And the pot calls the kettle black, calls the kettle burnt, calls her mad. Kettle reminds the pot that we've both been burnt on the same stove, that the parts of our bodies that are layered in soot were scorched by the same hands." - Asia Bryant Wilkerson
In 2017, Asia Bryant Wilkerson delivered what is probably one of the most powerful pieces of poetry at the Individual World Poetry Slam Finals. It was aptly titled: The Pot Calls the Kettle Black; a poem about the black man thinking himself better than the black woman and women who were sanctuaries for oppressed men but were discarded the moment the men caught the slightest whiff of freedom. It is the pot calling the kettle black as if they were not burnt by the same white fire.
Asia's poem was not the first time someone spoke about the neglect of the black woman. The great Malcolm X gave a heartbreaking take on the position of the black woman in America saying, "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman." He then boldly declared that the black man could not be called a man if he did not fight for black women and yet the situation on the ground is as Erin White for the Afropunk puts it, "Black men LARGELY don't feel the need to fight for anything that affects black women specifically."
This, she says, is despite the fact that Black Lives Matter, a movement against police killings of black men was created by black women and remains a movement supported by black women all over America. There is a clear problem here. Men seem to be siding with their masculinity over their race, leaving black women with no allies since white feminism has over the years proved unrelatable and uninclusive for black femmes. Ironically, the choice between masculinity and race is unnecessary; surely black men can learn to be black and men, especially since gun-wielding policemen in the United States are always reminding them of the colour of their skin.
In continental Africa, Thomas Sankara led what was an unfashionable movement before the world awakened to it. He is on record saying, "Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence." Sankara was, of course, a radical leader and very few have been able to even attempt to be half the man he was.
Nanjala Nyabola's insight into the nature of Pan-Africanism (to the exception of few men like Sankara and Cabral) cannot be faulted. Nyabola observes that patriarchy within the Pan-African movement came about when elites, Western-educated Africans who could translate African demands to the white colonialists were given the primary roles in the liberation struggle. These educated Africans were men and naturally, they masculinised African problems. Ultimately the freedom that came after was also masculinised. Pan-Africanism became a male doctrine. Nyabola says, "Pan-Africanism became about the status, goals, and desires of men." Women were thus sexually humiliated in the struggle by both colonialist forces and freedom fighters. No one was moved.
Thus, Zimbabwe's Newsday publication in 2016 published an article titled: Women's harrowing tales from the war which touches on the rape of young virgins by colonialist soldiers and liberation fighters. Women became collateral damage for both sides and this is not a story unique to Zimbabwe. Even more pathetic is how rape has continued to be used in political discourse. Independence changed very little.
The neglect of black women by black men is not isolated to America or the African continent but it is a global problem with a long history. Pan-Africanism has been hijacked by the capitalist, Western mentality which puts an unjustifiably high premium on the heterosexual man as the epitome of existence to the exclusion of everyone else. Only this man is worthy of owning and controlling property. Women are forced to play second fiddle to the men and in some cases, these women become the fiddle itself, played and passed around by men, black and white. In the frustration of being alienated by their own kind, black women are forced to aggressively look out for themselves and end up labelled headstrong and angry. Surely black men can do better. Oppression did not discriminate on lines of gender yet the black man wants freedom to be discriminate.
Pot calls the kettle black and kettle says, "Hell yes, but don't say my name as if you have never been burnt too." - Asia Bryant Wilkerson
Header Image: millionwomanmarch20.com