By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall
He understands the burden and pain of racial prejudice.
He knows about racism. But, when the topic is sexism, there is only silence from my Black male friends.
It seems they do not want to accept gender prejudice hurts Black women.
The lives of African American men and women are uniquely equal. American history created a male-female relationship formed by equally dismal circumstances.
We were kidnapped together, chained together, bore the slave-holder’s whip together, worked the fields together, escaped together, and fought for freedom together.
Harriet Tubman led men and women out of slavery. Ida B. Wells-Barnett investigated lynching of Black men and women.
Without Black women, the Civil Rights Movement would have failed.
Alabama’s Black women led by Jo Ann Gibson Robinson organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Aurelia Browder, a Black woman, was a plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the U.S. Supreme Court case that desegregated the Montgomery buses.
Fannie Lou Hamer was beaten for registering poor Black voters in Mississippi. Attorney Constance Baker Motley risked her life to represent Blacks across the Deep South.
Vivian Malone desegregated the University of Alabama with Governor George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse door. Charlene Hunter desegregated the University of Georgia.
When Daisy Bates led the Central High 9 her house was firebombed.
But, male organizers decided Rosa Parks, the famous matriarch of the Civil Rights Movement, would not be allowed to speak at the 1963 March on Washington.
And, when activist Gloria Richardson, co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland, attempted to speak at that 1963 March, Black men took away her microphone.
Black women were arrested, jailed, and risked their lives with men. Police dogs in Birmingham attacked men and women, alike.
While only he stood at the podium or pulpit or microphone she stood in the shadows because freedom was more important than recognition of her contribution to achieving it. That was a different time.
Today, there is no reason for a lack of Black female leadership.
She should be at the decision-making table and her wisdom should be respected and requested.
The need is great within the Black community. Yet, too often, her power is under-utilized.
Since a Black man understands the effect of racism on his dreams and opportunities then the plight of a Black woman should not be a mystery to him.
He should be able to empathize and acknowledge the many ways in which sexism can limit her dreams and opportunities.
He should support her goals and ambition.
A women’s full participation in society has become a global initiative.
This March, Women’s Month, the United Nations is holding its 58th Conference on the Status of Women.
Thousands of women from around the world will work together to create leadership paths for women and girls in education, business, and politics.
But, African American women and girls have those paths.
However, they need encouragement to follow them. They need women as well as men to value their contributions, talent, and hard-work.
Sexism is a form of discrimination and oppression that undermines the spirits of girls and women who have a great deal to offer the community.
More so, Black women should have a chance to be a full complete person, not just defined by the work she does for others. But a human being confident in her ability to navigate the world, receiving acclaim when apparent, and compensation appropriate to her skills.
She should be able to enjoy her own talents and choose when she wants to share them with others.
In “Still I Rise” poet Maya Angelou writes of Black women seeking a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, bringing the gifts that their ancestors gave.
When Black men treat Black women with respect and as equals, Black women will rise into that wondrously clear daybreak.
For 400 years, Black women have been freedom fighters while holding up families, households, businesses, and organizations.
There is a saying that women hold up half the sky.
In the African-American community, women hold up much more.
With loving respect from Black men, the sky is the limit for Black women.
Gloria J. Browne- Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College, in New York City, is a legal correspondent covering the U.S. Supreme Court, the United Nations, and major legal issues. She is author of “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present.” Twitter:@GBrowneMarshall