Black Power = Male Power?
[18:31 to 30:51]
In his earlier film, Ethnic Notions, Riggs traced how black
stereotypes flowed from white fears and attitudes towards African
Americans. Earlier images of black men as harmless, "playful
eunuchs" which justified slavery were eventually replaced by
threatening, highly sexualized images that limited black men's
expression of the full range of their humanity. In the film,
Angela Davis, bell hooks, and Barbara Smith suggest that the Black
Power movement focused on redeeming black men often at the expense
of black women.
- In Black Is... Cornel West says that the highly sexualized
images of black men make it difficult for black men to get in
touch with their humanity. Do you agree with him? What images of
black men are common in the media today?
- This section of the film opens and closes with two poems by
Essex Hemphill. He begins:
If there were seven blind men
Do you think it is difficult for men in general, and black men in
particular, to acknowledge their hurt and discuss their fears?
Why? Have you ever found it hard to reach out for help?
One of them unable to speak
Unable to hear
Would be my father.
- Essex Hemphill's closing poem states:
Our deadliest weapon
We both use it.
What is this "silence" that Hemphill refers to? Silence between
whom? Do you agree that silence between men can hurt them, that
communicating feelings of hurt, fear or shame can be healing?
- Some women in the Black Consciousness movements in the 1960s
and '70s claim that women were not treated as co-workers in the
struggle but as appendages to men. bell hooks goes so far as to
assert that "black power" became a "dick thing" as a male reaction
against America's attempts to emasculate them. What do you think
she means by this? Do you agree or disagree? How has racism
historically disempowered black men? Do you think people often
attempt to compensate for lack of power and control over their own
lives by asserting power over others?
- Which male behaviors are held in high regard among your peers
and which are not? Bill T. Jones says that as a boy he "couldn't
be sensitive, couldn't cry, couldn't be afraid because of these
notions I had about what it meant to be a black man." How
prevalent are these pressures today? As a man, have you felt
similar pressures? For both men and women: what feelings would
you like to be more free to express?
- Critics like Michele Wallace and bell hooks are accused of
disloyalty and "airing our dirty linen" in public when they speak
out about black male sexism. What is the cost to black
communities of speaking publicly about sexism and what is the cost
of keeping quiet? Have there ever been times when you were
reluctant to bring up an issue in public?