Confronting racism, patriarchy

Julianne Malveaux | 9/27/2018, 6 a.m.
Our nation was founded on the principles of racism and patriarchy. They are reflected in our very Constitution, where enslaved ...


Julianne Malveaux

Our nation was founded on the principles of racism and patriarchy. They are reflected in our very Constitution, where enslaved persons were counted as a fraction of a person and only men of property were allowed the right to vote. The filthy inequality at the foundation of this nation now has bubbled up and boiled over, polluting every aspect of our lives.

Patriarchy places men at the center of life and women at the periphery. It suggests that women do not matter. It allows for the subjugation of women when they attempt to enter public spaces that have previously been earmarked as “male” spaces. Thus, there were no restrooms for women legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate, even as women entered those spaces. They were only created when women demanded them. Of course, restrooms are just a minor manifestation of the hegemonic patriarchy that rules our nation.

A great picture of our nation’s racist patriarchy was the visual of doughy and dissipated white men interrogating the amazingly composed Anita Hill as she reviewed her experiences with now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Although Ms. Hill was persuasive, she was attacked in the vilest of terms, accused of nonsense like “erotomania” and even in recent years harassed by Justice Thomas’ unhinged spouse who was still seeking apology after two decades. 

Note to Justice Thomas: Take the phone from your wife when her meds are not working. 

In any case, Justice Thomas is on the U.S. Supreme Court because white men chose to disregard the word of a black woman, a decision that then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden says he now regrets. Justice Thomas was confirmed by the narrowest margin in history, 52-48.

Here we go again, this time in the matter of 45’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh has been accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault more than 35 years ago, when both were teens. 

Dr. Ford has requested that the FBI investigate her assertions, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is still fast-tracking the Kavanaugh vote. The outcome, while necessary, is not the bottom line. The issue is the way that racist patriarchy makes some offensive and illegal behavior acceptable.

Privileged white male culture allows and encourages excessive drinking and obnoxious behavior toward women. It is excused because “boys will be boys.” But what boys? Black boys, even accused of “reckless eyeballing,” are fair game for lynching.  

White boys on rampages are excused for assault, rape and attempted rape. Can I call the name of Recy Taylor, the young black woman who was walking home from church and raped by a gaggle of white men who thought her body was their right? Can I remind us of the Texas gubernatorial candidate, Clayton Williams, who said that if rape was inevitable, a woman should “lay back and enjoy it”? Ann Richards beat him in that election, but that wasn’t quite the point. The point was that a man thought that rape was inevitable enough to “enjoy.”

If we women were honest, we would say that we have all cosigned patriarchy in the interest of keeping it moving. We have deflected the sexist comments that come our way, even as we cringe from them. We smile at men we abhor because they may have decision-making power in their hands. We dress up or dress down depending on the occasion and the way we have to play the game. 

We know the system is slanted against us, we know we still have to play, and we decide when we choose to blow the whistle, a whistle we could blow every single day.

MeToo is the tip of the iceberg because it fails to deal with race systematically, but also because it manages the evident and personal, not the institutional.

In addition to being #MeToo women, we are mothers, sisters, daughters and wives (hello Julie Chen Moonves), so some of us want to justify patriarchy for “our” men. Our sons, husbands, cousins, brothers “didn’t mean it” and could not be that bad. 

Wake up call: If they violated a woman, they were THAT bad. If they raped a black woman and you turned away from the accusation, you are wrong. You are horribly and complicity wrong.

Tearing down the walls of pernicious patriarchy means attacking the very foundation of our nation. When we attack patriarchy, we also attack the racism that is also part of our foundation. 

Many have lined up to support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. How many are equally willing to attack the pernicious, racist, patriarchal roots of our nation?

The writer is an economist and author.