Even the Best of Us Are Not as Open as We Think We Are

My response to Barack Obama’s article in Glamour, August 4, 2016 on What a Feminist Looks Like –


I appreciate the progress Obama has made and – – – “he is not there yet!”  If the title had been “This is what a Black Male Feminist Looks Like,” I would have been truly impressed with him.  As it is . . . let’s see what he didn’t get.

I have been a pro-civil rights person – thanks to my mother and great-grandmother – since the late 1930’s.  During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, I marched and while I was working as a psychologist at the State Mental Hospital in Little Rock was on a school integration committee working toward integration of the schools. I lead racially mixed teams of facilitators to work with school administrators, teachers, and personnel to help school integration work more smoothly. I also worked with colleges and students facing mandated or voluntary integration. I organized and trained the first group of black facilitators in group facilitation and dynamics, process and organizational consulting for the National Training Laboratories. I helped plan and run the first workshop/seminar on racial integration for the National Training Laboratories, serving on the most integrated staff NTL had ever had. And, I was busy in dealing with integration in my neighborhood, city, country and other nations.

One of the most important things I learned from these experiences was “You ain’t got it yet.” His statement would be like my saying, “This is what a black man looks like,” after all my “raised consciousness.”

I can’t know what it is like to be a black man or woman in this country and never will. I can offer caring, openness, the eagerness to support and try to understand and I do that. And, I can never “be” a black man or woman and “know” what that was and is like. That attitude would be arrogant.

There were two black men in the training group that I did for NTL that cared enough for me not to let me get away with wanting to be “one of the good ones”, “a little better than the others,” “really getting it.” (the white liberal disease) or having got it and thank God they never did. Liberals want to be so “special”! Those two fellows were tough enough on me to keep saying “No! You aren’t there yet” until I got it. No matter how much I try or how hard I try, I can never know what it means to be black in this culture. To think I can is racist. No man, black or white can ever know what it has meant or means to be a woman in this culture.

No matter how hard Obama tries, he can be different from most men, he can have tried to confront his own sexism in himself and in others, and the best he is ever going to get is “This is What a Black Male Feminist Looks Like.” Actually, that’s pretty good really. Don’t you think?

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