Archive for July, 2014

In a moment that SHOULD engender love for the humanity of black bodies, For Harriet’s founder, Kimberly Foster, chooses the tragic and untimely murder of Eric Garner to draw a line in the sand between black men and women.

EG memorial

“I can’t breathe…”
This time there weren’t any guns.
“I can’t breathe…”
No conveniently accidental firing that we’re all somehow supposed to accept.
“I can’t breathe…”
No sudden moves for his wallet.
“I can’t breathe…”
But the result still all too familiar.
“I can’t…”

I’m not supposed to be writing this.

I’m not.  I’m not supposed to be writing about how, once again, another black person has been stripped of their dignity and senselessly taken from this earth by those sworn to protect and serve; and, for seemingly no reason at all but occupying space in the land they fought for and toiled. No, I’m not supposed to be writing this.

In a moment that should engender love for the humanity of black bodies, and push our mindschoke21n-17-web to reflect and remember those sadly known more for dying than living — Amadou, Aiyana, Sean, and Oscar — tragic statistics of the forgotten work of our nation.  Unfortunately, we are not talking about them, nor are we talking about the systems/powers that make this nightmarish headline a recurring one. Sadly, for the past few days since the Garner murder, we have been talking about Kimberly Foster and her essay.  As I said before, I’m not supposed to be writing this.

Almost as soon as the air that Eric Garner used to take his last breathes became unobstructed on that Staten Island sidewalk, mere hours before he would be pronounced dead — the same air that should have been reserved for his memory, the Garner family, and those who live under the constant threat of police brutality — this same air was almost immediately obstructed again by Foster’s essay last Tuesday.

In it, the self-proclaimed black feminist and founder of For Harriet, a popular women’s website dedicated to ‘celebrating black womanhood’, dug in her heels and proclaimed that “if the NYPD or the City of New York fail to act [on Garner’s behalf],” she would not be marching for the murder victim because she was reserving her “mental and emotional energy for…Black women.” Yeaaa, she actually said that.

yeIn an odd way, Foster’s Janet Jackson-esque “what have you done for me lately, black men” rebuttal (to what I don’t know) seemed to parallel Kanye’s drunken antics at the 2009 MTV VMAs. As you may recall, the superstar rapper/designer spontaneously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video mid-sentence, to point out that he felt Beyonce was the more deserving artist (and I agreed) for her hit “Single Ladies”; and overnight, created a firestorm of criticism that even the President couldn’t resist, calling his Chi-town neighbor, in a word: “asshole.” 

To me, Foster was channeling Kanye’s interjectory “Imma let you finish…” idiocy all over again. Instead, this time it was more along the lines of, “Yo Garner family, black men, I’m really sad for you and all; Imma let you mourn but Black women have had the most ish to deal with of all time!” Man, where’s President Obama when you need him? Oh yea, getting sued. Nevermind.

At best, her words were a rude and insensitive, tone-deaf call to arms for the plight of black women, and, at worst, it was an outright declaration that black men and women no longer shared the same fate in her eyes.

Yo Garner family, black men, I’m really sad for you and all; Imma let you mourn but Black women have had the most ish to deal with of all time!”

After my first time reading it, like you, I read it again and again in disbelief; hoping a smidget of sympathy could be mustered somehow, someway, but none could be found.  I was totally disgusted with her reasoning altogether.  How could a black woman, the very one who births the black boys who grow up into men like an Eric Garner or Sean Bell, resign herself from the very destiny of that which she gives life to?

On her site, the tagline reads celebrating the ‘fullness of black womanhood’ but when did the cost of AP_esaw_garner_al_sharpton_rally_jt_140719_16x9t_384the party come at the expense of black men?  As an African-American male, I never thought concern for the black family was based on gender. Aren’t we in this thing together? Growing up, I remembered the Tawana Brawley case in NYC and the Duke Lacrosse case in my home state, and how the victims at the center of it were black women; as well as the Rodney King trial out west in LA. Never once did it occur to me that the injustices faced by black women were somehow detracting or pulling away precious “mental or emotional energies” or resources for the many black men falsely imprisoned in correctional facilities or enduring discrimination on the job. To me, the plight facing black men and women in America was never an “either or” endeavor, but always one of “both and.”

When Garner died last week, he left a black woman to become a single mother of six kids. When Sean Bell died, he left a black woman to become a single mother of one. Obviously, what affects one affects the other. You see, what Foster fails to understand is that our paths as black men and women are forever intertwined; and a house divided against itself will surely never stand. 

But, of course, there is always room for improvement. With any strive for progress there is bound to be criticism, and I think that we can all agree that it has been more than -7711cf00f0a81e71warranted on both sides; but we have no choice but to stand and work together if we are to ever gain any kind of significant ground.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr once said that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and the faster women like Foster realizes this, the better.

And besides, Harriet Tubman, the woman for which Foster names her site, didn’t reserve her physical energies for only black women during slavery, so how can she justify reserving her mental and emotional energies now? Or maybe, just maybe, her site is really “For” someone else?


Curtis A. Thomas is former Hill staffer and blogger residing in the Washington, DC area. He can be reached at thomas.curtis.a@gmail.com.

Read Full Post »