Black Women, Property Twice


Sara Bartman/Venus Hottentot & Rapper Lil Kim  Courtesy of Str8OuttaNYC
(Video of an Altercation between Black Israelites
and some Black women passerbyers.)

About a month ago I was sitting a Professors office explaining my
research interests (labor, sex, Black women), how I was working
on a theory of how Black Women are Property Twice. He listened,
became agitated then finally
said, "I really don't like when people
try and connect slavery
to things going on now, there is no data."

In the conversation, I was trying to connect the Video Vixens to
Venus Hottentott (word to Dallas Pen) and he was like, NO.

Property once, property again.

The Professor agreed that hip hop was global, but felt that
the Vixens
constituted a minute part of the hip hop equation.
Really. All I could think was, have you seen BET lately?
Uh, okay.

I looked at him and continued talking to him and thanked him
for sharing what I would imagine would be a critique of my work.

I was reminded of this experience when I stopped in Barnes and Nobles
on Saturday and read that Charles Johnson has been critiquing
Toni Morrison, saying in so many words that "she needs to stop writing
about slavery."

Funny, I don't think Johnson could fix his lips to critique Holocaust
scholars, and say that they need to stop writing about it.

Again. The message was, "no slavery talk, people."

Later Saturday Night
I went out Saturday Night and my experience made it clear to me
that I, and arguably many black women, and perhaps women in general
have been trained to
tolerate being touched in non consensual ways.

A friend of mine who is a DJ had invited me to three things in the
last month. He sent me a text regarding an event that was by my house,
so I decided to go.
I have been under a rock for the last 6 weeks.
So this was special.

We both LOVE boom bap, and I knew he would be surprised to see
me, as I saw him last June of 2007, so I figured it would be a nice
break in my routine.

So I am there, rapping along to Black Moon, or Ghost or CL
and this dude grabs my wrist and I unfurl his fingers from around it.
A little bit later, and he does it again and I almost flipped out on him.

I remember that historially, I would take my thumb finger and stick
it into a dudes hand if he ain't get the picture. In many ways,
it was a small act of resistance.

The more I thought about it, I realized that him touching me was
typical dancefloor behavior that many of us
have been subjected to since we first started going out.

The second time he grabbed my wrist I was reminded of going
to a party in the Bay over Christmas break, after my first semester
of school in New York. I wasn't even 21 yet.

The party was in Hayward, and was typical California in the
cut hood ish. I remember dancing with this guy, and he kept rubbing
on my booty. I don't remember how I stopped him, but I remember
him saying, "If I can't get my feel goods, then I ain't dancing with
you", and he walked away.

When the dude on Saturday kept grabbing my wrist, I flashed back
to that night in Hayward. I also began to think about Cynthia Grant
Bowman's essay on street
harassment and how it affects women.
She discusses how it impacts our ability to be ourselves, our ability
to function and just have serenity in our day to day lives on the street,
and the ability to move from point a to b in the street without the threat
of violence or 8 million cat calls, hey shorties, what up boo, hey miss, etc.

I am thinking about Toni, and Charles telling her "no mo slavery talk."
I am thinking about the Professor telling me that connecting
slavery to now is out of pocket.
I am thinking about how I am complicit in contributing to an environment
that normalizes or is neutral on violence against women. My wrist was
grabbed, yet thirty minutes later
I still sang along with Snoop, "I got freaks
in the living room getting
it on and they ain't leaving to till six in the mo'ning."
I am thinking about what it means to finally realize, after all these years
that I, and arguably we, have been trained to tolerate being touched,
and how all hell breaks loose when we say stop.

Make any connections lately?
Anyone tell you to stop?
Thoughts on street harassment?
Thoughts on the video?

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