Read an Excerpt
How come you motherfuckers don't bring no white bitches when you come up here? -- Richard Pryor, to a white man coming to a black whorehouse
Throughout American history, the white male and the black female have had an open sexual relationship. Not consensual, by any means. It was born out of rape, humility, and control. During slavery, whites "introduced the house slaves to white ways, minimal education and non-consensual sexual relations." It has long been held that even the father of the United States, George Washington, had sexual intercourse with his female slaves and it was this behavior that may have resulted in his death. He reportedly caught pneumonia because of his frequent visits to the slave quarters, which were less fit for human habitation.
The most perverse celebration of these associations was Thomas Jefferson's relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. Many have celebrated it as a romance of the forbidden fruit, but, as Randall Robinson asserts, "Jefferson was a slave holder, a racist, and -- if one accepts that consent cannot be given if it cannot be denied -- a rapist." Black people at this time had no rights and were considered the property of white men to do with as they pleased. Robert Newsome, a sixty-year-old slaver, "needed more than a hostess and a manager of household affairs; he required a sexual partner. Newsome seems to have deliberately chosen to purchase a young slave girl to fulfill this role...." It is certain that "from the moment he purchased Celia, Newsome regarded her as both his property and concubine." And "[o]n his return to Callaway County, Newsome raped Celia, and by that act, once established and defined the nature of the relationship between the master and his newly acquired slave." She was just fourteen years old and that was probably her first sexual experience. During this time, as well as much later on, "[f]ew black women reached the age of sixteen without having been molested by a white male."
Without any rights, legal recourse, or protection from local, state, or federal authorities, a black woman could make no decision concerning anything that affected her life. There were no battered women's shelters, NOW movement, rape crisis center, NAACP, Al Sharpton, or any support sympathetic to her discomforts. She was completely incapable of rejecting her master's wishes. Her choices were to do or die.
This was the beginning of the soiling of the black woman in America. It was especially devastating when seen through the spectacles of black men. The experience painted an unflattering picture of her that has remained in the mental albums of black men. She was reduced to a sexual brood mare to increase the slave population, which helped to create the enormous white wealth that further empowered the colonizers, as well as satisfy the slaver's salacious sickness, degenerating her to an ejaculatory dumping ground for the grotesque pleasures forced on the conquered. There is no denying "that the white man has had the chief hand in undermining the morals of the Negro women. He has been living in concubinage with them for over three hundred years!" In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois said, "The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systemic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon [this] race, meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home." One slave recalled:
My marster owned three plantations and three hundred slaves. He started out wid two 'oman slaves and raised three hundred slaves. One wuz called "Short Peggy" and the udder wuz called "Long Peggy." Long Peggy had twenty-five chilluns. Long Peggy, a black 'oman, wuz boss ob de plantation. Marster freed her atter she had twenty-five chilluns. Just think o' dat -- raisin' three hundred slaves wid two 'omans.
Harriet Jacobs in her slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, recounted:
For years my master had done his utmost to pollute my mind with foul images and to destroy the pure images inculcated by my grandmother....
He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of. I turned from him with disgust and hatred. But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him -- where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature.
Dirt floors, barns, cotton fields, slave houses, back porches, bathrooms, outhouses, and any place one could imagine served as the theater for the slave master's pornographic exploits. Not only was the black woman brought down, but she was now dirty, used, abused, passed around, and been around.
The Contrived Goddess
On the other side, the white woman was held up as the pure, Christian, ideal example of womanhood and, more important, she was completely off limits to the black man. If the eyes of a black man were to land on a white woman, it could mean death. Black men were dehumanized through whipping, hanging, castration, decapitation, burning, drowning, dismembering, and various other forms of atrocious human behavior, simply to right the wrongs of a casual glance, a practice that is still in vogue in modern American society. In 1989, Yusuf Hawkins was shot to death in Brooklyn because he was mistaken for someone seeing a white girl. And in 2003, an eighteen-year-old Georgia high-school football player was sentenced to ten years in prison for having sex with a white girl who was two months from her seventeenth birthday. It was consensual, but when her father found out, he forced her to say it was rape.
Historically, "[c]hallenging the word of a white woman just wasn't done."
Consequently, the white woman eventually developed a cry of omnipotence. All that was needed was an accusation against a black person to trigger the wrath of her male protectors. Even if she cried wolf, there was guaranteed punishment for the accused. Charles Stuart tried this tactic after murdering his wife in Massachusetts and blaming it on a black man. He wanted insurance money to open a restaurant -- she was eight months pregnant when he shot her in the head. As a result, many black men were harassed and detained, and one was arrested who "confessed" to a crime Mr. Stuart was later found to have committed. Susan Smith used it to try to scatter the scent of suspicion after she drowned her children and blamed a black man for kidnapping them.
In the summer of 2002, Bryant Gumbel's son, Bradley, was arrested and held for twenty-four hours because a white woman said he looked like the man who attacked her. Not long after, the entire state of Florida was on lockdown as the world watched three Muslim men detained for seventeen hours because some white woman said she heard them talking suspiciously.
And the story of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till -- who was snatched from his bed in the middle of the night, tortured for days, and tossed into the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi with a seventy-five-pound cotton gin fan around his neck and a shotgun hole in his head for whistling at a white store clerk in the 1950s -- still remains a shameful part of American history.
"Dare I ask how does it feel to have a horrible crime committed in your name?" wrote Nikki Giovanni.
While the black woman could be violated at will, the white woman's comfort was protected with the ultimate price. In this case, the death penalty was not law but habit as the casual killing of black men became sport. This environment helped to greatly increase any interest the black man may have had in the white woman. If the black man had no innate interest in the white woman, he certainly would have developed some just out of curiosity. Anyone would be intrigued by what was being protected. A Ph.D. in human anatomy and genetics would find interest in a white woman if he was denied access to her. Just being denied the ability to even look at someone would create an interest, and over the years an obsession would develop -- a phenomenon that is still evident in many black men.
The more the black woman was soiled, the more the white woman was deified. On many occasions, even looking at a movie poster with a white woman on it was criminal, as was brushing past her, looking her in the eye, or being in the same room alone with her. As the physical and social distance between the white woman and the black man increased, the psychosexual distance between the two decreased, developing a mutual interest. One could view this as a psychological rubber band. Left alone, the opposing sides of the rubber band are not drawn together, but pull them apart and the slightest give sends the two rushing toward each other.
Additionally, the white man's relationship with the black woman and his protection of white women created an appetite of vengeful lust within many black men, as well as a deep interest by the white woman. Interactions between white men and black women were in your face and very difficult to ignore. It was not subtle, or on the down low; it was vile, repugnant, evil, and unforgiving. The experience coined the most used word in America when describing someone or even something that is despised -- motherfucker.
There was absolutely no respect for the emotional existence of the black family. Entering slave quarters, the white man would walk past the black man and his children and defile any black female at will. That female could even be a child and often was. He would also warn the black man that the experience had better be good; and oftentimes the black male would pledge that it would be good, as if to provide the rapist a sexual guarantee. On the way out, the rapist would arrogantly acknowledge that it was good and rub the black man's head. This event would destroy the dignity and self-respect of any man and question his worth, as well as the reputation of his woman.
If a black woman bore a child for a white man, it was against the law for her to ever tell a soul who the father was. They all knew that resistance was not an option. Any sort of defiance would result in the death or further dehumanization of any or all involved in such action. Reprehensible hell would be the upshot of protest. One slave recalled: "They whipped my father 'cause he looked at a slave they killed and cried." Another man had his right ear "cut off close to his head, and he had received a hundred lashes on his back. He had beaten the overseer for a brutal assault on my mother, and this was his punishment."
Yet sometimes the fragile male ego would not yield the benefit of doubt to the victim, and some black men found it easy to resent and devalue the black woman for experiencing an existence beyond her control. Further, the black woman's inevitable guilt and shame forced her to devalue herself -- dismantling any hint of dignity she could muster to reincarnate her sexual integrity.
A visual depiction of this psychosexual savagery heaped on the black family can be seen in portraits throughout history, as light-skinned children are photographed in families with much darker parents. This way of life would confound any man's emotional, psychological, and intellectual stability.
Just consider how most men react to the past relationships their present girlfriends may have had. The mere mention of an ex-boyfriend could elicit an angry reaction from the average male of any race. Can you imagine living in a world where loved ones were randomly and consistently violated at will, while being powerless to stop it? In the end, "the more common experience is for the husbands to turn from their raped wives in revulsion...."
Even circumstance oftentimes failed to encourage the fragile male ego into concession. The mind can be selfish and unforgiving and thoughts have no threshold for sensitivity. Thoughts are immature, and a mature thought is merely an afterthought. Subconscious thoughts are even more devastating. The subconscious, the father of the conspiracy, can warp imagination and twist a normal human being into a cynical sociopath. It could lead the black man to wander in the wilderness of speculation about whether his woman enjoys the slave master; he could be led into an intellectual coma where he questions why his wife isn't "fighting back" or putting up resistance.
As a result, the black woman dare not spurn the black man's sexual advances, because his imagination could also conclude that she prefers the oppressor over her husband. So even if she feels soiled, she is not allowed to, because she is now forced into the business of stroking egos...and other things. This often led the black woman down a road of poor sexual self-expression. The psychological burden of having to pleasure those she desired and those she despised helped to collapse her sensual priorities, turning her into a sexual mechanic -- unconcerned, unfeeling, uncaring, and uninterested. She now has to fake faking it. All of which comes without reward, salvation, or security. If the black man senses this, he will wander, and often did, if only with his eyes. Since he is prohibited from wandering toward the white woman, he wanders where there is no consequence: his daughter, niece, sister, cousin, and sometimes even back to his mother, thereby completing the cycle begun by the oppressor. This further devalues the black woman in all areas of life and was not relegated just to slave quarters; all black women became fair game. Age was not a deterrent. Fidelity was not even a consideration. If the black woman wanted exclusivity, she was not certain she could get it. Her slave master was incorrigible, while her husband was enticed into emulating him. A legacy that is passed on to the children and their children and looped like a monotonous hip-hop groove for generations.
But no wandering is more interesting than the black man's ultimate destination -- the white woman. After seeing the white male ravage the black woman, it was only natural that he would want to reciprocate. Whether it is to get even, or just out of curiosity, a journey toward the white woman will be embarked upon. It's like the classic Richard Pryor joke where the white guy comes to secure a liaison with a black prostitute and the gatekeeper barks out, "How come you motherfuckers don't bring no white bitches when you come up here?" You got ours, bring some of yours is the natural reaction. The most bizarre example of this is Eldridge Cleaver's account of his hateful thirst for white women. Cleaver said, "I became a rapist to refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto...and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey."17
Market for Atrocity
The soiling of the black woman did not operate in a vacuum. It extended far outside the slave quarters and further into society: "Historical scholarship has confirmed abolitionist charges that slave women were frequently abused by white men." Indeed, not all whites owned slaves, so many whites did not have this evil, licentious luxury; still, one did not have to own slaves to be perversely nourished by the nectar of the black woman. Quite the opposite became true. Slave owners were known to lend out their "girls" to friends or relatives.
It was not uncommon for a slaver to sell, trade, let out, or give as a present a black girl or woman to a business colleague to settle debts or use as exchange for profit. "Scholarship has shown that there sometimes existed a willingness on the part of fathers and sons to share slave mistresses.... Senator James Henry Hammond, of South Carolina, was engaging in sexual relationships with two slave women -- mother and daughter. He later gave both women to his legitimate son, Harry, who was also apparently involved in an affair with the daughter and who had fathered a child by her, as the elder Hammond admitted he may have also done."
Remember, black people were not allowed to be officially married because they had to remain mobile instruments of exchangeable capital. The term "husband" I used earlier was to loosely connect the black man to the mother of his children. He may not have been her "husband," nor she his "wife," but they were a family, and that family could be broken apart at the whim of the slave master. It was here that this human juggling took on a new life in the area of sex.
Picking cotton and cleaning houses were not the only value of a female slave -- the job description was substantially broader and there was no union. As a result, she became a commodity to be traded, sold, and whored to satisfy a variety of hungers in the white male's appetite. Essentially, some of the first pimps may have been sitting presidents. Her humanity had no value, but her vagina often carried a high value -- especially since it was unlimited. The black woman was even used as a rite of sexual passage for young white boys: "David [Newsome], at seventeen, may have welcomed the presence of a female slave his age. It is possible that he might have hoped to share her sexual favours." Even today this is still in practice. Various white religious groups celebrate coming-of-age rituals by having young black strippers perform at their ceremonies. I interviewed a number of adult entertainers who told shocking stories of devout, God-fearing people soliciting sex for their young men -- prices as high as five thousand dollars could be commanded.
Black women were used not just for sex but also as a source of nourishment for white children. In order for white women to keep their figures intact and remain "pure," she "also gave her children to Black Mammies to suckle and nurture, because according to the myth of sacred white womanhood, the white woman was above such nasty things as attending to the biological functions and needs of child rearing." Oftentimes, the black woman became the mother figure in the children's lives. It was not unusual for her to discipline or scold a young white child in her care. This practice continues today as black nannies saturate white America's homes, taking care of the day-to-day operations. Many West Indian women get their first dollars in the United States by taking care of young white children.
So in addition to receiving the ultimate protection from her white counterparts, the white woman was placed on a pedestal and even had normal biological functions performed for her. She was dressed in the finest clothes, sprayed with the most delightful fragrances, and held up as a model of matriarchal supremacy. Her black counterpart served her from the bottom of that pedestal. Relegated to a laboring slut, every inch of the black woman was used for toil without compensation. Her head to carry heavy loads; her breasts to feed white children; her hands to pick cotton, wash clothes, and till soil; her legs as transport through this torture; and her private parts to pacify and pleasure her persecutors in order to preserve her people.
The black woman was so degraded, disrespected, and despised that she was even reduced to a belly warmer for her mistresses and masters on cold nights. Black women would have to drape their warm bodies over the cold feet of whites to secure their comfort. One remarkable example of the way black women were reduced is that of "an old woman, who for seventy years faithfully served her master. She had become almost helpless from hard labor and disease. Her owners moved to Alabama, and the old black woman was left to be sold to anybody who would give twenty dollars for her."
What is even more pathological are the sick vermin who would actually purchase her for twenty dollars. In such a climate, I'm sure that there was a transaction concerning the old lady. This thankless existence only served to further fog the spectacles of the black male and dull the image of his woman. It has also had an effect on those on the outside looking in. Disrespect for the black woman is not exclusive to the black male. One way or another everyone has come to the conclusion that the black woman ain't shit. Her sexual as well as her intellectual integrity was always in question. Like the old woman who was put on the auction block after seventy years of service, every black woman faces the similar dilemma of being depicted as only good for sex and toil. It is as if her mind and midriff are one in the same.
A young black professional woman I interviewed attended a conference where the speaker was trying to use the audience to make a point. His strategy was to find an individual who would provide the wrong answer to a question so that he can make his case. How did he believe he could guarantee this? By calling on a black person. He believed that choosing a black person, especially a black woman, would guarantee an incorrect answer. He chose the wrong Sister and she answered so correctly and confidently that it blew his whole presentation. He was shocked by her sheer informative delivery, and had been so certain of her incompetence that he had no plan B.
Another glaring example of this can be seen in an interaction I had with a twenty-two-year-old white stripper from a well-known club in New York City. We shared a dressing room while waiting to tape segments of a popular television show. As many black people have come to realize, it is difficult to sit in the same room with a white person and the O. J. Simpson case not come out of nowhere. Sometimes you hear discussions on news programs and talk shows where the host has some sort of Tourette's/O.J. tick and it just comes out. It shows up in movies band TV programs to the point of nausea.
So if the highest intellectuals find it hard to control themselves, then there was no wiggle room for this semiliterate tart to tighten her tongue. Not realizing I was black, she (after the most intellectually barbaric discussion I have ever had with a human being) concluded that she "expected nothing more from the black jurors because it doesn't get any dumber than black women." This high-school dropout and fellatio aficionado still had the pride and self-respect to believe that she was better and smarter than her black counterpart. Needless to say, I left it alone because this chick could not stimulate me with a lap dance let alone her intellect.
Her racial sensibilities are most certainly rooted in America's legacy. With regard to slavery in ancient times, Thomas Jefferson contrasted Roman slaves to black slaves by concluding that "among the Romans, their slaves were often the rarest artist, they excelled too in science, in so much as to be usually employed as tutors to their master's children; Epicteus, Terence, and Phaedus were slaves, but they were a race of whites. It is not their condition then, but nature, which has produced the distinction." These are the words of the author who drafted America's political direction. His words, ideas, and deeds have been the blueprint for America's social and political architecture. And, as America continues to construct, its laborers, technicians, and builders have unyieldingly followed his plans.
This is the engineered circumstance of the black race. It is an existence that has lowered them to the point where their right to be respected had been revoked. This is the model that many Americans of all hues and hallucinations continue to follow.
Additionally, many white women rationalized their jealousy of the sexual relations between their men and black women by blaming them for being "dark temptresses" who "seduce" white men, a notion that overlaps into the mind of the black male. Consequently, a great many black women spend much of their lives fighting to be accepted. They end up adoring those who really don't care much for them, while giving all of themselves to men who come with nothing more than a slight interest. Black women then become emotional Magellans in search of something that can't be found, while the black male and many others benefit from all that she has to give. She eventually becomes part of a half-ass relationship that caters only to the whims of her "man." In the end, many black women "tolerate poor treatment hoping that if they hold out long enough, the negative behavior will stop.... Women feel unworthy of love and stay in abusive situations trying to make themselves more appealing."
As a result, the black man finds it easy to stray because she will always be there. She is so often taken for granted and unwanted that she hopelessly seeks the love and attention from those (including her own children) who are taught to despise her. She is easily exploited, but most important, she will always be available. In one of my many interviews, I came across a group of black women who no longer date. To them, the availability of men is slim to none, and rather than date out of the black race, they decided that they would rather be alone. Emotional strength is another character the black woman has had to develop, because no man of any race would put a clamp on his sexual needs because the woman he wants is unavailable. Some of these women believe that they can hold on to their sexual integrity by not dating outside of the race. They do not want to appear desperate by "settling." This is the perfect example of black women always being there. How many other black women are out there shutting down their needs and desires hoping to revive them when things change?
After slavery came a period of surviving the survival. Emancipated blacks had to fend for themselves in order to exist. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was reelected several times without spending a dime on advertising -- he simply spoke loudly to the people's needs. This was during the 1950s, a time in America called "happy days"; these days were as happy for blacks as times were good for James Evans and his family. Growing up, Powell saw his comrades eating bread marinated in the juices of garbage. Blacks were experiencing a perpetual depression that had begun two hundred years before the Depression.
It was during the Depression that the Nation of Islam is said to have been founded, and the notion of the "white devil" was introduced. The Nation of Islam believed that black people were in hell and the return address was America and whoever controlled it was the devil. Referring to her grandmother's house, Harriet Jacobs lamented, "There might have been peace and contentment in that humble home if it had not been for the demon of slavery." The slaves had also sung: Ole Satan's church is here below, up to God's free church I hope to go.
Congressman Powell said, "There was evil there in Washington on January 3, 1945 -- the evil that comes when one preaches and fails to practice, when one proclaims and does not act, when the outside is clean and the inside is filled with filth."
Brutality against black people was not exclusive to the States. At this time, there were few independent black nations, and the rest were all controlled by whites who had an identical hostility toward blacks. The structure of South Africa was set up from a model of segregation that was studied in the American South. Even India was occupied by British colonizers, and as a result, "the white man is the devil" sat quite comfortably with blacks all over the world. When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied: "It would be a good idea."
Black leaders preached that their people helped to build this country and were treated worse than dogs. Randall Robinson found that in order "[t]o erect the building that would house the art that symbolized American Democracy, the United States government sent out a request for one hundred slaves.... In exchange for the slaves' labor the government agreed to pay their owners five dollars a month per slave." Even after America became a superpower and was experiencing "happy days," the black people who helped build this nation for four hundred years were still relegated to digesting sewage.
Survival was brutal. Folks did whatever they could to exist, much like they had to during slavery and the periods of sharecropping -- independent slavery or private contractors who were not compensated. The turn of the twentieth century found blacks in a desperate, despondent, and deplorable condition. And still, after fighting in two "world" wars, they couldn't buy dignity, nor could they succeed in litigating for it. In Mark Mathabane's book Kaffir Boy, he recounts going to the town dumps to capture maggots that were used later as meals. He talks about waiting behind butcher shops so that his family could be given animal blood to be used to make soup. Families would line up for hours for this morbid magnanimity; but as usual, evil found a way to harden itself and later the merchants began to sell the blood instead of giving it away.
Remarkably, after surviving the afflictions of apartheid, Mathabane married a white woman. The depth of this phenomenon is burned deep into the psyche of black men. After centuries of hate inflicted upon the black race, it appears that some blacks must prove to themselves that a white person could love them.
Frantz Fanon, in describing the feeling of the black man's peculiar inferiority complex, says, "Out of the blackest part of my soul, across the zebra striping of my mind, surges this desire to be suddenly white. I wish to be acknowledged not as black but as white.... Who but a white woman can do this for me? By loving me she proves that I am worthy of white love. I am loved like a white man.... I marry white culture, white beauty, white whiteness. When my restless hands caress those white breasts, they grasp white civilization and dignity and make them mine."
Looking at the photo of the white woman who was responsible for the brutal murder of a fourteen-year-old black boy in Mississippi, whose only crime was whistling at her, Eldridge Cleaver said he "felt that little tension in the center of my chest I experience when a woman appeals to me."
While global black suffering continued from Namibia to Nashville, black folks had to survive any way they could. With no education and limited skills, along with the lack of protection or support from the state and the inability to blend into the power structure, blacks found themselves incapable of supporting themselves by traditional means. They had to work around a system designed for their demise. Desperate for work, black women could be seen outside in the rain "from six o'clock in the morning till late at night, selling themselves to whoever comes by for ten cents an hour for a day's work." A good many were able to live off their wits, acquired skills, and minimal education. Those who were educated and entrepreneurial were limited in their capacity to strive outside of the community -- as evidenced in Rosewood and Black Wall Street. But for most blacks it was survival of the slickest. Some exploited their own through gambling and prostitution, while others provided intelligence on their own community. These informants were known as "Uncle Toms" -- a lucrative profession that can be considered a perfected science today.
Still, others had to hustle the only thing they had, and for black women it was their bodies. Powell witnessed gambling "on the steps of the church on Sunday evenings, and whores stood across the street from it, semi-nude soliciting men as they left the church." Hunger became the black woman's new pimp, further dulling her image in the eyes of the black male. Powell remembers one woman who was sent to prison for prostitution accompanied by her twelve-year-old daughter "because she had taught the child prostitution; this poor girl died two years later of syphilis."
Today the cycle is continued. Like the Uncle Toms -- or "professional white-behind-kissers," as Dr. John Henrik Clarke refers to them -- the practice of prostitution continues as a growth industry in the black community. The declining school system and an engrossing mentality for the material, coupled with a decrease in programs that aid change, has created an epidemic of new entrepreneurs who sell their bodies at various levels. "Dancer" is now the first job experience that many young black women obtain. This paradigm further allows the black woman to become increasingly limited in desirability. Interest, respect, and concern are halted at her loins. Throughout America, many black men are putting dollar bills in the drawers of black "dancers" and not a dime on the dinner table of those who mothered their children. Soiled again.
The history and circumstance that has soiled the black woman's image has continued to direct the black man's mind away from her, away from that desperate sight and toward that which he has yearned to be recognized by -- the white woman. His goal is to be loved and accepted by those he was designed to worship in order for his dignity to triumph. He sees himself as a historic failure -- failing to provide for his family, protect his woman, and secure a livelihood. Additionally, he finds it difficult to connect with the black woman outside of sensation because she serves as a symbol of his systemic failure. By giving birth to him in bondage, she represents the synthesis for his circumstance. The precious gift of life, which was once cherished, had now become a curse. Her womb was a graveyard as life became death. As a result, he will chase the white woman to the ends of the earth and will stop only when he catches his mind.
Copyright © 2004 by Rajen L. Persaud