Stereotypes and Choices

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FYI: The images used in this post are Rated R per nudity.


When 20 year old Sara Baartman got on a boat that was to take her from Cape Town to London in 1810, she could not have known that she would never see her home again. Nor, as she stood on the deck and saw what had become her home disappear behind her, could she have known that she would become the icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality for the next 100 years.

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Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman (before 1790 – 29 December 1815) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—“Hottentot” considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love. While in her teens, Saartje migrated to an area near Cape Town, where she was a farmer’s slave until she was bought in Cape Town by William Dunlop, a doctor on a British ship. At age 20, Saartje headed for London with Dr. Dunlop where, it was agreed, that they would get rich by displaying her body to Europeans; catering to the people’s’ sexual fascination with aboriginal peoples. Prancing in the nude, with her jutting posterior and extraordinary genitals, she provided the foundation for racist and pseudo-scientific theories regarding black inferiority and black female sexuality. The shows involved Saartje being “led by her keeper and exhibited like a wild beast, being obliged to walk, stand or sit as ordered.” Saartje’s predicament drew the attention of a young Jamaican, Robert Wedderburn, who was agitated against slavery and racism. Subsequently, his group pressured the attorney general to stop this circus. Losing the case on a technicality, Saartje spent four years in London and then went to Paris where she was exhibited in a traveling circus, and seen frequently controlled by an animal trainer in the show.

It was here that she crossed paths with George Cuvier, Napoleon’s surgeon-general, who was also considered to be the dean of comparative anatomy. In his capacity of social anthropologist, he arrogantly and erroneously concluded that she was the missing link. She turned to prostitution and when she died poor in 1816, almost immediately Cuvier had her body cast in wax, dissected and the skeleton articulated. Her organs, including her genitals and brains, were preserved in bottles of formaldehyde. Her remains were displayed at the Musée de L’Homme in Paris until as late as 1974.

“Stay on guard this wicked land will try to strip your soul… got our men selling blow our women on the stripper pole. Once your morals hit the floor do anything to pay the bills, 400 years still ain’t on the level playing field.”

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While one cannot control what is forced upon them, one can make the decision to choose a different path. While the treatment of Sara and the retaining of her body parts were horrific, we cannot neglect her choice to prostitute herself. We have all been in positions where we felt we did not have a choice, for struggle and oppression has a tendency to do away with all logic. But what I would like to remind us of today is the importance of not making excuses for those choices. There’s a difference between making a mistake and making a commitment to willfully do. Often we set out to blame outside forces for what we have become because we’ve been deceived into thinking we have no choice. This is not to judge the actions of Sara as a slave, but what we need to understand is that today many Black women are slaves and they are slaves without permission or coercion. There is little difference between Sara Baartman  and the current  Video Vixen. They are both slaves. Today, the Black woman’s mentality leaves her shackled to a  mental incapability of thinking outside of the way she was taught to do so within the physical institution of slavery. She cannot think independently on a physical, mental, or spiritual level outside of what her captives have taught her because of her unwillingness to take responsibility for her own ignorance.

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As a result, every time someone attempts to show the so called Black women the error of her ways she is apt to point to an instance, circumstance, person or persons outside of herself. She may very well bring up facts, but she is unable to see the role she plays to make manifest those statistics. It is always a situation where men have abused or disrespected her. It is always everyone else fault except hers. Either a man did it or the white man did it.  Many of the women seen on TV, such as the Niki Minaj’s are showing women examples of what it means to be a whore, to prostitute one’s body and to be proud of it. Sadly, many of you idolize these women. You sit back and you allow your little girls to be entertained by such filth. Beyonce is a married woman (allegedly) and yet she prances around the stage half naked and you think it’s cute. You do not teach your little girls about Proverb 31 women and about the Sara Baartman’s; you teach them about the Beyonces. As a result, many young women, crossing all ethnicity’s, grow up with aspirations to put basic morals and values on the back burner while they twerk.

The reality however is that everything is not a stereotype. It is not all a conspiracy. Abuse exists but there is still a choice we must begin to understand about the role we play in deception. It’s not always about deception, but it is also about our willingness to be deceived.

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Freedom: The Illusion

There’s a strange fruit

hanging from the trees

but not the kind of Billie Holidays days

with

blood all on the leaves

but these

are a different set of trees

and they bear a strange fruit

called ignorance

with an illusion up its sleeve

an illusion so thick

sometimes it’s hard to breathe

I feel like I am in the days

of Dr. Martin Luther King back when

black folks marched and sang songs

and Martin had a dream but,

what exactly was his dream?

I found myself

asking myself

over and over these things

what exactly was his dream?

I thought and so my thoughts led me

to February 1818,

here was born Fredrick Douglas

a man who also had this dream

To not have to work the cotton fields

courtesy of the curses

was his dream see to

not be so dark

so black

this too was his dream and in

1845 he found himself

on the “winning” team.

Tired of hearing screams of being slapped up

he slipped up into a secret society.

Wanting to be a part of this world so badly

he joined the American Anti–Slavery Society

mistakenly joining a secret society

determined

to tear him away

from his own

society

This was his conclusion

Mr. Douglas my friends

got caught up in the illusion.

So being women some of us and

enjoying the company of women the other half of us

our thoughts led us to some women tales

we thought

well most certainly

we can get our answers from Mrs. Ida B. Wells

But as I studied her story in search for this dream

my mind began to drift away

as I saw that she too had this dream

she too had this purpose

she too wanted to escape

the curses

Blinded by a fake reality

she too joined a secret society

also known as the NAACP

created by Jews

but led by intelligent fools

with black skins

who sought to escape the bodies they were in

So

like Douglas

Ida became confused in a world of turmoil

that led her to believe her own confusion

she too was caught up

in this Illusion

but we had to figure out some way

somehow our own existence

our own being

therefore we continued our search

for Martin’s dream

our thoughts destination

had to steer towards education

so take it

it’s yours

this led us to of course,

W.E.B. Dubois.

something about this man caused an excitement

that ran through you and me we

became amazed

and began to admire his level of maturity

when it came to intellectual ability so we thought sure

“Now this man can school me.”

However, with him too my mind became stumped

as I ran across this myth

and

found that my admirer was in favor

of the talented tenth?

To my astonishment

he too had this dream

He too wanted to be on what he thought

was the winning team

(even if it meant only 10% of the winning team)

see because Dubois didn’t understand the curses

he created the crisis

magazine

so as we caught up to Dr. Martin Luther King and we

heard his many speeches singing “I had a dream!”

we too began to lust for this very dream

even if it was not real

all we had to do was feel

feel like we had this dream

even after our depression still lingers

and our arthritis can still be felt in the fingers

and our AIDS rate keeps growing

and our blood stops flowing

even in the midst of the curses

and the confusion

we’d still rather give ear to this Freedom

the illusion.

Break the Chain

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Thought I saw her self-esteem in the carpet.
Her back bearing the burden of bare floors
and
forks that scraped the bottom of clay plates
Thought I saw pain on the side of her state
of mind.

Thought I saw her spirit cut low like the grass.
Scattered pieces of forgetfulness floating fluently throughout her bones
that
clung its skin like melted wax welding its warring arms wildly in the sun
I asked her
Why she allowed herself to suffer she said, “I’m waiting for a change to come.”

I walked on…

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I felt metallic liquid lick my cheeks, the blood of one who’s hung.

His body shriveled up in the bowels of his own sadness,
His face “a raisin in the sun

I can see that his faith had fallen down to his knee caps.
But his eyes bulged boldly on and his life sped passed me in just a few years
Till my taste buds could create a meal from the salt I saw dancing in his tears
Telepathically he told me
that he didn’t die right here beneath this oak tree
But, “stepping foot inside this land is what killed me” He said
And like a mad woman I stared deep into a dead man’s eyes and said, “I see.”
I said.

So why do you hang out here like one whose been hung?”
He told me, “Cuz I’m waiting for a change to come”

I walked on….

At Play Near The Robert Taylor Houses

And this time crossed the Jordan
And I could hear nothing but the soft laughter of children in my ears
Shouting…jumping,
till I realized I had not entered the promised land,
but this was a street court filled with Jordan fans
Where
hope bounced back and forth to the sound of merciless concrete
polished “Niks” was like knives reaching for revolution in the air
it was cold
but the men were hot
contradictory

the American dream tied around the wings of the goddess of victory
these were project kids with $200 dollar Nikes
unknown vehicles hitting the streets
and then the seats
were suddenly empty

I realized then that I had been standing in the middle of a blank street
a court turned into a corpse
Low income homes now funeral homes, they trampled upon one another
fighting to “one up” one another
silently and still
I saw it
pieces of paper scraped up and scattered to the four corners
(Guess that’s why were still fighting one another for street corners)
a
basketball balled up and clumped like a clot of blood
carved into the cracks in the streets where crack addicts one day roamed the streets
I asked
this balled up clot of hopelessness “Where are you from??
it told me,

I wish to go back… but I am waiting for a change to come.”

Guest Feature – The Blackman’s Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman- Shahrazad Ali

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• It is difficult to get her to listen to new information about a new approach to living her life because she is so certain that she is justified in being out of order. She is mostly a lot of mouth. She can be a number of things, as already proven, but she cannot be a man.
• By nature the Blackman cannot submit to the woman.
• All the good things she says she wants would be immediately available to her if she drops her defenses, drops her suspicions and allows herself to melt into the waiting arms of the man who loves her.
• When the Blackwoman attacks the Blackman publicly she inadvertently gives the entire world permission to attack him also.
• It is not easy for a Blackman to be motivated if his woman doubts him, or if their relationship is so stormy that it takes his head and robs him of the ability to concentrate
• The Blackman can tell which woman is his by the way she submits to his ideas and instructions. And by the way she works to make him happy. His Blackwoman should take the position that his success is her success—their success, and work as a team.
• By letting the Black man be the head of the family she could revive him, and by getting behind him and supporting him he could be free.

Guest Feature – A Modern Day Slave Plantation Part 3 by Laura Dimon

*Note: This article was not written by The PBS Blog, it is featured as part of the continuation of an ongoing series and is written by Laura Dimon. This is the last part which includes my commentary. Please view our Guest Feature or Article Section for Parts 1 & 2*

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In King’s trials, the juries were all white, with one black person. This past March, Glenn Ford, 64, walked out of Angola a free man after 30 years on death row. He was Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner, yet he’s just another black man who was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. King said Angola today still reminds him of a slave plantation, but not as much as it reminds him of a graveyard. “There seems to be an artificial sanitation that is disturbing to me,” he said. The land is “beautiful, whitewashed, looks like a college campus.” But underneath, “The bones are rottin’.”

 
Angola exists in the shadow of slavery, a time when black men did not have rights. In a state with the motto “Union, justice and confidence,” there is certainly a lingering stink of a bygone, ugly era for which “union and justice” is simply not a fitting description. The other two members of the Angola 3 are Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace. There is overwhelming evidence of their innocence and accordingly, state and federal judges have overturned Woodfox’s conviction three times, citing racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution and inadequate defense. But Louisiana’s Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell holds the ultimate power, and has contested the rulings, claiming they were based on technicalities.

 

To this day, after 42 years, Woodfox remains in solitary confinement in Angola. He’s thought to be the longest-serving inmate in solitary. In the documentary film, he says, “If a cause is noble enough, you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. And I thought my cause, then and no, was noble. So therefore, they would never break me.”
They might bend me a little bit. They might cause me a lot of pain. They may even take my life. But they will never be able to break me.”

 
Wallace was released in October 2013 with advanced liver cancer. King went with Woodfox, who was permitted to leave briefly, to visit their friend and tell him he was out of Angola for good. “We told him,” King said. Wallace couldn’t move or respond. “[But] we saw it in his eyes. … He knew he was getting out.” Wallace took his last breaths a free man, after over 40 years. He died three days later.

 
King continues the fight for Woodfox. So when he is asked about his own release, he responds with this apt adage: “I was free of Angola, but Angola would not be free of me.”

 

Image Credits: AP, Peter Puna, Robert King

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angolaCommentary:

The disturbing reality, is that no so called African American should be surprised by this article. At some point we must realize that under the fine print of America’s democracy you were never intended to be citizens. Your stay here in this country was never received with the certificate of adoption and thus you were never granted the same rights of America’s children, and that is why such institutions such as the Angola Facility still exist in the first place. You have Civil Rights but you have no Human Rights. It is no surprise then, that the mental state of the African American people is worse today than it was during slavery. Even during the Civil Rights Era your state of consciousness was not like it is now; for Freedom Rides denoted an understanding that you were not free here and you understood that. But the worse thing about mental enslavement however is that if the mind thinks itself free it doesn’t really matter what happens to the body. You can continue to mistreat it and it will still not grasp the understanding that it remains confined. You can put it in a hog pen, lock it up inside the inner rooms, isolate it and because the mind has been warped it will still think it possesses some kind of freedom. In The Mis-Education of The Negro Carter G. Woodson said it best, “when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.

  • Prison institutions determine how many more beds to add to their facility, based on how many black boys can’t read by the 4th grade

 

  • According a recent Brookings Institution report, black men born in 1975 who dropped out of high school had a 70 percent chance of ending up in prison by their mid-thirties. The probability is actually greater for young black men who drop out today.

 

  • The bible prophecy’s of black men being hidden in prison houses and that their heavens will be bronze and their earth iron (Deut. 28:23, Lev. 26:19)

 

  • According to Prof. Michelle Alexander’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are now more black men in prison than were enslaved in 1850.

 

  • The so called African American was never included in the U.S. Constitution; his civil rights were amended or added on, this means they can also be removed

 

  • The 13th Amendment, when it abolished slavery, did so except for convicts. Through the prison system, the vestiges of slavery continue.