Aversions and Shame
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
In my PhD chapter titled, Parable of the Sower Unmasking Shame, I make the argument that Lauren Olamina's aversion for Zahra Moss is rooted in an inferiority complex that masks as hyper-superiority rooted in shame.
In it I write, Before they began traveling together, Lauren had viewed Zahra as a docile third wife. She would often mock her friend, saying things like, “Zahra has a soft, little-girl voice that I used to think was phony. It sounds painful, as though it’s abrading her throat as she speaks” (168). She assumed that Zahra did not know how to work a rifle as well as she did because her husband, who was later murdered, never allowed Zahra to leave the house to attend shooting sessions that Lauren’s father organized for the community. In actuality, Zahra had an impeccable shot. She protected herself successfully and later protected Lauren as well, teaching her what she had learned from her former life on the streets. These assumptions and stereotypes they made about each other repelled them at first. As Zahra professes to Lauren with amusement, “I didn’t think I’d like you, Preacher’s kid, all over the place, telling everybody what to do, sticking your damn nose in everything. But you ain’t bad” (186). To which Lauren responds, “Neither are you” (186). This aversion that Lauren and Zahra have toward one another is not distinct or unique to Black women alone. It should be noted that some Black women also have aversions to white women.
Doris Davenport (2015) brings our attention to these dynamics in The Pathology of Racism: A Conversation with Third Word Wimmin. In it, Davenport (2015) explains: “Although black and white feminists can sometimes work together for a common goal with warmth and support, and even love and respect occasionally, underneath there is still another message. That is that white feminists, like white boys and black boys, are threatened by us” (82). The author goes on to identify three ways in which black women have aversions to white women: 1) aesthetic; 2) cultural; and 3) social/political.
Davenport (2015) says of the first point, “Aesthetically (& physically) we frequently find white wimmin repulsive. That is, their skin colors are unaesethic (ugly, to some people). Their hair, stringy and straight, is unattractive. Their bodies: rather like misshapen humps of whitish clay or dough, that somebody forgot to mold in-certain-areas. Furthermore, they have a strange body odor” (83). To cultural aversions, Davenport (2015) states, “Culturally, we see them as limited and bigoted. They can’t dance. Their music is essentially undanceable too, and unpleasant. Plus, they are totally saturated in western or white American culture with little knowledge or respect for the cultures of third world people. (That is, unless they intend to exploit it)” (83). Adding, “The bland food of white folks is legendary. What they call partying is too low keyed to even be a wake. (A wake is when you sit up all night around the casket of a dead person.) And it goes on and on” (83). On speaking to political aversion, she says, “Socially, white people seem rather juvenile and tasteless. Politically, they are, especially the feminists, naïve and myopic. Then too, it has always been hard for us (black folk) to believe that whites will transcend color to make political alliances with us, for any reason. (The women’s movement illustrates this point.)” (Davenport, 2015: 83).
Despite this tension, they are able to build together, seemingly getting along. These issues Lauren and Zahra have between them, or the challenges between white and Black feminists, they are often unspoken and even unrecognized, but they do drive us apart on some level. A reminder that solidarity is neither entirely universal unity, nor riddled with conflict and difference.
What do you think? Do you agree? When Black women have aversions for each other, is it anti-Blackness and internalized white supremacist patriarchy showing up between us, or just petty jealousy? Do you think these aversions between Black and white women highlight reverse racism? Did they make you laugh or get defensive and irate? Are you confused why white is lower-case and Black, capitalized? Did you ever care before the B became capital? When white people express such aversions for Black people, is it then racist and white supremacist? Do these conversations divide us from one another, or is the truth a tough pill to swallow on all sides? Weight in, I'm curious to know.
Postscript, don't shoot the messenger, I'm literally quoting here. Happy Sunday. Be good, respect one another, don't bully or demean, and don't let these Aquarius energies get you got. (I know better than to ask anyone to support this post, but if you'd like to contribute to my paypal, feel free to start now).
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Until next time, in solidarity.