By: Orlando Taylor
In the United States, the Black woman has become the fastest-growing educated group of Americans and is making moves in both business and politics. Essence magazine reported that Black women accounted for “68 percent of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees and 65 percent of doctorate degrees awarded to Black students during that time frame,” by 2020. Black women are going to college, creating businesses, and engaging in the political arena in greater numbers than before. Because of their efforts, black women gained visibility in leadership roles in and outside the black community. This has led some Black men to struggle with the concept of leadership and roles in the black community that are uninformed at best.
Forbes magazine says that Leadership has nothing to do with seniority or one’s position in the hierarchy of a company. I think a natural extension would include a community or a family. It has more to do with the ability of an individual, group, or organization to “lead”, influence, or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations, to a common goal. It is well documented that in ancient Africa women garnered a great deal of power and leadership as mothers, agriculturalists, and from being the center of spiritual divinity. The ancient goddess Auset (Isis) is the embodiment of leadership, she heals society and elevates men to leadership (Ausar/Osiris). We also have examples from warrior cultures of women like Ya Asantewa, an Ashanti (Ghana) warrior queen who beat back the British army. Then there are women like Queen Hatshepsut of Kemet who reigned for twenty-one years marked by peace unheard of by some male leaders. Additionally, in the same era under the Nubian kings, women could gain power because leadership was class-based, not gender-based. Therefore, many African women rose to power based on their class standing. So, African women are no strangers to challenges of leadership and expectations. If this is the case, what are the concerns of some modern African/African American men?
Historically, it has been well documented that the concept of manhood and maleness is a White construct that benefits the White male majority in the USA. Black men suffer from alignment with a European hegemonic ideology concerning masculinity and leadership in the community. As it goes for the White man’s family so it goes for the Black man. He is head of the family and community by all means and women are secondary to him. As a Black man, I am automatically deserving, if not entitled to respect afforded to Black maleness period. At that time and even today, working is viewed as a man’s duty. Black women have never had the luxury of not working so this leadership role and sometimes power was naturally granted to them. However, this power and position didn’t translate to the larger society for the Black man as it did for the White man. Unfortunately, the Eurocentric concepts of family and leadership have played a negative role in the conflict between Black men and women globally.
It is floated socially, especially in the dating scene, that successful Black women are problematic in relationships with Black men. These conversations around dating (such as the late Kevin Samuels or Derrick Jaxn) show us how some Black men react to women in power. A common trope I hear is that we as the black community need to be suspect of successful black women because they are allowing themselves to be used by White supremacy, to elevate the black women over the black male in a nefarious plan. There is some truth in this statement if we look at how affirmative action was implemented in some companies. These companies would hire Black women as a way of killing two birds with one stone. They addressed the diversity along gender lines and racial lines with fewer people by hiring a black woman. This allowed these companies to avoid the “angry Black male” in the work environment. However, I posit that since the vast majority of black women marry black men, there is no real issue here, otherwise, we would see it reflected in the choices Black women make for their husbands. Finally, it is well documented that the various movements from within the African American community for equality were often ripe with patriarchy and misogyny.
We must learn from our mistakes as men with the women in the Black community while simultaneously supporting their dreams that go beyond obedience to the Black man. We need to elevate them as leaders, business people, and heroines, who like Black men, have the best of intentions for our community. Many Black men come from homes led by Black women, that were beautiful, nurturing, loving, and strong. Would it be a curse if the Black woman was first, and then she conjured the Black man?
More information about the author: @olaorun_king