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She Who Keeps Culture

Whispers of a Womanist: The being of Black female form and American politics

In 2012, Shonda Rhimes, through the national network ABC, introduced character Olivia Pope in a show named Scandal. The role, modeled after real-life D.C. fixer Judy Smith (who was active during the Bush administration), garnered national traction for its strong Black female lead. Pope, like Smith, lived a prestigious and luxurious life due to her placement at the feet of the “master’s” bed. Though Pope’s placement proved both personal and political, the social and professional connections delineate the Black women as integral to White men actualizing the full extent of white supremacy.

The Black female collective witnessed, and continues to witness, the same dynamic with Youtube couples that featured the White man-Black woman dynamic. In this slightly different pairing of the-personal-meets-political-functionality of Black femininity, the White man again attains the ability to actualize the extent of his racial inheritance through their Black wives.

What I mean here, is that these men gain fame, fortune, and function as White saviors who “elevate” their wives from the perils of Blackness to the wives of a hegemonic heir – a praxis that reinforces what Frantz Fanon called the master-slave dynamic under the disguise of change.

The central placement of these unions in popular and political spaces sends oppositional messages to both factions. To the Black woman seeking validation in a White world, this pairing tells her that “love is where you find it,” and posits unions with the most privileged person in an anti-Black country as symbolizing “how far we’ve come as a nation.” To the White man, this popular images employs an old vessel for new victories.

This post, though, functions to illuminate that this dynamic, though most vastly depicted in romantic unions between Black women and White men is present in political unions as well. A closer look at the VP nominee Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s role in the current Democratic campaign delineates the melanated woman as assuming a traditional role in the government’s implementation of white supremacy.

The Black woman has historically played a pivotal role in White males transitioning their inheritance to intention. Particularly, it is in access and acquisition of the Black female that a White man consummates the apex of systemic terror.

Thinking back to plantation days, it is in commodifying the Black women politically and personally, as concubine and laborers, that White men acquire the means to engender and maintain the anti-Black ambiance that continues to permeate America four-hundred years later. The Black female body performs a duplicitous function as it physically births the labor through hand and womb. Additionally, the Black woman embodies the resource that White men employ to implement power over the Black man and the Black family, while affording the White women a globally recognized femininity.

This truth illuminates that it is not only the Black vote that matters, but reveals that Black female espousal to politics is an integral force to an anti-Black political system.

Let us consider the #fromKamalatoRosa hashtag that surfaced Monday evening during the first night of the Democratic National Convention. On the surface, the media does something quite similar to what the public witnessed with former President Obama when they juxtaposed the then presidential hopeful with slain civl rights leader Dr. King. This comparison, like the contemporary Kamala Harris-Rosa Parks hashtag, employs the Black woman to rewrite an important moment in history. Though it was Barack Obama who embodied the King comparisons, he could and would not have consummated this comparison without a Coretta or a Michelle.

Yet, the underlying praxis betrays a detrimental inclusion.

While the media seems to place contemporary Black figures into a pivotal historical moment, bleaching Black legacy and positing past leaders as too Black to embody themselves in a contemporary context, this depiction exhibits the White gaze’s attempt to rewrite a moment, and in Kamala’s instance, rewrite a moment with a White “ally.” Though possibly more conspicuous with Harris, both instances illuminate white choice. Thus, while the meditation appears to be on a Black body or Black appointment to a traditionally White space, Harris and Obama – like the interracial unions that produced and surround them – posit an anti-Black space as a global heroine. A global heroine that assumes her pedestal in the palm of the black femininity that births its existence and enables its functionality.

Being of Black female form. Womb of woman.

I thought of these descriptions as I listened to Michelle Obama state that Joe Biden “never lost sight of who he was,” and I couldn’t help but think of the way that Black woman is used to blind the masses and bend reality to ensure that the Black collective loses sight of who Biden is and was.

The womb of the Black woman becomes a means to birth a new identity for White supremacy as embodied by national spaces and individuals. Thus, while Candace Owens overtly personifies a white supremacist mouthpiece, this role remains consistently displaced onto the Black women in varying degrees.

Thus, to perform what Michelle Obama advised during the DNC recently – “when you see something that isn’t right, say something” – this post aims to say that something. What is not right is that the African woman in America’s political and personal commodification embodies national advancement at the expense of actualizing progress for the Black race.

Keeper of culture and birther of nation, the Black women holds immense power in the racial inheritance attributed to Whites, Blacks, and every color in between. Furthermore, in order to nurture the culture we keep, the Black woman must remain adamant to using her skills to thwart, not foment, white supremacy and employ the womb of womanhood to birth what serves Blackness, not a mutilated cultural fetus that bleaches Blackness into the universalized “person of color” labeling.

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