In Defense of the Color Purple/Uncertain of TD Jakes

I’m watching “Not Easily Broken”. This is the second TD Jakes movie I’ve seen. I am appreciative of the fact that there is a big time black preacher delving deep into issues of gender and the negativity that exists between black men and black women.

BUT!

I’m a little concerned that he tends to paint an overly simplistic view of the relationship between black women and black men. The tension between black men and black women is acknowledged but the cause and solution is too often boiled down to something to the effect of “those damaged black women need healing”. This may be true. We do need healing. But my question is what about the men in the scenario? The abusive fathers? The bad ex-boyfriends? Where is the discussion of the culture and the systems within the black community that make it ok for black women to face such damaging situations? And more importantly: How can we go so quickly to the solution when we haven’t really fully investigated the problem?

Alice Walker attempted to delved into these questions with her book The Color Purple. She attempted to show a very real history of physical and sexual violence against black women at the hands of not white men but black men. And there was such an unbelievable backlash from the black male community. (There is this dude who always calls me “Lisa” and tries to bate me into an argument by saying “Alice Walker hates black men, right?” Dude! My name is not Lisa and no and go away!) The thing is I don’t think these men (Lisa-dude included) are upset because they are in disbelief about these issues showing up in our history but more because they didn’t want the dirty laundry out there. (Ya can’t wash ’em without putting ’em “out there”). They didn’t want to deal with it in front of “them”. But who cares about them in the face of such devastating violence in our own community? How can we tell “them” not to kill us as we kill ourselves? It’s like my sister said when we were protesting again police brutality and members of the Bloods walked up beside us with protest signs: “They can’t kill you but we can.” We take that position way too often in our community. We do everything to make sure white people aren’t abusing us but we think it’s ok if we abuse each other.

And I think TD Jakes is attempting to look at some of the same issues from a more faith based, less historical perspective. But we can’t move forward without first truly understanding and “unpacking” what happened before. (Sankofa) We’ve yet to do that as a community, really delve into the ways that slavery has so painfully damaged the relationship between black men and black women.

Somehow it has become the burden of the woman to heal and forgive the abuse perpetuated against her by black men. We do need to heal and forgive. But what I need is someone like Jakes to also say that it is also the responsibility of the black man to STOP. Stop abusing women. Stop being so permissive of misogyny in our communities, in the church as much as it is in the streets. And really start talking about gender rolls and strength in ways that don’t strangle your emotional stability. Strength doesn’t have to be so restriction. And talk about faith in a way that has no tolerance for abuse. YES be strong. But be strong enough to talk about those things things that are hard to talk about. Yes pray. But pray for understanding, mutual respect and healing of our whole history and the trauma we face in response to the legacy of slavery.

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