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Of Black Men and White Middle-Class Feminists


During an interview with Chris Hedges carried at the site Truthdig, I cited Eve Ensler as the type of middle class white feminist who singles out black men as the leading culprits in the practice of cruelty to women, a theme that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars for Hollywood, publishing and outfits like CNN. Since these women have financial ties to the white men, who own these institutions, they have to tread lightly when criticizing them. For example, a number of on air feminists refer to those who are mostly likely to rape Native-American women as “non-indians” instead of white men. Ms.Ensler took exception to my comment about her prompting the following exchange.

Eve Ensler and Ishmael Reed Go At It

Ensler:  I was taken aback by this gross and inaccurate statement attributed to me. I have never said anything of the kind. To imply I am in some kind of financial relationship with white men? What kind of relationship is Ishmael Reed implying? I have spent the last 15 years fighting violence against women everywhere in the world, beginning with my own white middle class father who sexually molested and beat me. I have stood up to DSK and every other man be they white, black, yellow or brown who abuses women. As a matter of fact, my anti-violence work began for me in Bosnia. We have been supporting women in New Orleans and Haiti and Congo who have been violated, but then again we have supported women in the U.S. military and at thousands of organizations of all ethnic groups around the world. Local, grassroots V-Day activists are at work in over 179 countries worldwide.

Reed: On Sept. 01,2010,Ensler appeared on Amy Goodman’s show, “Democracy Now,” and singled out two black countries and the city of New Orleans as where all of the cruelty to women was happening. She said “The work, Eve told me [Amy Goodman] defines what she calls a ‘kind of three-way V between Haiti, the Congo and New Orleans.’ She’s the female Tarantino who forced herself on black women of New Orleans, when she proposed to write a play based upon their p.o.v.s. They rejected her, preferring to tell their own story. Nevertheless, she managed to direct a play about their experiences, “Swimming Upstream,” at the Apollo in Harlem, a place where one of  the great playwrights, Ed Bullins, who is now ailing, never had an opportunity to stage a play, nor have other great contemporary black playwrights, Amiri Baraka or Adrienne Kennedy. Is she denying that she has more clout with the owners of the Apollo theater than our great  black playwrights? Why can’t Thulani Davis or Aishah Rahman get a play done there? Among those who are responsible for the Apollo’s  annual season are:The Coca-Cola Company, JP Morgan Chase & Co., The Parsons Family Foundation, the Ronald O. Perelman Family Foundation, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Reginald Van Lee New Works Fund, the Ford Foundation Fund for Global Programs, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Folonari Wines, which explains why the hard-hitting social commentary of Baraka won’t be performed there and one which blames black men for sexual assault is; this is more acceptable to the patriarchal capitalists who run the place.  Amy Goodman was the perfect place for her appeal. Goodman worships “The Color Purple,” about a black man having sex with his daughter. She like Gloria Steinem use black men as surrogates because they are scared to tackle misogyny in their ethnic groups. They’re not the only ones. Ms. Steinem even said that “The Color Purple” told the truth about black men, in her Ms. review, which even outraged Toni Morrison, who blasted both Ms. Walker and Steinem in an interview with Cecil Brown in The Massachusetts Review. The kind of group libel implicit in Ms. Steinem’s generalization is of the sort that’s been aimed at her group from the time of the Romans. Black men can be cruel to women wherever they can be found in the world, but they ain’t the only ones and it’s unfair to unload the burden on them for world mysogyny. Here’s a fact that you’ll never hear from Amy Goodman, Eve Ensler and Terry Gross. Among all American males, Black men are the ones who are most likely to be murdered by women. I cite Natalie J. Sokoloff, and Christina Pratt’s 2005 book, Family & Relationships –where the authors wrote: “Black women are also more likely than their White counterparts to inflict lethal violence against their husbands.” So what do you suppose black men were doing, while, during the Katrina calamity, the women were swimming upstream? In Las Vegas partying with Tiger Woods and Mike Tyson?

Ishmael Reed’s latest book is “Going Too Far.” He is the publisher of Konch at Konch goes monthly in January.

Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.

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