Earlier this week I was sitting in on a class about the Myth of
the Black Mammy.
Tyler Perry and the fact that his films are popular with
white crowds and Black crowds alike came up. I mentioned
that Black comedians have a history of dressing up like
Black women begining with Red Fox and Flip Wilson.
I went on to say that in some ways it is a rights of passage
for Black male comedians to dress like older Black women,
ridicule them. I pointed out that these are the very women
who have held down both Black and White families
The professor mentioned that one of the reasons why
Tyler Perry's films are funny is because Madea says things
out loud that Black women have been saying to themselves
The professor went on to mention how her mother told her that
if a man ever put his hands on her, that you wait until he went to sleep
and you poured boiling hot water on him. She then went on
to mention the regional differences. In New York, it was lye,
in the west it was grease, in the midwest it was hot grits,
in the south it was just using a hot iron skillet.
A white student raised her hand and mentioned that her
mother never told her anything about what to do if a man
put his hands on her and that in watching Madea was the
first time she heard a woman speak that way. There were
several murmurs in the class from other white women about
how they are beat, and that their mothers hadn't given them
a language, pep talk or pre-conditioning to understand, anticipate
or deal with it.
This was remarkable for me. In some ways I came to appreciate
the survival skills that all of our momma's have given us over
Which brings me to Rihanna. I wonder if she followed her intuition.
I wonder what her mother taught her. I wonder what her dad taught her.
There is nothing like being beat. There is nothing like being beat by
a loved one.
Here is where the teachable moment comes in . Here is an opportunity
for us to get involved in the lives of young people.
We often joke about Ike beating Tina, however this photo, if it is
true, it shows us just how dehumanizing violence is.
We can't fix what happened between them, in fact we don't know
what happened between them. However, given the attention
that the issue is receiving what we can do is take care of ourselves
and be an example to our peers and to the young people that watch
how we move.
If you want to get involved there are a few organizations that do work
around gender and violence. The UNFPA does workshops. Women
Against Domestice Violence lists workshops and shelters. The Audre
Lorde Projects does workshops and trainings around gender violence.
What did you feel when you saw the Rihanna photo?
Have you thought about how Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence,
Tyler Perry, Flip Wilson and Red Fox have all dressed up like
older Black women?
For the women, did you momma's tell you anything in terms of
what to do if a many ever hit you?