A number of years ago I read a review of a biography of Joseph Campbell in the New York Times. Campbell was a scholar I greatly admired because of his books The Power of Myth and The Heroes Journey, which I had in my collection. He had been influential as I learned my craft in the oral tradition of storytelling. So, imagine my horror when I read that Campbell was a virulent antisemite and expressed on more than one occasion that there was nothing in this world dumber than a black woman. I was seriously tempted to throw out his books and burn them and I have to admit, I’m still ambivalent I have held onto them after all these years. Being a book addict has been a lifelong condition for me.
The image of the stupid black woman who lies a lot has been a part of the American vernacular for a very long time and I believe this image started with “paramour rights”, if not before. Those of you who are not familiar with the term should understand that this “right ” was recognized under the law, which meant that any white man, particularly those of whom in powerful positions, could target any black woman he wanted for sexual favors. It didn’t matter if the black woman was already married with children of her own, white men could force her into sexual slavery. They had been guaranteed access to the bodies of black women during slavery and felt they should be granted this “right ” in perpetuity. If the black woman objected to this treatment, and I can assure you, most definitely did object, they were labeled as liars. And stupid. In the 1950’s a married black woman by the name of Ruby McCollums murdered a prominent white doctor who had repeatedly raped her and not only was she not believed, she was put into a mental institution.
This image of the black woman as stupid, as well as habitual liars, is still prevalent in American society. Hence, we have the creepy Bill O’Reilly making fun of Maxine Waters and her James Brown wig. The defamatory comments directed at Anita Hill during and after her testimony about Clarence Thomas. The constant denigration of Michelle Obama, including the crazy notion she’s actually a man and didn’t give birth to Malia and Sasha, and now the modern day lynching of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson by General Kelly.
General Kelly owes Congresswoman Wilson an apology. Let’s see if he gets around to doing that. By the way, for those of you who are interested, James Brown didn’t wear a wig. Truth, plainly spoken. Peace.