The rise in an aggressive and virulent feminism among black women had among its primary sources the work of Gloria Steinem, who along with other journalists such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper was recruited by the CIA for various covert activities. Steinem’s mandate, which she openly admits, was to assist the agency in breaking the solidarity among black men and women that characterised the civil rights and black power eras (see Youtube links below). See Steinem in the picture above along with Pamela Hughes.
The vehicle for this was the CIA funded Ms Magazine. Steinem recruited two young black feminists to her cause and to write for her magazine, who would later go on to international fame; namely best-selling writers Michelle Wallace the author of ‘Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman’ and Alice Walker author of the ‘Color Purple’. These black women were the prototype for what I term the ‘Karazin effect’, (after YouTube personality Christine Karazin) which was documented in the psychological case studies of the Caribbean psychiatrist Frantz Fanon. Fanon was the first to systematically elucidate self-hate among black women. Both Wallace and Walker were in relationships with white men, and ruled out black men, after their failed relationships with their previous black male partners. These women it appears directed their anger derived from their relationship with their former black male partners at black men as a general group. They were perfect for what Steinem had in mind. Like Karazin, being jilted by a black man at college rationally justifies her obsession with black men and the dissemination of anti-black male hatred through social media. White or other women do not take to public platforms to attack the men of their groups due to a failed relationship.
According to this mindset, as described by Fanon, everything white is superior; which includes hair, skin complexion, and in this instance white men as a social group. These dynamics played a critical role in the worldview and politics of these women and their rise in popularity. Wallace and Walker were to become the vanguard for a well-funded and extremely bitter feminism based on the demonization of black men which was to become popular. A small number of black nationalist women, such as family expert Dr Juliet Hare, Dr Vivian Gordon, and Shahrazad Ali, warned black women to not buy into this suicidal new ideology which was not only deleterious to the black community, it was even more harmful to black women and very short-sighted.
Gloria Steinem Discusses Her Time with the CIA
CIA Agent Gloria Steinem and the Black Feminist Movement
The state-sponsored demonization of black men in the US spurned entire cultural industries. It also helped forge an unholy alliance between white and black feminists, black male apologists and opportunists, the white racist status quo, and liberals. The result was a wholesale assault on black masculinity in the US starting from the early 70s. The now popular black male ‘aint shit’ narrative crossed the Atlantic by the mid-80s with the assistance of white mainstream media and cultural industries, such as popular US talk shows e.g. Oprah Winfrey, movies, and literature which begun to influence British discourse.
Black males in Britain experienced a barrage of unilateral and unprovoked assaults on their image from the mainstream media, academia, and literature and from the theatre stage. Gender conflict did not emerge from local disputes. It was imported from the US and fed into domestic changes and grievances. No platform was spared the angry assaults of black women. The opening salvo which made the biggest impact in the wider culture was the release of the film ‘The Color Purple’ in 1985, based on the Alice Walker novel and produced by Steven Spielberg. The writer attended the opening of the film in London with a group of brothers from the black male fraternity Utani. The writer, who had read the novel, attended the movie launch with the intention of writing a review for the Utani newsletter. We left the movie theatre in stunned silence at what we had just seen.
The film was nothing more than an assassination of the image of black masculinity. It was the first time any of us had seen such a film. Literally, every image of black males was negative and communicated the clear message of black masculine savagery, personified in the character of Mister, played by Danny Glover. Black men were portrayed as the primary oppressors of black women, with white men represented as indifferent periphery figures. This is a film set in the turn of the century in the heart of white supremacist America, but yet the key black male protagonist was portrayed as the personification of all that was evil, i.e. the enemy. The influential liberal newspaper The Guardian’s highly acclaimed art critic Derick Malcolm, wrote shortly after, that Spielberg would never have produced a film portraying Jews in such a negative light and questioned the motives of Walker in participating in this movie. Recently, I had an online discussion with an African-American woman in her early 20s, who told me when she first saw the film it made her scared of black men. It left her with an impression that black men were animals. I shared with her my view that was the desired intention of the filmmakers, to which she agreed. At the time of writing the musical ‘The Color Purple’, is doing good business playing in London theatres, which shows there is a potentially lucrative and neverending market in the misrepresentation of black men.
The Attack in Academic Literature
In 1985 the very influential white feminist Virago Press published ‘The Heart of the Race, The Lives of Black Women’ by Dadzie and Bryant, two British Caribbean women. The book was a revisionist feminist account of the political and organisational history of black people in Britain. The book’s key contention was that it is not possible to understand black political history without giving black women their proper place at the heart of the race i.e. its epicentre. The title was more self-aggrandizing and aspirational than actual fact. Black women were not the heart of the race. Heart of the family, probably. But the heart of the race in terms of those who first squared up to white society from day one, who built the community’s infrastructure and who set the standards in defiance, leadership, and problem-solving were black men without question.
From the areas of education to policing, the fight for equal treatment was led primarily by black men across the country. This in many ways is an obvious point; given black men were the first settlers in Britain and to be found in greater numbers across the country. This pattern replicated earlier pre-war black communities, in areas such as Liverpool and Cardiff in Wales, as documented by scholars of this period such as Peter Fryer and others.
The book asserts that the lack of recognition given to important women in mainstream and popular accounts of black political history is a result of the marginalisation and exclusion of black women. This is a classic feminist trope which on the one hand characterises any significant achievement by women as reflecting their almost heroic individual qualities, while their lack of representation in spheres of activity is explained as a manifestation of sexism and marginalisation by men. The book was poorly written, under-researched, and seems to be rushed in an effort to meet a gap in a growing market for books about women that was filling bookshops, universities, and other institutions. In this context, a feminist-orientated book by black women about black male leadership was a sure-fire hot commodity. It contained some very important information on the role black women played in the political life of the Caribbean and African communities and paid tribute to many local and national female leaders. Interestingly, most of the women in the book were well-known and enjoyed support among black men, and also taken from primary material written by black men. For example, the most authoritative book on Claudia Jones, which it cites, was written by radical publisher Buzz Johnson founder of Karia Press.
The main problem with the book was the feminist assumptions and blatant misrepresentation of the facts, in too many instances, in the desire to paint black male leadership in a negative and sexist light. Unfortunately for the authors, one of whom the writer knew, his intimate knowledge of many of the people and events covered in the book led to serious questioning of the integrity and competence of its authors. The writer joined the Pan African Congress Movement (examined in part one of the article) at its peak at the age of 16 rising up the ranks of its Security and Intelligence Division and had access to its national intelligence structures. This provided intimate knowledge of the black political life in the UK, its key movers and shakers, and issues and problems. Unlike Dadzie and Bryant, who were marginal figures that attended the odd black function, the writer was an insider.
The over-representation of black male leaders of political organisations, and radical organisations, in particular, was explained by Dadzie and Bryant as reflecting patriarchal dominance. The reality is black men dominated black political organisation leadership because they created the overwhelming majority of black organisations and were the primary institution builders. By the same token, many of the black women featured in the book were prominent for exactly the same reasons that they had built organisations, or started or were associated with important initiatives. Furthermore, most important black organisations were democratic in character where individuals were elected to leadership positions. The fact that women did not occupy leadership positions on the same scale as men simply reflected the observation that black males and females voted for powerful more charismatic men to be in charge. Even in more personality-based groups; men dominated the leadership of these formations and enjoyed female support.
Equally, being a leading political figure was not a joking business given the hostility and determination of the police to stop black activists by any means. Caribbean men had proven their capacity to stand up to white men and the police, despite their massive numerical disadvantage, so it was normal for women to look to their men to take the lead in very dangerous environments. For example, only a small elite of handpicked males could be recruited to the PACM’s Security and Intelligence Division, given the serious risks involved in that area of work. The writer, for example, was a target of a concerted campaign of police harassment, which included being arrested 17 times in approximately six months and several failed attempts of entrapment. Black women were not fighting to do this type of work.
Contrary to Dadzie and Bryant’s assertion, black males dominated political leadership not because they marginalised and oppressed women, but because in most instances those males enjoyed the support of women and men alike. There are very few women then or now who possess the personal resources of an Umar Johnson or Louis Farrakhan or other types of popular leaders. What makes these men so influential are their possessions of particular masculine qualities and attributes. In the same way, black males have dominated intellectual discourse on matters to do with black people from the post-war era, as they do today, producing the most outstanding and dominant thinkers and speakers and writers. The number of black women with university degrees has little bearing on the intellectual structure of black communities and its norms about leadership. The importance of Dadzie and Bryant’s book is that it is the only text on the topic by women and remains so today, and has played an invaluable role in misrepresenting black male leaders and in turn black masculinity to generations of students and readers from around the world.
The Attack in the Populist Mainstream Press
In 1987 the Daily Mail published a centre page spread entitled ‘Black Men Don’t Jump High Enough’, which was written by a black female professional, the first time it had given its pages over to a black writer. In understanding the shock this article caused and its significance, it is important to note that the Daily Mail is the most overtly racist paper in Britain and remain so to this day. It has been credited by leading academics as the principal newspaper responsible for the racist crime moral panic targeted at black males in the 1970 and 80s. The Guardian newspaper is typically characterised as aimed at the university educated liberal, centre-left, urban intellectual audience. The Daily Mail’s audience is the white working class/lower middle classes who historically have been the most opposed to immigration and the black presence in Britain. It was these groups and their coarse and unsophisticated behaviour that shocked black immigrants who arrived in the post-war era, and who more recently were pivotal in the Brexit decisions which were fuelled to a significant degree by an ingrained xenophobia and racism.
The article criticised black males for their lack of success in the most acerbic terms. Citing their poor performance in education and lack of representation in selected professions and over-representation in crime and police arrest figures. The article celebrated the growing representation of black women in many areas. After a cursory exploration of a few selected statistics, the article launches into a demolition job on black masculinity in Britain. What is notable in the article is while the absence of black women in particular areas of activity is explained by the residues of sexism, the lack of representation of black men is portrayed as reflecting their personal failings and them not being up to the job. The key message was black males were failures that used racism as an excuse and were not on the same level as the new black woman.
On reading the article one could imagine the white racists who read this newspaper in the millions smiling in having their deepest views affirmed by a black woman. No black male had been given column space in that paper. The disingenuous nature of the facts relied on in the article were not difficult to dismantle, however, the damage was done. The article was an indication of things to come, in what was to become the stock in trade approach in how black women were to advance their public case against black masculinity.
The most crucial element in the ‘black men ain’t shit’ narrative, is a selective and misleading use of statistics and a reliance on favourable data and ignoring less favourable evidence. While it is true the time period highlighted in the article showed black boys and men performing worse in education and in specific professions, what it does not address is the historical trend which showed black men dominated education at all levels and were more successful than women in entering the professions. At the time of the publication of the article in 1987, the writer was a student at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), with another British-born Caribbean brother Ben Bowling. There were hardly any black women at the LSE or any of the famous colleges of the University of London or elsewhere in the most sought after institutions in the country.
This pattern can be seen in the make-up of radical organisations, such as the PACM, which drew a hardcore of its most influential leaders from elite universities; which possessed very active student bodies. For example, Professor Gus John from Cambridge University, Dr Bernard Coard from the LSE, and the country’s leading expert in the education of black boys, who went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister in the radical administration of Maurice Bishop in Grenada. The LSE produced generations of major black male intellectuals and leaders which included the nationalist and founding fathers of their respective nations, Dr Kwame Nkrumah President of Ghana, Dr Jomo Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and popular Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley to name a few.
Caribbean men historically dominated the professions in gender representational terms, such as medicine with psychiatrist Professor Aggrey Burke, along with long-time friends and former Royal Air Force officers and physicians from Barbados Drs Colin and John Franklin. These men were the first to tackle and popularise medical conditions and treatment unique to black people and create an agenda of research and priorities which has structured the focus of contemporary medical professionals. Publicly highlighting the use and abuse of drugs on the black mentally ill and the origins of popular education about sickle cell anaemia are two of the many contributions these men pioneered. One of the assertions made in the article was the lack of black men entering the legal profession, which masks the fact that of the blacks already in the profession the majority were black men. The greatest trial lawyer ever produced in Black Britain was barrister Rudy Narayan from Guyana, who is responsible for more innocent black males walking free from police fabricated charges than any other lawyer. Narayan was the movement’s lawyer and legendary. The Johnny Cochrane of his time. Narayan trained and nurtured a cadre of much lauded black male lawyers still practising today, one of the most high-profile being Peter Herbert QC chair of the Society of Black Lawyers; a brilliant lawyer and uncompromising advocate for black people. Despite the number of black women in the legal profession none has the stature or legacy of Narayan.
In the area of academia (as I have already alluded to), black men historically dominated this area in gender terms. To take one example of Jamaican Professor Emeritus Stuart Hall. Hall is hailed as one of the greatest public intellectuals and social scientists in Western Europe for his profound impact on its various disciplines. Hall was a major influence on theoretical development and teaching pedagogy. He was one of the founders of the revolutionary Open University model that transformed the way higher education is delivered, expanding the numbers of people able to afford and benefit from it. Hall nurtured and was a mentor to a generation of outstanding black radical intellectuals and scholars, among them Professor Paul Gilroy at the LSE and Professors Errol Lawrence and Barnor Hesse now in the US.
The approximately 500 pages of the classic ‘Policing the Crisis’ (1978), was written by a team of the country’s leading sociologists, led by Professor Hall, and remains a landmark in police and social science scholarship. To others, Hall was the kind-hearted and warm Jamaican with a brilliant mind who attended local community meetings, in the wake of police atrocities, offering his resources to assist his people in any way he could. A man admired by the world intellectual elite and leaders and activists on the ground. What makes black men like Hall, Burke and Drs John and Colin Franklin so remarkable, and a feature of many successful black men who laid the foundations of black Britain is they never hid their allegiances. These were black men who did not apologise to anyone for being black men. Yet these pioneering black men who were all alive and active in their various fields at the time of writing were excluded in the Daily Mail account of black men and their achievements in education and the professions.
While it would be grossly unfair to compare the achievement of Hall with the average black women in higher education or academia, they still compare poorly with lesser mortals in terms of their stature and impact. For example, there is no black British woman in the area of social science who has the status of my long-time buddy Professor Ben Bowling, a recognised world authority on British and international policing, who has worked for Interpol among other top law enforcement agencies, and Dean of the prestigious Department of Criminal Justice at King’s College, London. Ben is the recipient of several international awards, and in 2014 received recognition by the Commissioner of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for his work in improving the policing and protection of Caribbean people in Britain and in the Caribbean region, along with myself and four other colleagues. All the recipients, other than Dr Joan Mars (from the US and originally Guyana), were Caribbean men.
By adopting an ahistorical and decontextualized approach and relying on carefully selected data, the Daily Mail article was able to advance the argument that black males were failing. While containing many truths, the article was deliberately misleading. In fact, the timeline of the data cited corresponds with the findings of the Scarman report that young black males were suffering from extreme and multiple disadvantages. However, understanding the various causes of this decline among black males was not the purpose of the article, unlike the Scarman Report written six years earlier. Even more disingenuous, was the failure to explore the deeper reasons for the wave of black female success being celebrated in the article. The most important of which was the impact of equal opportunities (re: affirmative action), first in the public sector and government institutions and a small number of larger image conscious private sector companies, including law firms and media companies such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which often had special programmes targeting women to enter these industries which by 1985-7 was in full effect.
Equal opportunities policies helped to create a new middle-class black woman which explained both the euphoria seen in the article about black female progress and the contempt directed at black men. Hard work and talent alone, contrary to the narrative, does not explain black female success. A British-Caribbean girlfriend of mine, for example, went from being a basic administrator to a corporate lawyer in HSBC Bank, because of the institutional support provided for women wanting to enter the corporate world. Black men do not benefit from such assistance. The Daily Mail article was the first of its kind. Its depiction of black males was replicated in other mainstream papers and helped to set the template for media discussions about black masculinity.
The Attack from the Theatre Stage
During the 1990s there was a rash of theatre plays by British Black women drawing from the now popular representation of black men that portrayed them in the ugliest terms that played to packed, largely female audiences, throughout the country. This ‘womanist’ environment spurned a large number of productions in Jamaica by female writers and producers, which were brought to major English cities and proved very popular. The key differences between the productions of black British women and their Jamaican counterparts is the latter’s work were often very funny, tempering their harsh depictions of Jamaican men with humour, and contained more pleasant characterizations of men; albeit all these theatre productions were based on simple one-dimensional stereotypes of black men.
The writer attended one of these productions in the small county town of Bedford in the mid-90s. Given the lack of major black activity in these small towns, the arrival of this new production from the big city of London was eagerly awaited by broad sections of the local black population. The plot evolved around a black man who was romantically involved with three or four women and told the story through the eyes of each of the women in turn. During a long monologue where one of the women was equating the male ‘villain’ of the play with black men as a group, she was interrupted by loud protests and shouting from a group of elderly Jamaican women in the audience. They were incensed by the characterization of black men by the female actress and refused to be silenced by the theatre staff.
Moreover, warnings from members of the crowd made it clear any attempts to physically eject these older ladies would be met by force. These women clearly articulated what a significant number of black people present, and men, in particular, felt about what was a not very sophisticated public maligning of black men. The theatre manager intervened and called for a refreshment break in an attempt to appease the aggrieved women. When the play resumed the disruption continued, but this time with more members of the audience joining in which set the pattern for the rest of the performance completely disrupting it.
Listening to these older ladies speak outside the theatre, it was not difficult to understand their outrage. These were first generation migrant women who came to the country to meet their husbands who together had worked hard to build a good life, raised productive sons who made them proud. These women who came from Jamaican fathers, uncles, and male cousins who worked hard and raised good families, were not going to allow these ‘young girls’ (as they referred to the actresses) to talk about their men in that manner. What particularly incensed one lady, referring to the female characters in the play, was how can all of them fall for a ‘playboy’ and continue to be in relationships of sorts with him, have his children and have the nerve to blame all black men for that.
Mainstream Black Male Attitudes Towards Black Women
What is particularly telling as somebody who had attended hundreds of black political and social functions across the country, I had never heard a black leader or spokesperson make disparaging remarks about black women in public. I knew some black leaders or spokespersons deliberately played up to women, having travelled with many of them, and being privy to their private conversations. The only sphere of black political life where black women were not seen in idealistic glowing terms was in the secretive security community, as I have touched on in my article ‘Post 80s Black Leadership, Crime and the Family’. PACM Security and Intelligence officers were trained in identifying a range of risks and areas of vulnerability to political organisations and their leaders, and sexual matters fell within those concerns.
The first time I ever heard what could be described negative talk about women, but an important feature of the education of a security officer is when a senior security colleague explained the concept of ‘pussy politics’ to me. Pussy politics describes a range of gender-based activities with adverse security consequences, which can be based on natural sexual dynamics or more sinister and calculated espionage based activities. This can ordinarily involve women using their sexuality in concerning ways, including monkey branching through the male hierarchy within an organisation or creating rivalry and conflict between men or other women inter alia. Sexual relations resulting in influential leaders becoming potentially compromised is another area which can loosely fall under this category. Apart from the suspicious eyes of security personnel, black women received a free pass in most spheres of black political and social life. Gender matters did not occupy much time or space in mainstream black discourse until the mid to late 80s.
Black male leaders, both African and Caribbean, generally, from my observation over the years, came from what I describe as ‘mummy cultures’ where they tend to have an uncritical idealisation of their mothers, aunties, and grandmothers which reflected how they spoke publicly about most black women. These were middle-aged men born in black countries, who generally had a positive view of women. For example, British white men (i.e English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh) made jokes about their mother in laws or their wives (sometimes sexually) publicly and this type of humour was the stock in trade of popular white comedians at the time. Common themes were how ugly, fat, or sexually boring they were. Black men never made disparaging comments about their mother in laws or wives in public. NEVER. Such behaviour was taboo. A small number of black male speakers were more cynical and represented black women as ‘African Queens’ often to ingratiate themselves with them, and in some cases to get in between their legs. Despite this culture of public respect at a bare minimum for black women, the new black woman, for the most part, had no compunction in denigrating black men in the most disloyal and repugnant manner. This came as a shock to most black men. To make matters worse, only a small number of women, such as the older Jamaican ladies, openly defended black men in this populist environment of character assassination; furthering the level of black male disbelief.
Part 3: New Problem, New Solutions, and the rise of The New Black Male Leadership