life as long as black men deny the reality of sexism and sexist oppression. For example: starting from the assumption that patriarchalnotions of motherhood are intrinsically negative for women. that black women have within the existing structure(and he often fails to acknowledge that he only talks about professional black females) can be perceived as "advantages" only if one internalizes without question the values of the existing social structure. Most of his examples of the advantages black females have are only sometimes true for bourgeois black females. his suggestion that there "has been a greater willingness to accept black women than black men in dominant society" ignores the reality that this acceptance (when it occurs) is rooted in the assumptionthat black females can be more easily subordinated and subjugated than their black male counterparts." Citing no examples. this statement certainly cannot be documented by my work or that of other revolutionary black feminist thinkers (Audre Lorde.

She is a singleparentwith two childrento suphusband a service has port. (There is so much mother-blame Patterson's in essaythatit's At frightening. it is only logical that this group is held more accountable abuses. I would have to add that those blackwomen who thrivewithin the existingstructure usuallydo so at greatpsychological cost. Concurrently.Let us imaginea successful blackfemalewho makesan professional income of thirtythousanda year.She may have no control over time.Even if I accepthis thesis. given that blackfemalesdo most of the parentingin black life.familiesshows how destructive dysand functional white patriarchal the familyis.the blackfeOn malemight appear be moresuccessful. While I agree with him that abusesaboundin blackparenting. paper. Now theblack female in questionwould not be where she is in life hadshe not rebelled. no money left after meeting the needsof her household.Her estranged wherehe makesonly fifteenthousand job dollarsa yearbut pays no child support. None of the feministresearch black on mothersand daughters substantiates Patterson's claimthatfemaleparents more are abusivetowardsmale children than female.Foryears conservative blackmaleshaveinsisted that the blackfemale's proximityto whiteness is always an advantage. to In actuality life maybe nowherenear her as satisfying thatof her estranged as male partner. for Studies blackfamof ilieswheremalesarepresent.Much of his data is distortedand does not take into consideration concrete the realityof black femalelife. All too often Patterson judges quality of life by materialprivilege and professional status. particularly experience our as headsof households.Significantly.much of that work highlights the abuse of female children by mothers.than fathers. whereabuse also occurs.Imaginefurther thatthiscoupleseparated because black the malehadinternalized sexistthinkingand could not acceptthat his femalepartner mademoremoneythanhe.They refuse to look atthe waysthiscloseness resulted has in exploitationand abuse. some to 96 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Patterson poses the question:"If AfricanAmerican women sufferthe double or tripleburdenwe so often hear about.) no pointin his essaydoes he seekto explorethe reasons blackmales haveshownso little interestin parenting. He sharesan apartment house with a or live-in girlfriend. Sexist and misogynist thinking has always blamedmothersfor the psychological dilemmas males face. have I foundno datathatsubstantiates claim his that male childrenare more likely to be abused than female children. but in suffering theirmentalhealth. Many of the blackprofessionalwomen I know aresuccessful in termsof theirjobs and materiallife. especiallytheir male Patchildren. what explainstheir relativelybetterpositionon important indicators when commen?"He paredwith AfricanAmerican answersthis questionby suggestingthat white supremacistcapitalist patriarchy "works"for blackfemalesin a way that it does not for blackmales. terson does not considerthe possibility that blackfemalesforcedinto the role of motheringagainsttheir will via patriarchal socializationmight be abusiveas a way of rebellingagainstthis role. Nor does he everponderwhetheror not constructions masculinity of patriarchal are healthymodelsfor blackmen. would be the only way to knowwhethermothersaremoreinclined to abusechildren. Indeed.

is more important than professional standing and material success. more open to embracing erarchy? If racist domination ended tofeminist thinking and practice. paradigm for social transformation extent. To a crisis in gender think this way. What would it mean for black gender relations if black males males were more critical of patriarchal were investing in a vision of relationships thinking and behavior. I witness more and more black females choosing to critique sexism. What would ended tomorrow.would still be suffering a crisis in gender ing social structure by cultivating oppos. in a grievous way. learning to be self-aware and would still be suffering loving. It is this split that is exacerbating.relations. Increasingly. because they would no willing to critique misogyny and male longer be trying to succeed using a pa. Imagine if you will all the ways black gender relations would be transformed if black men and women would collectively oppose conventional If racist domination patriarchal thinking that supports and condones male domination. While Patterson is at times itionial behavior. if black African American males were raised to think that self-acmales and females tualization. many progressive individual black women.life. against the sexist socialization that taught her that the ideal female position is to be supported by a male provider. who are more obsessedwith material acquisition and professional status and have no desire to challenge patriarchy. The problems in this family then would not be engendered by racist thinking but rather sexism-patriarchal thought and behavior.sexual exploitation and domination of triarchal model of success that is doomed women in black life. Concurrently. more willing to based on mutual partnershipand equality engage alternative notions of kinship. Maybe she harborscontempt for him because he earns less. the tensions that have historically existed between black women and men.. he never suggests a to fail. precisely because we revalues. have fared better within the existing social structure than some of our male peers. black males would have relations to challenge sexism.morrow and the structure of sexism and lations would constructively improve in sexist oppression remained intact in black black life. Opposing white pudiatepatriarchal supremacist capitalist patriarchy is a central factor enabling us to cope in a more constructive and productive way within the culture. If the vast majority of black GENDER RELATIONS 97 . and here I would include myself. rather than domination and coercive hifamily. gender re. it mean for black gender relations. I fear for our future.Reading essays by black males or females who cling to the false assumption that black family life can be sustained by our collective embrace of patriarchalvalues and norms. choosing to work on personal self-recovery in ways that estrange us from black male counterparts who have not made these choices. These same males might func. etc. African American males and females tion more productively within the exist.

why does he not tell readers how we could rid black life of the tragedies caused by sexist black male domination? Patterson is too eager to put down and trash bourgeois feminist thought to suggest that revolutionary feminist theory. this issue has been at the fore of my life for almost as long as I can remember. In keeping with sexist devaluation of feminist thinking that is often an uninformed response. It is only by constructively articu- lating the nature of that assault and developing redemptive strategies for resistance and transformation that we can resolve the crisis of black gender relations. Truthfully. It has always been among my fondest dreams. and it warms my heart to witness a prominent black male speaking on some of these issues. It is this critical gap in his essay that renders his agenda suspect.. For the most part. revolutionary visionary feminist thinking by black females and males is one of the few places we can turn for an account of black gender relations that does not seek to pit black women and men against one another in an endless. and the critical visions of revolutionary black female thinkers on the Left. Patterson writes that the civil rights movement was: a struggleforthefinal abolitionof slavery. FISH NOR FOWL NEITHER Michele Wallace I think "Blacklash" is a wonderful and important piece from the author of the groundbreaking study in comparative sociology. and for many other feminists like me. provides useful models of social change that can empower black males and females. Slavery and Social Death.whereby this thinking would be transformed. I have always been powerfully moved by his perspective on just about everything (excluding his contentious take on the Hill-Thomas confrontation on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times). even though our perspectives are not the same. Patterson's willingness to lump all black women who advocate feminist thinking together. particularly the work of black females. as a black feminist. If he is really concerned about addressingthis crisis. is one of the many rhetorical gestures that highlight the anti-feminist thinking that is at the heart of this essay. This work courageously acknowledges that white supremacist capitalist patriarchy assaults the psyches of black males and females alike." There is a grave difference between the feminist thought of reformist black women who have often simply appropriatedboth the rhetoric and agenda of their white counterparts. I agree with the assertions that Patterson makes in this article. meaningless debate about who has suffered more. to get black scholars and intellectuals of Orlando Patterson's superbcaliber to think seriously and write publically about black gender relations... Patterson asserts." For me. But I find it fascinating that he suggests that the effect of the Thomas-Hill hearings was "to bring to the forefront of national consciousness the critical issue of gender relations in modern America. "contemporary African American feminist thought has badly obscured our understanding of gender relations.for the recognition the black as a constituent of memberof his or her community. these hearingswere a powerfulsymbolicconfirma- 98 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .

At the M. which may be exactly why black feminism today is such an odd and frail creature.T. and psychological constructions of gender and how they affect myths and realities of both masculinity and femininity.tion of thefactthat race. It is still a divisive word among black women. A perfect example would be the preliminary response of black women to Anita Hill's claims at the hearing. there is a great deal of speculation about historical. when relational problems are considered. or. which is among cultural critics. I certainly wouldn't attempt to define it in a monolithic way. and in most gatherings of black feminists." Well. one rarely hears the word feminism. Educated professionals and/or intellectuals over- GENDER RELATIONS 99 . art historians. and film scholars. Many black women who practice a brand of feminism can't even agree upon calling themselves feminists.whilestill important. arenow very unequally much a central part of this society. Indeed. discussions of female gender and its construction rarely fail to take into account that constructions of female gender need to be thought in conjunction with constructions of masculinity. on the assumption that they are always the victims of the interaction.. legal scholars. the concerns problems of gender-which both males and females in their relations with each other-with those of women's issues. Patterson does not concur when he observes that a problem in this kind of investigation has been "the tendency of black feminists.. demoralizing structure he describes. who dominate the discourse. sociologists. where I teach. we we may betreated.I. I have always considered the examination of black gender relations to be one of the definitive occupations of black feminism.. is of radically However changingsignificance. along educational lines. I would really like to distribute copies of this article to the entire faculty of CUNY. because the fairly subtle argument he is making about black families and gender relations is beyond most of them I no longer see black feminismas the discourse of victimization and because many of our students are trapped in the divisive. I couldn't agree more. to privilege the standpoint of women. conference on black women in academia a year ago. my response to that is that I no longer see black feminism as the discourse of victimization. to confine and confound. biologists.Black men have as much at stake. it seems to me that while most feminists (mostly white but including a growing number of women of color) don't talk much about everyday empirical relations between men and women. a black feminist for twenty-four years. not quite fish or fowl. can't quite make it out. In contemporary feminist discourse in the circles I frequent. The fact that we don't generally use the word feminism to describe our meetings masks deep schisms in our ranks which we find impossible to discuss-along class lines. I view feminism and victimization as somewhat antithetical. anthropologists. along cultural lines. Although I have never had a lot of company in this particular camp. cultural. and along lines of sexual preference. In fact. Even I.

I suspect that gay black women sided with Hill and heterosexual black women were somewhat more inclined to side with Thomas. In "Blacklash" I was not disappointed in this regard. male or female. Instead he seems preoccupied with the impact of the history of slavery. psycholog- 100 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . as well.whelmingly sided with Hill. What I am interested in is accounting for this situation. Using the work of cultural critic and literary theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in The Epistemology the of Closetand Tendencies. most of which we've barely begun to acknowledge or explore. that poor black men find themselves in a soulkilling dilemma. I would also note that Patterson tends to view gender relations through a heterosexual lense. there is also a mother who has no idea how she'll provide for the children she's having and who finds crack and alcohol a welcome relief from the realities of her existence. I would agree that slavery is still extremely important." the dominant stereotype of the black woman since the late nineteenth century. everybody is different. so far as I can tell. According to the black female historian Patricia Morton. Patterson is right. The suicide figures. Most working-class sisters and middle-class black women from working-class backgrounds sided with Thomas. Last fall the New York Timesfeatured a series on 129th Street in Harlem. it seems to me. just as I would expect Patterson to privilege the standpoint of men. "Mammy. Patterson needs to consider the psychological present more. are persuasive. including the idea that black women have certain cultural advantages in the dominant society. in her book Disfiguring Images:The HistoricalAssault on the Black Woman. but the reality is that when you're poor and black. My one caveat would be-and this should not be a competition-that young black girls are experiencing the death of the soul.but it seems to me there are other ways to kill the self besides deliberate sucide. it is still very hard to have any identity as an individual. Patterson seems preoccupiedwith the impact of the history of slavery On the other hand. conveys a cultural weight which is empirically real and. it is true that black feminism often inadvertently privileges the standpoint of women. mythologically pernicious. and seemingly intractable. I mean for every father who won't marry and who is crippled or incarcerated as a result of his participation in the drug trade. the ones which suggest that black men have the highest rate of suicide and that black women have the lowest. at the same time. This difference in opinions among black women (like everything else having to do with black women) was never explored anywhere in the press. As Sedgwick points out. where some black women have a certain advantage (which results in their higher educational rate and the other indicators of success Pattersonpoints out) at the same time that the plight of poor black women has become graver. and the thing that struckme most about it was how interrelated gender definitions were in the destruction of that community. I don't want to quibble with most of his arguments. comes to realize one that the realities of individual subjectivity can involve a huge number of subtle differentiations and permutations of gender and sexuality.

the important story is that white and black men have been fleeing the confines of fatherhood at essentially the same rate. one may wonder whether the developments Patterson de- plores are in fact supra-racial. As it happens. Some of them seem a little far-fetched. Table A shows we now have three-and-a-half times as many white families with no husband in the house. still. they apply equally to white Americans. if Patterson's stricturesare in order. Since white attitudes and behavior cannot be ascribed to slavery or discrimination based on race. I hope this work will encourage others to take up the debate in the public sphere. the figure is now approaching one in five. on their origins and reasons for persistence. In fact. white non-marital births were not far from the level that Daniel Patrick Moynihan once condemned as pathological. For my part. your family. Many of these GENDER RELATIONS 101 . If we start with 1950. white out-of-wedlock births have been rising at an even faster rate.During the last several decades. your community. What is especially interesting is that the white and black figures have been rising in tandem. In 1991. WE ALLDRINKTHE SAME WATER Andrew Hacker Orlando Patterson has chosen to focus on tensions between black men and women." The point is that he is proceeding in the right direction and that we need to be thinking along these lines. and it would have been helpful if he had filled in that blank. the most recently published figures. are deciding to have and keep and raise their babies on their own. I don't want to argue with the specific hypotheses he makes about what is motivating the self-destruction of black men or how it works. and now seek a similar release from responsibility? To ask black fathers to show greater discipline carries the implication that only they have deviated from national norms. if they find themselves pregnant.ically. and how these stresses affect the structure of black life. white men have shown a diminished sense of obligation towards the women they marry and the children they sire. More and more unmarried white women. your political. Not only doesn't the white dominant culture allow it. but savagely effective means of breaking with the mother. without serious cost or social censure. clearly a more connubial age. But Table B goes on to reveal that the gap between the two races is in fact decreasing. only about two percent of white children entered the world without benefit of marriage. Whereas in 1950. We are observing what Stanley Lebergott once called "men's liberation": the freedom of fathers to depart. in general. while others seem brilliant and inspired to me. While the ratio of black women-headed households remains discernibly higher.it came into my mind whether or not he had any real experience of black life in the streets. and cultural leaders don't usually allow it either. Granted. intellectual. I find the effort Patterson has made to understand black gender relations an entirely laudable and praiseworthy one. I feel moved to note that something quite similar may be found among white Americans. such as the idea that black macho "street culture acts as a belated. Could it be that white men have always envied their black counterparts.

and as a group are more interested in learning. but also in the aspirations encouraged by increased education.2% mothersbelong to a growing white unoften in depressed rustbelt coun. and in Dayton.1 TableB Percentage of Births Out-of-Wedlock B:W White Ratio 1. Ohio. We know that women get better grades. Iowa.TableA Households Headed by Women B:W White Ratio 5. In most cases.3% 9. Joining them are women with careers.8 percent of white babies lack a licensed father. about where black women stood several years ago. a legacy of slavery cannot be invoked as an explanation. more of whom are failing to finish high school or are dropping out of college without receiving a degree.grounds are attending college rather than derclass.4 percent. an attitude Orlando Patterson found widespread among black women. Pennsylvania. If white men are ending their educations earlier.6 3. the rate has reached 28. this choice attests to their dissatisfaction with the available supply of mates.6 percent.9 6.8% 37. it is 31.7% 5. not only in years of formal schooling. some of them wellknown. Ratios taken by 102 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .As Table C indicates.6 3.7% 3. while the comparable figure for black women then was 40. they are filling seats once held by white men.6% 18. white women now account for 55.2% 34.000 earned by their male classmates.8 Year 1950 1970 1993 Black 17. The flip side is that since enrollments have stayed constant. white women comprised 32.0% 9. Each year finds women of both races coming closer to men in annual earnings.7% 18. who opt to become single mothers. Not the least reason for this dissonance is that white women have been moving ahead of men. 27.2 3.4% Black 1950 1970 1991 16.1 percent. either because they have been made obsolete by new technologies or due to many positions being opened to women. whatever lies behind the new ambitions of white women. they are also less of a presence in the labor force. Black women have always had the edge in this regard. white women aged 25 to 34 who have bachelor's degrees make $763 for every $1. Currently. In Davenport. Table D shows that white women are not far behind black women in an array of occupational categories.6% 68. Much of the shift also owes to the fact that more women from blue-collar backsettling for early marriageswith men who cannot carry on a conversation. while over in Allentown.5 percent of the white workforce. However. it seems that they are feeling forces that gripped black women a good deal earlier. Such lag as there is results largely from their having startedworking later:back in 1960. ties.1 percent of their race's enrollment. While it may be too much to say that they are following the lead of black women.5% 58. What were once deemed to be "men's jobs" are disappearing.

1% TableD Percentage of Positions Held by Women Among Among White Black Workers Workers Total Workforce Professionals Managers Technical Blue Collar Military Officers Enlisted Personnel 45.5% White 47.6 times the white figure. This is clearly the case here. Deborah Prothrow-Stith reminds us how much of youthful driving is "deliberately reckless.1% 50. Yet here too the races are not as far apart as might first appear. So when the rates for these three causes are combined.6% 41.0% 65.996." Many if not most of these "acci- dents" occur as teenagers seek to affirm their manhood by taking risks they know can be fatal.6 Black Homicides Suicides Road Crashes Three Causes 92. since those who completed college receive $28. Table E shows the depressing rate of black teenaged homicide deaths.5 9.000 in each racial group) B:W White Ratio 9.6% 16. He adds that what are often recorded as homicide fatalities are in fact "victim precipitated.5% 14.000 going to their male counterparts.338 and $26.2% 10. And if their most common cause of death comes with their feet on a pedal. which is more than nine times that inflicted on white youths.3% 24.2% 57. While despair is more widespread among black youths-which is hardly surprising-a not dissimilar despondency may be found among whites as well. black and white college women have almost identical earnings: $26." in that many young men inhabit a world of violence where they flirt with death everyday.0% 55.2 129.1% 52. The reason black women have a higher ratio is that black men hit salary ceilings sooner.9% 51.5 80. More than a few white youths propel their carsas wantonly as their black peers brandish guns.3 26.5% 61.6% 20. First of all.Table C Women's Share of College Enrollments Black 1976 1992 54.2 GENDER RELATIONS 103 . Orlando Patterson brings home the parlous state of black youths by stressing the high incidence of suicide. In fact.7 10.5 0.6 19. the black multiple falls to 1.338. Too much emphasis on guns in our ghettoes TableE Annual Deaths Among Young Men 15 to 19 (Per 100. ending their lives in private instead of on the streets.2% 52.7 0.1% 8. since they come away with $943 for each $1.403. the figures reveal that white teenagers are twice as likely to commit straightforward suicide.5 1.4 51. while white men with the same education end up with $35.5% themselves would seem to show that black college women have done better.

" Whereas he relies heavily on Sigmund Freud. though. it seems clear that recent increases in transient fathers and homes headed by single mothers cannot easily be attributed to a plantation past. If the two races often drink from different fountains. they sought the durable unions they had been denied. but they increasingly cut across racial lines. This is not to downplay the importance of race. let us agree that the near disappearanceof marriage among blacks. and young men of both races eschew contraception in order to participate in the process. Hence the early urge to get the next generation started. THESE ANIMALMEN Jared Taylor In Blacklash. But something even more elemental may be involved. Many of those not having two parents resulted from the high odds of widowhood. it is something Darwin would understand: even in the face of vicissitudes. and siring a child is a way to show they can do something of substance. reflected in an illegitimacy rate of nearly 70 percent. I am more attractedto Charles Darwin. As was seen in figures cited earlier. black families remained remarkably stable.can deflect attention from the anxieties afflicting all of our teenagers." The inclination of all too many black men "to impregnate and leave women. and to grope for causes in the immutable past is just another way of making excuses. should be seen as a throwback to the behavior of their "stockslave ancestor. every species seeks to ensure its own perpetuation. it takes two to create a baby. First. All too often. Mention should also be made of the relation between the odds of early death and what Orlando Patterson chooses to call "lower class promiscuity. Much more plausible explanations exist for the wretched state of the underclass. in 1950 over eighty percent of black households still had two parents in residence. Many youths reside in such lethal surroundings that they cannot feel sure how long they will remain alive.Thus. Not only have newer forces taken hold. A similar proportion of babies were born within wedlock. Yet it is now apparent that arrangements imposed by the owners were never accepted by the slaves themselves. Illegitimacy is one of the best predictors of whether a child will 104 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . and at least some of those not so designated had common-law parents. As we know." Since legal servitude ended well over a century ago. Once freed. despite low incomes and uncertain em- ployment. the claim that it continues to exert a force should be made with some care. they still consume the same water." he argues. Orlando Patterson tries to blame slavery for the deplorable behavioral characteristic of what is called the underclass. For almost a century following the Civil War. they feel their lives are not amounting to much. Yet there are also conditions and constrictions which suffuse the entire society. I have devoted an entire book to the centrality of its role in American life. Orlando Patterson ends his essay with an invocation he calls "Bringing Slavery Back In. is at the heart of much that has gone wrong. While they may not cite this as their reasoning. His arguments are unconvincing and are even undercut by his own data. After all.

is that slavery has essentially nothing to do with illegitimacy. the task is to deal with human nature.. If slavery caused today's 70 percent illegitimacy rate. Daniel Patrick Moynihan caused outrage when he suggested that soaring black illegitimacy rates threatened the stability of black society. He has exaggerated the import of a relatively minor aspect of a male slave's life to make it central to black behavior today. As we shall see. LosingGround. when slavery's effects were presumably more immediate? The answer. Patterson himself points out. An entirely typical New York City study shows that 80 percent of prison inmates grew up without a father.and plunged a sickeningly large number of blacks (and now whites) into familial chaos. In 1965. At the same time. but welfare provided the financial support without which progressive daring would have been nothing but squalid drudgery. the most obvious argument against it is the fact that black family structurewhich was quite strong immediately after slavery-has collapsed only in the last few decades.would Patterson be evoking the regular work habits thoughtfully instilled in them by their slave masters? I doubt it. he had a six percent chance. welfare recipient. that of breeder .our animal naturetakes over ened morals at all levels of society gave single motherhood the patina of progressive daring. The question. most black children grew up in the care of an adult couple. it serves no purpose to write about "vicious" desires.be a school dropout. of course.It was Great Society welfare "entitlements" that rewrote the laws of human society." Wrong on both counts. young black men were more likely to be married than young white men. He also concedes that even under slavery. As Mr. Loos- Once the social props are knocked out from underthe institutionof marriage. It is unfashionable to say so." and that this leads to "the vicious desire to impregnate and leave women. What was the rate that so worried him? Twenty-five percent. or criminal. As for Patterson'sview that slavery accounts for current rates of illegitimacy. In the 1980s. double the level of previous decades. The real culprit has been pointed out persuasively by Charles Murray in his 1984 book. a black child had a 52 percent chance of living with both biological parents until age 17. The male desire to impregnate women-even many women-is a biological fact that threatens every society. breeding was incidental. therefore. not to rail about how "vicious" it is. The main thing a master required from his slaves was a hard day's work. If today's blackswere particularly industrious. is why so many black children are born to single women. removed the penalties for recklessprocreation. in 1940. Patterson argues that the underclass black is "unable to shake off the one role of value (to the master) thrust upon him during slavery. but for GENDER RELATIONS 105 . why is it only now that its effects are being felt? Why was there so much less illegitimacy in the past. In the 1950s..

In America. Patterson's evocation of slavery is just another variant of the whites-are-responsible-for-everything-that-goes-wrongfor-us argument without which so many blacks seem unable to get through the day. and women love babies.000-ayear salary-without the inconvenience of working. that they strictly regulated the sex lives of their children. It is not a glorious existence. it must control the sexual appetitesof adolescents. and the result is the reckless procreation that has produced America's underclass. there was enormous pressure on young women not to have children out of wedlock. For anyone whose immediate prospects are a minimum wage job. no woman is likely to reach her twenties-much less marry-without getting pregnant. Now. an apartment of her own. whites and Hispanics are now joining blacks as members of a hereditary welfare class. many blacks will defend welfare to the death because it transfers money from whites to blacks. England has bred a white underclass exactly as we have. if he really wants to blame whites. Welfare changed everything. free medical care. horse-whippings. A woman and child. a welfare mother with two children gets benefits that are the equivalent of a $25. White liberals-many of them still very much alive-enacted the welfare programs that are the medium in which underclass degeneracy breeds. this meant a humiliating search for charity from family or strangers. Take away the powerful constraints on fornication that every society must have in order to survive. our animal nature takes over. Why should a man bother with marriage if he can get plenty of sex and even father children without it? Why should a woman wait for marriage if economic independence (at least from her parents) drops out of the sky as soon as she has an illegitimate child? It was black social structurethat crumbled first under the onslaught of welfare because blacks were poorer than whites and gave up less potential income by going on welfare. what is in store for the unwed teenaged mother? A steady paycheck. but it is a bearable one. In California. cast off without a legal claim to a man's support. Slavery has nothing to do with it. in effect. Before welfare. Sex is fun. Eighteen percent of the black population is on 106 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Chaperones. These benefits are. Unfortunately.If the teenaged libido is given free rein. and food stamps. rewards for doing the most irresponsible thing a young woman can possibly do: bring a child whom she cannot support into the world. and an emphasis on pre-marital chastity were all part of society's elaborate and successful effort to control the adolescent libido. instead of social opprobrium and meager sustenance at the hands of furious relatives. In previous decades. Americans were so loathe to suffer the stigma of illegitimacy or the economic burdens of fatherless children. this is fantastically attractive. there are targets more legitimate and useful than long-dead Southerners. were likely to be completely dependent on others. Once the social props are knocked out from under the institution of marriage. and for good reason. shot-gun weddings.any society to survive. Of course.

The sponedge sorsare unknownandfundingfor theproject sources steeped secrecy as in as emanatesfrom GENDER RELATIONS 107 . productivelives. My motivation for adding my objections on this occasion is a letter I received recently from another black scholar." he reviews the dire plight of African American men. find the power to live decent. In "Blacklash. And yet. Only one thing is easy to predict about "Blacklash": many whites will hail it as courageous and welcome it as comforting. He condemns a "new man" model as so much "Afro-centric mumbo-jumbo. in the self. his work has a quality that is hard to define but all too easy to recognize. "Blacklash" is long on admonition and pathetically short on plans or suggestions." and who.9 percent of whites. Those most dependent on it would eventually benefit most from its abolition. unneeded." But he cites with approval Franz Fanon's statement that "Revolution begins with the self. And I am sure he expects his paper to generate the storm of criticism it will almost certainly receive-particularly from black women. one who has devoted her careerto examining undercover agencies in government. "Blacklash: The Crisis of Gender Relations Among African Americans. black men must somehow pull themselves up and. She writes: Dear Dbell: No one in authority willing to acknowlis that thestudiesareunderway. a massive form of self-help in the psychological as well as the economic and political areas is the only answer. Welfare is. despite a modicum of success. I have not made a practice of publicly questioning the writings of Professor Patterson or other black scholars with whom I disagree. For whom.welfare as opposed to 2. THE BLACK SEDITION PAPERS Derrick Bell When I read Professor Orlando Patterson's article. And yet there is an accusatory tone suggesting that. Here. and obsolete. whom society has already stamped "unwanted. live with the often unhappy manifestations of the fear that they. too. I wondered-and not the first time-does Patterson write? Patterson has a fine mind and is a nationally recognized scholar. Who among us does not wish for such a miracle of transformation? But given government's refusal to intervene in any significant way (save to build more prisons and hire more police). despite the society's hostility that has laid them low. Professor Patterson delineates the multiple forms of black male self-destructive behavior and traces their likely origins to slavery and a still persistent racism. but his "cold turkey" antidote for racism's poison sounds hollow after two dozen pages of uncontextualized condemnation." I agree. Blacks will find it deeply troubling and condemn it as one more burden to bear. a poisoned gift that has ravagedblack society. will soon be targeted for annihilation. She said she wanted me to have a brief summary of her findings in an ongoing inquiry that she described as a fascinating but dangerous work in process. with blacks slightly outnumbering whites even in absolute terms. however." my reaction was to question rather than compliment his closely structured work. in whose criticism Patterson seems to glow. whatever the causes.

Hispanics. moteself-helpsolutions. the leaders thisprojectbelieve Americansociety of to that cirmust beprepared acceptmeasures usucumvent process other due and protections available to those arrested and charged ally with crime. to protectblacks practices from discriminatory havenow beeninterpreted courts justice and by and officialsto barprograms policiesintended to remedy longyearsof discrimination. "downor blackandwhiteworksizing. All concede blackshavesurvived that hundreds societal and.much to the amazementof thosewho had workedlong and hard civil rightslaws intended for theirenactment. althoughthe impacton blackshas been The particularly devastating. Thegenesisof this racialcrisiscan besummarizedeasily. resultis apparent in the destabilization families and of and the tremendous increase in communities. so controversial is thatsecrecy understandable-ifhardlymore is to socialinjustifiable.criticizingblacks for not thinking of and adoptingthesesolutions themselves. Thepublic'sresponses these"black to papers" It are carefullyfollowed and recorded. ofyearsof hostility have exhibitedamazing resilience theface in racialpoliciesranging of oppressive from slavery to segregation. especiallywhite racism. muchof the blackcommunity stabilityamong is alarming at policy makers thehighestlevels.andJews arealso by welcomed. for number example). possible. Blacksocial from manygroups arepreferredfor reasons that scientists. to Penaltiesfor criminalconducthave been increasedand targetedto African Americans and provisions (stricter againstpossession distributionof crack than powder cocaine. anti-socialbehavior.Even so. chosen thesestudiescome Investigators for anddisciplines. On the otherhand. West Indian immidisadvantaged grants are a favoredcomparison group. The endingof legallyenforced led segregation many blacks to assume that laws with the desegregation wouldbe enforced same vigoras theirsegregationist predecessors.Inare not the vestigators urged to "muddy waters" that blackconduct to any sigis by suggesting the productof environmental nificantdegree forces. is important that if the racial crisis worsensand 108 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . long-established stabilizing in the blackcommunity wereweakened forces as better-prepared blacks movedinto mainly whiteworksites." has decimated ers alike. and social disadvantage.schools. if persistentrumorsare accurate. Massiveunemployment. encingunprecedentedpathological a national security precipitousdeclineposes risk which responsible leaders mustrecognize. Indeed. Today.thepapersare tofocus on blackpatholit its ogy. writers encouraged are to makeunflattering comparisons blackfailof urewith thegreater mechanisms coping ofother peoples. seem to elude those blacks who are selected. of late twentieth-century political.the CIA. however. neighborhoods-even churches. and are ofgovernment corporate officers quietly a sponsoring seriesof "blacksedition papers. so that an ever-increasing of blacksare eitherin prison or are enmeshed in the criminaljustice system. and to whichtheymustbeprepared respond. Except as asides.According my sources. in theprocess. They were not. though. In addition." Thesepaperswill record efects on blacks the economic. describing in detailand condemning thestudies proWhenever will efects.the studiesdo not place on any responsibility the society'sracism for the blackpathologies underexamination. The purposeof the studies. Giventhese a high-levelpanel developments. Comparisons of negativebehaviors blacks with similar of conductby otheroppressed groupsis frowned on. Successes Asians.many blacksare experitheir trauma. Under the ground rules.

Patterson. help. yet.Crime and most other issues of deviant behavior are far more political-read economicthan moral problems. "Back. which they believe "go gins this unorthodox reasoning by stating too far. although fear of it underwrites reactionary programs across the country. whose children find employment opportunities with police departmentsas otherjobs disappear. and serves as sufficient justification for massive "welfare" programsfor prison contractorsand lower middle-class families.thepubare lic will beprepared. I cannot say for a fact that Professor Orlando Patterson's"Blacklash"articleis one of the "black sedition papers. constructsa destructive and distorting picture of the relationshipbetween black men and Even the title is accusatory. She did not mention any of the scholars the secret group commissioned to write for them and. I tried after reading Patterson's article to verify my suspicion by contacting my friend.authoritarian measures calledfor. and the relationship black "worthiness" and everything to do (or lack of one) between them is no difwith what will best serve white interests. there is virtually no political support to address the roots of black crime.taged-members of the society. lash. is often used blacks have gained "final acceptance . it was irrelevant that he lacked the usual qualifications for the Supreme Court and that he was accused of conduct that befitted the negative stereotype of the black male. he claims. In the Crime and most other issues of deviant behavior are far more political-read economic-than moral problems mas-Hill hearings was that. of course. thus." in contemporaryusage. their blackthis country have very little to do with ness inconsequential. has helped elect presidents. because Thomas' appointment fit the Republican political agenda. it is reasonable to raise questions and.tween white males and females. in trying to understand why he would write a paper that so distorts black history and contemporary black distress. to refer to the strong negative reaction of as integral-even if still greatly disadvanwhites to affirmativeaction and other civ." He beil rights policies. On the other hand. using the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas debacle-a topic he has explored previously-as a paradigm. She has not returned my calls and her associates are not able-or willingto tell me where she is. Patterson's failure to understand that basic reality is fatal to a paper that-whatever his intentionswill harm more black folks than it will GENDER RELATIONS 109 .women in a society where.." "Blacklash" suggests that blacks that the Hill-Thomas hearings symbolare turning against one another. perhaps. G. In fact. and hence ized the acceptance of blacks as represenare primarily responsible for the growing tative membersof mainstreamsociety: that opposition to civil rights policies favoring Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas were blacks. racial policies in seen as a man and a woman. ferent than the relationship that exists beOne of the truths revealed by the Tho. . hope for answers. Be well." And.

" "Blacklash" is filled with pre-emptive dismissals of the perdurance of racism.gender debate the hearings generated." but hastens to explain it away. Patterson assures us. In the beginning of the women's suffrage movement." though he concedes that "its legacies are still very much with us. Patterson depicts a grim picture for African American men and an encouraging picture for African American women. Be that as it may.. if black feminists were not obscuring our understanding of gender relations. In order to invalidate the "double burden theory" of African American women. the hearings were not that. black women in general and black feminists in particularbecome the real evil. But when it appeared that black men would receive the right to vote before white women. the questioning of both-and likely the outcome of the hearings-would have been very. In this article. I join Professor Patterson in reaching for any evidence that the heavy burden of racism is easing. He argues that black women are in better economic position than their men by tracing. Anita Hill. Anthony and other white women quickly dropped all ties with blacks. Patterson asserts that we must focus on issues at the top of the "internal racial agenda . it is a known historical fact that the black struggle for equality in this country has often been used as a vehicle by other groups to further their own advances. very different. I think it's safe to say that every black person in America-with the exception of Professor Patterson-was continuously and painfully aware of the race of the two protagonists and many of their witnesses. In his view. hedged acknowledgments: the kind of thinking that admits "there is racism. as well. And though those groups make progress toward their goals due to black people. but whatever else they were." Now that blacks are no longer outsiders concentrating on getting in. This crisiswould be more obvious. from Nixon's Southern Strategy to Willie Horton to Sister Souljah. On the dubious evidence of the Thomas-Hill hearings. women and blacks fought together. was a symbolic figure for white women as well as black women. histor- 110 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Some early feminists even went so far as to remind white men that black people were not human:how could they (white men) possibly think about giving blacks the ballot before their own white women? Con- sider. Pattersongoes to work with an American landscape swept clean of the "culture of slavery. Patterson believes that if one closely examines the life experiences and social relationshipsof the two sexes within white dominant society. not women. Surely. the crisis-ridden problem of gender relations between African American men and women. one would uncover that African American men. the cynical exploitation of racial issues in national elections by both political parties over the last twenty years. Frederick Douglass and Susan B. he claims.. they continue to hold racist views. a theory. it must be more than clinical paranoia that leads so many of us to the conviction that had Anita Hill been white and Clarence Thomas' wife black. Anthony often campaigned together in order to get legislation passedthat would give both groups an opportunity to vote. are at the bottom of the well. the double burden theory that African American feminists claim exists is just that.

worked discuss their worries. He also asserts that the economic status of black women is not only better than her male counterpart. not higher than white men. or black men.chair in the Sociology Department at ties-all of the mundaneyet criticalthings Harvard)or an acceptance of the Harvard that made up their lives. Given the world by black women in order to support widely held belief that competitive martheir families has seldom been the fabled ket forces will eliminate racialand gender discrimination and that such discriminacrystal stair that Patterson has created. exist in a small crevice. Black women seeking careers teaching law will wish to differ with Patterson as compared to black females." Entry into the dominant white women. In a similar vein. The contrary evidence to this position "shielded" from sexual oppression by white men.ically. Harris' grandmother men." that begins with the story of how her fair-skinned grandmother law will wish to differ with Patterson. a more difficult time gaining clerk's position in a downtown Chicago entry into law school faculties than black department store. Pattersoncites statisticsshowing high.of misplaced loyalty (Patterson holds a pointments. "Whiteness as crushed. Patterson states. She came to know line that there aren't any qualified black them but they did not know her.Studies show they have had. for my women to hire in the first place. This entry. co-workers." Black women seeking careersteaching Property. That place-where white practices at new car dealerships revealed supremacy and economic domination that black women are charged more for meet-was unknown turf to her white the same vehicle than either white men. dispropornant white society in order to obtain a tionately. Their numbers on the faculty at "listened to the women with whom she HarvardUniversity are ludicrously small. hence they are GENDER RELATIONS 111 . the car dealership study reveals an black males to support his position that acute example of compounded bias-the the life chances of black males are worse double burden. Therefore black women.tion will occur only in markets in which er education attainment and income for racial or gender animus distorts compeAfrican American females as compared to tition. their chil. "passed" or gained entry into the domi. allowed black women a chance to experience the "finer things in life" and an opportunity to develop relationships with their white counterparts.a fact that Pattersonoverlooks-either out dren's illnesses. I refer readers to Professor black professional men tend to get Cheryl Harris' article. their boyfriends' infideli.Her enviable position is primarily rooted in the fact that white men do not find black women attractive or regardthem as "women" the way white men do white females. Patterson feels. a survey of pricing grandmother occupied a completely different place. but also that in many circumstances she has surpassed her white female counterpart. but significant enough "that is enormous. their husbands' disap. better than white women. the black woman's ability to gain entry into the dominant white world.

This tragedy has affected black women deeply.My point here is not to engage in a battle of statistics or studies but to illustrate that the assumption that black women have an easier time in this society than black men is unprovable. our efforts should be focused on why black men are disappearingfrom the work force. as African Americans and as women). though. could not pass into the white world. but social programs that encourage the bastardizationof our children. The debate. Because enslaved women could bear children and thereby increase their worth as property. Patterson's exercise in high-wire reasoning proceeds to trace the history of black women from slavery to post-slavery. and sisters of America's "Disappeared. black men could not obtain employment which would allow a relationship to foster between them and their white counterpart. should not focus on whether black men or black women have been affected more by the dominant white society and the steadily deteriorating labor market. nurse. as Patterson insists. They. In fact. His account of slavery. At bottom. is plagued with a kind of halfsight. due to their sex and inability to bear children. left an indelible mark on African American women and men. after all. though. Patterson. nanny. Rather. increasingly. viewed this economic benefit as giving slave women an ability to "pass"within white society. they were valued by slave owners. to what degree are divisive aspects of the society that lead to high divorce rates among whites also tending to separateblack couples-or interracial couples. And those scars may have affected our ability to create and sustain meaningful relationshipswith one another. it is not the African American female. allowed black women "greater access to the wider dominant white world. Indeed. African American women or men are not to blame when social programs such as AFDC encourage single-parent families by penalizing the presence of males or when employers exploit affirmative action programs by hiring African American wom- 112 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Patterson then claims that after slavery a black woman's ability to pass was augmented because she performed work as a domestic." Service sector employment brought black and white women together to share close relationships. who emasculates the black male. black men. Its assertion as gospel is divisive in a gender setting already beset with external pressuresdue to a racism Patterson would have us believe is no longer a primary factor. wives. ratherthan individually. And there is little doubt that some employers perceive black women as more capableof fulfilling affirmative action obligations (since they occupy dual positions. or clerk. that one fully understands the plight of the African Americans. with more black men in prison than in college. These positions. from life itself. for that matter? There is absolutely no doubt that black men are in a state of emergency. fewer black men attending higher education than black women. are the mothers. Slavery may have. The question is the degree to which contemporary manifestations of racism affect and sustain these scarsof oppression. Unfortunately. he states. from the family and. like much of his writing. through her economic independence." It is only when we observe the black man and woman in unison.

I planned to end my critique by urging ProfessorPattersonand other academics writing about racial issues to adopt a basic precept of physicians: "First. Must we then remain silent about serious shortcomings and self-defeating activities in black communities? Of course not.en rather than black or white men. those we accuse are not without either the power or the will to respond. In a recent poll of African Americans conducted by Ebony magazine. though. Shifting the root cause from a hostile society to black women is both inaccurate in fact and counter-productive to the self-help goal Patterson espouses. The respondents feel that "the root cause (of the division between black men and women) is the socioeconomic environment that penalizes black men and engenders suspicion between black men and women. As Cornel West made clear in reporting an incident with New York taxis that most of us have experienced." Inclu- GENDER RELATIONS 113 . and as if they can be corrected without a reversalof the social policies that now sustain conditions and motivate behaviors that we all deplore. But when we aim our assaults at a people whose dire predicament is without precedent in a history that includes 200 years of slavery. then there is an ethical obligation to consider our positions in the light of the likely use of our words by those who despise and are quite willing to see die a segment of our people who-after all-look like us." How can it be that what is so obvious to Ebony's readersis lost on an academic of Professor Patterson's status? No one will disagree with Professor Patterson when he asserts that we black people must assist ourselves. Such urging. much less funding.5 percent of the respondents felt that relations between men and women are improving. and even financial attainments. When we attack those responsible for and profiting from racism's continued virulence in our society. It is the fault of our society and the institutions that perpetuate the chasm between men and women. Professor Stephen Steinbergcontends. coming from the safe haven of the academy. The issue. Of the males 26. "concernsthe theoretical claims that are advanced concerning the causesof these well-known afflictions. looks for many whites are conclusive-regardless of our educational. and feelings-as though these all too obvious deficits occurred without an external source or cause. values. harms rather than helps when it claims that a segment of our community is without morals.2 percent and of the females 29 percent responded that relations are getting worse. But Moynihan's critics were not afraid of the truth. We need no more Daniel Moynihans bemoaning that they have been crucified for speaking truth about ghetto pathologies. policymaking whites are freed of any obligation for even thinking about. cultural." We all enjoy a degree of academic freedom that protects our writings from retaliatory censure. do no harm. The only predictable result of this position is that it will reinforce a belief in even some liberal whites that blacks are genetically predisposed to anti-social life patterns. Secure in this unspoken view. however different they may act. 43. At this point. together with the related issue of what is to be doneabout them. expensive new programs of social reconstruction.

sion of causesas well as efects is essential My friend's message makes my point in to counteract the presumption of unwor- a more direct and personal manner than thiness that translatesthe failings of a sub- I had imagined. Even so, I accept the adordinated people into self-caused fault monition. I have heard it before. The rather than an externally imposed fate. Reverend Peter Gomes, pastor of the After completing my response, I re- University Church at Harvard, gave me ceived a message from my academicfriend the key to what I view as the obligation investigating the Black Sedition Papers. of all black people in positions where our voices can be heard by broad segments of Again, I share her letter with you. the public. He advised me back in 1980, TO: Dbell as I was about to become dean of the UniI received I your message. have two pieces versity of Oregon Law School. "Derthat in. rick," he said, "as a dean, you must look of information you will be interested in the mirror each morning and say, 'I First, I can confirm your suspicions. Professor am an evil.' For you will have authority Orlando Patterson's "Blacklash" article is a considered Black SeditionPaper.It will be and sometimes you will disappoint those circulated policy-makers evidence to as quietly expectations you should reward and will reward those expectations you should disof boththe hopelessness the blackcondition of and of theirinabilityor unwillingness take to appoint. There is no way you can avoid the strong, moralsteps neededto continueas such mischief. So, each morning upon members the society.Ifound no productive arising, you must look at yourself in the of evidencethat Pattersonwas commissioned to mirror,and remind yourself, 'I am an evil.' write this paper or that he has received Then you must ask, 'but today, can I be any direct its a necessary evil?' " Indeed, compensationfor publication. no evidence It did not take me long to learn that that he is even awareof Ifound how his paperwill be used. Gomes was sadly wrong about the auSecond,I have learnedthat the Black Sethority available-for either good or misditionPaperfilescontaina number writings chief-to a law school dean. But his adof that are as unremittingly monition is most appropriatefor successharsh in their assessments whites and racismas you claim ful blacks whose very success unintenof Pattersonis heartlessin his assesstionally makes life harder for the many Professor mentof blackpeople.Apparently,this second blacks whom they would like to help. For all of us, each day provides another opquite militantpaperswill be usedto groupof their more conservative countersupplement portunity to become, in Peter Gomes' it is expected the militant that words, "a necessaryevil." That is, we must parts. Together, and conservative not become so caught up in career ada paperswill convince larger vancement that we fail either to rememspectrum the white populationof the need of ber ourselves or remind those in authority measures all when for draconian against blacks, it becomes that our individual advancement is not to invokethem. necessary I understand the militant that synonymous with group progress. Any files contain a numberof yourpapers. number of those stranded in ghetto paBe well, thology not only look like us, they-but G. for our good fortune and their lack of

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and on services, the reluctance the partof checkmanyblackmen to obtainregular Parallel Time and ups.)BothBrentStaple's Pearson's Pathof thePanther Hugh testify to the private sector's abandonment the of inner city, and to the devastating effect thatthe drugtrade,the new industry, has haduponAfrican BlackwomAmericans. en, as far as I know, had nothing to do with the creationof this industry. The homicide rate among African Americanmales could be drastically reduced if drugs were regulatedand the that government providedjobs theprivate sector is too greedyor selfish to create. Having been abandoned the federal, by as state,andcity governments, well as the American innercitieshave privatesector, becomeinhabitedghost towns. The reason the government's in aidingthose role

who can't help themselves has diminished is because the right-wing and its nasty neo-conservative brain trust have been allowed to make government aid synonymous with favoritism to blacks, when in fact the white poor have benefited the most from government programs, and THE TALENTED TENTHAND white middle-class women are the chief MARKET STREET beneficiaries of affirmative action. (Michael Lerner and Seymour Lipset argue Ishmael Reed more specifically thatJewish women have OrlandoPattersonsays that the gender benefited most.) Whites were also the crisisbetweenblackmen andblackwom- chief beneficiaries of Great Society proen is contributingto the "horribleand grams like Medicare, Medicaid, and Sodeaths blackmen."But most cial Security. of premature of these "horrible premature and deaths" The Talented Tenth, with its intimate with an access to the media, is in a position to arise from turf wars associated economy,which has filled campaign for the regulation of drugs, underground created manufacturingjobs which could help the non-violent segas the vacuum moveout to the suburbs abroad. and Drug ment among those youths they scold, who sales in Oakland generatehundredsof face stiff sentences as a result of the racist millionsof dollars.(Thousands deaths war on drugs. The T.T. could urge black of canalsobe attributed the lackof health men and women to obtain regular checkto

same-would be us. Our basicchallenge mustbe to act in ways thatalleviatetheir suffering,if we can, and to strivenot to makeit worse.

Nothing could be more hypocritical than The New Yorker,a white separatist publication, praising the late Ralph Ellison for his universality
ups and good nutrition. They could also do much to oppose the batteringthat black people receive from the media, which promotes damaging myths and stereotypes about African Americans. But becausethey have spent an enormous amount of energy castigating low budget hatemongers and scolding the "underclass" for their "culture of poverty," race-bait-

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ing propagandists have been allowed to flourish, unchecked. Charles Murray and other later-day Goebbelses have obtained mainstream respectability; generous media coverage on television stations like NBC, whose Hitlerite attacks on blacks occur every night; and, in Murray's case, praise from the President and endorsement from the New YorkTimes.Mr. Murray has been anointed the official white militant spokesperson for the establishment. These powerful and well-financed hate-mongers are ignored by some bright black scholars who have been used by white separatistpublications againstAfrocentrics, even though there is empirical evidence that the test scores of students who attend Afro-centric schools have risen. I agree that there are some Afro-centrics who are off the wall-anti-Semitic, racist,homophobic, rabidlyopposed to the mixing of the races-but it would take these people many years and a huge budget to cause the kind of damage to American intellectual life and the educational system that has been caused by the Eurocentrists. The magazines that attack Afro-centrism (a serious movement that won't be discouraged by Orlando Patterson's quip about "Mumbo Jumbo") are owned and published by Eurocentrics. Nothing could be more hypocritical than the New Yorker,a white separatistpublication, praising the late Ralph Ellison for his universality. Most of the black writers who were called upon to make the "tributes"-obviously printed as part of a backlash against Toni Morrison, who has been vilified by the Newhouse machine (they object to her black Holocaust numbers)-have never been published in the New Yorker!

Members of the T.T. have become so obsessed with local and isolated conflicts between some Jews and some Blacks that they have ignored the far more serious tensions growing between Latinos and Blacks. And the T.T. has done nothing to prepare African Americans for a battle that will determine public policy for years to come. I'm referring to the publication of The and Class Structure Bell Curve:Intelligence in AmericanLife (The Free Press, 1994) by Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein, unpublished at this writing (late summer 1994). This book will revive the old argument about black inferiority and will undoubtedly receive praise from mass magazines like Time, Newsweek,U.S. News and World Report,as well as from television networks like NBC and CNN, along with other powerful media sources. The T.T., with its hotline to the white establishment, should warn President Clinton that if he continues to endorse Charles Murray, they will see to it that AfricanAmericanswill withhold their votes from him in the next election. The T.T. has the power to make this threat, but will they take time off from dissing the "hedonism" in Rap music to do so? (The official voice of the neocons seems to be the New Republic,which is to the Clinton administration what Commentary, a racist rag, was to the Reagan administration. In September the New Republic ran an ad for Race, Evolution, and Behaviorby Philippe Rushton, published by Rutgers. The book, called "brilliant" by Arthur R. Jensen, promotes the usual Nazi eugenics about black inferiority. (One can imagine the uproar that would News or The ensue were the Amsterdam Final Call to carry an ad for a book de-

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nying the Jewish Holocaust.) If, as Carl Rowan has said, blacks have been outpropagandized, a failure that influences the quality of life of all African Americans since public perceptions influence public policy, it is because the T.T. has spent more time criticizing (as Mr. Patterson does) the lifestyles of Boyz-in-the-Hood than they have challenging the fabrications promoted by the media and the corporate-financed think-tanks.
* * 0

travel to the United States for opportunities. What he failed to mention was that 35 percent of Asian Americans are welfare-dependent and that Asian crime operations now entering the United States are, according to law enforcement officials, posing a threat to national security. Articles about such operations, however, are printed in the obscure pages of the newspaper, because newspapers desire to use Asian Americans against blacks, as do propagandists like George Will and Jim Sleeper. Many of the pathologies that the T.T. and Mr. Patterson write about can be tracedto the introduction of crackcocaine into African American neighborhoods in the mid-eighties. The T.T. should call for

Even those institutionswho promote these fabrications,from time to time, admit that this is the case. After a report from New York's Citizens Budget Commission showed that "women on welfare make up a far smaller percentage of the poor than popular wisdom would have it"-a fact known to anyone who has taken the time to examine the data-the New York Times hypocritically chastised politicians for "demonizing welfare mothers," when the Timeshad, for years, helped define the pernicious "popular wisdom." (Moynihanism is the Times' house gospel.) In addition to issuing fire-and-brimstone sermons against the underclass, Mr. Patterson and his colleagues could do much to take on the Murrays,Kristols,and Wills who are feeding the American public poisonous distortions and lies about African American society. Irving Kristol, in a recent Wall StreetJournal Op-Ed, painted affirmativeaction as a black giveaway program, without a single letter of opposition from a member of the T.T. George Will, appearingon "This Week with David Brinkley," wondered why the inner city underclass lacks the entrepreneurial enthusiasm of Asian immigrants who

Patterson's arguments are handicapped by an obsolete black-white "paradigm" of race relations
the government to release all recordspertaining to its collaboration with international drug dealers, from its ties to the Italian mafia during World War II to its supportof the militaryjunta in Haiti (who have become rich by turning the country into a safehouse for ships and planes carrying drugs into the U.S.). Maybe the drug crisis in the United States is more akin to Three Mile Island, Love Canal, or Agent Orange, where the government, which is supposed to protect its citizens, has contributed to what amounts to chemical warfare against American citizens. (There are five hundredentries about drugs in Oliver North's diary.) I'd like to see some brilliant person like Stephen

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inner city. who participated teract with intellectuals and leaders from 118 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .job.5 percent of Boston's population.tim of a drive-by shooting is Latino. Latinos have of gay men in San Francisco continue to a higher poverty rate than blacks. according to the my book.to the United Negro College Fund.of single parent households among New icapped by an obsolete black-white "par. Slavery doesn't explain the high rate Mr. broadcast on her show Eye to Eye. When asked on National Public Ra. why relations. or why the typical vicculiar to African Americans occur in La.system is Latino. munism. curred since 1990. White producers and programmers use The African American intelligentsia Latino and Asian Americans to make at. in some countries. Connie Chung. Airing Dirty Laundry. as engage in unprotected sex. an Asian rican males.Carter preparea case making the govern.in the smearing of Howard University ment liable for the drug trade. slavery explains what he perceives a large population suffering from AIDS to be a crisis in African American gender in Utah (where few blacks reside). If the government is found guilty eventually led to a reduction of donations then it should compensate every drug ad. provides evidence that the Howard footage was by drugs.American "pathology. of Howard.The tino Studies) outdo Rush Limbaugh in lack of such analysis undercuts some of promoting racist stereotypes against their single theory views about African blacks. why there is he says. Patterson attributes the AIDS dio why the problem of abuse of Asian epidemic in Africa to the behavior of AfAmerican women is rarely aired. doctored to make the number of anti0 * * Semites seem larger.) If. Though Asian Americans constitute why the fastest rising rate of illegitimacy 2. Prodict and community that has been ravaged fessor Sam Hamod. how does one explain the crisis death by gunshot wounds is the leading that is threatening other groups? cause of death of white male teenagers.York Puerto Ricans or why the typical adigm" of race relations. Patterson's arguments are also hand. but African males can't be American man said that Asian Americans blamed for the rapid rise of AIDS in Asia do not wish to expose their "weaknesses. the rate is even This could be said about other groups. This propaganda tolerated under the guise of fighting com. they is among white women.culturaland cross-ethniccomparisons. and why the rate account for 12 percent of homicides in of cocaine addiction during pregnancy in the city: Asian women murderedby Asian the suburbsis the same rate as that in the men. Latinojournalistslike Ray oraphobia and begin to do more crossSuarez (a conservative who criticizes La. It was an Asian American jour. Nor can slavery explain why one third tino. Some of the teenage inmate of the California prison problems that Patterson claims are pe.I argued World Health Organization. In higher than in Africa.needs to break out of its intellectual agtacks on blacks." The need to innalist. a tenfold increase in AIDS has ocis covered up by the white-owned media." where. In Thaithat the dirty laundry of non-black groups land. (In fact. Asian American and Native American communities. which it students as anti-Semites.

the T. I never hear about this gender crisis that has paralyzed African en and their children panhandle in the streets all over the United States. elite and the masses of black people (a recent poll revealed that Clarence Thomas.debate and provoked comment. but during the meetings of the market street corridor association. Cornel West. Walter American academic discussion so that Williams. of black.T. * * 0 people).. whose views about African Americans and the justice system are naive. etc. sided with Ms. preaching is sincere. can only make us bet- I think that some of this T. I think that a T. Jr. Asian Americans supply retailersin black neighborhoods with heroin and cocaine.. homophobia. a neighborhood group which dealswith the crime in North Oakland. have certainly stirred in handsome academic salaries and ex. Yale. Greenwich Vilfor some black feminists who are rolling lage. Patterson'scase. hell Shelby Steele.T.other groups becomes even more compelling when one realizes that inner city neighborhoods are wracked by problems caused by members of all races. where I live. What have the black Divas who barter their double oppression and who make enormous honorariums on the lecture and reading circuit done for these women? What has the feminist movement done for poor women at all?) I suspect that gender relationships are not as big an issue among ordinary blacks as they are among college people. Lecturing travaganthonorariums to complain about us about our anti-Semitism. the drug suppliers are Latino and the black gangs are armed by Filipino Americans. their double oppression while thousands violence. Even though Ms. others who send out op-eds from Har(I agree with Patterson that it's decadent vard.T. Princeton. sexism. In Oakland. white.or any other of the media sources which chastise the African American community regularly. In New York. and yellow wom.Afro-centrism. Hill's testimony was contradicted by witnesses friendly to her as well as those who opposed her and even though her testimony was never corroborated. and a number of other serious issues are never addressed. whether it be radical feminism or black men and women deconstructionism. The New Republic. The Thomas-Hill hearings. Hill. I think.brave even.and in Mr. bell hooks. I've never read an editorial in the New York Times. Stanley Crouch. realize that both Even so. revealed the chasm between the attitudes of the T. calling upon Chinese American or Latino American leaders to condemn these practices.T. is supportedby forty percent of black GENDER RELATIONS 119 . Henry Louis Gates. brown. welfare dependency. that tries genders are catching to improve our morals is a good idea. and elsewhere. They want to be with the latest thing. because they seem always to support that which is deemed "progressive" uncritiOn the street level cally. because on the street level black men and women realize that both genders are catching hell.

machoism. misogyny. Two hundred and fifty thousand men are rapedin prison each year. a short sentence can become a death penalty. according to Justice Department statistics. To imply otherwise. Not only are the men infected but upon releasethey passon the virus to black women. desire us to-humanistic.) Some prominent feminists on the panel and in the audience had some laughs about Judge Thomas' interracial marriage..journalism. which has more power than any comparable group in history. The subject of domestic violence committed by women is so taboo that a manuscript by educator and tutor Cecila Caruso hasn't found a publisher. (During this meeting. who are beginning to float some of the same theories about African Americans that we've heard about Jews and Gypsies and Slavs during another era of this century. and government.T. have been heardfrom Another issue that the T. drugs. why do "progressive" intellectuals abide the feminist myth that domestic violence is a peculiarly male phenomenon? Black women kill as many men as black men kill women. Patterson seems to be doing. etc. I saw Orlando Patterson deliver parts of this paper to a gender conference whose audiencewas hostile to him. None of us is perfect. Anita Hill delivered a bizarre paper about Zora Neale Hurston's TheirEyes WereWatching God. For example. silenced for manyyears. How can the feminists who participated in this cheap exercise (including a famous mime who delights liberal audiences with her portrayalof black male celebrities as buffoons) require that African American men abandon sexism when they can't seem to get over their anti-miscegenetic attitudes-attitudes which they share with the Klan and the Nazi party? Why don't their male supporters who dismiss male critics of these feminists as "misguided" call them on it? Their display shows that we've come a long way. she argues. but one would hope that eventually some would follow the example of Jesus Christ. women kill more children than men. From everything that I've read and experienced.ter human beings. AfricanAmerican society is trulyan open society. should support court 120 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Thomas would never make similar remarksabout a samesex couple. abstaining from hedonism. and Mrs. has ignored is that of prison rape. I thought that the display was ugly and tasteless and that those who were smirking about Mr. who took his message beyond the "members" and began to address those outside of his community as well. is to play into the hands of the Nazis in academia. the morals of AfricanAmericansand Africansare no worse or better than those of any other group.T.T. The manuscript is about violence against children committed by many black mothers (a practice that. In addition. as Mr. but that we have a long way to go before we become the kind of people that the T. contributes to the violence in the African American community). The contemporary T. braggadocio. so that with the spreadof AIDS. Moreover. even more so since the voices of black women.

T. should be honored. Thanks to advances in communications. Asian Americans. There are probably many feminists who would agree with him. gays. who said that in the old days she was just a consumer of writings by men. the father of our single cause theorists. a brilliant writer who risked physical and psychological injury to speak for voices that have been suppressed. In fact. but who has been exposed as being incapable of handling his own. who scolds the black underclass for its violence. just as the Civil Rights movement helped to advance the causes of Jews. and even more so since the voices of black women. (Those who criticize some of the more mysandrist voices of the feminist movement should also be respected.) This is healthy.. A book entitled The Virtual Community:HomeFrontier. at least they're being debated and not. too. where anybody with an inexpensive modem can comment on everything from Terry MacMillan's Waiting to Exhale to Black Conservatism. movements like feminism and gay rights are bound to benefit black men. as in the case of other groups. I hope none of them get caught like the New York neo-conservative jazz critic. and "leadershipconferences" obsolete.) In the end. cyberspace may eventually render the T. not berated. thousands of African Americans who haven't had a chance to contribute to discussions previously monopolized by an elitist intelligentsia and patriarchal "leadership conferences" will be able to contribute their comments and make the open society even more open. and proves once again. Now she's GENDER RELATIONS 121 . I was glad to see that I could reach an African American conference through the internet. Orlando Patterson shouldn't confuse the vast majorityof feminists with those few actively promoted by the media. and lesbians. I'm sure that the forty percent decline in murders of black women by black men resulted from the agitation of women like Shange. that despite the charges of thought control and political correctness. silenced for many years.) One of the most moving speechesmade during the recent Black Arts Festival in Atlanta was made by Hattie Gosset. women. being treated with a conspiracy of silence. went around lecturing people about their morals and was a hypocrite. have been heard from.challenges which are attempting to hold prison officials liable for prison rape. African American society is truly an open society. argues that "Anyone with a computer and a telephone can plunge into the global ongoing discussion. (Harvard's Cotton Mather. Anybody can start a bulletin board system and become their own Ted Turner-and everyone else on the planet can come by and see what they've got to say. wrote about crime in San Francisco's Chinatown. the gangs retaliated by beating him. a Chinese American author. Howby steadingon theElectronic ard Rheingold.) * * 0 Whatever the problems of the African American community. Latinos. Any group that fights to overcome the deep-seated prejudices and irrationalbeliefs of American society should be supported.T." Finally. and writers like Ntozake Shange. (Some of the Divas may agree with him in private. which lectures us about our morals. I also hope that the T. (When Ben Fong Torres. is setting an example for the rest of us paranoids who see conspiracies everywhere.

amid the ivory and ebony towers es surprise that mothering is "valorized" where Professor Patterson dwells and by black women as the most fulfilling role gathers his food for thought and suste.pression that he understands and applies ing something new. Arriving at actually hitting very much. half-steppingthough he will be in this most risky endeavor. his concepts per se. And we're all lucky that she and other women are writing. This failency in verbosity. ProfessorPattersonis able to shoot tions until the Thomas-Hill controversy at a swarm of topics and issues without appeared on live television. Professor Patterson's forte." so crucial with time. by the anti- writing herself.stand how reproduction and production tion before he can properly understand interface with the emergence of feminism and interpret the insights he sometimes and his special concern with feminism's meaning for the liberation of black wompresumes to have invented. reporting so many findings freely plucked from a smorgasbord of secondary sources (while referencing mainly white scholars of minor THE ORIGINAL SEXIST note. Apparently Professor Patterson was However. the issue some thirty years late.ly any elaboration or discussion of these ture. original sexist knowing the viciously pounding hammer of political correctness championed. Not least of these is the mis. Professor Patterson's ure is emblematic: one way that Patterson analysis suggests that he is likely to need demonstrates he doesn't begin to underanother thirty years of study and reflec. long en on the one hand and/or the elevation before it got its name. uncover. This is not to say that he does nothing right. giving the crafty imspeaking.crisis in black gender relations. or at least confused. nance. despite his these phenomena to his task. with scarcelong eminence in the sociological litera. misled. Professor For instance. all praises are due If motherhood is Professor Patterson for his rare courage oppressive. by feministsand empowerment of black men on the whose headquartersremain in today's Ac. To begin with. his flair for creative expression. 122 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . for with his portentous armamenalerted to the crisis in black gender rela. or how they apply to the conspicuous air of insightfulness and flu. Orlando Patterson to know where to startor turn in targeting amazes us by confessing that he wasn't him. intellectually gender issues today.to an understanding of black family and taken notion that he is. inventing the wheel. In truth. he tosses in the phrase Patterson will have a perennial problem "production and reproduction. then God among black intellectuals to dare to crior nature was the tique feminism at all.his scattergun style of making so many statements and claims. peppered with a few favored black icons such as the pseudo-intellectual bell Nathan Hare hooks) makes it rather hard to zero in or Right out of the box.other is readily exposed when he expressademe.for a woman.tarium.

they are presented in America as "freedoms" to be fought for. Where a decade or so ago. When pro-natalism took over for the middle class. which until recently was presented as a privilege. child tax breaks. one main reason the black woman is so "instrumental" is that she lacks enough black men who are able to be "instrumental" in a racistpatriarchywhere the black male poses the primary threat to the ruling white male.maternal posture of the post-1960s antinatal reproductive (genetics-oriented population control) social scheme. test tube babiesor artificialfertility. But from the 1970s to the early 1980s the entire country was in an antinatal phase. the manifest policy is pro-natal (and pro-family) for the middle class (read "whites") and anti-natal (and anti-family) for the poor (read "black and nonwhite. while the poor are given fertility disincentives (workfare. if motherhood is oppressive. Indeed." free and unwanted birth control devices for "unwanted" children under the guise and hype of a supposedly planet-threatening "overpopulation"). developed and developing. universal childcare. then God or naturewas the original sexist. a man and a woman. which held mothering to be oppressive in the unisexual notion that women could not be free and equal to men without being the same as men and doing exactly as men do. This is altogether expectable in the Hegelian GENDER RELATIONS 123 . Thus a corollary to the "black male shortage" is the fact that the black woman has had to be "both mother and father" to her children. For example. family planning schemes (often under the cover of prenatal care and "women's health") and inducements to postpone marriage. women had to be free of childbirth and their age-old role of having and rearing children. Thus while Europeans openly dangle these fertility incentives in the faces of their women as enticements for childbirth. breastfeeding made a comeback as women appeared on magazine covers cuddling adorable and enticing infants. In the first place." Apparently he confuses skepticism with lack of interest or desire.etc." haves and have nots.). "women's development by the United Nations. the better moreover to participate in the post-industrial (high-tech) labor force. and other such variations). Overpopulation (in the midst of pronounced pro-natal policies for the middle class) continues to be used tojustify coercive population control of the nonwhite poor but never to denigrate. feminism denigrated motherhood as oppressive and subjugating. in the bedroom and the boardroom. feminism's major outcry today is essentially preoccupied with a fight for fertility incentives such as universal child care and assured retention of job after pregnancy and related privileges conducive to the necessity for employment outside the home. fertility clinics. The affluent middle class is presented fertility incentives (maternity and paternity leaves. during the antinatal 1970s. Since women can give birth and men can't. let alone to outlaw. breastfeeding was denigrated in favor of bottlefeeding. and the solution would presumably be to liberate it rather than eliminate it. Today. Patterson goes on to find the "valorization of mothering" by black women to be "extraordinaryin light of their skepticism about marriage and their highly instrumental attitudes toward relationships. who are inundated with "voluntary" sterilization.

resorts to psychologism and psychoanalytic gibberish. so much so that the powers-that-be gathered in Cairo. and to both of my great-grandmothers on my mother's side. Patterson doesn't say how he thinks the role of mothering was destroyed or what happens to mothers and mothering when the role of the father is destroyed. tend toward high fertility. could not be destroyed on the slave plantation. a black female cannot be a woman. he prefers to call attention to allegations (by middle-class scholars) that "male child abuse is growing out of gender bias in the black under and lower classes. black.One slowly begins to get the feeling that Professor Patterson is himself a part of the problem of epidemic unsocialized aggression among inner-city youth today. anymore than an oppressed (black) male can be a man.notion of master and slave because. turning the tables. Thus Pattersonobservesthat blackboys are more alienatedfrom their mothers but. Patterson openly opposes what he labels "severe punishments" characterizingthe lower class." but not the middle class. Equally absurd is Patterson's attempt to explain this "valorization of mothering" on the part of black women as a simple result of the "long years of struggle during slavery and its aftermath" and her "heroic commitment to the preservation of the race. He should talk to my grandmotheron my mother's side. for whatever reason. no matter how that may be defined in a given time and place. inasmuch as a human being cannot be a slave and a full person at the same time. as in the black race today? How will these boys view their mothers and women. and chartreuse. The black male's inability to actualize his patriarchal thrust in a patriarchal society may be a source of the black race's inability to thrive in a family way poor women. who were sold away from their first set of children. in saying no to the masculine canons that say no to him). The black female can be a bit more of a man. under the auspices of the United Nations Population Fund to further its two-faced agenda of population control for the nonwhite poor. white. On the contrary. psychologically if not morally? Patterson is aware that "socialization patterns obviously play some part in explaining the growing discrepancyin male and female achievement" but is courting feminists at this point and. In fact. missing the connection to the necessity of the sin- 124 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . by the woman. it is also genetic and psycho-socioeconomic." If it is heroic. while a black male can be a bit more of a woman (consider the pimp who takes the feminine and. is kept like the woman. What happens when 60 percent of the children live in single parent homes and 67 percent of children born to mothers 18 to 44 are born out of wedlock. doesn't come close to mentioning the increasing denigration and criminalization of discipline in the homes as well as in the schools. knowing not why. who was sold away from her family. unlike that of the father. Patterson contends that the role of the mother. Egypt. never to hear tell of them again.

hurting and talking privately about their family problems. For the fact remains that no matter how high a woman climbs on the socio-economic ladder. It may be that on a daily basis.power. of the gender the boy must eventually love and marry) to take on the role of solitary." Should Professor Patterson ever listen in on black women. for in this era of the great "black male shortage. possessing a bit more socio-economic clout or wherewithal than she enjoys. the black male blocked from avenues to social potency may overcompensate in the physical (athletics) or the sexual. the very model. black women are inadvertently turning their men away from the very standards they so deeply wish them to emulate or achieve in their masculine role. A woman certainly doesn't relish a man with less. wealth. or/and the woman will tend to develop contempt even if he isn't threatened. she appears to desire and sometimes demand a man a wee bit higher up. his prestige." or he isn't trying to move up in the corporateworld the way she is. indeed misprepare her. If a man's ability to attract a woman pivots in considerable part on his social potency. let alone poor black women. This does appear to be so: witness the new trend of leading black nationalist males making public confession of their conversion to feminism by their wives (although the metamorphosis also appearsto be born of mere opportunism. the black male's inability to actualize his patriarchal thrust in a patriarchal society may be a source of the black race'sinability to thrive in a family way. there remains no run on "wimps" or "nerds" in the black community. You can even hear women complain sometimes that "he didn't know nothing-he'd even ask me what restaurant or show I wanted to go to most of the time. punitive parent in the absence of the father. In this regard. if Black feminists have not contributedone majororiginalidea to feminismother than the predictablereports that white feminists are "racist" too only because he is believed subject to feel "threatened" in such a situation. he might come away amazed that so many women have an "ideology of dominance" ideal GENDER RELATIONS 125 . Even from the simple standpoint of personality and personal interaction.gle mother (the parent. Still another surprise is Professor Patterson's amazement that "some ideology of dominance" exists among middle-class black men. it is likely to unprepare her. as many of the nationalists in question are known to have endured punishing marathon searchesfor employment on the mainstreamacademic tenure track). for a well-moderated relationship with romantic male extensions of her father." many black women are breaking up with their mates simply because "he doesn't want anything [significant or bigtime] out of life. Although this situation spares the girl in one sense. including the search for deference from their women. minus unwonted hostility or/and overindulgence vis-a-vis the male love object. Patterson gloats that black men are not allowed by their wives to "actualize"their allegedly traditionalistideology.

in contrast to SharazadAli. they nevertheless expect. an equal tendency to lose interest in him. They merely echo the conclusion of the National Organization of Women's first and only black president. Despite Patterson's recognition that feminist thought "has badly obscured our [black] understanding of gender relations. who would readily concede to me privately that there is in women a certain longing to subdue a man but. most women readily assumethe subordinateflat-of-back position in sexual encounters-at least on television and movie screens-despite suggestions from the field of anatomy that that may not be the best position for their own gratification.of the male. Aileen 126 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 ." I questioned a variety of women. Thus he proudly alleges that black middle-class women. a good case could be made for the fact that African America is the most matriarchal society that the world has ever known. he sets off himself to do the selfsame thing. they ultimately follow the political ideology of the liberal left wing of the Democratic party." he is unable to tell us how because it turns out that feminist theoretics have also obscured his vision. Immediately after stating that black feminists themselves tend to "confound" the problem of gender. In the course of my research for a second Ph." Not only does he fail to specify what constitutes an advanced ideology of gender (other than the presumption that it is other than "traditionalist"). It is as if they would test a leaning post before trusting it with their safety or support. As for the source of the black male's "commitment to dominance"-or the female's uneasiness when he isn't dominant enough. Ali's critics. Indeed. that a man take a convincing lead in the task of making the couple's way through life's harshest thickets. perhaps all the more as he doesn't realize it himself. The female ideal of male dominance also may be seen in the fact that. It's true that while they don't want to be beaten down or squashed underfoot or made to walk two feet behind. In fact.D. hold "the most advanced set of gender attitudes in the nation. Like black men. has advocated having sex side-by-side only (if not to stop sleeping with the enemy at all). black feminists have not contributed one major original idea to feminism other than the predictable reports that white feminists are "racist" too. black and white. thesis on "Black Male/Female Relations. although at least one white feminist group. once they succeed.like most of Ms. if not the beginning of time. I couldn't agree more with Professor Patterson that black feminists have confounded gender issues. for that matter-it is something that surely goes back far past slavery to Africa. in their quest for equity. Profes- sor Patterson could have missed hearing the distressing complaints of unmasculine social and economic meekness in their men which black women feel impelled to voice rather frequently. One wonders how. as there is no anthropological literature for the existence of a matriarchy (where women as a group rule men as a group) anywhere except in mythology. Patterson ignores her main point-though not one originated by her-that black women contrarily err in their tendency to imitate white women's attitudes toward white men. especially as regards their failure to thrive in the labor force or the marketplace. where paradoxically the black male's efforts have not been helped by feminism. and frequently demand. even from the ivycovered laboratories of academia.

they'd give it all up for the man but thought such black men were in too short supply. that white feminists are racist and/or preoccupied with "upper middle class white women's issues. that the white woman complained that her men were getting too much and called it feminism.Hernandez. antifamily reproductive agenda for blacks Black feminists seeking to replicate white feminism are up against the handicap that the white race claims to have a woman problem but the black race has a woman problem and a man problem. At a Pennsylvania retreat in the mid1980s. I too can subdue and possess the black man. Pressed to give one black feminist demand that was not already incorporated in white feminism and blacks fighting racism. "What is black feminism?" They appeared never to have thought about it. Many confessed that. The emphasis on slavery lets white society off the hook for its anti-natal." as in the case of Michele Wallace. "if I will embrace the white woman and her designs. the black woman complains that her man isn't getting enough of the socio-economic pie to suit her needs. continues to elude black and white feminists alike. they wanted better jobs and socio-economic rights but could not ask them of black men. I indicated that this not only was not feminism. while complaining that the black man too often GENDER RELATIONS 127 . When I probed them further." Consequently. Many were proud of their strength but felt it was something that had been forced upon them and that it would likely be the death of their ability to form a satisfactory love relationship. the black man is also oppressed. Quite a few indicated that they would give their right arm to have a strong black man to stand beside them. in that unlike the white man. feelings of personal rejection and deprivation. but anti-feminism. but black men also wish black women to treat them better too. It is true that black women wish black men would treat them better. When I interviewed avowed black feminists in 1981. who have no jobs to give. if they could find a good man who could take care of them and would stick by them. saying in effect. I asked them the question. I was unable to get the University of Pittsburgh's black educator to see that sexism is not equivalent to conflicts in interpersonal relationships. and of course they should. other than trying unsuccessfully to lure them into the feminist fold and ministering to their socio-economic needs in a traditionally charitable or welfare way. tired of having to raise "boys" who should already be acting like they are men. They also could think of nothing they would demand of the white man that they would not want from their men also and equally. then the black woman complains that her men are not getting enough but calls it feminism too instead of some other name. many complained that the black man was not carrying his load socio-economically and that they were tired of carrying him around like a sack of potatoes. The white woman complains that the white man gets too much of the socio-economic pie. yet she increasingly is impelled to take up the feminist cudgel out of personal "anger." Coming up with what the black low-income issues should be.

and Mr. the all-black male school idea in Detroit and Milwaukee in recent years. owner of the San Francisco 49ers. which is happening today as we speak and. social validity. Beyond his occasional courting of feminists. or moral justification) and his occasional courting of favor with black feminists and feminist theoretics as if cuddling them behind the neck with one hand and thumping them with the other.morally speaking. as I predicted. Perhaps he has never heard reports on CNN and in the New York Times that AIDS first got to Africa and continues to get to Africa (now also Japan and Asia) overwhelmingly through tainted American blood. This includes white feminism. Patterson's decision to put so much of the sociological emphasis on slavery lets white society off the hook for its anti-natal. the heterosexual black male (addicted to intravenous drugs) who passes AIDS on to his woman may not be much different. One feels uneasy with Professor Patterson's ambivalence. let alone black gender relations. throughout the 1970s. An African proverb says that the man (or woman) who is already on the 128 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Mike Tyson (date rape). William Kennedy Smith. Perhaps this is also the motivation behind his reference to the black male's alleged "misogynistic irresponsibility" and his condemnation of the black male for spreading AIDS over Africa. Patterson sees the onedimensional emphasis on strengths of the black family and gender relationsas "overdefensive and counter-productive. the blackwoman decides to embracethe white woman politically.embraces the white woman sexually. Bill Clinton and Mrs.S. his current lack of insight into the sociological roots of his subject matter also leads to his spurious use of the relatively low suicide rate of black women to document their greaterinstitutionaland social support and to counter the notion that they suffer a so-called double whammy. as well as the kingpin of current efforts on the part of civil rights and militant groups to coalesce. anti-family reproductive agenda for blacks and related socio-economic contributions to black family decay. the Nation of Islam's current effort to hold black males-only meetings as well as black females-only meetings. Simpson (domestic violence) are used as catalyticagents for white feminist programs to solve social problems in ways that make things worse for blacks. Jones." But does it matter anymore. which brings down every black male effort to rise. forgetting that men commit suicide several times more than women in all industrialized countries and the black suicide rate is typically lower than that of whites. and 0. anyway? Where was Professor Patterson when we needed him? In any case. would appear to constitute a double standard while blacks such as Clarence Thomas (sexual harassment). Catholic cardinal and almost toppled the second black Supreme Court nominee. when black intellectuals were denying pathology and asserting strengths. To his credit. sexual harassmentagendas that will bring down the first black U. By comparison. Also. his tendency to toss around phrases such as "racism and sexism" (as if they have equal and congruent weight. J.from the black mother who passes it on to her child. Bartolo. whether it is the First National Conference of Black Men that sought to organ- ize itself in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1981.

" and "violence against other black men" on the part of lower class black males to slavery and the "permissive slave culture. being more external. His other explanation. and disappointment. GENDER RELATIONS 129 . most have never on this continent had a man that they could be dependent on.ground has no place to fall. more governed by externality. permits the individual to externalize the blame while relieving the person of some of the burden of exercising self-autonomy. In 1969. even attributing an alleged "compulsive sexuality." is easily exaggerated because. "the increased economic independence of black women. black women would say that they were still trying to get in the home. when unisexualist feminists began to preachthe need for independence for their men and getting out of the home. including displacedrage from her man) but the black man is more suppressed (kept down in comparison to the white man). as black women will tell you. he does not see clearly enough the impact of postmodern society's dysfunctional social agendas on impoverished individuals lacking the institutionalized social support and reinforcement enjoyed by the white middle class. forgetting that the problem is that those who are marriageablehave stopped marrying. After noting with surprise that the marriage rate of black men with steady jobs fell from 75 percent to 58 percent between 1960 and 1980. as I have said elsewhere. However. thus diminishing an impulse to exercise the ultimate authority over the self and one's life-the decision or will to end life in an act of suicide. nevertheless. he has come to dominate sufficiently that the problem now is how to keep him out or lessen his dominance through elevated academic requirements." Consequently." he takes an ounce of truth to justify continuing to look backward toward an intellectual quagmire. Also. As for the double burden. Worse. Ending moreover with the rhetoric that "we can only reclaim ourselves by first reclaiming our past. explains the high rate of "marital instability and dissatisfaction among middle-class African-Americans" as resulting from the scarcity of marriageable men. It's like hitting a woman with both hands at once. the black woman is more oppressed that her (in yoke may be harder to bear. now that the black man has been admitted to the leagues following World War II. Professor Patterson's main problem is his intellectual fixation on slavery. compared to hitting a man with a one-two punch. while laboring to see what is going on acrosspresent and future horizons. random drug testing. Beyond that. or whatnot. his predilection for over-reliance on slavery (or any other constant or longstanding variable such as welfare) pulls him toward the dubious intellectual strategy of trying to use a constant to explain a change. Patterson. The example of college and professional sports with its great white hope is a case in point. it is both true and untrue. the oppressed individual experiences many opportunities in dealing with adversity. Perhaps above all the oppressed individual's locus of control." a "vicious desire to impregnate and leave women. depression.

.P. on and even less light [emphasis added]. she shook her mushroom-colored ringlets in delight. Finally.A. [T]here has. her father gave her a little boost.her mother. Blacklash.both between and within genders(not to mentionbetween and sexual orientations groupswith separate My particular bias is to sympathize with the feminist perspective. little impact onAfrican American political thinking. No one was curious about her side of the story.Worse.In spite of the intensity. escorted by her remarkably handsome black father..and what bell hookscalls "the liberatory pedagogy" conof American temporary African feministthought. I have no way of knowing what he saw or felt. but at each level. I continued reading and came upon the following: as feminist ideologies). an open-faced blond. and with each increment of success. I only know that I have gone through that tedious little minuet a hundred times.reflected the paucity of in academic worksdirectly focusedon thesubject of blackgenderrelations. black culture has come to be defined exclusively by black men. watching that spectacular marmalade sunset that is the hallmark of California late-summer evenings. it has badlyobscured understanding our ofgenderrelations. Mother and daughter smiled at me as they passed. his smile fractured. But when the father looked in my direction. Rarely is there a genuine interest in and concern for the welfare of black women and their civil rights other than as an extension of the black male agenda. of course. and then held her high in the air. no oneneither the N.and we both looked away abruptly. I should not say that he stopped smiling simply because I am black.A.C. scooped her up.People have beenrailingat each other. This family started toward my table. little conversation. thedebates surrounding Ntozake Shange'splay For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide andMichele Wallace'sbook Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman amply demonstrate.. I inhabit the 130 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . Nor does Patterson give them credit for naming and legitimizing black women's anger-a practice that is still all too often rewardedwith ostracism and hyperbolic allegationsof treacheryand sexual perversion. as she acknowledges.Thisfailure to exploreand communicate isfoundnotonly inpopulardiscourse but in academia.I was sitting above a staircase at a restaurant. ContemporaryAfrican American feminist our thoughthas badlyobscured understanding relations. As Patterson himself has pointed out. when she made it to the top of the stairs. nor the press (black or white) interviewed Mary Stansel.STRANGERSIN THE NIGHT Rita Williams The day I began reading Orlando Patterson's article.. My first reaction was that it hardly seems fair to indict Wallace and Shange in 1994 for works that were groundbreaking in the 70s. A pale toddler who couldn't have been more than two arrived at the staircase. ofgender been a great deal of very angry talk among but blacks thesubject.. hugged her. She was at that stage when stairs require concentration and resolve. It was astonishing to me when the issue of Benjamin Chavis' misappropriation of funds came to light. it has had.

commitment.Afro-centrism. or of the domestic squabblesof Native American women and their men. fruitof simple boredom Additionally. and a conversation could take place. female. we have not had a conversation. Still.world of assumptions that Patterson is challenging-black. I realized somewhat 2. hot grits.what mistake blacks make. Couples close ranks rather than art satiates an almost discuss how their relationship is doingpriapicbloodlust. axes to tory makes us reluctant to reveal ourselves grind. But all too often when the private business of fidelity. When I imagined myself sitting down and listening to the father of the little girl in the restaurant. 3. and inconvenience begins to be negotiated. Were it not would probably be required guaranteeing for the fact that we are in crisis. where we push the florid jargon of empowerment and we publicly affirm our African unity to the high heavens. one rarelyhears of matters of the heart among Mafiawives and their husbands. by their very nature. minor destruction-no shivs. or of the glacial rifts between Norwegian spouses in small Wisconsin Ghetto performance towns." First. This would include neoconservatism. our special niche in the nightly GENDER RELATIONS 131 . It's a cheap way of guaranteeing an alliance without revealing anything-we agree we hate X and that is our primary bond. Perspectives ending in "ism" also would be left at the door along with other weaponry. Second. For example. what might we talk about? We might start by examining a wider range of reasons than feminism for Patterson's "paucity of academic works directly focused on the subject of black gender relations. As in no weapons of mass or tiny. grapefruit spoons. Assuming such amnesty were guaranteed. What would it be like if black men and women chose to talk to each other? What generally passes for conversation in my community tends to be extraordinarily strenuous maneuvering. intimate interactions lose their special value when made public. feminism." There is no reason that a ludicrousseriesof guaranteesbefore such inspired relations among African Amerian exchange could go forward.fascismandblack male chauvinism. fact. very likely the absence of the following: those topics would continue to defy scru1. No exceptionsespecially not for a good reason. In ried out at a later date. or hits scheduled to be car. There is no end of triangulation in which an absent third party (or race) is summarily disposed of. on intimate matters. Uzis. Assumptions. our living-in-a-fishbowl hisAK47s. curling irons.the particularly when it's not doing well. the day-to-day ordinariness of domestic intercourse among any group doesn't lend itself particularly to wryly that each of us would have to have "works.but I found his challenge of conversation arresting. it's news. Arms. A contract gender cans should be an exception. because no matter nuclear arms. we check out. Ideology.One favorite African American belief is that we are especially psychically endowed and can read each other's minds and hearts and motives. plastique. educationally and economically capable. cans of lye.

We have less and less positive consensus and more nasty righteousness. Instead we exchange jargon which is designed not so much to communicate as it is to intimate and intimidate. entrenched ideologies which supply answers. watching pornography. If anything. his bonds with other males supersedeconnection to family and women. however. Third. Americans have become a nation of voyeurs. signifiers. They allow us to say. sermonizers. Patterson himself speaks of the humiliation and marginalization of black fathers in American history. feminism. the fruit of simple boredom. watching comedy. as the millennium approaches. Against the whites he could offer his children and spouse no protection.broadcast is guaranteed-there is always something prurient to root through in the black community. and subject to sudden rupture. entire careers are built around interpreting our peculiarly self-destructive behavior to baffledoutsiders and becoming experts on the lecture circuit about who is responsible. and rarely something our parents taught us. but in an injury that precedes reasoning: our fathers. Since the primary facet of such secret societies is voluntary alienation from everyone. and only a precarious name and iden- 132 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . black male peer pressureoften requires that these young men's lives be devoted to evening the score with white men. Fourth. given the price we pay for divulging any vulnerability at all.our nation seems to be fracturing more and more. the real explanation for our inability to talk among ourselves may lie in neither ideology. some imprisoned by their own hatred. no security. some in prison. This attitude is not limited to men who are in street gangs. a black youth joins an exclusive fraternity. it is highly unlikely that we will volunteer further details about our volatile interpersonal relations." African Americans can only make prime time by inhabiting the archetype of the Identifiable Problem. His path to identity becomes that of the warrior (or criminal. A peculiar parasitic cottage industry has evolved around "The African American Problem. In such a polarized environment. depending on your point of view). They can't get enough of it. not questions-where people talk but don't listen and where we forget very early what it means to hear. it is a joke to expect such men to converse with women or anyone else not sympathetic to the club rules." Indeed. defacto. watching videotapes of people living. African American criminals provide a rallying point-consensus at no cost. Thus. If he signs on for the gang ride. the entire community is crosshatched with mutually exclusive. But the delicate task of a simple conversation in which both people talk and listen is not something we teach our children. Further. it climbs the ladder of social class as well. no status. In any event. nor machismo. we are a nation of rappers. "At least we are not that. Americans love to be shocked. confusion reigns and Frankie and Johnny may start out having a congenial chat and end up dodging each other's bullets. and shouters. This is profoundly so in the "under" and "disorganized" classes. "The man's role was always provisional. Ghetto performance art satiates an almost priapic bloodlust. Finally.

gender." Our identities as racialentities first. All experiences with men will sponsible guardiansof those rights for each be viewed through the template of that other and citizens outside the African American community. Instead. What is not recognized is the exespecially ones that are tender. to speak of intimate matters-of the errors.habit of thinking is very much with us to this day. we were cling to the belief that we are only alienprisoners of war. We were simply black. our exclusion from the entifirst priorityshould be tlements guaranteed in the Constitution to exact retribution and the Bill of Rights made us abandoned from the Pilgrims children once more. rights. has skewed our abilities to prioritize. "Don't snitch out your buddy to the Bulls." We simply can't have a gender discussion until we can have a Father discussion. no matter how brief. We adopted their belief that race was the only thing that counted-first. and individuality were subsumed by that process of categorization. even under the Constitution. Our humanity. because it feels like empowerment. and the pursuit of happiness. commiserating with the ated outsiders-victims in an alien landenemy was betrayalat its most basic.American community entitled to life.tent to which we still do not regard ourselves as such-members of the greater inal wound is redisturbed. As they say in prison. if you will. land-and that our Further. the orig. It is a terrible and terrifying thing to feel sorry for your father. and always. One tends to take it erty. libued by your father. there is an We still cling to the almost fascistic insistence in the African belief that we are only American community to put aside one's alienated outsidersprocess of individualization for the supvictims in an alien posed good of the race. we don't see ourselves as remistake. It is equally devastating when he is capable but disinterested. ratherthan human men and women. because when we knowledged that we are entitled to basic are touched by other powerful feelings. but the perpetual focus on the overbearing black female obscures the profound traumaboth daughtersand sons experience concerning Dad. but that delusion costs us our GENDER RELATIONS 133 . although that's often a grave important." In slavery. or. This is particularly true for many women. Indeed. White America has finally acability to draw close. It's an American tradition to blame Mom for everything from athlete's foot to impotence. and confusion in our bedrooms-was to invalidate the only intimacy over which we had control at all. That and that our first priority should be to tity. Again. Equally personally. The collective guilt and shame so many of us share about our absent. We deflect the pain into anger. It is savagely humiliating to be deval. We were not even Africans or Americans. or incompetent fathers is probably our most unspeakably painful wound. unavailable. In the holds of the slave ships. we still original abandonment. it meant giving our oppressors specific ammunition with which to further vilify us. flaws. last. "niggers.

It is one source of a tremendous rift between black men and women because many of us value practicality over retribution. we step into those roles and hobble around. an intact family. con- 134 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . We must trust that strand to lead us out of the labyrinth to the light that Patterson speaks of-to each other. Tina Turner declared that "we do things rough. she decided it wasn't all that sexy to be punched out after all. We must begin by remembering our stories rather than denying them at all costs. and a sense of community. As best we can. we have followed their example. there is considerable pressure for black women's goals and identities to be definedby menby the images they will cherish.personal strandof the Gordian knot is the beginning. generates considerable frustration. we still demand acknowledgment that we got screwed over and that it wasn't right. with Madonna personas in habits. DAMAGED GOODS Cecilia Caruso For the past five years I have served as a tutor/mentor to school children in grades ranging from preschool to twelfth grade. Our history has made us believe that the truth is incidental and honesty naive. but more importantly. we get our way and they admit "they done us wrong. rather than conceal them. Many black women still choose to subvert themselves for an opportunity to have a home. And so our identities become fragmented because they are derived from definitions that are in relation to services we provide men. American tradition outlines the home as "a man's castle. We must go further. Sometimes. or the Nation of Islam. Black men have had few arenaswhere they were granted a healthy sense of power. Moreover. And that re-exhumes the issue of Uncle Tomism. although the turmoil in black homes is tremendous. then. there is much confusion between black men and women on the experience of violence and sex. While immigrants from across the globe (other people of African descent as well) flock to the opportunities available on American shores. The idea that we should have a "conversation" regarding the relations between black men and women implies that we can afford some candor." So there is a good deal of reluctance on the part of black women to overtly challenge that premise. And usis what we can do something about. on the one hand. on the other. Too many times sadisticcrackershave impressedthat point upon us with lynchings. over time. or at least date.exact retributionfrom the Pilgrims. Too many times among ourselves. My student population is diverse. but much of the time it is an either/or proposition that. and the courts have aided and abetted. both choices colonize it. and share them. Both images inflate or invalidate black female sexuality. Unraveling our particular. At one point in her career. Even while there is truth in Patterson's point that black women have made economic and educational strides. We become the disembodied pumping genitalia of hip hop." This short-term advantage is a fundamental waste of time because we spend more time working on them than on us. But she left the "chitlin circuit" before she made that pronouncement." Later.

an element too often missing when working with other black children. attending both public and private schools. a prom- GENDER RELATIONS 135 . It has long been recognized that what we become as adults is due primarily to the environments in which we were raised. 20 Asian. As for my black children. I truly be- lieve that my tutees' parents want to save their children. and taste up close the influences impacting their lives. My work with Asian children has mainly consisted of helping them to improve their English. maintain good grades. the school. To date. since these children's problems extended way beyond school work. This dramatically alterswhat we have customarily known about "ghetto" life. All but five of the African American children (three of whom were membersof the same family) lived in single-parent households headed by a mother. I was asked simply to "save"them. All of the Asian and white children (except one Korean boy) lived in two-parent homes. white. been born in the shadow of cocaine. Therefore. I hope the discussion herein will shed further light on the plight of inner city children and will contribute to the literature seeking to understandthe problems of relationships between adult African American males and females. and achieve higher levels of excellence. I have worked with 30 African American children (4 girls and 26 boys). and 8 white children. Tutoring children in their homes.sisting of black. but I have found black parents to be unable or unwilling to do what is required in order to complete that task. too often. Because of this. It is crucial that we keep in mind that any black child born since 1975 in the inner city has. a girl who had spent two years in the twelfth grade and who would definitely never have graduatedhad I not been called in. a monumental task at least. more likely than not. All of the white children and two of the black children (a boy and a girl) attended private schools. hear. and that any black child born since 1985 in the inner city has. and the larger society. all of whom were failing miserably in nearly every subject. For the black children in public school. feel. while the other 28 black children and all of the Asian children attended the New York City public schools. I was asked to increase B averages to A averages and secure listings on the honor rolls. more likely than not. been born in the shadow of crack. I can say with certainty that I have been successful with only one child. I had the complete and unwavering cooperation of her parents. I have focused on the four most important environments of children: the home. And tutoring children from diversebackgroundshas enabled me to observe the development of young minds in a comparative framework. Recently. It probably goes without saying that I have had phenomenal success with my private school students and Asian students. Asian. I can see. the neighborhood. For the black children and white children in privateschools. Rational thought is almost nonexistent in this environment. most of the standardsociological theories and analytical tools are no longer applicable. They. I was discussing the danger of relying on corporal punishment in the rearing of children with a friend. In working with this child. lower class to upper-middle class children. however. are the problems.

And yet. when two little boys of about six years of age walked up. I occasionally allow them to win arguments. teeming with people all over the streets. we're just going upstairs to get a drink of water and something to fight with and then we're going back to the playground. on foot and in cars. but it does so much for their self esteem. with horror. I advised him to go upstairs and put some ice on it and have his mother take him to see a doctor. you can't go back there. the tears streaking his dirty face. what about children who live at the opposite end where none of the environments function properly and who are members of the most despised racial group in the United States? Allow me to introduce you to my students who live in the Bronx. One of them was crying. To which the other child said. sidewalks. I thought about my doctor friend's comments all evening and into the next day as I rode the D train uptown to the Bronx to meet with one of my students. I thought about his comments as I walked through the neighborhood. "I don't understand how people can do that. all four major environments operate at an outstandingly high level. Their winning an argument once in a while takes nothing from me. there is little doubt his children will always live in the best neighborhoods and attend the best schools. Even children who may have only two or three or only one of these environments working properly may still achieve a modicum of success as adults in the United States. police.) I thought about his comments as I listened to the loud music-salsa. For his children. the large lump protruding on the side of his head. and they are immature little persons and totally defenseless against me. "We don't have time for that. Moreover. and stoops. continuously patrolled the neighborhood. I am an adult." I ex- 136 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .inent New York plastic surgeon. He said to me. he worries about his children's self esteem! To say that his children are extremely fortunate is more than a gross understatement. rap. I thought about them as I observed drug deals being made almost openly on the streets. cars. his family is white and lives in a country where the institutionsConstitution. even as police. etc. economy. I asked the child what was wrong. government. and hand-held "ghetto blasters. I then noticed. Thus. He told me another boy had just beaten him up and had hit him in the head with a rock." "But. Not only will I not hit them. and reg- The meanness and violence of the streets and playgrounds seem to be negated by the air of excitement and festivity gae-emanating from the buildings. despite all this.-are committed to their wellbeing and the preservation of their dominant position. (This part of the Bronx looks as if under siege by the police state." adding to a festive and exciting atmosphere and contributing to the "lure" of the streets." With a successful practice on Manhattan's East Side. I was still thinking about his comments as I waited for the elevator in my student's building. if we think of the doctor's children as living at one end of a continuum. I could never raise a hand to my children.

"I'm sure your mother won't allow it. and While it is always imminent. And this I got off on the seventh floor thinking.adopted a strong "us" versus "them" es more pain than any thoughts of danger." said the crying child. One child told me that he once followed on foot a shoot-out car chase between the police and a drug dealer on the street where he lives. We entered.They have told me about shoot-outs between drug dealers and between drug dealers and the police-many of which they have witnessed." of his car and beat him mercilessly. "and and saw the drug dealer's car crash into a "Right." said the other one quickly. he pursued the chase playground anymore." said one thirteen-year-old." said the injured child. never themselves." Yet all of my students. Despite flying bullets. meanness and violence of the streets and Your friends help protect you. and the of not being able to hang out and bers of the community over forty have thought possibly missing something exciting caus. ages in inner city neighborhoods. child is expected to grow up with the "My God." Also of interest is the way the memalways something going on. nerals for murdered teenagers. "if we don't go back and fight right away. To "How old is the boy who hit you?" I my query. the support developed a taste for "hangin' out. from ages six children. They who the following year attended two fugot off on the third floor and disappeared. "And besides. Consequently. sneakers. "Weren't you frightened?" he asked. "outside" and had lost track of the time. danger in many instances. and same values as you and I. mentality toward the younger people. it was excit"Six. we won't be able to go to the GENDER RELATIONS 137 . simply replied. I grew up in an abusive family." was the response. There is family.younger people in their doesn't seem to trouble them at all. bewitching seductions for children of all "That's why. my "aunts" and "uncles" throughout the claimed. He was somewhere onto their pride. orjackets. Your playgrounds seem to be negated by the friends are more important than your air of excitement and festivity. I don't want my Momma to beat building and the police pull the man out me." "My mother's not home. The "you have to travelwith a group of friends. ing!" This from a twelve-year-old child The elevator came." In system of older community members fact. This own families. She'll beat me if I don't fight back. "No man.caps. she saw herself as somehow better which I remember having in my comthan her peers because she never cared to munity in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s is no longer available to today's "hang out. at such a young age!" I stood in the hallEvery child has told me stories of havand waited fifteen minutes for my ing to fight other children just to hold way student who was late. or simply to traverse the streets going to The "outside" and "hangin' out" are and from school or the grocery store. what vile lessons to learn. There is a feeling the young is true for all of my students except the people have "gone bad" and that they twelfth grader who was never permitted somehow have gotten that way all by to play outside and consequently." besides. have told me horror stories of and had it not been for my neighbors and the mean streets in their neighborhood. to fifteen.

. Yet. brings us to the family and home environment. I have tried in vain to get them to recognize that today is very different from when they were children and that beating their children today is dangerous and even tantamount to murder." etc. uninviting. It is almost as if they view a ten or fifteen minute beating of their children as having performed a vital familial duty. eat (sometimes). Because of work and trying to find some level of happiness for themselves. Home is usually chaotic.neighborhood. Consequently.) I remind parents that when the schools. rulers. these parents in the Bronx do not have the time necessary to invest in their children." I have had to buy dictionaries. reward. messy. beating children has nothing to do with teaching discipline. But ignorance. an inability to ef- 138 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . no "hangin' out. who are not disrespectful at all. and change your clothes so you can look "fly" when "hangin' out. Tragically. Most of the children do not even have suitable surface space for writing. and we murdered them. and not at all conducive to studying. And when they appearto be wrong. the only hope for them is the home." There's no way a euphemism such as "spanking" has any relevanceto these children. plastic shower hoses. the children somehow are always blamed for not doing things right. For all intents and purposes. Most of the supplies had to be replaced repeatedly because the children were unable to keep track of them. afterwhich everything is supposed to fall into place. parents have to be totally involved with their children. They are contributing to the death of their children. such children are dead. example. Discipline is taught by instruction. they reminded me often of how special I was. notebooks. I hazard to guess where I might have been today. and rational punishment-no T. and numerous other supplies in an effort to help children learn what I was trying to teach them. or whatever is available when their mothers "snap. But to do this. it is not mean-spirited. they are referredto as "damagedgoods" and the only solution is to lock them up in prisons. cocaine. then. and crack are intractable and formidable adversaries. are the most undisciplined children imaginable. despite the dismal failures of the home environment.V. The sad thing about this type of abuse. pencils. in most cases. however. neighborhoods. They were there at my low moments to comfort and counsel and slip me a quarter or a piece of homemade cake. The parents just don't seem to know any better. is that. What they get are beatings. their parentsrely on corporalpunishment to teach them the "right" way. They have limited attention spans. which in most cases Beating children has nothing to do with teaching discipline is a place to stay away from as much as possible. Most of all. For most of them it is a matter of conditioning. my children in the Bronx. All of my Bronx students bear scarson their bodies from having been hit with broomsticks. This. let alone places to store supplies. It is the way they were raised. despite regularbeatings. (There is a generation of children today who have been beaten down so badly. and larger society have all turned against their children. belts with metal studs. Home is the place where you sleep.

children learn by example. As soon as our study sessions finish. Previously. This is done so that Korean children should not feel alienated in public school. a D/F student." The reality is. Then. At the end of the fourth grade. despite trying to beat it into them. invariably if it is raining or snowing." But. (My children are all "latch-key" kids. Jensu. disgraceful study habits. a straight-A. another environment where the contradictions in inculcation and expectation are as cogent as in the home and community. To illustrate:all of the parents of my students are employed and are rarelyat home when I meet with the children. and by the end of the sixth grade. Most of Jensu's teachers are either white or are Koreans who were recruited in South Korea. I was told they had no time to give special GENDER RELATIONS 139 . The following examples illustrate this point.) However. He is failing in every subject.fectively focus. In my efforts to save DJ. I don't go out in snow or rain for nobody. All commands contrary to the examples provided. I will find a mother at home when I arrive and my good example is made out to be something bordering on idiocy.) For this reason as well as the need to set a good example. they rush outside. only serve to confuse children about what is acceptable behavior. DJ attended a Catholic parochial school for three years and was basically an A/B student. moving in their seats. Discipline. twelve-year-old Korean sixth grader. burned out by a heartless system and undisciplined children and are almost totally alienated from their students. I just stay right here in my bed all day. God forbid. I called two of his teachers and asked if we could work together for his benefit. They have neither the time nor the talent. should her children behave irresponsiblyor appearto display irreverence for her authority. I virtually never miss the opportunity to force them off the streets and into their apartments. Not me honey. his mother's income changed. a twelve-year-old African American sixth grader born in the United States (as were several generations of his ancestors). "Child. she won't hesitate to beat them. the Bronx parents are simply incapable of instilling such discipline. and so on. his father left home. chewing gum. what are you doing here in this weather? I thought for sure you wouldn't be coming here today. however. is appropriate when it trains body and mind for success in the larger society. provided with housing in New York and a three-year tax-free incentive to come to this country. drinking. attends a public school in Queens. He came to the United States when he was in the fourth grade. by the end of the fifth grade. (I have missed two appointments in five years. She will say to me in front of her children. he was a C/D student. This then brings us to the schools. and blowing bubbles. do as I say do. Most of DJ's teachers are white. "Don't do as I do. walking around. and are unable to deny or even delay the most mundane gratification-eating. useless dictum. Too many of the mothers rely shamelessly on that asinine. DJ. and he had to be placed in public school. the efficacious training of body and mind. that job can wait. Unfortunately. he was classified as Learning Disabled. talking to. Neither are they capable of instilling a sense of responsibility in their children. or arguing with other siblings. attendsa public school in the Bronx which he also entered in the fourth grade.

Kim was thus able to get into a routine and to develop good study habits. Kim was the second smartest child in her class and was proud to announce to me. English." I don't know how children are expected to learn anything. impossible to keep up with. She had to be coaxed into new areas. she thus developed good reading skills and a love of books. Whereas Kim was assigned a consistent amount of homework every night. Kim had two math workbooks and an extremely well-written phonics workbook. Sam was fearful of the unknown. and rarely spoke in full. DJ lost the good study habits he once had." "incredible. history. Jensu developed and maintained good study habits. Kim was beginning to show signs of maturing and no longer required bribery. Kim was required to read for twenty minutes every night. and geography. she would just turn off and look as if she wanted to die. science. While Kim was eager to tackle new ideas. Sam was never required to read. and Sam. DJ had one or two Black children are being systematically undereducated at the same time that their spirits and wills are broken teachers absent everyweek. Another illustration is that of the contrasting situations of Kim.DJ received homeworkfour orfive timesa month. could barely read first grade books. Jensu's teachers were rarely absent. I bought workbooks for Sam. Jensu is praised as representative of a "model minority. while DJ was held back in the sixth grade. Sam's self-esteem was already suffering. without books to study. Sam knew nothing of popular culture by June. Both had to be bribed with cookies or toys to sit still and focus.on average. Jensu was promoted to the seventh grade. At that time. they were at the same intellectual level. DJ likes and respects none. Sam had no books at all. If Kim made a mis- 140 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . one for each subject: math. ByJune 1994." DJ." and many other "grownup" words. Her lessons were on mimeographed sheets of paper. had few arithmetic skills. Sam still had difficultyfocusing.Jensu received homework everynight. and if they proved at all difficult. She was well versed in the popular culture of the United Statesand could use correctly such words as "camouflage. a Korean first grader in a public school on Manhattan's mid-town East Side. By contrast. Worst of all. Sam was given varying amounts of homework once or twice a week. Jensu likes and respects all of his teachers." "courageous. DJ had one textbook. She would often ask me if I rememberedwhen she couldn't do a certain thing. particularlya subjectlike math. "I can readbooks with chapters!"She was proud of her achievements and actually recognized her own maturing process. At the end of the school year. By November.attention to one child. Sam never developed a rhythm nor good study habits. Jensu had five textbooks. an African American first grader in a public school in the Bronx. had a very limited and childish vocabulary. She and I had discussionsabout the Amazon jungle and the solar system. grammatical sentences. and thousands of other black children in inner city schools. a social studies book which focused on African American history. are categorized as "non-educable. I startedworking with both girls at the beginning of the 1993 school year.

she would simply exclaim. The answer is not getting tough on crime." know this: If these children or their parents ever thought of themselves as "victims. they don't have a healthy connection to anything. both girls were promoted to the second grade. This past June. pearls. However. First. building more prisons. and accomplishment that are all part of African American history." and assume no further responsibility. stupid me!" and forge straight ahead. THE AXES OF OPPRESSION Carl H. Nightingale Scholars should accept Professor Orlando Patterson's essay on the "crisis of gender relations among African Americans" as a call for more attention to issues of class and gender within the American black experience. or increasing capital punishment. I had the privilege of chauffeuring a friend. how could anyone abuse such a child? None of us can stand aside any longer feeling blameless about what is happening in the inner cities of this country. as well as the collective action." To those who disdain the "victim mentality. They should also read his essay as a summons for more understanding of the conflict and desperation. By the end of the school year. fourteen-year-old Saleema Wilkins. she will simply become another DJ by the time she is in the sixth grade. Second. For this reason. it was not reinforced by nor did it coincide with her classwork as did my work with Kim. which focus on his arguments concerning poor urban black men and women. survival. we cannot continue to proclaim. I had to spend a lot of study time dealing with Sam's self-esteem problem. Because of abuse. Righteous indignation about how we "did it" has no meaning. To expect them to make the most of the hand life has dealt them presumes that they understandwhat we mean by "responsibility." it would be an improvement in their thinking. The children I work with feel very much alone and unloved. mischievous energy. and spiked GENDER RELATIONS 141 . as well as the ways in which it unhelpfully conflates certain questions. not even their parents. God. If nothing changes in Sam's life. Nor can we expect them to take responsibility for themselves. For us to allow this to happen is disgraceful. I think that the agonizing experience of violence in late twentieth-century black inner cities is much too complex and rich to be attributed-even only predominantly-to slavery and to the ways poor black mothers have treated their sons ever since. I would like to make two cautionary points in greater detail. "It starts in the home. "Oh. to her graduationfrom middle school in Philadelphia. Although Sam learned what I taught her. They have received little or none of the training we received. and in particular his explanation for the high male homicide and suicide rates in African American inner city neighborhoods. Such measures are nothing more than violence applied against children who have known nothing but violence all their lives. and in a flurry of white lace. She celebratedthe occasion in her inimitable fashion-full of fuss.take. Black children are being systematically undereducated at the same time that their spiritsand wills arebroken. I think we need to be more precise about the ways the "double-burden" analysis of black women's experience helps us understand the urban African American experience.

Their connection to school seems. by contrast. Theresa. because Theresa hasjust finished her first year and Saleema hasn't even startedhigh school yet. Omar has since had a lot of trouble with the law and with other young men his age. But there is a kind of staying power in the Wilkins girls. in desperation. seem on a much more constant upswing: they have acquired a wide variety of social skills. despite the violence of their neighborhood (which killed their father at a young age in 1985). and one. but already it's clear that Saleema's family has followed a broaderpattern documented statistically by Professor Patterson and noticed by quite a few members of poor African American families I have known. his brother. One gang has beaten him up on a number of occasions. both were near tears when revealing this thought. All three graduations. their mom's relatively constant support and some extra help from outside the family seems to have minimized those risks. And. and he. expressed their desire to be the first one of their family to take the next step and graduate from high school-despite agonizing poverty. which help them navigate both the streets and the world of classrooms and summer jobs programs.heels. or have. a "bullet without a name on it" could at any time instantly end anyone's promise in the tough neighborhood where Saleema and Theresa live. despite various forms of racism. And all.And. Two of these involved Saleema's older brothers. subjected their children to spirit-withering violence. the boys have just had many more problems than the girls "keeping their act together. are helplessly addicted to alcohol and crack (which has been a "women's drug" to a degree that other drugs have not been). at one time or another. and creative. As a result. By no means do all women in Saleema's neighborhood thrive like this: too many suffer from mental illness. of course. were occasions of great promise: all four of the children are extremely gifted. a year before. Fahim and Omar. one that people in the neighborhood sometimes recognize as a female trait:a sense of spiritual strength and ability to negotiate inevitable painful experiences. much surer. It was a chance for her mother and me to reminisce about three previous middle-school graduationswith which we had some connection. as a result. and despite all kinds of sexism. In different ways this thought has corroded each of their senses of self and laid streaks of bitterness and self-fulfilling fear of failure acrosseach of their otherwise vibrantpersonalities. and both have told me at different times that they feel like they haven't lived up to their potential. though they are well into the time of life when their girlfriends start having families of their own and dropping out of school. involved her older sister. Omar has taken to blockading himself in his bedroom behind locked doors for days on end. It's still too early to tell for sure.like the one I was on my way to witness. That sort of strength faded from their brothers' lives sometime earlier in their teens. despite being on welfare. to be replaced with a much more 142 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 ." Both of Saleema's brilliant older brothers quickly droppedout of their fancy schools. Their sisters. All had been accepted into programs that were among the best in the city for college-bound students. curious. and male cousins recently escaped a scuffle in which gunshots were fired. As Saleema's mother remarked quite pointedly.

and the pain that it causes. Those conclusions seem invidious at best and not at all useful to efforts to end the oppression of anyone. of course. sexism. and seek to survive it. I think it would be a shame if all we concluded from the evidence of black women's gender oppression or the evidence of black men's lower rates of success in mainstream institutions and their higher rates of murder and suicide was that either group is "more oppressed" than the other. acted differently. express it. like other black women they have known. or even positive attributes that can GENDER RELATIONS 143 . or perhaps more accurately. Here the word "burden" is at fault. legitimized them-ethnic broader "mainstream" values. It is no wonder that people like Saleema's mother often remark that it is much harder to raise boys than girls. and what has traditions. Saleema and Theresa also endure severe forms of late twentieth-century economic alienation. to see what kind of "multiple-axial" analysis applies to Fahim and Omar. of course. In addition. they have. We need a precise accounting of the material and psychic costs exacted by racism. To do that. It will be necessary as well. How well does the "double burden" analysis help explain what is going on in Saleema's family? Certainly Saleema and Theresa have faced some variety of white domination on account of their race and some variety of male domination on account of their gender. they have suffered from the abuse of adult power. insofar as "double burden" analysis implies a necessary and sufficient link between the numbers of axes of oppression and the degree of harm experienced by the oppressed. I suggest abandoning it and replacing it with words that distinguish better between the social lines across which oppressionoccurs. and aggression. But we also need to know how people cope with that hurt. as groups. That in turn.transparent and fragile facade: a "front" of bluster. or respectability. Rather. class inequity. they are much more likely to die violent deaths. compensate for it. and what the sources of those memories are. they would face further forms of oppression. as young people. If they. and of course. However.peculiarities in the structure of people's work. and. constructions of class. masculine boasting. something is clearly wrong. we need knowledge of the kinds of hurt that people have collected in their emotional memories as they grow up. were lesbian or disabled. Insofar as "double burden" analysis begins with the assumption that the axes of oppression faced by black women are multiple-involving at least race and gender-it is right on. Have those strategies been effective. or not? Which kinds have involved violence as an essential ingredient? We need to know where these strategies have originated. and parental dominance among men and women in inner cities. suggests that to understand more specifically why people in Saleema's neighborhood act in desperateways we need to ask other questions. Indeed men in Saleema's neighborhood are probably more likely than women to succumb to the agonies of mental illness and drug addiction. that in the face of a variety of oppressions. status. that evidence should suggest the much more useful conclusion that black men and black women have experienced various forms of oppression differently. especially with regard to questions of gender-something that so far scholars have indeed been slow to accomplish.

which comes from six years of life in Saleema's neighborhood during which I got to know her brothers and their male friends very well. And if mothers' connections to their daughters often seem at least somewhat closer emotionally than their relationshipswith their Aggressive parenting practices. where. but I am not aware of any trend of actual violence. Families are definitely some part of the equation of male inner city desperation. the "dozens" universally refer to other people's mothers. If. In short. and if they glorify "motherfuckers. or instances when she misuses her Professor Patterson begins to ask some of these sorts of questions in his essay.be wrung out of the changing complexity of prescribed gender roles and racial stereotypes. class. and matricide has never been. that might have to do with gender traitsthat have roots at least partly beyond the power of families to control. leave too much of the story out. age. fathers employ them as well as mothers. Finally. namely women's greaterlikelihood in the broader culture to demonstrate empathy or to articulate feeling verbally and in other nonviolent ways. as common an occurrence as it may be among the Japanese youth Professor Pattersonrefersto in his essay. If inner city boys do often feel resentmenttowardstheir mothers. giving husbands and boyfriends license to withdraw economic supportfrom the family or to act violently to control other family members and family resources. sexual or otherwise. First of all. parenting techniques in the Wilkins' neighborhood nearly universally draw upon philosophies that sanction the use of force against children. Also." they also very often rise to the defense of their mothers' honor on the streets. and gender. have ancient origins sons. "Motherfucker"may be a "trope"unique to black American inner cities. an inner city boy's resentment toward his mother may reflect less her gender than her class (Omar harborsconstant anger at what he sees as his mother's unwillingness to work). as far as I can tell. we need a gendered history of the connections between various axes of domination. not the boy's own. experiences of victimization. as I have argued else- 144 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . and desperation. is that the connection between the power of women in poor urban black families and the likelihood of violence among boys has been too often exaggerated. But my feeling." Various forms of male dominance intervene in many consequential ways into the lives of mothers and their children. I suspect. they hardly constitute anything like what used to be called a "matriarchy. or her race (many of the "dozens" make derogatory references to mothers' blackness or other racial attributes). we need to know how access to these different resources itself has varied by race. the possibilities of individual agency. though adult women do often possess a level of moral authority in the affairs of extended family networks and though they tend to make most decisions about the raising of their children. which for contemporary poor black urban men center on the legacy of slavery and on mother-son relationships. His answers. between sons and their mothers.

or of misogyny.streets. Codes of violent as well as values that permitted or premasculine honorhave scribed violence as a means to uphold perpopped up in many sonal honor. part of the prov. Parental aggression has not by any selves.inner city residents as they grow up." I think there is some wisdom in lookthe late twentieth-century inner city those have persisted (I don't ing to the Southern. ery than of the general trend in nine.and peers all were familiar with vastly ciety to value children predominantly for complex codes of behavior that included the values of cooperation inherent to extended families and preached in schools. young women as easily as young men. and perhaps even parenting practices believe there is any reliable way to mea. I have seen no evidence that convinces me means been the only source of hurtful that those practices among poor African feelings or values of violence for young Americans are any more the result of slav.slavery-based.racist stereotypes. watching don't get evidence to back up Aggressive parenting practices them. Indeed. and need rough treatment if they are going boys' memories of violent fathers-not to to be adequately prepared for life on the mention fathers who have left the fami.especially in comparisonwith parentswho herently conveys the message that might are neglectful.roots of some of the values GENDER RELATIONS 145 .as a way for parents to vent the frustragressively. a cult of fireAmerica's particularly visceral proclivity arms. Fahim.adult authority over children. some black parentsfeel that ly-have had deep consequences in the in public their children need to be strictly lives of most boys I got to know in Fahim reined so that white people who may be and Omar's community. in part they probably remakes right and that violence needs to be flect the sometimes overwhelming repunished with further violence. In "heart.ner city adults often think that their kids ince of adult men as well as women. if sure if they have "increased") for a numany one component of family life most ber of reasons:they often doubtlesslyserve contributes to kids' tendency to act ag. of course.though. or to serve as entertainment. or even traumatic memories. it comes to them acrossthe line tions of poverty-forceful demonstraof age. it also in. I suspect. have ancient origins.finally. to right certain kinds of places and at many wrongs. inpractices are. to seek vengeance for victimitimes in history zation. and their siblings teenth-century American agricultural so. and sometimes open advocacy of for aggressive law-and-order policies and homicide with measures of masculine other violent punishments of violence. homophobia. Any one of these codes can be invoked by their labor and not their emotional life. with their nostrums about are more clearly male: those which link sparing rods and spoiling children. but or of America's evangelical Christian in addition there are still other codes that traditions. These sponsibilities faced by single parents. Omar. not gender: aggressive parenting tions of control over children are often not only leaves kids scarredwith hurtful seen as a mark of status and respectability.

The collapse of the urban industrial economy has left young. it appearsfrom a number of statistical studies that northern cities have been much more fertile groundsfor violence and male abandonment of families than have rural places and southern cities. The importance of violence to men's sense of honor and "heart. These in turn are sewn together with other heroes and images from mass- 146 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .that helped to sustain violence as a coping strategy in many poor urban African American communities. which young inner city men have transformed from articlesof hatredinto a source of pride in the form of the "baaadnigga" hero.and compensate for those humiliations. And much of the folklore of black "badmen" like Stagolee and Shine derives from the South. Its racial component is based on recently resurgent mainstream stereotypes of inherently hypersexed violent black men. or any one of its many varied and changing black or white communities from the past century. Its class component is based on young men's roles as consumers and especially upon their particularly enthusiastic and often desperately driven forms of mainstream conspicuous consumption. one largely derived from selected values and images of mainstream American culture. If the South. Ask Fahim or Omar who Stagolee or Shine is. and as a result. did give the inner city some of its values of violence. and they won't be able to tell you. albeit most likely the urban South in the last decade of the nineteenth century. they also gave it time-honored traditions of cooperation. particularly among men. The fact that rates of urban deathly violence escalated as these heroes faded into obscurity suggests something else was at work. Slavery doesn't help much in explaining the high rates of young black in Consumerism the face of povertyis too difficultto sustain. and it's not at all clear exactly how or if they are all linked across the centuries. too likely to turn into a passion to kill male suicide either. Still. young poor black men have created a gendered class and racial identity. suicide rates among African Americans have previously been much lower than those of whites. The urban social order based on racial segregationhas continued to generatedeep memories of shame about blackness that have withstood the efforts of black leaders to inculcate racial pride. namely those enshrined in extended families. codes of violent masculine honor have popped up in many places and at many times in history. To express those frustrations. and as Roger Lane has shown. with lifelong memories of frustration and humiliation." for example. unskilled black men without the opportunities to create identities as family breadwinners. To explain the growing rates of violent behavior among urban black men in the late twentieth century we need to give predominance to changes that have happened in cities during the late twentieth century. They are an urban phenomenon of the 1970s and '80s. possibly reflecting a resurgence during that period of white stereotypes of blacks as inherently prone to violence. Whatever the case. looks and sounds a lot like similar ideas among nineteenth-centurywhite southerners.

Moreover. But equally dispiriting is some black writers' failure to acknowledge that many whites' racial attitudes have changed considerably since the legal demises of slavery. IRONIESOF RACE Jim Sleeper One of the more dispiriting aspects of racial discourse in America today is white writers' failure to acknowledge. All names of children have been changed. which help legitimize a gender ideology based on the link between masculinity and violent expressions of vulnerability. Consumerism in the face of poverty is too difficult to sustain. Inverted racialstereotypes. particularly those that are least derived from the mainstream-such as rap performance and street basketball. which in themselves serve as nonviolent expressions of pain. except in passing. Kathy Peiss. no matter how ingenious the ironies involved." into a passion to kill. they can only be said to be deeply implicated in the crisis of inner city gender relations and the oppression of black women. much discussion of "Black- GENDER RELATIONS 147 . shouting imprecations at Patterson as they flee to racial self-absolution. Inevitably. Furthermore. and the great culturalreckonings of the civil rights movement. if not compelled. have harmed and diminished the souls of those men themselves.media entertainment." Orlando Patterson's magisterial "Blacklash" is the only recent work I've seen that offers partisanson both sides of this barricadedracial discourse a dignified alternative to what he calls the "failure to explore and communicate. not only across age lines and lines of sexual preference but also among peers-and too often to death. How effective a coping strategy has resulted? Inner city masculine culture contains hopeful elements. using building blocks provided by America's broader culture. still carry with them the load of self-contempt.those gender ideologies have licensed. For our "multiple-axial" analysis of inner city male desperation to be complete. even as sources of sustained pleasure and personal strength. and David Dorsey all contributed core thoughts to this essay. Jim Crow. too frustratingin itself. inner city gender oppression has an even wider circle of victims." It will be interesting to see how many take up his brave and generous offer to transcend racial partisanship-and how many run away. and too likely to turn. Even some of today's most acrimonious racial polarizations reflect something less than the old racist stigmatizing of blacks that. was "lathered into the foundations of the Republic. as in the case of "sneaker murders. Gary Gerstle. the historical depth and enduring legacies of slaveryandJim Crow for many American blacks. poor black men to systematically oppress other poor black men. As for gender ideologies based on these and other aggressive and misogynistic images. we need to be open to the thought that the gender ideologies createdby poor African American men in the hot face of late twentieth-century deindustrialization and racism. Dean Robinson. But the overarching structures of the identity are much less secure and much more dangerous. as Roger Wilkins has put it.

it is probably not through racismbut through their own descent into familial confusion. On the one hand. exploitative of-blacks as 148 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . such conflicts were engendered largely by historic white racism. as he also explains. That generally proceeds without any reference to blacks. Certainly today's black gender problems can be compounded by white racist contempt. Patterson's admirably complex and candid analysis of both sides of this paradox should help discerning readers to envision new possible solutions to gender conflicts that involve both personal and racial or ethnic self-discovery. we are more likely to bring non-black audiences to appreciatethe terrible stigma and devastation of historic racism. that we are most likely to appreciate the potent promise of a common. in their own brutalways. and even (perhaps especially) by the unwitting racist condescension of white liberals. the intensity and ubiquity of conflict between black men and women today reflects the uniquely brutal dispossession and degradation of black men under slavery andJim Crow. interracial American culture that emerged in the most heroic moments of the civil rights movement and that. even in the absence of racist malevolence. and breakdown. with abandonment and/or abuse by their fathers. as expressed in certain welfare policies and in their habitual reluctance to hold blacks to even the most baseline cultural and moral standards. touched more whites more profoundly than many of them are willing to admit in this time of renewed racial polarization and balkanization. sometimes subtly and intimately.lash" will address its rendering of black gender conflicts as the emblems of a profound racial paradox: On the one hand. indeed. but. as in many others. On the oth- er hand. and certainly more instructive racial paradox: when we are willing to acknowledge the malleability and significant abatement of white racism since the last century (and especially in the last three decades).But if whites play any truly substantial part in promoting sexual warfarewithin the black community. equally abusive attentions of their over-compensating single mothers. perhaps more counterintuitive. on the other. In Patterson's account. conflict. again often brutally. as sons struggle to cope. And it is precisely when we have acknowledged the full horror of our country's past. and it is portrayed increasingly as normative in mainstream cultural products that are accessible toand. I believe. these miseries are passed from generation We are passing the time when it is possible to blame whites for causing black brutality by stigmatizing blacks as uniquely depraved to generation. and to grapple. the misogyny and brutality of far too many such men has taken on a life of its own. they now perpetuate themselves independently of racist intent or intervention. to escape the sometimes overweening. its popularly ingrained and officially promulgated racism. The gender-relations paradox that is the most obvious topic of Patterson'sessay is certainly instructive. But "Blacklash"also highlights a larger. as he explains.

but because only as individualmen and women We can wefind the antidoteto heal ourselves. As Patterson notes. can only reclaimourselves byfirst reclaiming And and ourpast. more fateful than the one that frames gender battles as both contingent upon racism and independent of it." of Notice that Patterson's pathbreaking approach offers intimations not only of black communal self-recovery and self-absorption but also of an individual self-discovery and affirmation that are inherently transracial and conducive to full membership and dignity in a common human culture. The Thomas-Hill conflict's transracial resonance rightly points Patterson to a racial paradox that is even larger and. to my mind. historic oppressions. we can appreciatethat many American white ethnics who have been (quite credibly) accused of stigmatizing blacks have themselves also. when we understandblack sufferings not only in terms of the historic monstrosities that perpetrated them but also in terms of the human dimensions of the struggle for redemption that accompanied them. to a lesser extent. As Patterson puts it: Black men and women of all classeshave a poisonedrelationship. as the widow of MalcomX said we recentlyat Harvard. attractive professionals whose blackness didn't keep them from representing careeraspirations and workplace gender-relations problems that are at least as familiar to whites as to blacks. the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings riveted most Americans not because the protagonists were black but because they were successful.to each other. we can only do so by returningto its traumatic sourceand in an orphic graspof selfliberation cometo say. throughthe ways we relate. I read in a morning newspaper of three white teenage boys from broken and troubled homes in central Massachusetts who had just killed a 73-year-old man GENDER RELATIONS 149 . But blamingthesealone will get us nowhere-not only becauseit is we who now injectthepoison into our own misguided souls.that everything are. articulate. Such a culture happens to be what the United States was founded to nourish and promote.individually collectively. and other racist malevolence. only when we fully grasp that perversepotency and the "seismic shocks" which historic racism administered to blacks can we understand the extent to which some problems in the black community are that community's own to resolve. Even as I was reading Patterson'svivid descriptions of the depradations of black youth from broken or never-formed families. ironically. and what the Constitution over which Clarence Thomas now sits in judgment is supposed to protect.orfail to relate. that largerparadoxis: only by understanding what has changed and continues to change for the better in white attitudes toward blacks-even in some instances of current racial polarization-can we grasp fully the perverse potency of slavery. throughthe ways we bringup our children. been victims of stigmatization and of the subtle and intimate miseries that pass from parent to child in partial consequence of systemic. Again. yet.well as whites. Moreover. throughthe values we cherishand the ones we chooseto spurn. what its civic culture has aspired to be. Slaveryand the system racialoppression brewedandfirst injected of that poison. and poverty.Jim Crow. prolongsit.along with racism. and have beenis all "because us.

The present-day crisis in black male-female relations cannot be attributed to one event. Not only are we passing the time when it is possible for some whites to blame blacks alone for such brutality. electronics. and modeled after. and aircraft industries. black churches in which men were the leaders. and World War II and came through intact. a transition to. The years following World War II promised morejob opportunities for black men and women. In the struggle for "integration. but grew out of the economic. the recovery of one's humanity. Conflicts between black men and women. Champions of communal redemption through intergroup confrontation and conflict offer what amounts. and political upheavals of the last thirty years.while breaking into his house in Tampa. Wartime opportunities were expanded post-war. Reconstruction. to a mere phase in. we are passing the time when it is possible to blame whites for causing black brutality by stigmatizing blacks as uniquely depraved. however. I cannot think of a more compelling reason to renew and revivify a common American civic culture ratherthan to seek to advance one's ethnic or racial group en bloc by stereotyping and trumpeting one's ethnic or racial victimization. In the wake of the war. as jobs opened up in the automotive. Patterson writes from and enriches this essential truth so profoundly that whites and blacks who truly comprehend "Blacklash" should find it as rewarding as it is painful and humbling to read." black men and women marchedand protestedside by side with fair-minded whites to end racism. the effects of Jim Crow. Washington How did black American men and women arrive at their current state of Uncivil War? In the past. More than one million had served in the war. social. organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League continued to exert pressure for civil rights. chemical. the Truman administration instituted the "Fair Deal Policy" to eliminate segregation in government service. Florida. still largely bound in solid marital and family relationships. In most churches the pastors and 150 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . It is perhaps a bit easier for us to understand that white ethnics who resist racial change in the urbanneighborhoods and schools where they have been raised are responding not only to empirically valid fears of violently anti-social young blacks. the Great Depression. inherent in returning to the traumatichistorical source of such victimization is the "orphic grasp of self-liberation" that posits personal as well as communal responsibility. black couples struggled together through slavery. at best. As Patterson puts it. UNCIVIL WAR Elsie B. but also to fears of such anti-social violence in themselves. were highlighted by the structure of the major civil rights organizations. The efforts to end segregation developed into the Civil Rights Movement and new laws aimed at improving opportunities for blacks. The next decade and a half was a period of rising expectations. Many of the organizations were closely allied to.

so it under racism and segregation.myths and stereotypes of the black maunteer marchers and Freedom Riders. too. but now they wanted women to take a more subservient role as a supportive. in the NAACP. and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). the Urban League. more women in the movement worked happily prominent roles. didn't want to appear to be fulfilling the cooked meals. In Martin Luther King. Or maybe. some women were not as acwas for the good of quiescent as others and wanted to be recthe race that the men ognized for their contributions. and going to jail along with the black men. During the period from 1954 through 1968. Fannie Lou Hamer. triarchy. As a result. though.Black men be in the lead tried to persuadeblack women that it was for the good of the race that the men be For the most part. and some black women. white society. to assertthemselves as leaders in a manner that emulated the larger. a national struggle to attend to. Perhaps black women behind the scenes. within and outside the organizations was that it was important for men to be in the forefront. and kept house for vol. and Bernice Reagon gained prominence for their courage and the leadership they gave to the struggle. however.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. black men to take on the role of "warrior" There was also an implicit promise that and stand up to the system in a forceful. GENDER RELATIONS 151 . when the struggle was over. especially those who were good theorists or tacticians.the castrating. like Ella Baker. black sented the fact that they were being pushed men tried to persuade back and basically told to be quiet. wo-manned the offices. Black women who were acpartner. they. But there were private discussionstaking place between black men and women about their roles during this period and later during the push for black power. And a few women. while women were assigned to auxiliary management and supportpositions. Septima Clark. the struggle demanded that they present a united front. reIn the 1960s. demonstrating. Alblack women that it though there was no talk then of women's liberation. believed that important officerswere men.domineering black There were a number of black women female. Generally seemed that to be "equal" black men had speaking. tive in the front lines.White men had the vast majority of leadnesses to the black man's emasculation ership roles in the larger society. singing. Black men acknowledged the traditional strength of black women. black women were ready for to be the leaders of black organizations. black men held the leadership positions that set policy and decided on strategy.on the front lines. The feeling of black men. It was another instance of movement were in agreement with the emulating those who were in power. Jr. black women in the in the lead. a great many would be allowed to fill larger. They were the exceptions. black women nonviolent way. Whether they lived in the North or the South. strategy: they had been long-time wit. black men and women had a purpose. rather than the rule. rather than an equal.

"hustling.they needed the to behave sameas whites. unskilledlabor.However.and to help out at home. However."is a readyexample. expectations of equalopthat the long-hoped-for day New lawswereenhad portunity arrived.During this ratherunprecedentedperiodof blackandwhite togetherness. than a few black women feel that the blackmen who sleptwith white women duringthe 1960s and 1970s movements were "claimingthe prize"thathadfor so long been forbidden.refusingto be left to out. earna livelihoodon the street. There was also anotherareaof uneasinessbetweenblackmen andblackwomen. the issue of white between of loverswasa source contention blackmen and women and continuesto be a highly emotionaland sensitivesubject for many.or. A popular saying. Someblackwomen. blackmen outblackwomen on college camnumbered even as blackwomen were enrolpuses. This historicmoment would quickly and educational patpass. of ing for the moment the truthfulness that claim.Black men explainedthat datingwhite women white menforrapwas"revenge" against Assuming blackwomen duringslavery. love their sons. are taughtto be disciplined. For the firsttime.Girls. attributedto (nowKwameToure). swiftly reasserted In any numberof blackfamilieswith maleand femalesiblings. to boysareencouraged be willful andinvolved in sportsand other "manly"pursuits. the battlebetweenblackand white men over white women still left More alone. to study hard. knew that blackparents Traditionally. gendered differencesin educahad tionalattainment its originsin American history. The gains made by the Civil Rights Movement opened several windows of were high and opportunity. That attitude angered some black women. the males in the family findskilledor go into the armedservices. tury. StokelyCarmichael to the effect that "the best position for women [in the struggle]is prone. ling in recordnumbers.developedoverthe courseof a centhemselves. but they and others were hurt even morewhen manyblackmen in the 1960s and 1970s turnedto white female and for activists companionship sex. A lot of blacksattributethis patternto the old sayingthat blackmothers"raise but their daughters. Occupational terns. A lot of blackmen in the Civil Rights and Black Power movementsconsidered for that women were "rewards" soldiers "on the frontlines"and thatwomen exdomestic istedto havesex andto perform duties. Federal programs to go to college or to enterjob training programsthat would lead to employment. responded favorably the attention they received from white men in the movement.many people had their first opportunityto reallyknow a personof the other race. blackwomenon the sidelines.or to work part-time. to actedpurportedly grantequalrightsto allowedmanyblacks all."Unlike their sisters.In any case. if they don't want a regimentedlife.one or moreof the femaleswill obtaina college education.on the other hand.to be integrated with whites."Of course. their sons could obtainblue collaroccu- 152 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . black women largely submittedto the men'swishes.

a situaearly school years when their natural en. This historical adaptation to post-war conditions evolved into disparate expectations for the education of black boys and girls. Daughters. from black men. Issues of sexism and male domination raised by white feminists struck a chord with black women.pations. Thus black parents encouraged their daughters to be good students in large measurebecause college was the only way for them to avoid "Miss Ann's" kitchen. But as black women began to students. and always had been. Others who were inattentive or achieve financial independence (thanks to disinterested in the style of teaching were better educational and occupational opcalled slow learners and put into separate portunities). in the age of Affirmative Action. the Women's Liberation Movement created a push to open doors for women in business. along with the larger society's ever-pres- on to higher education. In the last severalyearsblack social scientists and relationships.men occupied the dominant role in most boys mary grades.abuse. Although few black women demonstratedwith the early feminists. many did agree with the call for equality with men.tion that black women had by and large ergy earned them the label of "problem" accepted. Black men did not see themselves as oppressors of their women but as the victims of white America ent apprehensiveness about all black males. Those black boys for whom aca. both at acquired greater control over their lives school and in the community. others have begun to describe how black By tradition and circumstance black are discriminated against in the pri. Additionally. who could earn "good" money in factories and foundries. rarely go with the advent of easier methods of birth The 1970s saw openings for blacks in white collar positions in corporateAmerica that previously had not existed. many black men have been unable to take advantage of the same educational grants and opportunities that black women obtained. often dropped out of school early to get a job. they became less willing to classes where even less was expected of put up with sexism. have combined to ensure that black boys don't receive the attention or encouragement in school that they should. Their sons. Consequently. were almost invariably fated for work as a domestic. The lowered anticipation of success. as has often been noted. Black men also suspected that black women were advancing at male expense because white employers perceive black women to be less threatening. Black women also demic attainment is discouraged.Many black males recall their black families and organizations. a centralpart of their GENDER RELATIONS 153 . And the truth was that sexism was. however. or any other type of them. and thereby earn enough to support themselves and their families. who in turn re-examined their own relationshipswith black men. without the benefit of more extensive education. employers could fulfill both gender and racial quotas by hiring a black woman.

Childrenof theDreamby Audrey Edwards opportunities personal vancement. though.marry at all. armed with the means to women have been more willing to bring adequately support themselves. race continues not only challengingmen to overcomethe same to make a critical impact on success and obstacles womenhave.controlandthe legalization abortionof While many black men say that they over the protestsof blackmen.relationship. Many refuse to accept a mate ditions that have placed them aheadof who has any less and so are hesitating to black men in educationand job attain.between black men and women.Women are vying for the and Craig K. or therapy. Black tant than marriagein determiningthe men say that it is not so much the money woman'sdomesticrole. and homicide. en who wanted to denigratethe same white men who had put them on pedestals." or the degree but the attitude of superiBlack men did not see themselvesas ority that these black women bring to the of oppressors theirwomen but as the vic. As Paula are not intimidatedby a woman with more and I Giddingsnoted in When Where En.By and In the last twenty-five years there have large. As the 1992 book or themselves for ad. "Throughout blackwomen. Polite states. sympatheticto and alcohol abuse. They areconcerned the con.black men declared. workedout by the two of them.black Black women. is more difficult.women.education and/or a higher salary. Conversely. without Both sexes are marrying later and both recourse to feminist analysis.Other women. agreethathis life percentage of black prison inmates decimate the numbers of eligible black men." To many blackmen this attitudemakes This feeling that blacks never quite meablack women less desirableas marriage sure up contributes to the plagues of drug partners. childrenare more impor. set their theirrelationships otherproblems and to sights on partners with similar assets and that therapy. counsel.Blackwomen achievement. but also to skew how black that know that if they can succeedin school success and achievement are viewed: inandthe workingworld. blackmen feel that any problems been major changes on the dating and between black men and women can be marriagefront for black women and men. Partof this distancing created the of single black folks today. "For the Afhighestpositionsthey canachieveandare rican American.so canblackmen.to date or marry well-paid executive they mentasanactivityof spoiledwhite wom. hardeconomic is by new unwillingness someblackwomen times and the after-effects of continuing of to remainin the background to deny racism are also strong. who say they welcome the opportunity For beratedthe Women's Lib Move. the high the blackman'splight. outside have reservations about marrying at all. timsof white America. the mostpart.credentials. The reluctance to marry is only one ment havedrivena wedge betweenblack factor contributing to the large number men and women.There areblack men.Blackwomen hadno placein that movement. evitably it is in relation to white success. educathe social history of tion and money continue to be sore points ter. 154 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .

But how do these conditions affect gender relations? Which African Americans are in GENDER RELATIONS 155 . and Race tile. but those years also brought upheavals in traditional black relationships. Their marriages are in trouble. animosity. Reports from The Stateof Black America1994 tell of chronic hyper-unemployment. There is a palpable absence of stable unions between black men and women. TwoNations:Separate. Inc. Unequal(Andrew Hacker). and welfare dependency. Copyright the Noble Press. So argues Orlando Patterson in "Blacklash: The Crisis of Gender Relations Among African Americans. a crisis that was most dramatically manifested in the Thomas-Hill hearings. It is also apparent. and not a few dramaturgicalcreations. the hearings opened the cupboardand exposed a skeleton-relations between even middle-class "brothers" and "sisters" are laced with power plays. The black divorce rate is twice as high as the white. however. and pain. Related to the alleged crisis in black male-female relationships is a chronic condition of socioeconomic deprivation. There is an awareness as this century comes to an end that black men and women must end this internal strife. secret desires.*0 0 Although the obstacles of the 1990s are different from those faced by the Africans brought here hundreds of years ago. some sixty percent of black children were born to single mothers. ExBecerpted from Uncivil War:The Struggle tween BlackMenand Women The (Chicago: Noble Press. While there are pockets and episodes of black social mobility." In Patterson's view. absurdly high levels of incarceration. betrayal. the Uncivil War they have waged for years. Reprinted with permission. disproportionate levels of involvement in drug consumption and street trafficking. The titles and contents of some recent best-selling works-Faces at theBottomof the Well Hos(Derrick Bell). low wages. African Americans who are knowledgeable about the history of blacks in America believe that the current situation has its genesis in the events of the past. the same determination to overcome is required to ensure survival. Things changed dramatically for blacks educationally and financially after the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. and respondents in social scientific surveys express dissatisfaction with the state of black malefemale relations. THE "CRISIS" RELATIONS IN HUMAN Yehudi Webster Analysis of the African American experience indicates that African American men and women have been experiencing a searing crisis in their relationships. that their long history together in this country has created a durablebond that even the worst of times and conditions won't sever. fictional and nonfictional texts. Matters(Cornel West)-indicate that African Americans are in dire straits. nearly every index of economic well-being suggests a community laden with catastrophe. 1995). Today there seems to be an impasse with many black women and men looking at each other as adversariesratherthan partners and friends. Throughout the 1980s.

This thesis. and Race. lower-. or who. and a poverty along with racism prolongs it. replicates certain Weberian 156 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . and William J. matricidal (symbolically and subconsciously). and underclass. Developing a race-class motif popularized by Myrdal's American Dilemma.analysesof racecliningSignificance class intersections have come of age. Wilson's The DeofRace. power-conflict."or. which gender is in more trouble. as well as a matriocentric lower class family structure that produces young black males with misogynistic.E. Although certainly aware of the limitations of historico-cultural explanations of contemporary social relations. cultural deficiency. then. psycho-historical (slavery). together with gender analysis.and class (Marxistand Weberian) perspectives on the black experience. There is a chronological sequence in the appearanceof these explanations. Patterson attempts to bring slavery back in as a sculptor of black psychology and a source Overall relations between men and women are replete with violence of the crisis in black gender relations: "Black men and women of all classes have a poisoned relationship. producing a tension in black male-female relations. it could not be long before "black feminist" searchlights detected jeopardized specificities in black women's experiences and troubled black male-female relationships rooted in the black male's sexism.trouble? Which class within that population? Which generation? Which gender? Indeed. but it does not identify it. these tensions are manifest in soured relationships and troubled black middleclass marriages. Orlando Patterson's intervention into this field takes the form of (1) an affirmation of a "terrible crisis" in black gender relations.and (3) an endorsement of a cultural-historical explanation of black. Wilson's DecliningSignificance Race in 1978 conof tinued a practice that has since gained steam in studies of the black experiencethe unmasking of intra-racial socioeconomic. Conceiving the disfunctional black family as an inheritance of a slave past. institutional racism. and fratricidal behaviors. or "class" differences. By virtue of the re-emergence of feminism in the late 1960s and the institutionalization of black and women's studies at colleges and universities. But the publication of William J. Slavery and the system of racial oppression brewed and first injected that poison. a thesis that contains implicit and explicit references to "samboification. Class. Franklin Frazier'sTheBlackBourgeoisie.C. Moynihan's "family deficit" thesis. they are being constituted as a distinct field of study. O. Patterson re-presents Daniel P. the demoralization and stupefaction of slaves. including middle-. The analytic contours of the slavery thesis may be summarized as follows: slaverybequeathedemasculatedblack men and masculinized black women. and what." Here the metaphor of poison serves to dramatize the crisis. assimilationist (Robert Park's race relations cycle). is responsible for their troubled relations? Explanations abound in genetic deficiency. family deficit. behavior. Cox's Caste. (2) a repudiation of a cardinal thesis within "African American feminist" thinking-black women are doubly oppressed.

e. What Patterson male-female relations is merely that. and man. these data and conversation.The posturing. then. Weber. in their emphasis on the evil nature of white males. What ifest in a host of pathological behaviors the idea of black male violence implies is among all classesof AfricanAmericanmen that blackness and maleness are causally and women.nothing specifically black or male about lations. and age. but an are emotionallyand socially brutalizingand average of various divorce rates among self-destructive. to an accepted tradition of nonverbal conflict resolution. murderous uality. sociological insights. However. However. been a great deal of very angry data on behavioral and decision-making talk among blacks on the subject. neurological and engenly. family types. Freud's Oedipal symbolism.illiteracy. edThis.but little processes. are accurate. for if it a is what we haveinherited: lower were to be disaggregated by income. Explanations of violence and rape.. it is rooted in slavery. There is There is a crisis in black male-female re.violence in interpersonal relations. Durkheim. its existence. then.vent of Comte. They constitute a pre-scientific sobut does not present adequate evidence of ciology. and derstood the nature of this crisis and offer Marx. and a historicist interpretation of the present as an elongation of the past. dysfunctions. region. of nightlycarnage on domestic homicide and physical abuse thegrim statisticson child and spousalabuse. such biological determinism should analyses that blame the truly victim." Black male-feantimaternal sexwith its predatory. With the adAfrican American feminists have misun. But ized-black males. suicide-these are thegruesome range from economic conditions. sociologically. poverty." some of which are lower than pathologicalnarcissismof "coolpose" masthose of some "whites.self-healing overall relations between men and womself-loathing displacements. What is "black"about these relations. connected to the violence. psychologically deredtragedy. culinity male violence? A case can be made that and addictions. talk.have disappearedfrom social studies. Talk of a crisis in black the cause of the crisis. Patterson adds. GENDER RELATIONS 157 . some black liberationist 0 * * and feminist analyses are reminiscent of Comte's theological and metaphysical What is the nature of the crisis in black stages of human intellectual developmale-female relations? Patterson affirms ment. and even less light" is ac"pathological" behaviors are also cited as curateat one level. physically "blacks. peculiar enough to warrant such a description? The black divorce rate-even if twice as high as the white-is unacceptable as an index of the crisis. it would turn out to be not a blackdivorce rate. i. and behaviors that classwith genderattitudes ucation. if the figures on thestreets theinnercities.should demonstrate is the specificity of crisis-torn "black" male-female relations. In a poignant passagePattersonspells out the legacy of African American slavery. What is presented as eviPatterson's claim that "there has.the daily and en are replete with violence. of dence of the crisis in gender relations is course. educaof manifestations this historicaltional levels.

For Patterson. and their resistance to these mutilations.The Thomas-Hill hearings certainly do not constitute proof of a critical and peculiar condition. and domestic servants. is the modernized. not free market capitalism. and providers. it is black males who are the real pack horses of this racist culture and society. have played havoc with black male sexuality."in its generalizing implication? Precisely because of the absence of a specification of the nature of the crisis.and intra-racial relations." The destruction of black males is also caused by the crisis. By implication. poverty. whose origins are historico-cultural. and literally die horrible and prematuredeaths as a direct result of this crisis. he claims underclass black male behavior is said to be one of the originsof the crisis: "The murderous aggressiveness and self-destructive violence. Ntozake Shange's colored considerations of suicide. or Terry McMillan's exhalations. nor the shambles of public education. These texts embody imaginary and "true" personal confessions that can be taken as evidence of a crisis in black gender relations only if a failed relationship with a black woman or man justifies statements about all black women and black men. sons.. As bearers of children. whose sources are slavery.and lowerclass black men. and a matrifocal family structurethat creates misogynistic and antimaternal postures in black males. and "we continue to live with the consequences of this differentiatedeffect of slavery on gender roles.and themisogynistic abuse with of womenand identification manliness of and the abandonment mothimpregnation of ers-behaviors characteristic of a disproportionate number of under. who are the putative descendants of the brutalized one-third of the slave 158 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . interventionist economic policies. black females were able to gain valuable cultural capital. hence. house slaves. nor the intellectual and moral shortcomings of cor- porate and political leaders. Is this talk of a crisis in black male-female relations "racist. female) behaviors. By contrast. while females were relatively privileged." Elsewhere in the essay. Patterson introduces slavery as a central part of the explanation of contemporary inter. Relations between black men and women in modern America are soured by the differing treatmentsof black female and male slaves.. But the "sociological mutilations" inflicted on them by slavery. are more acceptable to the white males who dominate the corporate structure. 'cool pose' version of a brutalbehavior complex going back to slavery. the crisis in black male-female relations is expressed in pathological black male (and. Black males were reduced to stud roles. It may be a moot point whether Patterson's analysis represents a description of a vicious cycle or circular reasoning. Slavery was a holocaustic assault on the black family and gender relations. He claims that "Black men . to a lesser extent. the hyperkinetic posturing and violent braggadocio. nor the deindustrialization of the urban economy." Black women are still regardedas less of a threat and. Nor is evidence of a general crisis forthcoming in Michele Wallace's black macho and superwoman myths. especially that of lower-class black males. however. the black male slaves were denied roles as fathers. suffer great trauma and unhappiness. mothers. but there is no doubt that slavery is the axis of the crisis. racism. Patterson is led to make contradictory assertions.

for the description of the crisis alludes to a wide range of political economic conditions. no historical continuity can be established between Sambos and Rambos.just as African American feminist thought identifies a profound gender polarization by appropriating the radicalfeminist tradition. in the absence of biographical and ethnographic data. radical. Patterson's explanation represents hoc the post hoc. suggesting that the crisis is not in black gender relations but in educational and economic policies. and volunteer studs reappear as an urban underclassthat terrorizes all and sundry. Thus. The collective black identity is non-existent. aspirations. racial political mobilization is implicit in WilliamJ. Second. reproducedin socialization. as Marxist efforts to create a "class for itself." is reminiscent of the ravings of nineteenthcentury lynch mobs and scholarly dissertations on the naturallicentiousness of the entire Negro race. black people. Nevertheless. Stagger Lees. his description of that promiscuity. Patterson writes: "The underclass male is not a Don Juan but a stud. values. First. indeed. Attempts to construct it face the same subjective-objective demarcation difficulties. now disavows the concept. But while Wilson. in response to myriad criticisms of the underclassconcept. there is no "we..the evidence for the proposition that the crisis is one of gender and race is irreconcilable. This appeasement explains Patterson's vitriolic castigation of the promiscuity of the black underclass. a historical addiction to a collective racial trauma. as expressive of "predatory attitudes toward women. His behavior." All black-skinned people are not black in terms of experiences. The transition from a slave lowerclass to an urban underclass marks a development from a little Sambo to a sexual Rambo." The impossibility of a cohesive. Patterson uses it to defend middle-class black men. Second. with slavery being the ultimate cause." Patterson's description of black underclass promiscuityis reminiscentof the ravingsof nineteenthcenturylynch mobs The stock-slave ancestor. Patterson'sanalysis is in the Weberian-Wilsonian tradition of demonstrating deep class cleavages among African Americans. Two objections may be made to this historic line of reasoning. although Pattersonpresents multiple causes of the gender crisis. is a collective psychosis.population that was stubbornly nihilistic and samboified. he does not disclose the operational dynamics of this historical causation. ergopropter fallacy-slavis an antecedent of all contemporary ery GENDER RELATIONS 159 . First. Little Sambo has become a badass dude.. palpable contradictions in Patterson's intervention into the debate over black male-female relations. the Sambos. exactly like his stock-slave ancestor. because both the slavery and modern urban experiences are internally differentiated. or behavior. Wilson's thesis of the declining significance of race. as an appeasement of bellicose black feminists. which were exposed by Max Weber. It is not clear how the slavery experience translates into attitudes and behavior over the centuries. There are other analytical and logical weaknesses..

Patterson's utilization of Oedipal longings to explain the behavior of lower-class black youth does not provide a basis for the revolutionary changes he claims to desire. gender." lower-class blacks possess a "vicious desire to impregnate and leave women. the basic categories of the analysis (namely race. especially in light of the long-standing controversies over definitions of race. in 1940 theproportion blackmen.black experiences. Third. as a result of "the sociological mutilations of slavery. Patterson charges that racism is still very much alive in American society." The institution of marriage among all classes of blacks is said to be "in serious trouble. the deviant behaviors of the so-called lower. and destructive of. Fourth. Hence. or this causation must be abandoned. Fifth. as if there were a consensus on their theoretical status and logical viability. However. Why are the descendants of a family-de- stroying slave system marriage-prone in the 1940s and misogamist in the 1980s? The factors that lead to a breakin slavery's causation must be presented. without attending to its possible influence on his own analysis. and it is patronizing and sexist to place greater blame on African-American fathers than on mothers." But according to the research of Mare and Winship. the black underclass youth is mindless. such a delineation is crucial to the coherence of the arguments. In Patterson's analysis. Sixth. which is cited by Patterson: . the persuasivenessof his arguments. Patterson's analysisskirtsthe issue.aged of who weremarried to twenty-four twenty-nine.therefore. . that of white men in the same ageexceeded vs." as a result of "slavery's ethnocidal assault on black gender roles. and gender) are not conceptually delineated. class. Patterson depicts the young underclass black as a bundle of sexual and violent energies caught up in a maelstrom of subterraneanpsychological forces. This omissionjustifies Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams' criticisms of the "liberal" and civil rights activists who conveniently pull the rabbits of slavery and racism out of their hats to explain black deprivation and ignore the post-1960s government interventions that are equally culpable in the destruction of the black family. while the figurefor black men hadfallen to 35 percent." But he also argues:"It takes two to bring a child into this world. it is the cause of these experiences. The concepts of race. group (59 percent 56 percent).By 1985white men had 87 the proportion married of declinedby only four points to 52 percent. Patterson's analysis is replete with inconsistencies.and underclass might have been traced to the quality of public education they received. and underclass are most uncritically used. and this mindlessness is traced to a condition beyond his con- 160 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . He asserts that. class. Instead. His neo-Freudianism assumes an incapacitation of persons' reasoning abilities. Some of his descriptions of the sexual attitudes of both lowerand middle-class blacks as well as references to their "sexual aggression against women" and "promiscuous sexual and physical violence" rival nineteenth-century KKK and contemporary White Aryan Resistance pamphlets on the Negro's sexuality. Patterson'sanalysis ignores aspects of the sociological literature that are pivotal to.

it fails to correlate these facts with GENDER RELATIONS 161 . especially. income. Finally. and class experiences. young African American males far outstrip those of African American females. failures rooted in their slave past. However. Rates of homicide and suicide among. Second. This conclusion does not follow from the data presented." and its dislocating socioeconomic and psychological consequences. Third. have no respect for black men. Patterson validates the comparison. it omits certain critical facts about the black male experience. Nevertheless." Patterson admits that this argument exposes unsavory and disturbing attitudes of black men toward black women.trol-slavery. on the authority of Michele Wallace. black male attitudes toward black females. it ignores the black female's responsibility for "highrisk parenting. but it constitutes a compromise that avoids a spiraling exercise in upping the ante of evidence of oppression. racial. Patterson The seismic shock to consciousness comes not fromslavery. the cri- sis-ridden problem of gender relations between African American men and women" sets the stage for accusationsof moral failures among all African Americans. As regards the historical comparative quality of black male and female experiences. In this sense Patterson's "Blacklash" constitutes another turn of the cycle of condemnations of the Negro's flawed nature. Having documented that African American males are burdened with educational and economic -eprivation and "horrible"physical destruction. His object of study: ". a quantification that rails against the implicitly qualitative content of the concept of oppression.. Black male slaves were twice victimized. and life expectancy. This fatalistic proposition is necessary to support the premise that the legacies of slavery-the pre-natal alienation of the outsider-live on in the body politic and black culture. and black women who. and demurs: "I think the double burden argument while not strictly incorrect. Patterson's conclusions are uncompromising. the moral-political context and content of studies of gender. obscures more than it illuminates. Their sons are thrice victimized by white males. he claims that it has the following weaknesses: First. and thereby runs aground on. other black males. Patterson substantiates these criticisms with a wealth of statistics showing the comparativelyprivileged position of black females in education. but racial classification and black selfidentification concludes that black females are simply more burdened and that each gender bears different kinds of burdens. . What is the nature of the poison that corrodesrelations between AfricanAmerican women and men? Patterson's uncritical reference to the responses of Af- Are black women more oppressed than black men? African-American feminists answer in the affirmative. Slavery was less brutalizing for black females. Patterson'sanalysis fails to explore.But surely such comparisons presuppose the possibility of quantifying oppression.

"niggers ain't worth shit. epistemology. "Black people" are self-trapped in a self-contradictory racialworldview. Rather." precisely because of their expectation of black harmony." In outlining a remedy for the crisis. as Patterson states. black men. which. Black male-female relations must be 162 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 ." Intense frustration and anger follow from the realization that a common blackness does not eliminate their educational." coupled with opposition to racial discrimination. Nor do black men and women hate one another. to let go of blackness and black people? Hate cannot be an accurate description of African American postures toward one other. "I love my black men. labor competition.. and aspirational differences. The seismic shock to consciousness comes not from slavery. and the lay public. even as it fails to provide succor. financial anxieties. without knowledge of philosophies of history and the relationship among logic. Persons who self-classify as black reach out to their likenesses with extremely high hopes of harmony and compatibility. regional. . normative. or angera result of a failure to realize given interests.rican American students at Temple University seems to affirmMichele Wallace's assertion that black men and women hate each other. in all probability. If anything explains the persistence of this entrapment in a self-contradictory racial worldview. It is useless in the urbanrat race.Yet. Naomi Zack offers an estimate that out of some ten thousand professional philosophers in the United States. blocked social mobility. I miss the Southnullify blacknessas a foundation for a harmony of interests." valorization of "light skin. doctoral candidates. and pragmatism that are required for success in an urban capitalist environment-oh. the tangle of commercialized ambitions." "fine features. "black people" will be more angry at other "black people" than they would be at "white people. instrumentalism. utilitarianism. they do not discriminate in their choice of pin-cushions. it is an educational system that does not provide the input that would facilitate reasoning out of this worldview. The individualism. declarations such as. will be other black people. their blackness is nonfunctional and dysfunctional. Patterson does opt for an education grounded in historical understanding." side by side with. Such understanding cannot be reached. ethics. black women. . behavioral. generational. hopes basedon a conviction that they live in a hostile white world and need to be "brothers" and "sisters. however. A more plausible description of even the frequently voiced "I hate niggers. but racial classification and black self-identification." Educational input more rooted in the humanities could do much to resolve these patternsof "cognitive dissonance. This is expressed in particular inconsistencies-"I wouldn't go out with a person of another race. In situations of conflicting interests. Their rage is bound to be unbounded." and "good hair" and hostility toward the people whose acts led to that "multiraciality. But why do they not have the desire to defect. seventy-five are African Americans! The dearth of courses in philosophy and critical thinking in educational institutions leads to a tolerance of contradictory beliefs among students. and aesthetics. the conviction that America is a racist white society compels a more avid embracing of blackness. In Race and Mixed Race." would be frustration. and material deprivation.

But then. it must be concluded that formal education is not performing its role as a cultivator of reasoning skills and reasonableness. then. Otherwise. for example. Consider the assertionthat blacks are poor. or some? Unless black millionaires are poor. maybe not twice. insofar as destructive cultural traditions remain in force.. it is retained because of a hidden thesis that race is of some significance in American society. black and white racial designations themselves racist becausethe conceptof race does not have an adequate scientificbasis. In the process. Patterson's analysis itself. However. insofar as this family structure is itself a product of slavery. could be accused of having biases whose source lies in his poisoned gender relations. If are racialdesignations racist. or inability. in the first person ought not to have racial identities. the idea of black poverty loses its racial flavor. male and female. Is this all. if any. Despite their irrelevanceand even hindrance to conclusive social studies. especially racial classification.and middle-class blacks. In Race and Mixed Race.. It is the philosophical quality of schooling in America that explains the black and the white refusal. or thrice. Outraged voices should swell the pages of Transition'sSymposium. more and burdensome statistics will be invoked to demonstrate that black women are indeed. "all" has to be reduced to "some. ideological. coming from a self-characterizedblack male." This reformulation constitutesa classdifferentiation. The racial description.analyzed through philosophical-educational lenses. racial qualifications of social relations and conditions are not abandoned. Yet they selfdestruct. It can be safely predicted that very few. Racial classificationis "racist. to resist and transcend the psychological. without letting go of the past. and sociological effects of slavery. An analysis that links these relations to the slave past must sufferfrom particular logical deficiencies. but certainly unevenly burdened. the black family may be providing the mechanisms of transmission and retention of slavery's brutalizing attitudinal and cultural legacies. "Blacklash" falls squarely within the tradition of tolerance of an absurdsystem of racial classification. Once class and gender are intro- The alleged crisis in black female-male relations is a crisis of racialclassification duced. Naomi Zack writes of this classification: are . is nominal.And if people ought not to be as thenindividuals of identified members races. it may be claimed that black women are in greater poverty than black men so that gender differentiation must also be introduced. It cannot specify the reasons for the persistence of the irrational self-destructive behaviors among lower. Patterson's claim that all black gender relations are poisoned must be reformulated as someblack gender relations are vitiated. generation after generation.thenpeopleought as not to beidentified thethirdperson memin bersof races. Why is Patterson so silent."Hence. For example. African American feminists will be persuadedby Patterson'sarguments. on the institution of rape that was built into slav- GENDER RELATIONS 163 . any analysis of black experiences can also be deemed "racist" or empirically inaccu- rate. As Patterson indicates.

and slave laborer?Surely Patterson should be more empathic about the trials. but little conversation. share-cropping. arenaof genderrelations.I shouldlike to to squarely the problems face confronting both internaland external. white." "gendering" and "culturing" themselves to destruction. proand. of In responding his essay. which is partof an overall racial theory of history. E. that human beings are "coloring. it is an assault on the sociological tradition to treat classificationsas "realities. . has no logical substance." The human beings classified as black men and 164 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . or and/or haviorally. then." The alleged crisis in black female-male relations is a crisis of racial classification. as they strive to cope with unfaithful husbands. This designation. Patterson's "Blacklash" could result in ". Unlessone wantsto maintain black that males inherently are beinferior-genetically. OrlandoPatterson's "Blacklash" a brilis in the sociology liantandforthright essay has of culture. Tollett. a conceptual crisis. Sr. in a curious twist. gressing educationally even. I. The following are intended to illuminate propositions those problems.and gender-blind relationswith other humanbeings. and anger of less successful black men? Even if the lower-class black female is a willing participantin the act that produces offspring. mother. and domestic labor?Why is the slave's giving birth and rearing children so humanizing and life-affirming.for women maintaining are edorgainingground whileblack males hardly are ucationally. jealousy. am I most impressed his call to "squarely" by confrontthe internalproblems blacks. and trauma of professional black women.and as Peter Berger reminded those invited to sociology. gay. the result of a premature and unjustified racial designation of persons and their relations." unless gender and race are recognized as "loose cannons. woman. including W.B.andWilFrazier. . Black. it is the height of misogyny to claim that she sharessome responsibility for the runaway father's abominable cruelty to both her and his child. betweenthe circumThesedifferences of stances experiences blackmalesand and black femalesare not likely to be mere deal of very angry talk among blacks on the subject. liamJuliusWilson. a great black women can act out this reminder by establishingcolor. Thus. THE CRISIS OF BLACK MASCULINITY Kenneth S. Franklin NathanHare. house slavery.Patterson alreadysecured for himself a place in the pantheonof great twentieth-centuryblack sociologists.ery. and Jew are but classifications. losingground in lifeexpectancy. search in vain for intellectually and emotionally compatible soul-mates. While his discussion of the Thomas-Hillhearingsand his observationthat black feministstoo often confuseandconfoundgenderissueswith women's issues are perspicacious. and even less light.E. tribulations. and are forced to deal with the envy. The solution to the crisis in black male-female relations is to recognize that there is no such crisis. despite her three sets of roles and duties-father. It is. educationally-negative destructive mustbeimpacting externalfactors them severely black more than black women. Du Bois.in the blacks.

continued to be dismissed and disrespected at mainstream professional conferences on account of race. While black women have of course been similarly disenfranchised. especially males. reported that he. as Patterson notes. A recent New York Times article reported that black women earn. Two major traditional masculine roles are providing for and protecting the members of their households." Arthur Fletcher. after forty years of solid achievement. At a national conference in KansasCity. indeed. if not pathological. black males have been not only feared. Patterson clearly recognizes this. The feminist movement's effort to redefine male roles has hardly alleviated this problem. especially black males. stultified. and both conditions will only change by dealing with the black male's plight sensitively. and alienated them. This is also the key to the reconstruction of the black family. it has confused. The high incidence of single motherhood and the non.happenstance. constructing Sisterhood against GENDER RELATIONS 165 . and firmly. It must be added that many black women have bolstered their positions by identifying with feminism. black males have frequently behaved in asocial. Blacks. in characterizing the civil rights movement as a struggle for the recognition of blacks as constituent members of their communities. The double-digit unemployment rates of black males for most of the last two decades reflect the special difficulties black men face in serving as both providers and protectors.or low marriageability of many black males are intimately related. but also emasculated. even in his 60s. of some two-hundred scholars. that whites do not perceive black women as posing the same kind of threat to whites as black men. ministers. Only rarely have they been permitted to play the traditional roles expected of males in the social order in the United States. hence his questioning of the double-burden claim of black women. In all the discussion of black male pathology and "underclass" behavior. I think.more than black men and as much as white women. Thus whites are not as uncomfortable in the workplace with the presence of black women as they are with the presence of black men-especially upwardly mobile aggressive black males. and community workers "to exchange ideas on the problems of black men in America and to lay the groundwork for an organization dedicated to research and advocacy work for black men. as participantsshared stories of the countless small insults that come with being black men in largely white America. or the issue of powerlessness among black men. Missouri. Unfortunately. few bother to note that the most important way to reverse these developments is to achieve full employment for black males. constructively." Isabel Wilkerson poignantly reported that a discussion which "startedout addressing socioeconomic problems often turned into personaltestimonies. are still not considered full members of the social (sometimes even the human) community. I cannot agree. it is true. Deprived of those roles. ways. the Chairman of the United States Civil Rights Commission. on the average. and the socio-economic re-integration of the black community. that we have been "mightily successful" in obtaining such recognition. black males are still not often taken seriously. however. Historically. Patterson is correct.

This has been most clear in the "critical" responses to the Thomas-Hill controversy.." was III. Poussaint. on the hearings she edlection of essays ited) from introducing and setting the tone of the book and most of its essays by focusing upon references to Thomas's "laughs" and "weight lifting.. II. the I agree with Dr. The Thomas-Hillcontroversy a memorablestory or event in which a prominent as conservative blackmale was depicted a depraveddemon. according to the new dispensation." "under . Poussaint's article is headnoted with the words: "Black men and black women must learn to respect each other in order to save the endangered black family. who came from some of Europe's finest families. What is of grave concern is not simply that some blacks pander to feminists by joining in the trashing of Thomas and his reputation. is party to a conspiracy of privileged white males to abusethe children of the "finest families. and Freud in particular ceptions. pandering to female jingoist interests. had Thomas not been confirmed by the Senate-a fact which Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson." and upon "the candidate's body [coming] violently into view" and President Bush inviting "this black man into his bedroom . Alvin F. had been sexually abusedas children. "The Oedipus complex was born." Freud altered his theory "that his female patients." What terrible fantasies black males induce in the heated oppressed brains of whites." Thomas.a colEn-gendering Race-ingJustice. Feminist adherents frequently and ritualistically bash males. and Freud in particular.. The Thomas-Hill story would have had but two memorable meanings. the author of "Enough Already! Stop the Male-Bashing and Infighting." Furthermore. Dr. wish to undo: 166 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 .both black and white males: a strategy which affects the former more grievously. as black males remain extremely vulnerable vis-a-vis their white male counterparts. Male bashing-of bothwhitesandblacksto shouldbe modulated de-escalate destructhe tive tensionsbetween genders. in a special issue of Tikkun on "Sexuality After Thomas-Hill.. to make Thomas feel at home." in the pages of Ebony. the authors of StrangeJustice: Thomas TheSellingof Clarence (1994). which have. The trashing of Thomas is part and parcel of the trashing of men in general. but that they have helped denigrate professional black males in general. Breggin writes. " Peter R. usually by their fathers or trusted older men. been exclusively criticalofJustice Clarence Thomas. by making a blackJustice on the Supreme Court an eponym for sexual harassment! It is sad that the "sublime artistry" of Toni Morrison did not prevent her (in Power. some progressive black writers show signs of submergence in the white world of radical gynecentrism or feminism. with rare ex- The trashing of Clarence Thomas is part and parcel of the trashing of men in general. concerted professional pressure.

both black and white. The problem of sensitivity and concern for the plight of black males is a complicating consideration in this analysis.Moreover. Michael Tyson convicted of rape because a black beauty pageant contestant visited his room at two o'clock in the morning for a nice get-to-know-you discourse. appear to be under the undueinfluenceof feminists claiming to have had 20. some females may have a misandric perspective on males whether they are black or white. Specter treated and women. Wilt-the-Stilt Chamberlain Anita Faye Hill not as a helpless Southern belle but as a worthy law-professor ad- Liberalor progressive intellectuals. Illinois Congressman Melvin Reynolds indicted on twenty counts. anti-children. in Sally Quinn's phrasing. another black man was sexually come indignant if a male should fight back.000 women. black males' fixation upon white females may explain why progres- GENDER RELATIONS 167 . including statutoryrape (having sex with an underage campaign worker). probably because of sexual promiscuity." versary. However. some feminists insist upon (1) that another black woman brought down another black man (2) because. and rights of blacks is an indicator. who "was ajealous. seeking pornographic pictures of a minor. possessive. Many pandering blacks seem oblivious to the fact that radical feminist interests or prejudices sometimes project phallophobia. be they black or white. Anita Faye Hill's rative: Mayor Marion Barry entrappedby femininity did not silence Senator Specter "Rasheeda"Moore after the Feds enticed at the Senate Confirmation Hearings of her into exploiting his weakness for drugs Justice Clarence Thomas. Simpson. Who is pro-black may be debated.abusivehusband. the critical consideration in this domain is to identify with blacks in general rather than with oneself or immediate associates. and of distinguishing personal interest and perception from group interest and perception. interests. to say nothing about the possibility of some kind of interaction or other-course. O. ap. (This means some white writers may be just as capable of being pro-black as black writers.engaging males in serious combat but beparently." Nevertheless. but most would agreethat identifying with the needs. and antifamily. and Dr. In other words.magnolia blossoms. or refrain from treating them as fragile out of control." Ronald Goldman. This is already an all-too-familiar nar."hasbeen charged with the brutal butchery murder of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her "companion. Earvin "Magic" Johnson admitting that he's HIV-positive.J. Benjamin Chavis ousted by the Board of Directors of the NAACP because he used their "funds to secretly pay a former aide who had accused him of sexual harassment. and tampering with the investigation. and ecophobia: that feminists may be. it is to some extent a question of professionalism.) Regardless. The submergence of blacks in the white world may be as relevant in gender analysis as in racial analysis. "anti-male. pedophobia.

to try to destroy him. knowledge." However. of any or to cajoled coerced do. The result is that black women's rejection by black men for white women paradoxically estranges them from their men and causes them to embrace the ideology of those who are major sources of their estrangement. the Badass Poet [answering door]:Uncle Willie! Uncle Willie: Whew! Those some long-ass steps. Nevertheless. It was 1979 the last time I came to visit. This probably has more to do with some highly educated black women opposing Clarence Thomas than they would like to admit publicly. however. and I ain't the young dude I use to be. nephew! Why you have to live so far up the hill. don't you think? 168 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . "CATFISH!" or. the most important passagein her review precedes the quotations above. Power relationships are a driving force in much of feminist analysis and critiques of the political and social situation in the United States." The people who arepolitically correct on questions of gender and power are "complicit in the construction of the black male as the paradigmatic sexual suspect. Badass Poet: But the view is worth it. compelled. " she argued. appearto be under the undue influence of feminists. As Derrick Bell has observed.There is a knock at the door. both black and white. as Nathan andJulia Hare have pointedly observed. or not to do. which fiercely opposed Justice Thomas' confirmation. writing in The New Republic. and domination. threatened. even if he did say nasty hair thingsaboutpubic andLongDong Silver. anything. to questionwhether Thomas's actions. apart from Elshtain's dis- course upon social constructionism. is considered benighted to criticize mangled in whichthehearthe way or ings were conducted. She wrote: anyone who recognizescomplexitiesin the [Thomas-Hill] affair is immediatelyconIt signedtopariahdom.with a propensity to rape." "The tendency to portray black men as sexually rapacious. amounted sexual harassment the absence to in evidence that Hill was everentrapped. noted that the hearings contributed to a "mounting hysteria" which "trivialize[d] the seriousness of sexual harassment and serve[d] to deepen racialcodes about black males. feminist critiques of "power relations" must first confront the continuing powerlessness of black males. as against the National Organization of Women. Jean Bethke Elshtain. Liberal or progressive intellectuals.sive black women would buy into radical gynecocentrism or feminism more than some may want to recognize. including blacks. Uncle Willieand thebadass on "black poet male ideology" Cecil Brown Place: Berkeley Hills Setting: The black scholar/poet is reading the journal Transition. black nationalist women tended to side with Thomas's white wife. is "an unsavory theme in many (white) feminist tracts. power. Sadly. ideological disagreement with Justice Clarence Thomas has caused too many liberals and progressives.

can 'splain it to anybody. about the black woman's behavtrash? ior. is literary criticism. This'n looks the same. son? sions about the need for black men to join Badass Poet: Oh. What was it about? Well. Badass Poet: Uncle Willie. he claims that it is Uncle Willie: It don't mess you up wrong and "patronizingand sexist to place to read about it? [signifying] What kind of greater blame on African American fathers than on mothers. and resolving. but I have problems with his Female Gender Gap. son. Said thinks that the black woman's "double you was reading too many books. I saw one the last time I Uncle Willie: What was it 'bout. Yes. as much at stake as black women in Badass Poet: But why? Uncle Willie: Well. man and the black woman to the black which is more fun than reading it." Mr. don't be reading no por. But and women. inciUncle Willie: You 'sponding to that dentally. Uncle Willie. you In fact. I agree that "blackmen have we is real worried about you. I agree Willie sees the copy of Transition lying on with this. journal. that's a literary in the discussion of the gender question. this tionally and socially brutalizing and physis far more seriousthan pornography. On the one hand. I'm reading an article by Orlando Patterson on the Black clusions. Badass Poet: I suppose you're right Badass Poet: The Golden Gate on that count. This article is well-written.women is due to the black man's "lower class status. the terrible out with it. well. [Uncle burden argument" is unfounded. Bridge and Treasure Island. that's the same redbridge! Yeah. Uncle Willie: If you agree with him. I am responding to the article. I agree with his concluthe desk]What's this here." I agree that this is a significantissue. gaps you talking about? Badass Poet: I'm doing more than he traces the problem between the black reading. Uncle Willie-I can speak plainly breath! [catches breath. In cissism of 'cool pose' masculinity with its GENDER RELATIONS 169 . to come right understanding. pathological narnot trash.and looksaround]A to you-it was a bit too well-written. and over there is the island. I do not agree with his claim what gap? Son. premises. There is nothing. this is It is the "posturing.This ically self-destructive" behavior. son? was visiting you. Patterson going crazy out here in California. man's behavior. view is a view. he claims that the "internal racial agenda Uncle Willie. Uncle Willie: What you doin'? why you wasting yo' time writing him back? Reading it? Badass Poet: I agree with his conBadass Poet: Yes." Yet on the other. If you can 'splain it to Uncle Willie. too." which brings with it "emonography! Badass Poet: No.Uncle Willie: Lemme catch my fact. that the cause of this problem of comUncle Willie: The did you say Gap? Woman's Gap! Now munication between black men and black look here boy. how're the folks back in is the crisis-riddenproblem of gender reCarolina? lations between African American men Uncle Willie: Everybody's fine. people said that you was crisis in their relations.

but his own son is running around cleverness.accusing his opponent of such charges as hood. neighbor.bewilderment and self-hatred. the wit.the 'toasts' are negative. and murderous. claim healing that caused the the opposite. published the Badass Poet: Playing the dozens and first account of the dozens.type of ritual invective. . Let me read poet expects to win points from his auyou what I have written so far: (Badass dience-there is always an audience. you are is the very verbal culture that black men a deviant."Pattersonclaims that the 'dozens' and predatory. and I am the norm.. both past and present." disarray in the black family. physical violence. we wouldn't have sur. I bet some of them really think that these kids Your ma behind seat the dozens really get off by hating Is like a rumble doing their mothers! It hangfrom her back Down to herfeet. deviant behavior for our group. Their intent is moral. presumably. self. Doland Swim Like Me . 'are by far now a black man comes along and tries the most common and they frequently to show us that we are degenerates who relate to the female relatives of the chalhate our own mothers! And he does it lenged person.the speaker of the toasts is saying.' He then gives an examwithout a smirk of humor. and the brilliant rhetoric the young boy-poet employed in detryin' to imitate rappers! Uncle Willie: So what you gonna feating his opponent. he's probably honwe thought it was safe the positive qualities in this as a particular orable. Patterson's evidence for the destruc. "The Dozens Dialect of Insult"-back in 1939! Dolmother-rhyming! Uncle Willie: Mother-rhyming! lard's view never includes any positive Lord a'mercy! values or assessments. He couldn't see er Abrahams(DeepDown in the ungle) and this as a form which is found all over the Bruce Jackson (Get YourAss in the Water oral cultures. he Badass Poet: Who would have misinterprets the dozens as a negative exthought! I mean. here comes one of our own! It reminds the 'son' copulating with his 'mother' he me of an English professor who hates rap couldn't see straight.' Patterson have used for ages to survive in America. Not only poet readsfrommanuscript) 170 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . to his credit. Uncle Willie: You think he is getto write this? ting money "Dollard (and Patterson) couldn't see Badass Poet: No. vived the brutality of the white man. antimaternal sexuality. the Badass Poet: Exactly.' he wrote. selfI addiction. ple: all these readers are taken in too. incest. Uncle Willie. or why perform?-for his talent. 'that's tive behavior of black men. and community values. who. homosexuality.) did a number on lard was so offended by the reference to us. By comparing his do? Refute him? opponent's mother to a rumble seat. For example. if it wasn't for our pression of blacks in a confused state of mother-rhyming. By loathing displacements. quotesJohn Dollard as his source on black Uncle Willie: What's that? culture. misogyny. but just as to go back to mother-rhyming after Rog. and "'Sex themes. He couldn't see the music.

surroundedby gorillas. "Motherfucker. Couldn't it also be because they are Africans. but still makes us smile. Uncle Willie: They have?Like what? Badass Poet: Why. adulterous activities) as do whites it is obvious that they are governed by the same moral imperatives as whites are. and. sociologists. let me put it this way.' In other words. in Rwanda. who would run our African American Studies departments? Or explain our behavior to white people? And they have such wonderful accents! Have you ever noticed how impressed whites are when West Indians speak? But let me get back to my main point. if blacks are normal in their repression. and the overblown culture critics.' (Thanks for that. suh. The rumble seat refersback to an age that we can no longer experience. Mistah Dollard. that blacks are just as normal as whites. homosexuality.e. This local item. not only got applause from his audience. which is this: when it comes to discussions of mother-rhyming and verbal contests like the dozens. This is what happens when Abrahams and Bruce Jackson heard the "Dozens." he calls out. If a white woman went into the middle of the African jungle. we are better off taking them out of the arena of English professors. Uncle Willie. "Eureka! I have discovered the key to the black man's psyche!" He then starts psychoanalyzing everything about black men. The boy-poet is in training. a white man goes into the ghetto to study black verbal behavior. You wouldn't call him brave. i. didn't think so. the rumble seat. she set out to live with them and write about them? Would you not call her brave? Uncle Willie: I sho' would. if it weren't for West Indians. this is because they are in the West. but he already has grasped the essential technique of African American poetry: always use a local reference if you want your satire to bite hard. He makes an interesting observation about repression.would you? Naw.. Dollard may have as his excuse that he was white. and the first little black boy that says "motherfucker" drops the suckerto his knees.was the rhyme well-received at the time it was performed against a particular opponent. The conclusion could not be otherwise since they are fellow participants in our Western European cultural heritage. Uncle Willie! We will not take such uncouth swipes at West Indians! They have done a lot of good things for us.) West Indian! A Uncle Willie: Geecher? Don't they eat monkeys? Badass Poet: No. but what could Orlando Patterson's be? Maybe that he is from the West Indies.) Then he says. but the speaker throws in a bit of self-dating history. 'Their family loyalties show the marks of being fashioned by the same repressive forces." (BadassPoet stopsreading." GENDER RELATIONS 171 . and Africans have standards of normalcy too? "But Patterson misses this as well. The Dozens prove. not only is it vivid and immediate. 'Since Negroes repress the same tendencies (taboos on incestuous behavior. "Dollard misses the significance of the Dozens. Badass Poet: Now back in the United States. he claims. Uncle Willie: And put it in whose hands? Badass Poet: Put it in the hands of the people who are trained to look at cultures from many other different views! Into the hands of the black anthropologists.

Patterson can make the claim that the so-called culture of the contemporary ghetto is a twisted version of what blacks pieced together on the slave plantation. Herskovitz identified these features as having Africanorigins by comparing their variants in every place to which the slave trade took slaves: South America. a form which is a part of all oral cultures. Patterson believes that the middle passage was so brutal that it robbed the enslaved black African of his ability to survive. how Professor Patterson is trying to be hip! Why the next thing you know. Little Sambo has become badassdude." Abrahams turned to the gang-leader as an analogue to this selfprojection while Jackson turned to the pimp. the Caribbean. "Herskovitz. He hypothesized that blacks had coping skills that survived the middle passage. he'll be writing poems! He has the same notions of psychoanalyzing the black male as Abrahams did when he claimed that "the bad nigger" was a descendant of Brer Rabbit. and North America. "In fact." Where have we heard this before?! Note. "The underclass male is not a Don Juan. Patterson'sargument is nothing more than the old Frazier/Herskovitz debate in new guise. Blacks who agree with Patterson accept the premise that black behavior is pathological. the trickster. "His discussion of the Dozens is not to show verbal abuse as a poetic contest." he announces. This is why he turns poetic and exclaims that the Don Juan (of the ghetto) who gives black women all their babies and who is abusive to them is really a plantation stud! "What is particularly glaring in the socio-psychologists' analysis is their dismissal of the African culture as an influence on African American male ideology and behavior. They reading themselves are trying to make a psychological distinction between themselves and the blacks.They were the first socio-psychologists to put that bad man "Stagolee" on a couch. that it is derived not only from poverty. Uncle Willie. but from a psychological and cultural deprivation that results in violence. Patterson has joined the ranksof these tired observersof black men In all oral cultures. They declared such heros of the dozens as "sociopaths. exactly like his stock-slave ancestor. Franklin Frazier and other scholars of the 'culture of poverty' school. Let me read to you again. past and present. "but a stud. Patterson refers to them as the "lower class" black males. verbal competition is a highly valued cultural tradition by declaring he has a new insight. an anthropologist. took the opposite approach to black behavior. His discussion is supposed to show that this verbal activity is an example of the destructive nature of black male culture. Like E. who are their subjects. (reads) "The reason that these scholars can't see black male culture in a comparative and historical context is that they are into their works. Now Mr. "The difference between these two diametrically opposed schools of thought is crucial. Implicit in this premise is the no- 172 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . By assuming the premise that blacks brought nothing to America culturally.

hip-hop sexuality. and the nihilistic un"I think the example of Herskovitz is derclass who have always plagued ordiinstructive. here. traditional. If you and not just the black American-verbal is a highly valued cultural think that Patterson couldn't stomach competition tradition.' Like the Bantu people. 'boys of the same age tease one another by well known methods. for example.' Not violence against them.' 'sexuality of the lower-class blacks.tive character is a condition of a creative The Hill-Thomas debates demonstrated that we are in a new era of blackface minstrels GENDER RELATIONS 173 . he doesn't see how Walter Benjamin believed that a destructhe members use contests as a way to com. and the South Africans. where he writes about 'deod. According to Dundes. As Dol. these Africans practice a form of verbal dueling that accuses the opponent of incest. 'the crowd.' "This romantic image of the black man as a deranged.the plantation.' the verbal forms of black behavior were "Patterson traces every single characcreative. Patterson's article is filled with metaphorsand images of violence and disintegration.' who is seen as terrorizing lard observes.' What is the basis of this 'mutilation'? In one page.' 'extreme sexist view.' municate and transmit cultural symbols and attitudes of manhood.' 'depression. There were slaves and freed blacks. Patterson claims that he knows of 'no other cultural tradition outside of the black lower class where the trope "mother fucker" is so inscribed.' but during this historical period comparative context. The great insults center around speaking evil of the mother and grandmother. . One boy says to another. and ter in African American culture back to culturally uplifting. past and presentthere were not two classesof black people.tion that if you change this "bad behavior" you can change the situation in the inner-city.' and 'incorrigible bad niggers. is 'motherfucker. "Your mother is an ugly old thing". "Patterson is also wrong about Stagolee. 'Black men reacted in two ways to the sociological mutilation of slavery. that just shows how narrow his knowledge of oral culture is.' Well. "Mr. we encounter 'selfloathing. Following his meth. the Kafirs. anxious for a 'ordinaryblack folk. "Furthermore. tance of oral culture.' and 'a glorification of their pathological. "In all oral cultures. Professor Alan Dundes has shown that this practice started in Africa among the West Africans.' given the white ridicules them into having a fight. pathological stud.'bad nigger. and not all 'bad only does Patterson ignore the impor. law-abiding black folk. is summed up as the 'black male dominance ideology.' look how he gags on the essential to playing the dozens. transformative. The audience..' No black folk in the battle. He claims that the 'bottom third (of society) was the historical source of the Stagger Lees and other heartlessbrutes of lower-class lore.niggers' were 'bad'to anybody but whites. let us look at the dozens in a larger feated Sambos. Herskovitz assumedthat nary. eggs the participantson and finally South were 'ordinary. over-sexed.

When 174 TRANSITION ISSUE 66 . 'of our uninhibited action.personality. they had to protect their selfrespect and reputation. "Black male ideology should be studied with the same kind of care and comparisons as other highly oral societies.' and when whites want to expressjoy do they not give high fives? "'Why has the coon song become so representative of our popular music?' a white critic. could now be seen in terms of people who happen to be African American. He is our catharsis. Stanley Brandes wrote a study on male ideology in the Spanishculture. anti-woman. "Anthropologistshave been able to put this 'macho' pride into its cultural context. a violent crime in their society. which include stealing each other's sheep. It has been observed by many that when whites want to talk to each other about their most 'intimate' themes. If we are going to look at the question of gender relations we must consider these cultural symbols and practices not as a destructive force on black women but as a symbol of black male ideology with its own traditions and distinct origins. "When such 'students of slavery' as Patterson brags about-slavery made students of us all.' he answered. Weren't white women called the 'niggers of the world.This stereotypeis the 'new black Sambo. the legend has evolved from a ballad to a symbol of black male cultural identity. Isaac Goldberg (the author of a brilliant book. In fact. what the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debates demonstrated is that we are in a new era of blackface minstrels. "Stagolee was the symbol of black men who knew that in order to survive psychologically. Although Stagolee started with a black man in 1895. and historians moonlighting as anthropologists. which have been misconstrued as our problems.' The new black Sambo is antiSemitic. 'The Negro is the symbol of our uninhibited expression. how they conduct their gender relations in and out of the work place. Orlando-denigrate black masculinity. Stagolee became for many black men a genuine symbol of manhood. who are too emotional and defensive to see the forest for the trees. sociologists. they turn to black language. they indulge in the same stereotyping that the whites who played black-face minstrels did.shows the "poetics" of the manhood rituals. and anti-gay. Michael Herzfeld in The Poeticsof Manhood: Contestand Identityin a CretanMountain Village. Tin Pan Alley) once asked.' "Even when blacks couldn't play those roles. He is the disguise behind which we may. and not by these English professors. "The whole discussion of black male behavior should be taken away from these social scientists. 'The most intimate problems of white men and women. As it is. for a releasing moment. rejoin that part of ourselves which we have sacrificed to civilization. the socio-psychologists like Patterson will first assume that blacks are naturally 'misogynist. the white man put on black paint and a dress and got up on stage and acted out their problems. in which blacks appearas themselves to help white people dramatize their problems. In Greek society. "Patterson is impressed that in the Thomas-Hill hearings.' "Now there is a new minstrelsy. MetSex aphorsof Masculinity: and Statusin Andalusian Folklore. But such a study has to be made by anthropologists.' that they naturally hate their women.

Patterson's article falls into the anti-blackwoman category.major foundations and the media want to manipulate the public's image of the black man they give assistance to scholars who will write articles proving that black men are pathologically against gays. . Let's get those motherfuckers 'fore they spoil. I really value the opinion of ignorant country people like you.) Catfish! Catfish! GENDER RELATIONS 175 . Badass Poet: Uncle Willie." (Hefinishes and sets the manuscript down) Well. Uncle Willie? . I forgot! Aunt Betty sent you some catfish. that's myculture. and I left it in the car! I got to go get it! Badass Poet: Okay. okay! Catfish? Uncle Willie: Come on. son. It comes straight from the heart. Uncle Willie (rising): Son. (He turns and winks at Badass Poet) And yours and Patterson's too! Badass Poet: (He leavestheTransition magazinelying on the tableand rushesout. what do you think. Unfortunately. Uncle Willie? Uncle Willie: (waking up) That was tellin' em! Badass Poet: You really think so? Uncle. and black women. . Jews. are you going to use that term after I have just read to you what it means? Uncle Willie: Boy.

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