ONCE, NOT ALL THAT LONG AGO, I thought that I was alone. And invisible. And crazy. Thought I was the only black woman who woke up feeling assaulted by being black and female in America. The only sister shuddering under the weight of being a woman of African descent trapped in the negative context of belonging to the two most loathed groups in America, those who are black and those who are female. Thought I was the only one who wanted to scream and lash out, and sometimes did, under the pressure of work and children and family, men and community. I thought there was something wrong with me, that everyone else was living happily ever after while I could find no center of power. Then I started to watch, listen, and talk about how I felt to other black women. Ca sually in living rooms, on the telephone, in the grocery store, in pass ing on the street, at meetings. I saw, heard, and felt my reflection in them and theirs in me. Now, it is impossible to feel alone, or invisible, or crazy for long. I have a whole nation of sisters with me. The question is how do we connect, turn our similar lives and shared concerns into action?
There is among black women a commonality of experience, at titude, and world view. But it is most often a veiled, quiet unity. Un like white men we do not have most of the political power and nearly all of the corporate money. Unlike white women we are neither the wives nor sisters of the masters of the universe. We have no National Organization for Women or other group with clout to advocate for us. Even though black women do most of the work in our communities, are the mainstay of the strongest organization African Americans have, the black church, unlike black men we seldom head churches, are elected to political office, are in leader ship. Black women are an enormous, disorganized army of hard working sisters without collective organization, voice, or agenda. But the ties of race and gender, the basic ties of the color of our skin and the fact that we are women, bind us to one another. They are strong, these ties, made up of our rage at the situations in which we exist, our potential for love, and our hope for the future. Such ties, understood, re-created, and used strategically, need not oppress us, but could be used not only to liberate black women, but to trans form the culture in which we live.
I want to write the true story of what it is like to be a black woman growing up and living in America, and African America, to fight the invisibility and erasure that too often defines being black and female in America. Ours is a story that is seldom told, and most often when it is it is fictionalized, as if we all subconsciously recog nize that no one wants to hear, see, read, or publish our true stories. Instead, what we get are distorted, fictionalized representations of our loneliness and our rage. Reading popular fiction, most times you’d think the only desire, answer, and alternative for a black woman is to find a man. Barring that, we have the choice of com mitting suicide, homicide, or going slowly crazy. Occasionally, a book of essays or an academic treatise on black women will appear. But too often it is as if we are an alien species being examined under a microscope in order to fulfill some scholar’s requirement that they “publish or perish” in order to gain tenure. We are distant subjects to be studied to prove a thesis, usually negative: that we give birth to children carelessly, are bad parents, overbearing matriarchs, a burden on America’s social service system, emasculators of black men. Our fundamental woman-ness is erased by the rhetoric and political agenda of whoever’s writing about us. Instead, we become archetypes or icons, alienated from the larger community of women and women’s experience that crosses race, age, and class. Most of the time it is not myself nor any recognizable woman I see in that mir ror, but a distorted reflection of a woman who maybe, once, kinda sorta looked like me.
I want to write about black women because I know that I am neither a fictionalized archetype nor a nonfiction representative of a pathology, trend, or larger problem. I have also learned that if I don’t speak up for myself and other black women, by my silence I acquiesce to the definitions of others, and there are plenty of them. Sometimes it seems as if everyone wants a piece of me to use for their own-usually negative-purposes. White male politicians de monize me as a welfare cheat, illegitimate baby-making machine, and drain on government programs. White feminist women ignore me, cut deals for themselves, and then invite me to the meeting, panel, or forum as an afterthought, when it suddenly occurs to them that they need a visible-and preferably silent-black woman on stage to give their self-interested agenda the image of inclusion. Black men single me out when they need either help or an exam ple of why they are “endangered” or hindered. I am asked to cook the food, stuff the envelopes, open my legs, and keep my mouth shut. Failing to do these things, I am blamed for black men’s inef fectiveness.
But the truth is, horrible as these ways in which black women are distorted and exploited by others are, most of the time people like me are simply invisible. No one notices or thinks or writes about our needs, our lives, the events that made us who we are and who we might in our dreams aspire to become. We simply do not matter except in the ways we relate to and reflect those who are not, like us, black and female. Most of the time that relationship is a neg ative one. We are the poor black woman who, depending on whose use she’s being put to, needs too much help, deserves some help, or isn’t helpful enough.
I want to write about black women to enable us to take voice, center stage, put us into the private and public dialogue which often has a devastating effect on our lives and from which we are usually excluded. I don’t want to pimp black women because that would be the same as prostituting myself. I just want to get myself and my sis ters into the discussion, join the fray. The singer Chaka Khan had a hit song in the early 1980s. The first line went, “I’m every woman, it’s all in me.” There’s a collective consciousness among black women. It is not that we are all the same, just composed of many similar pieces, connected across class and age. I want to write about some of the crucial events in my own life as a way of identifying common threads in the lives of women, particularly black women. Once we’ve picked up those threads, I want to join the process of quilting, pulling those, pieces together into whole cloth that will protect, shelter, and speak for all of us.
I write because I’m angry. Angry at either being ignored or de fined and spoken for by others. According to many politicians, all the social ills black women are supposedly responsible for-drain on welfare and Medicaid, producers of illegitimate, violent children, the decline of civility-would disappear if we’d just get married, serve our man, and fit into the nuclear family program, marriage as the solution to America’s problems. Too many white feminists seem to think that gender and men are the sum total of the problem, that if black women would just abandon black men, see them for the brutish, loser cads they are, we could ascend to some feminist nirvana, in which the only thing threatening us would be the glass ceil ing. Sad to say, these days too many black men seem to think we’re the problem: We’re stealing their jobs, too assertive, ball-busters. We need to get back behind Big Daddy and stay there.
But the truth is that the ills of white men, white women, or black men are not black women’s fault or responsibility. We are all living in what I believe is a dying white culture here in America. You can yearn as much as you’d like for Elvis, the Brady Bunch, Jell -O molds, “American Bandstand,” “I Like Ike,” and separate but equal, but the truth is those things are gone, over, done, relegated to the realm of nostalgia. But we have yet to come to any agreement about what will replace the dying white culture. What is obvious is that many of the fundamental values upon which this country was founded are no longer powerful, believable, or functional. Whatever your politics, we are all wrestling with the challenge to white su premacy by the browning of America by immigrants of color, with the reality that the economic assumption that everyone who wanted to work would find a job is no longer realistic, that men’s and women’s roles are changing, and that the structure and function of marriage and family is constantly mutating, that the violence which America has wreaked upon the world has now come home to roost. So far, the political and social response has been overwhelmingly mean-spirited. We look to blame the women, the immigrants, the poor, black men. This is not surprising, since the death of a culture and its fundamental assumptions is frightening and overwhelming, both for those most included in that culture and those who survive on its edges. As a black woman, I am afraid of what I see happen ing around me, but I am more terrified by what sort of society we will end up with if I do not speak up, get involved, gain voice. I know this fear is a fundamental part of the road to transformation. I also know that road presents the only possibility of creating an al ternative, more equitable, egalitarian society.
But too frequently, the fear that somehow our specific group will be excluded from or have less in a changed society dominates. In response to these cultural earthquakes, people look around for someone to blame, as if assigning responsibility for the sometimes frightening ways the culture is changing will somehow ease the pain or stop the momentum. White men attempt to shore up a bursting dam by reasserting their supremacy and divine right as pa triarchs and leaders of the free world while the rest of us scramble for a piece of the pie, whatever crumbs they might drop, but most of the time simply survive, keep our heads above water. Like those old crabs in a barrel, we do this by climbing on someone else’s back for leverage. Black women are at the bottom of this frantic pyramid of survivalists.
This is where we are placed, and it is sometimes where we place ourselves, at the bottom and last. Black women are the ones with our feet on the earth, who always hit the ground running. We work jobs, take care of children, elderly relatives, the church, community organizations, and, in various ways, black men. Most of us go to work every day at crummy, unrewarding jobs at low wages and even less respect. We come home to communities devastated by unem ployment and the drugs and violence that are its handmaidens, pray ing that we make it safely to our houses from the subway, bus stop, or car. Once home, it does not matter if we are exhausted. We cook, clean, help with homework, soothe the battered egos of our men, make love, check on those who do not live with us, yet to and for whom we are responsible. We fall into bed with a dozen chores still undone, too tired to take a long bath, or read, or do our nails, or just steal a few moments to think about ourselves. Then it’s morning, time to start all over again.
After a while, we get so used to working all the time to care for others that we come to think ourselves undeserving of care. No one around us offers assistance or says, “Take some time for yourself.” The culture that we consume through television, magazines, and ad vertisements confirms our lack of importance. We are totally absent from all serious political discussion. Even during February, Black History Month, black men are the preferred race representatives. March, Women’s History Month, is for white women only. We might get occasional play in the news, but most frequently as some one causing problems, asking for too much, or occasionally, Super Victimizer, as in “Crack Smoking Mom Beats Toddler to Death.” Entertainment? Forget it. Even though black Americans watch more free network television than anyone else, there is not a single dra matic show on television about black women, much less a black woman producing one. When it comes to beauty, the preoccupation of women’s magazines and women’s programming, we are defi nitely not up to snuff. We’re too dark, big-boned, our features too Negroid, too ethnic-looking, in short, too much black women, to even qualify to enter America’s beauty sweepstakes. Still, it’s the only game in town, so we try and fit in. Our hair is too short and nappy, so we pay big money to have yards of synthetic hair woven in. Is it my imagination, or is black women’s collective national hairline receding from the weight of extensions and hair weaves? We starve ourselves, compulsively buy new and supposedly better things with which to adorn ourselves, search for affirmation through the status of the men we are with. Still, when we look in the mirror it’s hard to put on a happy face, since no matter what we do we remain who we are, black women in America, invisible at worst, unattrac tive at best. What would make us seize the time to care for and love ourselves when most of the signals we get from everyone not like us, and sadly, from those who are like us, tells us we are undeserv ing and undesirable? When was the last time you saw a black male public figure with a brown or dark-skinned wife whose hair wasn’t conked or woven?
Even so, we always think that we can “fix it,” all-suffering, all -sacrificing Superwomen that we’ve been told we are. Most of us never find the time to stop and realize that believing we can and should fix everything presupposes that we’re responsible for break ing it in the first place. We’re not. Believing we are dooms us to fail ure, since the first thing we have to fix is ourselves, and most black women are so busy helping everyone else, we never even get around to that.
The affirmation, strength, and voice that black women desper ately need must initially come from ourselves and other black women, those who share our experiences. It’s crucial that we have unity with ourselves and each other, that black women learn to lis ten to, respect, and place value on black women, before we can emerge as strong voices and forces in the complex political and cul tural climate in which we live. We need to first begin talking to each other and then to those who are not like us, black men, white women, and anyone else, so that we can begin to draw an honest, self-defined notion of who we are into the picture and the dialogue. Those who don’t define themselves are doomed to be defined by others, erased, or, as is the case with black women, both. This book is about talking about some of those experiences we’ve all had and connecting the dots, drawing a picture of who we are, how we became who we are, thinking collectively about who we’d like to be next. About what being a black woman really requires, and it has nothing to do with playing with dolls or having babies. About learn ing as a girl that women just aren’t as important as men and Daddy has all the power, then growing up to find out the same thing’s still true and figuring out how to fight it. About understanding that you’d be hard-pressed to find one woman in a room of hundreds who hasn’t been physically or verbally abused by a man, and ac cepting that you really didn’t “ask for it.” About the dizzying speed with which a woman can go from being middle class to being poor, on welfare, and alone. About how Ronald Reagan and the right wing set the tone for reformulating America by first attacking black women, and most people didn’t care until their program started to roll on them and was in full swing. And it’s about wanting to love and be loved in a very bad situation and figuring out how to do that. Most of all, I hope this book is a public way for us to begin to own our experience, turn our rage into action, take collective voice, and enter the battle. In order to do that, I have to tell some secrets.
Not long ago, a black woman told me that she didn’t think I should write about my life, and particularly sex, because, “What do you think a white man is going to think about you and black women when he reads this? How could you write something like this for white men to read?”
I think about this question frequently, troubled by her concern about what Mr. Anonymous White Man might think about my life in particular and, by extension, all black women. That is not my Concern or interest. Yet I know that her concern is one that domi nates the lives of black people in America. We have an inordinate in vestment in what white folks think about us, how we appear to them. We have a collective obsession with fronting and posturing for White people, not airing dirty laundry, which frequently comes down to not facing or dealing with reality. Whether we’re talking about a book, movie, political leader, elected official, or community crisis, too often maintaining the illusion that we have our act to gether for the benefit of white people takes precedence over hon estly looking at and critiquing what’s going on. This is a total waste of time. The fact is that all the individual and collective energy we spend posturing would be much better spent in activism, re-creating ourselves, our communities, and this nation as we would like it to be, an equitable, humane, and safe place for all of us, instead of maintaining the delusion that everything’s all right. The truth is that except in cases of emergency and necessity-generally defined as crime, drugs, or too much government spending-most of the time white people aren’t thinking about black people at all. Even when they are they’d prefer not to.
Black people are big on keeping race secrets. It’s as if the bond of our skin color demands that we keep up at least a facade of monolithic solidarity, even when doing so cripples and disenfran chises us. This is compounded when it comes to black women, since in our communities the bonds of race do not extend across gender, and if we are insane or brainwashed-by-whitey enough to believe we are oppressed because we are women as well, we’d best keep that belief a gender secret. More often than not women are at tacked or dismissed if we center our identity in our femaleness. The men are always more important than the women, and, when it comes to issues particular to women, there’s not much difference be tween a black or white patriarch. One of the few arenas in a racist, patriarchal society where’ black men are legitimately allowed to wield power is over black women.
As a people we have a collective inferiority complex, one of the emotional and psychological effects of slavery and its aftermath. We’ve bought into white people’s line that they are inherently better, conferred perfect status on that which is white, and automatically negated ourselves. Our standard has become “Am I as good as this or that white person?” and “What will anonymous white per son think?” Not only does this presuppose the superiority and goodness of that which is white, it also absolves us of responsibility for creating standards, systems, and values for ourselves: We just use white people’s. Is it any wonder so many of us are stressed out, angry, and self-hating?
This keeping of secrets operates in every area of our lives. As families, we avoid talking about that which is difficult. Marriages, break-ups, values, how someone really feels-all are off limits in most families. We superimpose the construct of the typical Ameri can family, a la “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Brady Bunch,” over our very different lives and, like the wicked stepsisters and that shoe in Cinderella, try and make it fit. We may be bloodied, hobbling, and in excruciating economic, political, and psychic pain, but we’re de termined to go to the ball. As partners we mimic the idealized rit uals and structure of the patriarchal, nuclear family, deny that it is a terrible design and fit, and refuse to go about the crucial business of creating workable, alternative structures, ones that take into account economic reality, social needs, and the statistical unavailability of black men. In our communities we have forgotten the interwoven sense of individual and collective responsibility that helped us sur vive, succeed, and excel prior to integration.
Black folks’ saving grace used to be that our standards for our selves and each other were higher than white people’s and everyone else’s. They had to be in order to survive, succeed, and not go berserk in America. As slaves, we hid our African religions under the liturgy and symbols of Christianity and sustained our faith. We trudged to heatless, segregated schools with outmoded textbooks, grabbed an education, and excelled. We allowed segregationists to beat us brutally during the civil rights movement and consistently turned the other cheek, confident that eventually America’s moral conscience would kick in. Whether it was going to the fields to slave, or polls to try and register to vote, or to universities or jobs that did not want us, wrote us off as substandard affirmative action place ments, we carried ourselves with confidence and dignity, stood for what we believed was right. That sense of greater mission and ex pectation, of individual and community responsibility, is almost ex tinct. I’m not one of those believers in “the worst thing that ever happened to black people was integration,” but it’s important to re member it’s a process, not something declared. I think too many people thought the struggle was over when they saw black repre sentations in the mass culture, on television, T-shirts, and advertise ments, as if visual representations meant we were free at last. In addition, the attack by a greedy right wing panicked by the in evitable shrinking of American resources, and the new American mantra, “Everything that’s wrong is the fault of those demanding, ill-behaved, expensive Negroes,” has exacerbated the problem. In ways large and small we’ve relinquished most of the fundamental notion of community and collectivity that were responsible for both our endurance and achievement. Nowadays, the greatest threat to the lives of black men are other black men, the greatest violence vis ited on black women is by black men, the candy store is a bullet proof, Plexiglas fortress from which sweets are dispensed not by a human hand but on a lazy Susan, and if you see a man go to the curb and spit he’s probably over forty, since the current etiquette is to spit on the sidewalk in front of yourself and then walk in it. This says something casually, devastatingly negative about the contempt in which people hold their communities and themselves. As for not being a litterbug? You’d be hard-pressed to find a kid today who knows what one is. A few months ago I cracked on a boy of eight
or nine who threw a candy wrapper on the sidewalk, and he looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues. When I explained to him what a litterbug was, he did pick up the paper. Then he scampered away from me like I was crazy.
As Americans, we have become cynical, a cynicism whose ef fect is most profound among those most excluded. Black Americans are no longer, as Martin Luther King, Jr. described us, “the moral conscience of the nation.” Black elected officials, whose right to vote and run for office are the result of the civil rights movement and whose mandate once came from a sense of collective good, now lie, steal, and fornicate with regularity. When busted, their response is to lie. When confronted with irrefutable evidence, they point fingers at others, usually white, who commit the same crimes, as if sud denly two wrongs do make a right or the playing field was miraculously leveled. We keep silent while we are pimped and bilked by black politicians, as if it’s somehow okay because at least it’s a black face ripping us off. There was a time when we looked on the rotten economic, political, and social pie of America and said, “Let us work for transformation.” Nowadays, we’ve become so hopeless and despairing that we help ourselves to the largest slice of rancid pie we can get.
Our leaders, and I use that term with trepidation, are by and large useless opportunists, profoundly out of touch with the lives of those they allegedly represent. Still, for the most part, we keep their race secrets, do not call them out on their reactionary politics, their conservatism, their ignorance, their oppression of women, their tricksterism and glaring personal flaws. In fact, when someone usually white media or black women-dares to criticize them, we attack the messenger, studiously avoiding the message.
It’s not only black people who have secrets. As Americans, we have massive, historical secrets. I read the history of the decades I have lived in and, with very few exceptions, see no glimmer of my self or people I knew. In the current climate of the right wing, Bill Clinton is defined by Newt Gingrich as representing “the counter culture,” when the truth is those who were truly counter-culture wouldn’t have given Bill Clinton the time of day. The right wing, joined by bitter, disillusioned liberals turned neo-conservatives, have conspired to reduce the movements for social change of the 1960s to a fashion statement: bell bottoms, wedgies, tie-dyed fabric, and Afros. In the typical American rush to turn everything-including people, ideas, and social movements-into something that can be minimized, packaged, and sold, a process that tends to render things harmless, the real people, seismic upheavals, and lasting changes ef fected by everyday people over the last decades and every day are ei ther forgotten, buried, or obscured. Hell, you’d think if you weren’t Martin Luther King,Jr., Malcolm X, or an angry, threatening, riot ing Negro trotting down the street with a refrigerator strapped to your back and a bottle of bourbon in each ha’nd, you barely existed in the 60s. If you were a woman, of any color, you could either be Angela Davis for a moment in the 1970s, or a bra-burning-dyke bitch for a few seconds during the Miss America pageant of 1968 in Atlantic City. The 1980s? We’d damned near disappeared by then, except as beyond rehabilitation, lock-them-up-for-life Willie Hor ton types or baby-making, cheating welfare queens a la Reagan and Bush, or capitalist success stories in blackface. Forget the thousands of ordinary people who fought for abortion rights, or against po lice violence, or for the end of apartheid, or for national health care. In the 90s, we’re nothing but trouble: a burden on the federal, local, and state government, affirmative action whiners, people to be cut along with programs, more trouble than we’re worth, which wasn’t much to start with.
The civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the Black Panthers, women’s liberation, the war in Vietnam, abortion rights, the Black Liberation Movement, cultural nationalism, gay liberation, like so many of my generation I was swept up in the movements for social change in the 1960s and 70s. Young and invulnerable, I lived in the moment, followed the hippie credo to Be Here Now. It has taken me and many others the last twenty years to begin to figure out what went wrong, to understand the connection between the events of 1968, the assassination of King, the police attack on anti war activists at the Days of Rage at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the murder by police of three black students on the cam pus of Jackson State (overshadowed by the shooting several weeks later of white students at Ohio’s Kent State), the disappearance of marijuana from the streets of the black community and its replace ment by heroin, and the election in 1980 of Ronald Reagan, so called great communicator and standard bearer of the return of white male patriarchy. The election of Richard Milhous Nixon in 1968 was a collective shock to the system of black Americans, given Nixon’s law and order rhetoric, his emphasis on “crime in the streets,” and his focus on a “silent majority” whose unheard voices Nixon the clairvoyant deemed more important than those already raised in the struggle for social justice. Yet in hindsight it’s easy to see Nixon’s election as the cornerstone in a new wave of national scapegoating of black Americans-as opposed to social inequity as the real cause of most of America’s problems, a structure built upon by Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.
The truth is that the decades I have lived in have been shaped by ordinary people doing extraordinary things, the everyday people that most of us are, many of them black women. It is easy to forget or never know this. America makes stars out of a few-usually male-individuals and exhalts them to unattainable heights in the name of celebrating their contributions, when what this elevation to the status of icon actually does is disempower those of us still earth-bound. And that is where women, particularly women of color, usually are: on the ground, our feet covered with earth, tak ing care of business. We are left to stand in the dirt, crooks in our necks from trying to look up and catch a glimpse of our heroes, feel ing unimportant, inadequate, and powerless. Waiting for the next leader to descend from above. The truth is each of us is the leader ship, and as much as changes were made by those whom we call he roes, they were made even more by everyday people who lived quiet lives, often as second-class citizens, softly went about their business, and, when asked, stood for what was right. There was a revolution toward the left in the 1960s and early 1970s, the move ment is right in the 1980s and 1990s. Too many of us have been paid, or bought, or pushed to the edges of the discussion-a place where our voices cannot reach the center, and go unheard-or have been simply beaten into complacency, apathy, forgetfulness, silence. But we are awakening. Our children have woken us up. With their rage, their violence, their questions, their needs. It’s time we started talking.
It is essential that black women have a loud voice in the dia logue. Without the vibrant participation of black women, black people are assured of repeating the same failures that have histori cally crippled movements for social change. There can be no true transformation based on the exclusion or diminution of women’s involvement. Black women are at this moment so far on the sidelines we can barely hear and are never heard in the political, social, and cultural’ debate. If we are mentioned, it is usually by opportunistic politicians as part of a catch-all of scary statistics designed to frighten the electorate into supporting the right wing. If an individual black woman does emerge, she’s at best an entertainer, but more likely functions as a demonized representative of an enormous problem requiring drastic measures: “reform” welfare, elimi nate affirmative action, cut funds for education and day care, pass a heinous crime bill, and build more prisons, one of the few growth industries directed at people of color. The result of black women’s silence in the face of the verbiage of others is we find ourselves fur ther misrepresented, erased, excluded. Those who demonize us and call for cuts are usually white men who do not know a single black woman. If they do, she’s probably a domestic employee.
Black women have few representatives, no collective voice, no power. Our communities are in a shambles, too many of our chil dren are despairing and out of control. Our daughters think a big butt and a baby makes them women, our sons that a penis and a gun makes them men. Too many of my brothers are frustrated pa triarch wannabes who take their anger out on women. The rising right wing’s rollback of government, with its segregationist-in -conservative’s-clothing cries for “states’ rights,” signals our erasure. Still, we continue in a massive, collective orgy of fronting-pre tending everything is all right for the benefit of everyone but our selves. This is truly suicidal at a time when the president, the House, and the Senate are committed to our further erasure. To stay silent and keep race or gender or American secrets is to aid and abet my own erasure. It is crucial that black women begin to speak up and out, to speak the truth about what is really happening in ourselves, our communities, and the larger culture. To begin discussing how we implement the process of transformation, not only of the self but the society.
This book is about telling secrets, talking honestly about our history, our lives, the events, large and small, that made us who we are, forced me to become a grown-up black woman. It is an effort to speak openly about things that black women mostly don’t talk about, and certainly not in public, where Mr. Anonymous White Man might hear us. Or we might upset the opportunist’s apple cart by challenging the currently popular version of American history, or, if we are women, might reveal ourselves as independent, or feminist, or, if we are black women, niggerbitches, and will bring the race down, won’t get our man, live happily ever after. It is an effort to start a dialogue. What is most important is that we own and acknowledge who we are and how we got to be here. Then we can begin the crucial and fascinating work of figuring out where we want to go and how to get there. It is time for us to place ourselves and our concerns in the center.
There is one thing I know for sure: secrets are not healthy, they are always more trouble than they are worth. The act of keeping se crets eventually becomes all-consuming: the initial secret spawns lies created in order to protect the secret, which spawns bigger and more dangerous lies, and more secrets. By its very nature, the keep ing of secrets presupposes the greater importance of those from whom the secrets are being kept, whoever they are. ‘All the energy black women could and should spend transforming self and com munity and this nation is instead spent maintaining secrets, self -mutilation and victimization at its insidious best. In letting the secrets out, black women place ourselves in the center. Secrets, I have learned, gain power not in the telling, but in the keeping.
Keep the faith, but not the secrets.