Women’s Day (March 8th) introduces “Women’s
History Month”, IWD came into being in the early 20th
century as a result of the struggles of women workers
in New York. Women around the world commemorate that day
as a day of struggle and recognition of women’s on-going
efforts toward achieving freedom and dignity.
in Black America, for the most part with the exception
of the Black Left, little attention is paid to International
Women’s Day. This has always struck me as odd since Black
America is not just made up of men. I suppose that it
should not be odd in part because, as African Americans,
we are so focused on issues of race that we often subordinate
or ignore issues facing women, or issues of gender generally.
should also not surprise me because of the way that “women”
are often defined in this society. Take, for instance,
our recent presidential campaign. Whether in the Hillary
Clinton campaign or later with Sarah Palin, the term “women”
came to represent a description of white women. It was
not an all-inclusive term to describe women of different
colors. When it came to a candidate speaking to issues
facing women, the assumption was that it would be a white
woman for the most part speaking to the issues of white
reaction to that there seems to be a tendency within Black
America to act as if raising anything about male supremacy
or the inequality of women is somehow subordinating the
struggle for Black Freedom. In fact, I have gotten into
countless discussions with other Black folks where, when
the issue of the rights of women arises, someone will
inevitably say that such issues are only or mainly the
concerns of white women and that they are of little concern
to Black America.
views such as those cited are patently untrue, what is
nevertheless intriguing is that there is often a reluctance
to discuss this or debate this publicly. An example of
this came up at the time of the 1995 Million Man March.
While there were those who supported the views of Amiri
Baraka [who said, who goes to war and leaves half their
army at home] and Julianne Malveaux, who both were critical
of the march for being all-male and focusing rather exclusively
on the Black male rather than the partnership between
Black men and women, this was not an easy discussion,
and in fact it was a discussion that was suppressed at
America focuses a great deal of attention on the plight
of the Black male, but as a people we spend precious little
time on the issues facing Black women. We may mention,
in passing, the high HIV/AIDS rate among Black women,
but when we speak of HIV/AIDS, we tend to think about
Black men. We correctly focus on the loss of manufacturing
jobs - a fact that is destroying Black America’s living
standard - many of which are held by Black men, but we
tend to spend little time on under-employment among Black
women, not to mention unequal salaries and job opportunities.
There is little attention focused on matters of daycare,
though we will regularly hear challenges to Black men
to be better fathers. And we seem to be embarrassed to
have public discussions regarding sex and sexuality, not
to mention discussions regarding rape and partner abuse.
am hoping for a rethinking of International Women’s Day
within Black America. While we certainly need renewed
attention to Black women historical figures, we especially
need attention paid to the centrality of women in Black
America and the challenges that they face (challenges
often brought about by Black men, I might add).
may be too late to do this for IWD 2012, but then again,
March 2012 is not over yet.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with
the Institute for
Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines
the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.