RECKONING: the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds
by Candace L Feldman
“If one judges a civilization, as I believe it should be judged, not by the high-mindedness with which it regards art but by the seriousness with which art regards the civilization, then it is high time we begin to address anew and with vigor certain problems that continue to signify alarm.”
— Toni Morrison
Roll With Me
It’s gonna start heavy and not let up.
The other evening, while catching up on all the disgust America continues to serve up, I heard an interesting word: “As difficult as outrage is to maintain, it is a much more constructive emotional state than anxiety.” –Masha Gessen.
She went on to say that anxiety is not a healthy state because it is related to fear, and fear is that through which a person is most vulnerable to being controlled.
The assault on our minds has been one of strategic execution. For all who are not familiar with that demon Willie Lynch, let me recap regarding the man who created the 1712 manual that guaranteed, if his methods were installed correctly, that anyone could control slaves for at least 300 years. In the fine print, the guarantee actually was a hell of a lot longer:
- “The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. [emphasis my own]” — Willie Lynch
This strategy, what Lynch believed — a scientific discovery with unquestionable data from his own experiments and observations — was the most accurate and guaranteed account of how to “make a slave.” It starts with the mind.
- “Keep the body, take the mind! In other words, break the will to resist.” — Willie Lynch
There remained one crucial component to the devil’s plan: the Black woman. The role of the Black woman was so central to Lynch’s plan, she represented a “cardinal principle” in the future stability of slavery. Black women were — and are — critical to any economic planning. For slavery to be lucrative, according to Lynch, a slaver’s long-term plan needed to center on using Black women in the mental manipulation of the slave, eliminating thoughts and behaviors that encouraged a sense of freedom and independence.
I want to pause for a minute to consider the depth of immorality and evil in this strategy and why it remains necessary to go back to slavery when questioning and criticizing America. The idea that slavery is a historic shame and not a current disgrace is the reason the woke are only half awake.
Murder is bad, no doubt. But slavery? Slavery is one of the biggest crimes against humanity, on an international scale. But privatized prisons exist.
Black Women Are the Center
“There is an art in long-range economic planning. … She is the most important factor for good economics.” — Willie Lynch
This devil believed that in order for revenue to be made and a profitable future for generations to come to be assured, Black women needed to be forced into submission to the point of what he described as a “frozen psychological state.” If a slave owner could get his Black female slaves to such a state of mind, that slave owner would have secured his financial wealth and continue to be prosperous because, as Lynch said, “she is the most important factor for good economics.”
How do you get a Black woman in such a “frozen” state of mind? Per Lynch:
- • Take the female and run a series of tests on her to see if she will submit to your desires willingly.
- • If she shows any sign of resistance in submitting completely to your will, do not hesitate to use the bull whip on her to extract that last bit of resistance out of her.
- • Kill the protective male image.
And the desired outcome, said Lynch:
- • She will train her offspring in the early years to submit to labor when they become of age.
- • She will create a submissive dependent mind in her offspring.
- • She will be left alone.
- • She will be left unprotected.
- • The Black male image will be destroyed.
- • Her psychological dependence will be complete.
Let Me Bring in the Trauma Gene
From “historical trauma” to “racial battle fatigue” to now “racial/race-based trauma,” the mental-health damage suffered by Black and Indigenous communities without support and access to healing has only recently been recognized by mental-health and other professionals. Racial trauma, or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS), is brought on as a result of racial harassment, witnessing racial violence or experiencing institutional racism.
In a 2017 paper, University of Utah ethnic studies professor William A. Smith defined the symptoms of RBTS as similar to those caused by trauma experienced by soldiers during war. Also in 2017, the Frontier Public Health Journal found that the younger a person was to experience or witness race-based traumatic events, the faster the deterioration of mental health was seen over time.
The two largest groups impacted by this cyclical oppressive abuse? Native Americans and African Americans.
In African American communities, descendants of slaves have a genetically altered gene in their DNA called the “trauma gene,” according to Smith. Symptoms include: paranoia, chronic stress, decrease in immune-system function, depression and anxiety disorders, disruptive child development and increased alcohol and drug usage. In addition, one of the most heartbreaking characteristics, according to Smith’s findings, is that those with this gene often experience a “narrowing sense of time from living in a chronic state of danger [and] do not develop a sense of future; do not have long-term goals, and frequently view dying as an expected outcome.”
The resultant equation, whether it’s Smith’s findings of today or Lynch’s monstrous plan of the past: trauma + the image of the protective Black male destroyed = the Black woman in frozen state (submissive, dependent mind; alone and unprotected).
Does this sound like 1720? 1820? 1920? 2020?
Ask a Black woman.
By the Numbers
Lynch opined that the Black woman was key to “good economics,” or as he saw it, optimum profit, baby. Sustainable, long-lasting, perpetual money coming in — even on the backs of Black bodies.
More than 300 years later, Black women, while physically unchained, are still bringing money to the table, while still being grossly undercompensated:
- • In 2019, Black women contributed an estimated $26 billion in labor every day to the gross domestic product of the United States. Black women are an asset to the United States economy.
- • Despite making up only 14 percent of the country’s female population, the roughly 24.3 million Black women are trendsetters and brand loyalists who play a vital role in influencing mainstream culture in fashion, beauty, television, music and civic engagement for women of all races.
- • A recent U.S. Census survey shows that Black female entrepreneurs had the highest rate of growth (67 percent) from 2007 to 2015, owning more than 1.5 million businesses with more than $42 billion in sales.
- • Black women owned some 2.7 million businesses last year, which represented about 20 percent of all women-owned businesses.
While the number of women-owned businesses grew 21 percent from 2014 to 2019, firms owned by women of color grew at double that rate (43 percent). The numbers for African American/Black women grew even faster, at 50 percent, representing the highest rate of growth of any group in the number of firms between 2014 and 2019.
(Sources: American Express (2019) THE 2019 STATE OF WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES REPORT. American Express; Lean In. (2020). The State of Black Women in Corporate America; Lean In (2020). Women in the Workplaces 2020; Nielsen (2017). Black Women’s Buying Power Is Helping To Define Mainstream Culture)
Women are having a worse experience than men. Women of color are having a worse experience than white women. And Black women in particular are having the worst experience of all. –- Lean In: The State of Black Women in Corporate America (2020)
This is evidenced by some of the following facts:
- • A Harvard Business Review study found that even among the school’s elite business graduate program, “only 13 percent of black female Harvard MBAs over the last 40 years have reached the senior-most executive ranks,” compared to “40 percent of non-African-American Harvard MBA degree holders who reach those top ranks.”
- • Black women find themselves “severely underrepresented” in leadership roles. One of the problems causing this, according to the findings, is that Black women are much less likely to be promoted to manager, despite the fact that they ask for promotions at the same rate as men:
- ◦ Less than 2 percent hold VP positions
- ◦ Less than 2 percent hold C-suite Positions
- ◦ 41 percent have not had a substantive interaction with a senior leader
- ◦ 59 percent never had an informal interaction with a senior leader.
- • Black women experience a wider range of microaggressions: They are more likely to have their judgment questioned in their area of expertise and to be asked to provide additional evidence of their competence.
- • Black women are paid 38 percent less than white men, and it’s not based on education. It’s just good old-fashioned inequality.
- ◦ Even with an advanced degree, the wage gap remains at a rate of pay 35 percent less than that of white men.
- ◦ The average white male manager makes an estimated $81,000 or more, while the average Black woman makes $60,000 or below, with an average 25 percent gap in pay.
- • Over the course of a career, Black women’s lost income is roughly $941,600.
(Sources: American Express (2019) THE 2019 STATE OF WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES REPORT. American Express; Lean In. (2020). The State of Black Women in Corporate America; Lean In (2020). Women in the Workplaces 2020; Nielsen (2017). Black Women’s Buying Power Is Helping To Define Mainstream Culture; Catalyst. (2020, April 7). Workplaces That Work For Women. Retrieved from Buying Power: Quick Take)
That $941,600 is money we should have been making. That’s barely $60,000 shy of the MILLION DOLLARS we equitably deserve in our checks.
But what does any of this have to do with theatre being revolutionary?
Theatre, the arts and entertainment are businesses, even though we pride ourselves as being humanitarians and keepers of culture.
If you don’t think every facet of the arts is a business, you are part of the problem. Periodt.
And for some of y’all white organizations, we sure as hell ain’t working for you no more.
We’ve been creating space for our move for a while now. We are not working like this anymore. You are not going to disrespect us. You are not going to ignore us. You are not going to get away with not paying us our due, plus tax. And as for this ally chatter about how you are down for us? We don’t believe you.
You know what makes you down? Putting that money where your mouth is. Actually putting that mission statement and those fraudulent lies on your equity-diversity-inclusion statement to work. Beautiful retribution by means of accountability.
Black women are not protected. So protect us and support us when we lead.
Black women are not respected. So respect us and let us lead, because we all know we are overqualified.
Black women are not valued. “BBHMM,” as Rihanna put it. Black women are not equally compensated. Compensate us and add on a retribution tax.
Now, I don’t speak for no one but myself — but holler if you hear me.
There is no revolution — not in this world, country, theatre, organization, or anywhere else — without Black women. We are the ones that make all of it revolutionary. Periodt.
We are the center.
We break the tides.
And you owe us.
And we have come to collect.
We are not here for it anymore.
When was the last time anyone really asked a Black woman how she feels? Or how we can be supported? What we need? When was the last time people (other than Black women, and that includes you, brothas) asked Black women, “How can I do better? Where am I falling short? How can I make you feel safe? How can I show you adoration and affirmation for being the center, for enduring?
How can we love you as you should have been/should be loved? Can you help me figure it out?”
If you haven’t asked any of those questions, but you have recently made some or all of the following statements: “Black women deserve more.” “Black women, I’ll do better.” “We need to do better for Black women.” “Black woman, we love you” …
… then that’s that bullshit to which we are no longer subscribing.
When you can assure us through action, not word (y’all don’t keep your word), then maybe we can talk.
Regardless, we are about that life and we are cutting out a piece of that pie by all the means necessary. We have learned to be dependent on ourselves and have committed to one another.
Watch. Black-women-owned businesses are about to be the foundation of the New Black Wall Street. Black Women Co-ops, Black Women Therapy, Black Women Sou Sou, Black Women Wealth…For Us/By Us. And none of y’all are getting a piece till we get that equity, baby.
You do not deserve us.