Our Women Keep Our Skies From
Six Essays in Support of
The Struggle To
Smash Sexism/Develop Women
By Kalamu ya Salaam
Writing these essays has been an intensely educational and qualitatively critical experience in my life effort
to contribute to the ongoing defense and development of African-americans.
"Women's Rights Are Human Rights" was first presented at an international Human Rights conference that was
held during November 1978 at Xavier University in New Orleans; later, it was published in BLACK SCHOLAR (Vol.10, Nos.
"Revolutionary Struggle/Revolutionary Love" was written as a contribution to the 1979 THE BLACK SCHOLAR (Vol.
10, Nos. 8,9) forum, "The Black Sexism Debate," which was generated around responses to an earlier article written by Robert
"Debunking Myths" was written in my preparation as a panelist at AHIDIANA's 2nd Annual Black Woman's Conference
1979. "RAPE: A Radical Analysis From An African-American Perspective" was written in 1978, extensively discussed within our
organization, AHIDIANA, and revised in 1979 and 1980. A shorter version of the rape essay appeared in the "Meaningful Relationships"
issue of BLACK BOOKS BULLETIN (Vol.6, No.4).
"The Struggle To Smash Sexism Is A Struggle To Develop Women" was presented in outline form at AHIDIANA's
2nd Annual Black Woman's Conference 1979. "On Getting Together" was written in preparation for my participation in AHIDIANA's
3rd Annual Black Woman's Conference 1980. "And Raise Beauty To Another Level Of Sweetness" is a poem written as part of a
promotional effort for the May/June Woman's issue of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine (Vol.10, No.5).
Writing these pieces has required an all-around reassessment of social relationships. In fact, my study of
the so-called "woman's question" has helped broaden my understanding of how necessarily deep a revolutionary transformation
must go into our "personal" lives. This is particularly true for those cadre who strive to be responsible and leading elements
of our people's struggle for peace and power.
What has been most difficult - and concurrently most rewarding, most valuable - is getting outside the strait-jacket
of my individual self, i.e. my own experiential limitations, and being able to study and begin to understand the experiences
and viewpoints of people different from myself. While this process has been facilitated by traveling to different Third World
countries, study and struggle around sexism in combination with attempts to practice what is preached has made the biggest
difference in opening my eyes to the reality of others.
The socialization of this society, and likewise of most societies in the modern world, intentionally blinds
us, not only to the situation of other peoples, but indeed, such crippling socialization also blinds us to the reality of
different forms of oppression, exploitation and their effects on us in America.
For many of us, the only vision we have been taught and believe, concerning the possibilities of human existence,
is.' niggers, "white folks," and "foreigners." That's a very narrow, destructive and self-limiting conception of human potential
and actuality -but it has been this vision of life choices which has (misguided us down the river of underdevelopment. Unknowingly,
we have labored mightily at the oars pushing the boat of ignorance further into the social jungles of prejudice, self-alienation
and cynicism about human nature and the human condition. In some cases, our twisted perceptions and lifestyles have led us
unconsciously, although still backwardly, to become either "oreos" or, worse yet, "brown eyed, red necks."
Far too many of us have not yet realized how socially damaging the Euro-american indoctrination has been.
And now, just as we are struggling through the anti-social aspects of having been victimized by racism, just as we are moving
to a higher awareness and advancefrient of class struggle, our whole world is again overturned in the militant and fiercely
interpersonal struggle around sexism.
In the cases of race and class struggle, the human agents of enemy philosophies and actions were, for the
most part, external to African-american women and men. However, struggle around sexism is a different matter. Macho-isms are
mouthed by and manifested in the beliefs and behavior of African-american, as well as Euro-american, men. Now the rain falls
on our heads. Many of us do not like this and even go so far as to absurdly suggest that because we are Black we can walk
between the raindrops and somehow, incredibly, not get wet. But this is no quickly passing, brief spring shower. What we are
facing is a full strength st6~m whose flood water will wash away all of the sexually exploitive, macho-designed social structures
which crowd the landscape of our living in this country. Whether we like it or not, we African-americans must swim or sink,
must either construct sexually non-exploitive relationships or else socially drown as our various unions crumble and fall
Only after a long period of individual and collective study and struggle have I been able to move toward
actualizing, in my own personal life, thorough going anti-sexist/pro-feminist principles and practice. Like many men before
me, and, I'm sure, like other men who will come after me, dealing with the truism that "the personal is political," in the
context of struggling around sexism, has called for a qualitative transformation of my own social life, a transformation whose
magnitude and importance I had not anticipated.
What I now realize is that the three main "personal" social relationships of American society - woman/man
relationships, home life, and childcare/child rearing - are all designed to support male lifestyle choices. As men, we could
actively participate in past struggles against racism and economic exploitation without confronting the wrongness of our interpersonal
relationships. Furthermore, these relationships invariably were male-dominant and female exploitive, thusly providing African-american
men a sphere of social control
which compensated for our exclusion from broader avenues of power within the American political and economic
system.So comes this question of sexism and everything is upset. There is no rest, no pleasure. "Our women," literally and
figuratively, no longer "belong to us. We men were extremely comfortable with the way our relationships were in the past.
Today, there is an element of brooding anger at "them" those "women libbers" who have messed up our "good/Black thing" by
injecting ideas which originated from "bored bourgeoisie white housewives." This anger and blindness, this refusal to deal
with the reality of our woman/man relationships, this reactionary stubbornness is but the emotional skin which covers an adherence
to a sexist system of social relationships which affords men both social and material privileges, as well as, automatic authority
over the lives of women.
This is the skin and the sexist social system I'm happily shedding. I understand that for women and men in America, the
restructuring of our personal lives is a major and difficult revolutionary step. And though it ain't easy, we are steady stepping
on, steady struggling toward a qualitatively better social system within which women and men have political and economic equality.