Verso Books

Many are posting that black American women voters essentially prevented a racist alleged pedophile from winning a seat in the US Senate. One would think that being an alleged pedophile and racist would have tossed Roy Moore's whole political career into the fire. But that's not what happened. The godlessness of the majority of white voters in Alabama is so extreme, they are incapable of worshiping anything but the imagined supremacy of skin that lacks melanin.

Some are even saying that black women saved this civilization as we know it. There's a very good reason for feeling this way. One can only wonder who would have followed the self-proclaimed pussy grabber and the alleged pedophile into power. Black women voters in Alabama certainly put the brakes (for now) on the unimaginable. Black women voters also made it clear that the Dem party is in truth the minority-majority party or the racially and culturally heterogeneous party, and as such it should answer to and fight for the rights of minorities. This means no more compromises with the GOP, the white party of America.

And so some of the most vulnerable members of our society helped defeat some of its most powerful members. These black women are being praised all over social media. They are generating a lot of good feeling on Facebook and Twitter. Most of us will end the day pleased that we've tweeted, re-tweeted, and posted something positive and supportive about these black women. But a few us will, however, end the day with an uneasy feeling about this praise.

The thing is this: There's a history in the US of black women helping and being there for white people. There is a history of them neglecting their own to support white families. As a result, we have a culture that has sexualized white women, and mammified black women.

The literary theorist Michele Wallace described this whole bad business in her 1979 book Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. In it, she not only denounces white male supremacy but also "the patriarchal culture of Black Power." Most importantly, Wallace points out that American culture codes black women as superwomen with roots growing out of their feet. They are not seen as vulnerable but as durable. This is the mammy in many Hollywood films, including Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days. In that film, Angela Bassett always arrives in the nick of time to save Ralph Fiennes, a white man who is obsessed with the white beauty of Juliette Lewis. This narrative construction wasn't accidental. It was shaped by deep and racist forces in our culture.

Strange Days

In Madness and Civilization, the French philosopher Michel Foucault writes that in the 17th century physicians thought madness enabled men and women to stand naked in the freezing cold for hours without really suffering. I feel something along these lines is also at work in how our society views black women. Their sex and color enables them to not only save the day but endure all of the physical and economic violence the society daily imposes on them. We think they do not need the comforts of clean air because roots grow from their feet.