* Copyright (c) 2001 by Angela Mae Kupenda. Visiting Professor, Notre Dame Law School, on professional leave of absence from Mississippi College School of Law. I am especially grateful to Professor Ruth-Arlene W. Howe, Boston College Law School, for her continuous support, advice, and encouragement. We all need a big sisterly, guardian angel; Ruth-Arlene is that for me. I also appreciate the many faculty members and community members, especially the wonderful white women, who discussed the ideas presented in this paper with me, including those of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire, Pine Manor Women’s College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts (where I served as Scholar-in-Residence), Florida International University in Miami, Florida, Stephen F. Austin University in Nagodoches, Texas, and my home school, Mississippi College School of Law. I also benefited much from the research assistance of two of my former Mississippi College students, attorneys Keyla McCullum and Wendy Wilson, and the superb editorial assistance of this journal. I dedicate this paper to all women. May we all join as proponents of true justice for all and as opponents to all forms of oppression.
1 “Everybody wants to know why I sing the blues.” B.B. King, Why I Sing the Blues, on B.B. King Greatest Hits (MCA Records 1998). The blues cannot be adequately defined by reading a dictionary definition of the music or of the feeling. Having the blues is a feeling that you are doing all you can, but it does not seem to be enough to satisfy folks. One of the characters from Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine gives some insight into the feelings when he says, “‘Everybody gets sad. But the blues is deeper than sadness . . . . The blues is something in your soul telling you they ain’t no hope, shit ain’t never gon’ be right. You know what I mean?’” Bebe Moore Campbell, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine 410 (1995).
The blues music and the feeling are almost inseparable. This is evident as another character of the novel tries to explain to his son about his sharecropping, picking cotton in the fields for white folks days, “‘We picked that cotton until our fingers bled. And sometimes when it would get bad- and boy it could get bad- we’d be in them fields just a-singing, you know. ‘Cause them songs, them songs could get you right.’” Id. at 433.
I can’t explain the blues to you any better. Listen to some blues music and maybe you can hear or feel it for yourself. I think that everybody sings the blues, sometimes. And sometimes, like the great Mississippi born, blues artist B.B. King, I feel like singing, “every day I have the blues.” See B.B. King, Every Day I Have the Blues, on B.B. King Greatest Hits (MCA Records 1998), cf. Cheryl I. Harris, Bell’s Blues, 60 U. Chi. L. Rev. 783 (1993) (reviewing Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1992)).
Women as a group have a number of concerns inciting our woeful tunes. For example, white and black women are denied the inclusion of our stories in traditional histories. See Black Women in White America xvii (Gerda Lerner, ed., 1992). Women face gender violence nationally. See generally United States v. Morrison, 528 U.S. 598 (2000) (holding a congressional attempt to address violence against women on national level was unconstitutional). Depression plagues women, especially black women, in their quest for happiness. See, e.g., Audrey Chapman, Seven Attitude Adjustments for Finding a Loving Man 12–13 (2001). Protection from rape is a continuing concern evolving from the historical lack of legal protection afforded white women from marital rape and black women from resistance of any rape. See Katharine T. Bartlett ( Angela P. Harris, Gender and Law 8 (1998).
2 The commonalities are even more compelling as the status of white women in America more closely approximates that of black women:
Since more White women work and are career-bound today, their sensibility has become more akin to that of Black women. Marriage-and-family expert Robert Blood wrote of working women in general: “The employment of women affects the power structure of the family by equalizing the resources of husband and wife. A working wife’s husband listens to her more, and she listens to herself more . . . Thus her power increases and, relatively speaking, the husband’s falls.” The working mother also makes a significant impression on the next generation. Blood commented: “Daughters of working mothers are more independent, more self-reliant, more aggressive, more dominant, and more disobedient. Such girls are no longer meek, mild, submissive, and feminine like little ladies ought to be.”
Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America 353 (1988) (footnotes omitted).
3 Admittedly, even telling a fictional story can generate confrontation and defensiveness. Consider the following statement by bell hooks in discussing defensive reactions to Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple: “If this is the way folks respond to fiction, we can imagine then how much harder it is for black women to actually speak honestly in daily life about their real traumatic experiences.” bell hooks, Sisters of the Yam 25 (1993).
4 See Angela Mae Kupenda, Law, Life and Literature: A Critical Reflection of Life and Literature to Illuminate How Laws of Domestic Violence, Race, and Class Bind Black Women, 42 How. L.J. 1, 2–3 (1998) [hereinafter Kupenda, Law, Life and Literature: Domestic Violence] (using Alice Walker’s book The Third Life of Grange Copeland to challenge how laws of divorce and domestic violence impact black women); Angela Mae Kupenda et al., Law, Life and Literature: Using Literature and Life to Expose Transracial Adoption Laws as Adoption on a One-Way Street, 17 Buff. Pub. Int. L.J. 43 (1998–1999) [hereinafter Kupenda, Law, Life and Literature: Transracial Adoption].
5 Campbell, supra note 1.
6 Although I focus on the severed relationship of white and black women, I hope that all women, and men too, can find something helpful here. The race issue is broader than black and white. The gender split cuts more than black and white women. We all must start somewhere, however. So I start in one of the places where I hurt, as I speak to those white potential sister/friends who I believe have only faintly heard my voice as a black woman.
7 A number of scholars have written extensively in this area. See generally, e.g., Rosalio Castro ( Lucia Corral, Women of Color and Employment Discrimination: Race and Gender Combined in Title VII Claims, 6 La Raza L.J. 159, 161 (1993) (referring to other scholars in this area, including Kimberle Crenshaw, Adrienne Dale-Davis, Mari Matsuda, Angela Harris, and Peggy Smith); Trina Grillo, Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality: Tools to Dismantle the Master’s House, 10 Berkeley Women’s L.J. 16 (1995); Trina Grillo & Stephanie M. Wildman, Obscuring the Importance of Race: The Implication of Making Comparisons Between Racism and Sexism (or other -Isms), 1991 Duke L.J. 397 (1991); Laura M. Padilla, Intersectionality and Positionality: Situating Women of Color in the Affirmative Action Dialogue, 66 Fordham L. Rev. 843 (1997); Judy Scales-Trent, Equal Rights Advocates: Addressing the Legal Issues of Women of Color, 13 Berkeley Women’s L.J. 34 (1998).
8 One day I had an interesting conversation with a friendly white female professor about several occurrences in a course that was composed primarily of white, male, conservative students. She said, “You know, I think the difficulties women face in the classroom at this school are about gender and not about race.” She then explained that the few male professors of African descent who had taught at the school over the years had been very well received by the student body. But, as she explained, all of the white female professors had initially experienced many difficulties with the conservative student body. She then asked me whether I would agree that the things I had experienced were because I am a woman and not because I am black. My response was, “I don’t know. There is no way for me to know. As a black woman, I cannot separate my race issues from my gender issues.” Maybe my experiences were a result of students’ reactions to my being black, maybe to my being a woman or, maybe, because they had even greater difficulty accepting a black female professor as an authority figure. Oh, yes, as B.B. King belts out, as he wonders how much worse can it get, “How blue can you get, baby?” See B.B. King, How Blue Can You Get?, on B.B. King Greatest Hits (MCA Records 1998). See generally also Angela Mae Kupenda, Making Traditional Courses More Inclusive: Confessions of an African American Female Professor who Attempted to Crash All the Barriers at Once, 31 U.S.F. L. Rev. 975 (1997); Jennifer M. Russell, On Being a Gorilla in Your Midst, or, the Life of One Blackwoman in the Legal Academy, 28 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 259 (1993).
9 See bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism 9 (1981); Bernice Resnick Sandler et al., Nat’l Assoc. for Women in Educ., The Chilly Classroom Climate: A Guide to Improve the Education of Women 30 (1996); Judy Scales-Trent, Black Women and the Constitution: Finding our Place, Asserting our Rights, 24 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 9 (1989).
Although women of color easily recognize our multiplicity, the rulings of our courts of law, unfortunately, evidence a belief that we should fit within one box or the other:
[W]hen I was working at an all-female law firm in Los Angeles, we tried in 1979 to certify a class of aerospace workers in a sex and race discrimination case. The judge told us the black women workers among our clients could be counted for purposes of the sub-class complaining about race discrimination or the sub-class complaining about sex discrimination, but not both. The judge’s feeling, as I recall, was that to let them be counted for both purposes would be unfairly to give those class members what—for some unexplained reason—would be two bites of what—for some unexplained reason—could be only one apple.
Ann Scales, Disappearing Medusa: The Fate of Feminist Legal Theory, 20 Harv. Women’s L.J. 34, 39 (1997). Also, in considering affirmative action programs, affirmative action programs for white women receive a lower level of scrutiny than affirmative action plans for blacks. It is not clear how such programs for black women would be evaluated (are black women more like blacks or are they more like (white) women in the eyes of the law). See generally Angela Mae Kupenda, Why Isn’t What’s Good for the Goose, Also Good for the Gander?: Confronting the Truth and Reframing the Affirmative Action Question, 25 S.U. L. Rev. 141, 147–48 (1997).
10 See Catharine A. MacKinnon, From Practice to Theory, or What Is a White Woman Anyway?, 4 Yale J.L. & Feminism 13, 18 (1991). See generally Martha R. Mahoney, Whiteness and Women in Practice and Theory, 5 Yale J.L & Feminism 217 (1993).
11 See Pamela J. Smith, Part I—Romantic Paternalism—The Ties that Bind Also Free: Revealing the Contours of Judicial Affinity for White Women, 3 J. Gender Race & Just. 107, 110 (1999) (discussing the ways the law both privileges and restricts white women).
12 As examples, two cases that come to mind are Bogan v. Scott-Harris, 523 U. S. 44 (1998), rev’d sub nom. Scott-Harris v. Fall River 134 F.3d 427 (1st Cir. 1997), and McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987).
In Scott-Harris v. Fall River, two white women use their positions pursuant to white power and privilege to punish a black woman for confronting them about their own racism. See 134 F.3d at 431–32. The white women and white male mayor “win” legally, as the Court ultimately reverses a jury verdict in favor of the black woman and holds that her white female supervisor and the white male mayor, regardless of any wrongful intent or motivations, are entitled to absolute legislative immunity from suit. Bogan, 523 U.S. at 54–56. Additionally, although the other white woman, who was supervised by the black woman, is officially disciplined for racially abusive conduct directed toward other employees, the mayor lawfully and significantly reduces her punishment. Id. at 47.
On the surface, the legal system helps the white women and the mayor and saves the city from having to compensate the black woman for substantial constitutional, and likely financial and emotional, injury. Beneath the surface, however, everyone loses. Although it eliminates the black woman’s position and saves the expenditure of her salary, the city loses money because it must now spend twice as much to replace the black woman with three new employees. See Brief for Respondent, 1997 WL 615776, *5, Bogan, (No. 96–1569). You see, the black woman had been doing her job and the jobs of three others. Id. Not only does the city lose economically, the white women also lose a potential sisterly connection and a potential ally against sexism.
Also consider McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. at 287, 319, in which the Court held that even though the race of the victim and that of the defendant is a major statistically important determining factor in issuing death sentences, the death penalty is constitutional. For more of a discussion of the racializing of rape and how black men are punished more for raping white women, while rapists of black women are punished less, see Bartlett ( Harris, supra note 1, at 839–40.
13 For a brief discussion of the conditions that white women, too, face, see generally supra note 1. Other ways in which white women suffer under our law and in our society can be added to that list, including the following: poverty following divorce, lack of sufficient protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment in the work place, demeaning effects of pornography, unequal allocation of household work especially where both husband and wife work outside the home. For an excellent casebook covering these and other topics, see generally Bartlett ( Harris, supra note 1.
14 In some ways I feel presumptuous in my, being a black woman, attempting to explain white women to themselves. But, I am more than validated. Whites frequently write about blacks, and white women frequently write about black women. Some do a wonderful job. See generally, e.g., Black Women in White America, supra note 1 (a wonderful collection complied and edited by a white female scholar).
15 It seems that the system of white male privilege subordinates white women at the same time that it elevates them on a pedestal above nonwhite men and women. Another of B. B. King’s songs comes to mind; perhaps the message given to white women by a patriarchal system is that white male privilege is “paying the cost to be the boss.” B.B. King, Paying the Cost to Be the Boss, on B.B. King Greatest Hits (MCA Records 1998) (describing where the man tells his woman that because he supports her, he is also entitled to control or limit her).
16 As B.B. King sings, “to know you is to love you,” and how could anyone love black women, if they didn’t even know them. B.B. King, To Know You is to Love You, on B.B. King Greatest Hits (MCA Records 1998).
17 To his credit, he added that if I wanted to teach a direct, traditional, case-based, race and the law class, maybe such a class could be added to the curriculum. Well, I taught race and the law, and in the direct, case-based way he required.
18 For an excellent discussion of the major scholars in the area of law and literature and their works, see Cynthia G. Hawkins-Leon, “Literature as Law”: The History of the Insanity Plea and a Fictional Application Within the Law and Literature Canon, 72 Temp. L. Rev. 381, 383–89 (1999) (applying law to literature and discussing the various applications of literature to law).
19 See id. at 385; see also Anita L. Allen, The Jurisprudence of Jane Eyre, 15 Harv. Women’s L.J. 173, 178 (1992).
20 Kupenda, Law, Life and Literature: Domestic Violence, supra note 4, at 2.
21 Kupenda, Law, Life and Literature: Transracial Adoption, supra note 4, at 43–44.
22 There is rich law and literature scholarship addressing race and gender influences in many legal subjects. See Hawkins-Leon, supra note 18, at 383–89 (citing to a wonderful collection of articles); see also Sheila Foster, Foreword, Symposium: Law and Literature: Examining the Limited Legal Imagination in the Traditional Legal Canon, 30 Rutgers L.J. 569 (1999); Michele Cammers Goodwin, The Black Woman in the Attic, 30 Rutgers L.J. 597 (1999); Lenora Ledwon, Storytelling and Contracts, 13 Yale J.L. & Feminism 117 (2001) (reviewing Amy Hilsman Kately et al., Contracting Law (2d ed. 2000)).
23 The racial designation “colored” will be used frequently in this essay. During the 1950s, blacks, Blacks, or African Americans were regularly referred to as “colored.” It was not until later that “colored” was considered to be a derogatory term. Other derogatory names, however, were also used for blacks during the 1950s. I will designate one of these, in particular, in this paper as n_____. And I will designate cra_____ as a derogatory term for whites.
24 Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine is a fictionalized account inspired by the story of a young black boy, Emmitt Till, who was killed by whites in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. See Alfreda A. Sellers Diamond, Becoming Black in America: A Book Review Essay on Life on the Color Line by Gregory Howard Williams, 67 Miss. L.J. 427, 432 n.23 (1997).
25 347 U.S. 483 (1954). In Brown v. Board of Education, the U. S. Supreme Court, in the context of public school education, held that race-based segregation was unconstitutional. Id. at 493. The Court held that government sanctioned separate educational facilities based on race were inherently unequal. Id. at 492.
26 Campbell, supra note 1, at 7.
27 Id. at 10.
28 Id. at 6, 7.
29 See id. at 33.
30 Id. at 34.
31 Campbell, supra note 1, at 34.
32 See id. at 33.
33 See id. at 1.
34 Id.
35 Id. at 2, 5–7.
36 Campbell, supra note 1, at 9.
37 Id. at 13.
38 Id.
39 Id. at 13, 72.
40 Id. at 13.
41 Campbell, supra note 1, at 13.
42 Id. at 14–15.
43 Id. at 14.
44 Id. at 15.
45 Id. at 19.
46 Campbell, supra note 1, at 35–36.
47 Id.
48 Id.
49 Id. at 36.
50 Id. at 35–36.
51 Campbell, supra note 1, at 36–37.
52 Id. at 37–38.
53 Id. at 38.
54 Id. at 28–30.
55 Id. at 29–31.
56 Campbell, supra note 1, at 38–43.
57 Id. at 52, 64.
58 I appreciate the frank and honest reflections of the many white females who read this book with me. Out of respect for their privacy and appreciation for their candid and honest reflections, their remarks will be presented in this essay anonymously. Additionally, all other references to conversations with others will be presented to preserve their anonymity. This is especially courteous and appropriate where honest, sensitive discussions of race and gender are concerned.
59 Throughout history, some white women, even abolitionists, have had difficulty addressing their own internalized racism even while encouraging black men to join the struggle against sexism. For example, Frederick Douglass worked long and hard for both the rights of blacks and women. See, e.g., Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race & Class 59–60 (1983). Yet, his own daughter’s race prevented her from gaining admission to all girls’ school due to the fact that a white female abolitionist rendered the decision against her:
That a white woman associated with the anti-slavery movement could assume a racist posture toward a Black girl in the North reflected a major weakness in the abolitionist campaign—its failure to promote a broad anti-racist consciousness. This serious shortcoming, abundantly criticized by the Grimke sisters and others, was unfortunately carried over into the organized movement for women’s rights.
Id. at 59.
60 For a novel in a more recent setting and also addressing through literature the severed sisterhood of black and white women, see Bebe Moore Campbell, Brothers and Sisters (2000).
61 Campbell, supra note 1, at 56.
62 Cf. bell hooks, Salvation: Black People and Love 98 (2001).
63 Campbell, supra note 1, at 33.
64 Id.
65 Id.
66 See Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies, in Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror 291, 293–94 (Richard Delgado & Jean Stefanic eds., 1997) (listing some white privileges).
67 For example, although slave narratives address the victimization of black women by white women, mainstream narratives about this period ignore these incidents and, just like the masters and mistresses of the pre-Civil War era, tend to place the blame on black women for their own victimization. See Davis, supra note 59, at 24–25 .
68 Dr. Grace Cornish, 10 Good Choices That Empower Black Women’s Lives 115 (2000).
69 Is it possible that many white women cannot see black women as fully dimensional? Will that envisioning yield too great an inspection of their own intersectionality?
I teach Gender and the Law. One semester I taught a wonderful and diverse group of intellectual young women. One incident from that class left a lasting mark on me. For part of their letter grade, students were to research and write a paper on an approved and related topic. Although the paper did not have to focus exclusively on women of color, students were to examine the peculiar and different concerns of women of color juxtaposed against those of white women. We met in small groups to review paper outlines and first drafts, with students critiquing their peers’ work. When we reviewed the outline of one very intelligent and articulate white woman, we saw she had limited her work exclusively to white women. Her classmates reminded her that her paper left out the very important component related to women of color. She apologized and wrote herself a reminder, but when she brought in her first draft, again she limited her paper only to white women. She seemed not to understand what we meant and didn’t quite understand how identifying female problems only from the perspective of white women was not inclusive. She was not rude or defensive but simply not engaged with the class that included a significant number of women of color.
70 See generally, e.g., Grillo & Wildman, supra note 7.
71 Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130, 139 (1872).
72 Id. at 141 (Bradley, J., concurring).
73 Giddings, supra note 2, at 38.
74 Id. at 141. Also consider the words of a black female poet implicitly comparing the historical predicaments of black women to the pedestaled cages of white sisters:
No angel stretched protecting wings
above the heads of her children,
fluttering and urging the winds of reason
into the confusion of their lives.
They sprouted like young weeds,
but she could not shield their growth
from the grinding blades of ignorance, nor
shape them into symbolic topiaries.
She sent them away,
underground, overland, in coaches and
When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.
As for me,
I shall not be moved.
Maya Angelou, Our Grandmothers, in Phenomenal Woman 15, 18–19 (1994).
75 Campbell, supra note 1, at 63.
76 Id. at 64.
77 See Smith, supra note 11, at 110 (discussing the ways the law both privileges and restricts white women).
78 After the killing, the colored men stop patronizing Floyd’s pool hall. Campbell, supra note 1, at 79. Floyd and Lily end up penniless, with Lily having to beg colored women for food. See id. at 239.
79 Id. at 83–84.
80 Id. at 34. For illumination of Lily’s lack of understanding of, and maybe even lack of feeling for, Ida consider the following words in an essay by Maya Angelou: “Lives lived in such cauldrons are either obliterated or forged into impenetrable alloys. Thus, early on and consciously, black women became realities only to themselves. To others they were mostly seen and described in the abstract, concrete in their labor but surreal in their humanness.” Maya Angelou, They came to stay, in Even the Stars Look Lonesome 39, 42 (1997).
81 One of the white women who read the book, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, with me said that she never understood what I meant about the conflict between black and white women until she read the book. She had assumed that black and white women have no conflicts, as we are all really women. Rest assured that many black women think differently. Consider this passage from another truthful work of fiction sharing the thoughts of Esther, a black woman: “Esther nodded as Mallory’s flimsy operatic anger puffed out her [pink] cheeks and hardened her eyes. Yes, the old boys are sexist pigs, [Esther silently] agreed. But did this little Valley Girl really think that sexism was [Esther’s] only problem?” Campbell, supra note 60, at 21.
82 Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl 33, 54 (Penguin Books ed. 2000) (1861).
83 Consider this passage from a nonfictional story of a slave girl:
“You have taken God’s holy word to testify your innocence,” said [my master’s wife]. “If you have deceived me, beware! . . .
I did as she ordered. As I went on with my account her color changed frequently, she wept, and sometimes groaned. She spoke in tones so sad, that I was touched by her grief. The tears came to my eyes; but I was soon convinced that her emotions arose from anger and wounded pride. She felt that her marriage vows were desecrated, her dignity insulted; but she has no compassion for the poor victim of her husband’s perfidy.
Id. at 33.
84 Id. at 54; cf. Letter from Elayna A. Monts, to White Woman, at http://academic. udayton.edu/race/05intersection/sister.htm (last visited Jan. 10, 2002) (describing how one white woman, Elayna Monts, answers the complaint of another white woman that black women are “too fat, too loud, too mean, too argumentative” and reminds her that any daughters the complainer has, with her mate who is a black man, will be racially labeled as black women--the same black women that the complainer condemns).
85 The inability of white women to control their white men’s aggressive appetites continues, now evident in the proliferation of pornography. Even with the sexual exploitation of women through pornography, the blues is different for black and white women. Alice Walker points to these concerns with a short story in which a black woman confronts her husband for viewing pornographic depictions of white women and later of black women. The woman chastises her husband for assisting in women’s and in his own exploitation and dehumanization. For the first time he understands fully a line his wife read the day before: “The pornography industry’s exploitation of the black woman’s body is qualitatively different from that of the white women,” because she is holding the cover of Jivers out to him and asking:
“What does this woman look like?” What he has refused to see—because to see it would reveal yet another area in which he is unable to protect or defend black women—is that where white women are depicted in pornography as “objects,” black women are depicted as animals. Where white women are depicted at least as human bodies if not beings, black women are depicted as shit.
Alice Walker, Coming Apart, in You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down 41, 52 (1981). In the picture, a glistening brown woman is contorted around the man’s feet, “in such a way that her head is not even visible. Only her glistening body—her back and derriere—so that she looks like a human turd at the man’s feet.” Id. at 43.
86 bell hooks, Talking Back 179 (1989). “At times, the insistence [by black females] that feminism is really ‘a white female thing that has nothing to do with black women’ masks black female rage towards white women, a rage rooted in the historical servant-served relationship where white women have used power to dominate, exploit, and oppress.” Id.
87 Campbell, supra note 1, at 36. Black women have been unable historically to trust white feminism to transcend racism and, especially, to help protect their voting rights. See Giddings, supra note 2, at 68, 89, 124, 160, 166, 170.
88 Campbell, supra note 1, at 36.
89 Id. at 38–39.
90 Floyd kills the boy out of a desire to please his father. Id. at 179–80. His father urged him to kill Armstrong as a way to continue to exert power and control over colored people for societal and economic reasons. Id. at 29–30. Thus, Armstrong’s killing is an act of fear-based terror committed to exercise social control.
91 Id. at 38–39.
92 Id. at 51–52.
93 Campbell, supra note 1, at 53–54.
94 Id. at 54.
95 Id. at 88–89 (emphasis added).
96 Id. at 89(emphasis added).
97 See Fannie Lou Hamer, It’s in Your Hands, in Black Women in White America, supra note 1, at 609, 611.
98 Campbell, supra note 1, at 63–64. Once as a new employee, I felt oppressed by several incidents. I believed I was being unfairly treated because I was black, a woman, or a black woman. (I wasn’t sure whether one or all of those were implicated.) I went to a senior white female, “Lindy,” and asked for her ear and support. She became angry at me for what I told her was happening. Lindy said that since a significant number of women worked on our job, there could be no sexism there. And, she was enraged that I would even suggest that racism could be at the root of the problem. I then went to another senior white female, who had appeared to be a feminist and at least racially aware. She told me that my insights into the situation were probably accurate, but that she could not help me. She said, “I’m sorry, Angela, but we (white) women can’t help you. You are on your own.” Well, I struggled on my own, with some help from other communities. A few years later, virtually all of the women found themselves confronting incidents that they now called sexist. Lindy and the others wanted, and tried without my consent, to place me at the forefront of their (our) battle as women. Yet, even when I asked, they still could not see the necessity of including my continuing injuries within their (our) collective issues.
A black woman can become very distrustful of some white women when black women are expected to fight their own, black and black woman, issues alone (without the support of white women), yet are expected to sacrificially lead the fight for the issues that white women identify as issues for all women.
99 Id. at 106–07; see Giddings, supra note 2, at 26–27 (discussing lynching and the vulnerability of black men and women).
100 Drs. Derek S. Hopson & Darlene Powell Hopson, Friends, Lovers & Soulmates 40 (1995). I’ll never ever forget a dream I had over twenty years ago, for it seemed so real. During the time when I had the dream, I was working for a corporation as a management trainee. I was facing, what I considered to be, much race/gender mistreatment and misunderstanding on the job. Then, one night I had the dream. In the dream I was a slave on a plantation. It looked like a plantation, smelled like one, and felt like one. My bad situation as a slave had somehow worsened, so I tried to escape. Try as I could, I couldn’t get away. As I was about to be recaptured, I awoke. My heart was racing. I was crying and screaming. I had felt terror like I never had before. My dream, unfortunately, was the ongoing reality of some of my ancestors. Symbolically, my dream was also my reality. “Oh, I just can’t loose those chains!” B.B. King, Chains and Things, on B.B. King Greatest Hits (MCA Records, 1998).
101 Campbell, supra note 1, at 107.
102 Id.
103 Id. at 150–51 (emphasis added).
104 Id. at 155.
105 Id. at 163.
106 Campbell, supra note 1, at 158, 160–61.
107 Id. at 179–80.
108 Id. at 154.
109 Id.
110 Id. at 154–55.
111 Eliminating oppression also helps white men. Just think, the young black boy who was murdered might have grown up and discovered a cure to cancer, and white males suffer from cancer too.
112 See Smith, supra note 11, at 110 (discussing the ways the law both privileges and restricts white women).
113 Perhaps white women should actively work to first admit to and then address racism. See Noel Ignatiev, How to Be a Race Traitor: Six Ways to Fight Being White, in Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, supra note 66, at 691; Martha R. Mahoney, What Should White Women Do? in Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, supra note 66, at 641.
114 Campbell, supra note 1, at 381–82.
115 Id. at 392, 396, 423.
116 A more detailed examination of Ida’s soothing of her blues will be the subject of a subsequent essay. For now, consider reading the novel for yourself.
117 Campbell, supra note 1, at 392.
118 Consider these moving words from the song, A Change is Gonna Come, by the late, great Sam Cooke:
I was born by the river
In a little tent
And just like the river
I’ve been running ever since
It’s been a long, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it is
. . . .
Then I go to my [sister]
I say [sister] help me please
But [s]he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees
. . . .
It’s been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes it will
The Supremes, A Change is Gonna Come, on We Remember Sam Cooke (1965), at http://home.iae.nl/users/psporrij/sc.htm (last visited Jan. 11, 2002).
119 Even the next generation of Lily characters is still struggling with their own racism. In the novel, Lily has a daughter who respects Ida, works with Ida, and joins hands with Ida to improve conditions for blacks and whites. Yet, even within this somewhat racially and gender-liberated character, racism is still harbored in her soul as exhibited by her use of the word n____ in her conversation. Consider this passage as Lily argues with her daughter who is about to participate in a protest with the other workers, including the colored workers, at the catfish plant:
“You ought not to be going up there,” Lily told Doreen . . . . If the police came and arrested them, would she go limp, the way the n_____s used to do during the unrest? She shook her head. The whole idea was unbelievable.
“Mama, that’s where I work.” Doreen was smoothing Melanie’s [her daughter’s] bangs and didn’t look at her mother.
“Yeah, but it’s mostly them. Let them do it.” The thought of her daughter carrying a sign and marching around the fish-processing plant with a bunch of n_____s made her dizzy . . . .
“New Plantation is treating all of us like shit, Mama. I’m in the same boat as the n______s. I ain’t scared of being raped by Willie Horton, Mama. I’m scared of not having medical benefits.”
Doreen’s words were true enough, but everything she said only intensified Lily’s fears. “Well, why do you have to take Melanie with you? Ain’t you afraid she might get hurt? . . .
“No, I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I’ll tell you what: No matter what happens, I want her to know that she has to stand up for herself. ’Cause if she don’t, won’t nobody do it for her. I want her to have courage.”
Lily’s eyes almost met her daughter’s, but at the last moment she looked away. Courage was what men were supposed to have: that was what she wanted to say. But the words froze on her lips.
Campbell, supra note 1, at 424–25. Maybe future generations, like Lily’s daughter’s daughters, might be able to confront their fears more fully and to deal with both the overt and covert racism that they internalized.
120 Hamer, supra note 97, at 611.
121 “Is you is, or is you ain’t [my friend]?” See B.B. King, Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t (My Baby), on Let the Good Times Roll, The Music of Louis Jordan (MCA Records 1999).