Gender Analysis of My Life

   From a graduate school paper written in 2015

The concept of gender is a fascinating concept in American society.  The reason it is so fascinating is because it is so fluid.  This year a man who was thought of as one of the manliest men in sports came out as a woman. Bruce Jenner was an Olympic sports hero, father to several children and married many times but he is now known as Caitlyn. I’m not quite sure if he is telling the truth because I have my own personal thoughts about his transformation but it has been eye-opening. It shows that for some, womanhood is based on superficial qualities such as hair, makeup, and clothes and as a woman who has been a woman for almost 45 years, it is maddeningly insulting. This paper will discuss gender and how it has affected my life. It is a tale filled with mishaps, mistakes and many trials but it is also a story of perseverance.

Gender affected me from the moment I was born. I was the youngest of three children born to my mother and I was the longed for baby girl. I didn’t feel any pressure as a little girl but I was swamped with a bunch of dolls, doll houses, and other toys marketed towards little girls. And although I enjoyed and still to this day love dolls and all things considered girly, I wonder now as a woman did my mother do me a disservice by purchasing only toys for girls. It would have been nice to receive a train set or some Tonka trucks.

I was a questioning child, the type who asked a million and one questions that no one wanted to answer. I remember asking my mother why boys can do certain things like stay out later or have sex with a bunch of girls and no one will say anything but if a girl did those things; she would be labeled a slut. She told me that is how society is set up and I was around twelve at the time. I just looked at her because it didn’t make any sense to me then and it still don’t. The boys in my classroom were some smelly dumb creatures and I didn’t look at them as superior in any type of way. I decided right then and there I was going to live my own life and if anyone didn’t like it, I wouldn’t care.

Around this same time, I read a book that would change my life and shape my views on gender: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It is the story of Scarlett O’Hara and it is set during the South at the beginning of the Civil War. I loved the character of Scarlett because she was the first female anti hero I had ever read about. She wasn’t a nice person. She didn’t have any close female friends because she looked at women as competition for men. She didn’t like her sisters and she would steal a beau from a girl in a minute. She was two faced but men loved her. What is funny is that she didn’t really like men too much either because she thought they were silly. Due to the social constraints of the era she was born in, she couldn’t show her true self so she learned to be the best Southern belle in Georgia.

I think I loved her character so much because she was everything I was taught not to be. Selfish, self centered, in every way a true bitch but she generally got everything she wanted while the nice girls got ignored. For a little black girl reading this book, it was eye opening because black women are taught to self sacrifice and put their needs on the back burner. In the black community, the thoughts of men come first and black women are not supposed to be heard.

Going into adolescence was hard for me because as a budding black feminist in a neighborhood seething with hyper black masculinity, I clashed with the young men constantly. I refused to stay in my place as a black girl and after I became a teenage mother, I still refused to hang my head in shame. Why should I be ashamed for being a young mother when the same boys talking crazy had children scattered all over the neighborhood and in several other zip codes?

But it wasn’t easy for me. Although I am a strong willed individual, those stereotypes got to me and I didn’t do anything with my life until I was twenty six years old when I got my GED. Eight years later, I walked across the stage as college graduate, receiving a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Sociology. Now when I look back, I feel so stupid for allowing others to get into my head and mess with my self-esteem. But it is not easy for most teens, especially a teen that had been sexually molested and thought her self-worth was her body.  I tried to fight against gender stereotypes as a teen and failed miserably, not understanding that it wasn’t my fault that people are judgmental fools.

Gender hasn’t really affected my life too much professionally because I have always worked in a field that is heavily female dominated, the clerical/administrative field.  However, the cattiness of women in this line of work is mind-boggling. I currently work at a company in which women e-mail the project manager to tattle on other women they think is dressed inappropriately. My goodness that is the pettiest stuff I have ever seen and I have worked in this field for eighteen years. But since women are the gatekeepers of patriarchy, I should not be surprised.

Well that is my gender story. I am a mother of two daughters and a son. My daughters are just as strong willed as their mother and they shatter gender stereotypes daily and my son is an empathic soul when it comes to gender issues. So I guess I have done a good job as a mother although some would say not because I am a single mother who didn’t conform. But so what?

Ghetto Nation 2019

Ghetto – A section of a city to which an entire ethnic or economically depressed group is is restricted; as by poverty or social pressure.

Life for Blacks who reside in the inner-city has never been easy but in the years since crack cocaine hit, things have most definitely taken a turn for the worst. A new breed of Black woman and manhood has arisen and they behave rather badly.  It has become absolutely normal to be ignorant and ghetto and more scarily, this behavior is celebrated with glee.

Take a stroll in any inner-city neighborhood and on any given afternoon, you will see groups of able-bodied young men lounging carelessly on street corners, smoking marijuana boldly on street corners bragging about their bitches, whores and baby mommas.  And although these young men show clear shiftless tendencies, throngs of ride or die chicks, sometimes with several children in tow surround them, taking loudly while dressed in pajama bottoms and dingy white wife-beaters complete with the proverbial head scarf.

These words are not stereotypes but actual truth.  Too many times, Blacks complain about their dirty laundry being aired publicly instead of fixing the problem and it is time to discuss an issue that is plaguing us as a people: the acceptance of ignorance.  Although racism is, has been, and will always be a part of American society, social behaviors once deemed deviant are embraced and accepted by some Blacks.

Urban terrorists have hijacked urban communities throughout America, but calling the police is considered “snitching” and murderers walk around unafraid and unrepentant.  Mothers hide the guns of their gang-banging sons and little children are left at home unattended with an empty refrigerator while their parents party in the streets. There are so many examples of this behavior that I could go and on but that would be redundant. However, one thing rings true, regardless if some folks do not want to face it: gutter, hood-related anti-social behavior is running amok in some Black communities.

Where did it all go so terribly wrong? The decline of the inner-city Black family can be traced to the crack cocaine era.  Black families throughout America were decimated due to drug abuse and drug dealing and the children became collateral damages. An entire generation of Black children have grown up seeing their parents either use or sell drugs and it has destroyed their psyche.

For these young adults, the only thing worth living for is the mass consumption of expensive designer clothing, alcohol, drugs and sexual escapades with multiple partners. They have no goals or ambitions but to live for the day. An education is scorned as being nothing more than a worthless piece of paper and disputes are settled by gunfire, regardless of who is around.

The blame for this generation of inner-city hoodrats can be laid at the feet of Black Generation X, my generation. Blacks born between 1965 and 1976 were the first recipients of the gains that the Civil Rights Movement had battled for and we squandered it by getting caught up in the “Greed is Good” era of the Eighties. We ran the streets instead of taking care of our children, shoving the responsibility of childrearing on our weary, overworked parents. We were more concerned about outer appearances, spending money on shiny things instead of saving money for better educational opportunities and now our children still lag behind every ethnic group when it comes to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead of being parents to our children, we became their friends, smoking blunts with them and allowing their boyfriends and girlfriends overnight privileges, creating the next generation of confused, angry children.

We planted the seeds for mass destruction and now we have a garden full of weeds.  It saddens me to write this but it is my opinion that little can be done to correct this hood-related behavior. These days, you cannot tell anyone anything bad about their children because it might cause a physical confrontation.  The US government could put trillions of dollars into every inner-city in America but this ghetto mentality will still exist because being absolutely nothing is accepted. An entire generation of Black young adults have accepted their caste in society as the lowest of the low, trapped by the narrow confines of their minds and neighborhoods.

Ten Ways to Find Out if You Are a Brainwashed Negro

tommy-sotomayer

Brainwashed Negro: A Black individual who has internalized every negative stereotype about Blacks and their culture and is seething with self-hatred and low self-esteem. Usually believes that the only path to success and true happiness is to marry or assimilate into White culture, hoping to escape the sins of blackness.

One of the biggest problems in the Black community is a lack of unity caused by years of self-hatred. Self-hatred in the Black community is due to centuries of brainwashing by the dominant culture into believing that Blacks and their contributions to mainstream society are worthless and that Blacks themselves are worthless and ugly. Self-hatred has caused some Black folks to demean themselves and other Blacks in many hurtful ways that are not productive to anyone.  Here are 10 ways to find out if you as a Black person have been brainwashed by the dominant culture:

uncle-ruckus-prayer10.  If you are still running around claiming that your family has “Indian Blood”, particularly, Cherokee. I wonder why the only Native American tribe some Black folks can name is Cherokee, as if Iroquois, Mohicans, Seminoles and others do not exist.

9, If you believe that all Black NBA players are married to White women. 86% of married African American NBA players are married to Black women.

8. If you deny the African within by stating that your descendants are from the Caribbean. How in the hell did you think all those Black folks ended up on those islands?

7. If you believe that all White people are rich, beautiful, educated and are endowed with special magical powers.

6. If you tell a dark-skinned Black woman, “You are so pretty to be dark”.

5. If you give an automatic pretty pass to light-skinned women just because they are light-skinned and have long hair.

4. If you refuse to frequent Black-owned businesses because you believe that their services are sub-par as compared to White-owned businesses.

3. If you believe that “Good Hair” consists of hair that is long, flowing and silky, not kinky.

2. If you believe that it’s perfectly okay for other races to demean Black people by dressing in Blackface or if you are completely silent when other races demean black culture because you are so worried about losing your spot as the Anointed Negro and want some of that magical White fairy dust to sprinkle on your trifling ass.

1. If you make statements such as “Black women have too many problems” or “I cannot find a Black man that is on my level” to justify dating outside your race. There is nothing wrong with interracial dating unless you are using it as a way to escape the deep psychological problems of hatred for one’s race. Perhaps the problem is not Black people collectively but YOU personally and all YOUR issues and burdens of being Black in America.

Searching For Assata Shakur

Disclaimer: I wrote this paper back in college when I was filled with fire!

assata_shakur

If asked the question, “How much would you be willing to sacrifice for your beliefs?” the average individual would probably look bewildered. Would you be willing to give up your friends, family, freedom, even possibly your life for a cause that was dear to you? The cynic inside me says, “Probably not.” In American society, people have a tendency to speak with much grandiloquence about their beliefs but when asked to sacrifice for those same beliefs, they crumble. Assata Shakur did not. Assata Shakur is a revolutionary and one of the most wrongly convicted individuals in U.S. history. Her story is a sad chapter in American history, in which race, social class, political affiliation, and gender played a role in her subsequent exile from her homeland.

On May 2, 1973, racial prejudice would forever change the life of Assata Shakur. An incident of what would now be labeled “racial profiling” took place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ms. Shakur, an active participant in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), was traveling with friends, Malik Zayad Shakur and Sundiata Acoli when state troopers stopped them, reportedly because of a broken headlight. A trooper explained that they looked suspicious because the Vermont license plates on the vehicle they were driving. The three were made to exit the car with their hands up. Suddenly, shots were fired and when it was over, state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were killed.

Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with the deaths of state trooper Foerster and Zayd Malik Shakur. While held in jail, she was shackled and chained to a bed, with bullet wounds still in her chest. She was also forced to undergo the jabs of shotgun butts of the New Jersey State troopers and heard their voices shouting Nazi slogans and threats to her life. In the history of New Jersey had a female prisoner ever been treated as she, confined to a men’s prison and placed under a constant twenty-four hour surveillance of her most intimate bodily functions.

Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were eventually sentenced to life plus thirty-three years. Although the verdict was no surprise since they were convicted by an all-white jury, many questioned the racial injustice of the trial because it was riddled with several human rights violations and constitutional errors. The pretrial publicity was extremely negative and African-Americans were purposely excluded from the jury. Even more incredible was the fact Ms. Shakur was shot with her arms in the air, making it anatomically impossible for her to commit the murders she was convicted of.

However, in the country of the United States where there is allegedly freedom, justice, and liberty for all, the only people who have that luxury are white men. Ms. Shakur had the triple jeopardy of being Black, female, and poor and she was a member of a political organization that had been targeted by the CIA and the FBI because of its political views. Any organization that challenges the status quo has to be eliminated at all costs.

Assata Shakur spent six and a half years in prison, two of those in solitary confinement. During that time, she was beaten and tortured on a daily basis. Although there is no mention of rape, she was probably sexually harassed everyday of her imprisonment. While imprisoned, she gave birth to her daughter Kakuya who was taken away from her a week after her birth. In 1979, fearing for her life, she made a daring escape that continues to infuriate the United States government. There was a nationwide search for her but not a trace of her or the people who aided her escape was ever found. In 1984, she was granted political asylum by Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba and was finally united with her daughter. On May 2, 2005, the federal government issued a statement in which they labeled Ms. Shakur a domestic terrorist. In addition to doing that, the government also increased the bounty on her head from $150,000 to an unprecedented $1,000,000.

When I first read about Ms. Shakur, I cried. I could not believe what this woman went through for fighting for basic human rights. Because of the triple jeopardy of race, sex, and class and her political affiliation, she was unjustly sentenced to jail for a murder she did not commit. According to research, African-American women experience more bias in the courts than White women on the basis that White women are presumed to be good mothers by virtue of marital status (Andersen, p.285) and Black women are not. Black women have been historically stereotyped as sexually deviant troublemakers who need to be controlled.

Also, according to the Labeling Theory, groups with the power to label individuals deviant, exercise total control over what and who is considered deviant. Ms. Shakur was deemed to be deviant by the courts and the U.S. government because of her race, gender, political beliefs, and class status; therefore, she was sentenced to prison without any due process of the law.

While in prison, she received horrific treatment at the hands of her jailers. During her pregnancy, she received no prenatal care and the authorities even tried to starve her so she would miscarry. Although this type of treatment of female prisoners is extreme, most do not receive adequate medical treatment while in prison. According to research, health care in women’s prisons is limited, and prenatal care is nonexistent. If pregnant, female prisoners’ babies are taken right after birth. They are also treated no differently than men in prison. Ms. Shakur experienced this first hand and she was beaten every day the six years she was in prison.

Writing this paper was one of the most emotionally wrenching projects I have ever done. Reading about Ms. Shakur’s experiences brought feelings of pain and anger but my feelings are minuscule when I think about the tears that she wept and still weeps. Imagine being convicted for the murders of two people, one of them your best friend and you are innocent. Imagine your other friend being convicted of the same murders and he was innocent too. Imagine being mentally tortured, beaten, and starved for six years of your life, living in a cage. Imagine giving birth to your daughter and having her taken away a week later. Imagine escaping from prison and being exiled away from your family and friends, knowing that you might not see them or the country of your birth again.

These are things that Assata Shakur experience everyday of her life and knowing that makes me as guilty as the criminal system that wrongly convicted her. I am guilty because I was ignorant of her history and had forgotten about the struggles of her and many African-Americans who fought for equality in this country. This woman in essence, gave her life for a cause she held dear and how many people are willing to that? She was and still is, a true warrior woman in every sense of the word. The only thing I can do to repay Assata and others who have sacrificed their lives in the battle for equality is to raise my children to be strong, productive members of their race who are proud of their heritage, and not afraid to fight for their rights.

A revolutionary woman can’t have no reactionary man. If he’s not about liberation, if he’s not about struggle, if he ain’t about building a strong Black family, if he ain’t about building a strong Black nation, then he ain’t about nothing. – Assata Shakur

 

A Letter From a South Side Apartment

A couple of years ago, I read Dr. Martin Luther King’s A Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I was mesmerized by the passion and anger in his words and although we are in the second decade of the 21st century, his words still resonate. This letter I am writing is my tribute to him for giving his life for me and other disadvantaged and disrespected groups in America. It would sadden him to no end that nothing has really changed in American society in regards to race and economics. Perhaps one day, we will be truly free from the chains of racism and economic selfishness that enveloped America since its inception.

28 March 2012

My Dear Mr. Gingrich & Other Republican Presidential Candidates who believe that the Poor Blacks are the Scum of the Universe:

While confined in my lower class existence, I cannot help but think about the words you put into the universe about Black people who receive unemployment compensation, food stamps and other government benefits, people whose lives have been touched by the mean specter of poverty. Since I am very stressed out about receiving $318 per month in public assistance, I normally would not have time to think about your condescending self-serving words since I am too busy trying to find a job in a dying economy but I had to speak to you about this. The current discourse on the lives of poor Blacks in this country has been taken over by well-dressed, well-fed career politicians like yourself and I thought you needed some enlightenment.

First of all, no one wants to be poor. I know that you believe that little Black children spend their time discussing ways to be indigent and homeless by the time they are eighteen, but the children I know have big plans for their future. My ten-year-old daughter’s plans for the future change on a daily basis: One day she wants to be a fashion designer, the next a mad scientist who is going to take over the world. The one thing she has made clear is that she does not see motherhood in her future because in her words, “Being a mother takes too much work.”

I know that you like to believe that the children of poor Blacks are a drain on society but you are so wrong. I was a teenage mother at the age of sixteen and had two children by the age of twenty-one. According to statistics on teen mothers, by now my daughter should have had a slew of kids by different men and my son should have dropped out of high school and is currently imprisoned for numerous drug offenses. Not! My daughter graduated from college last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and my son is in college studying Communications. My children watched me work for various corporations who paid me very little money and proudly watched when I walked across the stage at the age of thirty-five to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with honors.

But I realize that you probably do not know too many Black people personally so when you chose to discuss them amongst your constituents, you like to use tired, worn-out stereotypes about them. According to you, Blacks have no work ethic and like taking baths in the piles of food stamps they receive on a monthly basis. Blacks have been in this country since 1619 and still have not made any progress, although White people have given them everything! What is wrong with these trifling Black people?

It is very easy for you and your kind to sprout these words, snugly enveloped in your cloak of White-male privilege but what you do not realize is that although Blacks were freed from the chains of slavery, they were never made equal, financially or mentally. Throughout the years, American society had every opportunity to make amends to African-Americans by giving them same economic advantages as Whites, but it never happened because that would mean Blacks would be on the same economic playing field as Whites and that is a no-no.

It is funny how you like to blame the media for everything wrong in your world but the media in all actuality is your best friend. The media, owned by the ruling class, has played a major role in distorting views about social economics by pretending the ruling class does not exist and poor Blacks are the dregs of society. The media with its ‘magic’ can make the historical legacy of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow laws vanish by pretending it is their fault that they are poor. By doing this, upper and middle-classed Americans learn to fear and loathe poor Blacks and refuse to make the connection between systematic racism and high poverty levels amongst African-Americans.

The dominant culture has succeeded in making African Americans subhuman to other groups, who passively accept these bigoted views. In your speeches and in the Republican debates, the message that you and others have given is to degenerate Black people at all costs and to keep poor working-class Whites in a constant tizzy about the so-called advantages given to them.

Mr. Gingrich, I feel sorry for you and wonder what you would do if Blacks did not exist in this country. Race and class was socially constructed for the advancement of Whites and the making up of a social class of poverty-stricken African-Americans who could be blamed for everything wrong in society. Take away the pretensions, the feelings of superiority that comes with having the “right” skin color and people like you in this society would be loss. No more scapegoats to blame and you would have to face up to the fact that you have no plans for making the economic system in America more equal. But it is easier to blame Blacks, who unlike your ancestors had no choice when they were brought to this country as chattel and broodmares to make the lives of the ruling class easier.

Sincerely,
Kathy M. Henry