How society offends black women

Written By By JOHN W. FOUNTAIN Posted: 03/07/2014, 07:42am

Dear Sister, I know that you are not a female dog or a “ho.” Not a “hood rat,” “chicken head,” “trick” or any of the other derogatory names I have heard roll publicly and freely off the tongues of some brothers — and also sisters.

I carry the heart of every black woman who has nurtured, nourished, lifted me or prayed for me. And how often I have written — or stood — fervently in your defense and praise.

I say this as a point of clarity of my intent of last week’s column. Some sisters — most of them cloaked in anonymity — asserted that the column featuring a fictional conversation between a black man and a black woman, promoted negative stereotypes. That it did more potential harm than good, amounted to journalistic “junk” and was unfit for publication.

That it was “deeply, deeply offensive” to black women.


As a social commentator, one runs the risk of offending. That is never my aim but sometimes unavoidable. My hope always is to provoke thought, to bring insight and perspective. To challenge.

That column was a social snippet. Not a treatise. Not representative of all black women — or men — any more than my writing about the church and pastors who prey on the poor is meant to indict all churches and pastors. Any more than writing about black men who sag is a reflection of all brothers.

I tried to capture a real dialogue that transpires in private every day. To bring authenticity and realism to the conversation, capturing nuance and emotion. The woman’s voice is real. Black, educated and divorced, she is a single mother who raised four children. An entrepreneur, writer, Christian. An overcomer.

If one reads closely, they will see two people who want the same thing but whose hurts, fears, mistrust and baggage are hurdles to a functional relationship. I chose satire as my vehicle, trusting the reader to “get it.” Perhaps I presumed too much.

So here, straight, no chaser:

Offensive are the images of black women portrayed by black women on shows like “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Love & Hip Hop” — in full inglorious vulgarity and weave-snatching splendor. I find offensive that I hear educated black women using the B-word as a term of endearment. I find deeply offensive young college students starting a “light-skinned club” and young sisters calling other sisters jigaboos. Offensive the names we as a people call each other. And denigrating, dehumanizing and damning, the way we treat each other.

I find it a truth that some sisters are sorely bitter. True that some brothers are irrefutably trifling.

And yet, if peering through my lens at the social landscape, I write about any of this in a way that captures its authentic ugliness, even in the hope of spurring change, I run the risk of being “offensive.”

It is offensive.

But sadly, on this day in black history, it is the truth — our truth.

Truth is: We will never get any better until we are willing to deal with our own stuff.

“Just say, ‘ouch.’ I did!” writes one sister who got it. “Awareness is the key to healing.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So for our own good, my dear sister, excuse me, but I’ll be adding to it before I ever take anything away.

And I’m willing to stand behind what I write — every single word.


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