“Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tub find out. Maybe it’s some place off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see…” – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I first was introduced to Zora Neale Hurston’s work in my senior year of high school. Sadly, at the time, I had little to no interest in it because I really felt that I couldn’t relate to what she was saying.
In college, I was given a novel entitled ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ and instantly fell in love with each word read.
In this book, Hurston focuses on a character named Janie Crawford and her life as an attractive young black woman in a time period where black women had “a place” in life. Grow up, get married, have kids, and kids repeat that same cycle. Janie always wanted more for life, but her grandmother who raised her, wanted Janie to understand that there was no sense in her wasting her time “wanting more”. As a black woman in that time period, wanting more was sure to lead to disappointment because that was not the black woman’s role.
“De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see…”
The line above is what I really want to focus this blog on. No one has ever been able to describe the plight of not only being Black, not only being a woman, but being a Black woman better than Hurston. Now, it is important to note that this book was written in 1937. Interesting that in the day and age of social networks,(i.e. twitter, specifically) that something written in 1937 never rang more true than it does in 2012. Hurston was not denigrating the Black woman, but instead praised her strengths of always being a reliable source of strength (ie the the mule). But why use the word, “mule”? Are there no other ways to describe strength? I believe mule was specifically used because they are most often overlooked, but ALWAYS needed. A small, but load-bearing animal (consider the time in which this novel was written, as well).
It seems that Black women have always endured this type of subjugation due to the more than evident sexism of Black men. Often times, this can be as horrendous as racism under white people. Whatever society dumps on Black men, it seems that inevitably Black women take the blame for, and get ostracized because of it.
I find myself always pulling out my feminist cape when I log on twitter because without fail, it seems that Black women are always taking the brunt of the ire. Granted, twitter did not introduce me to the blatant bias, but it has introduced me to a widespread general opinion that the Black women “ain’t shit”. Women, in general, have been considered “the mules of the world” for a long time. Given burdens that no one else would carry, with outright expectations to carry them without complaint. And we do (oftentimes). Constant badgering of “ratchetness”, “being hoes”, “bitter”, “anger”, “spiteful”, “gold diggers”, “bad credit”… etc. etc. often makes me wonder “why the hell put up with us if we are so bad?”
Here are my thoughts: We, the black women, are “dealt with” because we are the only ones really “dealing with” Black men. Not to say that people don’t engage in the swirl from time to time and find happiness there, but Black women, for all our faults, remain loyal to the Black man (despite his faults). We can be relied on as that constant backbone although our pride is often beaten by the ones we support. And we are expected to continue supporting…regardless.
This is nothing written to point a finger to say who is wrong, but when confronted about why there is so much constant berating of Black women from Black men (who ironically come from black women) defenses go up and we, the black women, are attacked for speaking up against it.
This issue of the mistreatment of black women is nothing new. More often than not, most of us do bring it on ourselves because of lifestyle choices, etc. But does it ever end? Will it ever end?
*Note: If you haven’t, please read Zora Neale Hurstons “Their Eyes Were Watching God”!!!*
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