While the blogs and message boards contain enough negative messages about Black relationships to drive a sane sister mad, it’s worth noting that there was once a self-proclaimed guru who’s presence was far more offensive than a certain comedian-turned-lucky, lucky “sage.”
The youngest Clutchettes may not remember Shahrazad Ali and her brief reign of terror across the talk-show and Black bookstore circuit, but her name rings a terrible bell for those of us born in the mid 80’s and earlier. Ali’s controversial book The Blackman’s Guide To Understanding The Blackwoman was written to “help” Black men understand the many things that are “wrong” with sisters, in order to improve all of our lives. Yes, it was just as crazy as it sounds.
Among Ali’s damning charges, she stated that Black women have “smaller brains” than Black men, which explains our inferior intelligence; also, we bully Black men, we steal, we stink (especially our hair and armpits), and we are failing our community by failing to get in line behind our men. Among the gems she dropped: “If the Black woman ignores the superiority and authority of the Black man, there is a penalty…it is time for the Black man to slap her soundly in the mouth….(the Black woman) is a rat who behaves like a dog while purring like a cat.”
And you thought Nightline’s “Why Are So Many Black Women Alone and Unloveable” fiasco was bad! Ali probably sat back and watched that special like, “All you b*tches is my sons.” It takes a special woman to dress up in African-American-fantasy-of-African garb and tell Black woman that they are essentially the lowest form of womanhood on the planet, in dire need of retraining from their men. While Sally Jessie Raphael, Phil Donahue and Geraldo Rivera were happy to tell her how crazy she sounded, I can only imagine how disgusted the sisters in the audience must have felt having another Black woman speak about them in such a way.
After getting a nation of talk-show viewers all worked up, Ali embarked on a book tour (which she taped and sold copies of as well). Luckily for us, she’s been largely out of the public eye ever since. Hopefully, she didn’t encourage someone to slap her into oblivion, and simply chose to retire quietly.
I wonder what would have happened had brothers en masse attempted to take Ali’s advice to get Black women ‘back on track’…the romance chatter probably would have died all together, as we’d probably have taken a fight AND flight approach to such madness. The fact that Ali, and her less-violent descendants, was able to have an audience at all speaks volumes about how desperate people can be when they are lacking guidance. While most Black women thought she was off her rocker, there were some who credited her with helping them to realize their ‘role’ in the community.
While Ali’s charges were comically absurd, it’s disheartening to see that 20 years later, there is still a market for publically attempting to shame Black women (though the talk shows have given way to the blogosphere). Has the Black love/Black relationships conversation progressed since then? Hard to say, but the fact that we are still debating our ability to get along with the men of our community is a pretty bad sign.
What say you, dear readers? Could someone like Ali take such a show on the road in 2011? Or have we gotten at least a little better?