Black History, Black Women, & Sexual Empowerment

Well Black History Month has rolled around again and for all intents and purposes it feels like it is devolving into a nonentity and afterthought on the minds of many – black folks especially. Wait, except for those looking for a reason to celebrate something or another.

The more time that goes by the less it seems we know about our own history, and what many of us went through to even get us to today.

Lately the internet has been abuzz with the discussions and debates around black women empowerment and often these dialogues veer off into how one can change the name of something and ultimately change the nature of the action behind it. Voila’ just like that. I have seen this line of reasoning employed in conversations about prostitution and the sex trade or sex workers which somehow is an upgrade to the entire industry – just by changing the name – yes, who knew?

A few days ago I ran into a discussion  which posed the question if prostitution was legal would you (as a male) participate and or patronize  or if female would you become a sex worker ?

The responses reminded me of the story of Sara (Saartjie) Baartman. I am willing to bet that many of you reading this right now have no idea who she is or why especially during Black History Month you should know. Here was an  unfortunate story one of the few that were made so public of a black woman being exploited and ultimately winding up in the “sex trade”. How she got there and what happened to her during her short tragic life will probably never make it to your movie screens. People had apoplexy about 12 Years A Slave, this story would never see the light of day. Sara Baartnman’s story, however, speaks  directly to the female empowerment myth and the belief that because you can command a paycheck for activities that are perceived to be immoral and degrading by society, it gives you power. I am wondering how waiting on a paycheck convers that power on the person waiting to be paid? I would think the ultimate power lies with the person who is writing the paychecks but that might be way too logical for most minds to comprehend.

sara-baartmanFor all that Sara sought to earn money to live and take care of herself she found instead exploitation, misuse and abuse during life, and in death. Her labia, and other genitalia were up until  2012 on display for anyone to gawk at and was originally put on display as proof of the over sexual nature of the black woman. It was only recently that her remains were returned to her South African homeland after enduring years of stares from the depraved, and being on display as proof of the inferiority of blacks.

This is one of the many reasons  why I don’t and will not watch the ratchet, ridiculous, and otherwise stereotypical offerings that many television channels today deem worth watching; and, it matters not how many misguided will watch. It matters not how big the paycheck the participants in so-called reality shows receive, or how many bills they are able to pay as a result.

The bottom line: Exploitation is exploitation. Those checks are not being cut out of the goodness of someone’s heart, they are being cut because someone is profiting off of said exploitation.  Discussing the altruistic uses for the money made – sending kids to college, buying momma a house, etc. still doesn’t change the manner in which the money was generated, and at ultimately whose expense.  If someone breaks into a house and kills the occupants and then robs them and takes the money and donates it to an orphanage does that somehow change the nature of the crime? Is that person somehow deemed honorable because of his deed?

But hey, it’s black history month – hooray! — and more meaningless celebrations and pointless gatherings are just what the black community needs. Less educating about our actual history and what we specifically have gone through because learning is hard. Keeping up with history is hard. Understanding that actions – all actions — have consequences  individually and collectively, requires way too many brain cells to process.

So, go back to twerking, but make sure the check clears though.