Over the last 25 years feminist architects have had free reign to present, virtually unchallenged, the feminist perspective. American media has presented feminist issues as if they border a new religious ideologue. Yet despite their quarter century campaign, and the cooperation of the most powerful mind-bending instrument on the planet, the overwhelming majority of American women (some surveys estimate as much as 75 to 80 percent) still reject the feminist label. America’s women seem to distinguish the difference between legitimate generic women’s issues and the feminist political agenda.
From the very beginning, African-American women’s response to feminism has been cultural womanism. One cannot deny the presence of black women who have come into contact with white feminists in the academy, politics, the arts and professional fields and have subsequently bought into the concept and promote the feminist ideologue; nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of rank-and-file black women have rejected the feminists’ identity and continue to do so.
Womanism reflects the cultural mindset of Africana women, a thought mechanism that comes out of centuries of struggle for dignity and self actualization, the way we view the world from inside Africana culture and the principles upon which we base our decision-making. I have named this thought mechanism Africana Womanism: Africana because we belong to the world diaspora of African people and Womanism because Africana women are members of families, communities and cultures that embrace men, women and children.
Africana Womanism in essence says: We love men. We like being women. We love children. We like being mothers. We value life. We have faith in God and the Bible. We want families and harmonious relationships. We are not at war with our men seeking money, power and influence through confrontation. Our history is unique. We are the inheritors of African-American women’s history, and as such we shall not redefine ourselves nor that history to meet some politically correct image of a popular culture movement, which demands the right to speak for and redefine the morals and mores of all racial, cultural and ethnic groups. Nor shall we allow the history to be “shanghied” to legitimatize the “global political agenda” of others. We reject the status of victim. Indeed, we are victors, Sisters in Charge of our own destiny. We are Africana culture-keepers: Our primary obligation is to the progress of our cultural way of life through the stability of family and the commitment to community.
The practice of cultural womanism is not limited to Africana women. Italian, Japanese, Hispanic, East Indian, Arab, Jewish women, etc., all utilize this approach to decision-making, and know the value of maintaining indigenous cultural autonomy. The rite of passing generation-to-generation knowledge free from outside manipulation, coersion or intimidation insures traditional integrity, which fosters a climate of cultural security. Traditional cultures should not be obligated to bow to redefinitions foisted upon them by elitist entities that gain their authority via the drive of well-organized “media hype.”
The community of racial experience, cultural folkways and bonds of female friendships have weaved African-American women into one of the most tightly knit groups of women in the world human family. Black women truly live out the creed of “sisterhood.” Where we refer to one another as “sister,” “girlfriend” or “sistergirl,” it is not just a casual use of language. Close friendships and networks of “girlfriends” are an integral part of understanding the process of socializations among Africana women. Learning how to get along with friends is an important part of establishing one’s place in the family, school and the community. The most notable byproduct of black women’s quest for self-actualization is our unrelenting loyalty to the special traditions surrounding family life. It is this fierce loyalty and the determination to maintain independent, indigenous, definitive authority, that prompts black women to resist outside influence, particularly those ideas that conflict with the traditional moral and spiritual base of African-American life. The collective mindset encourages women to look inward for the personal strength through a relationship with God.
Africana Womanism represents the rich heritage of African-American people-the ancestors of women who sacrificed immeasurably to birth this nation. Her stalwart allegiance and cultural identity may be likened unto a mighty oak tree, “planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season,” whose roots go deep, whose breach is broad, that is able to withstand the changing seasons-she shall not be moved.