The most profound of black male leaders were advocates for black women. Men like Malcolm X and Thomas Sankara come to mind, their praxis and words providing enlightenment and inspiration to the black collective thoroughly vested in admiration and reverie for a lineage and legacy birthed from and anchored in the black female body. Though it has been decades since Malcolm X spoke the poignant words “the black woman is the most disrespected person in the United States” his words remain a truth lost in an environment of performative reformation. Perhaps the most imperative component of Malcolm X’s statement is that he describes the black woman as a “person,” an assertion contested repeatedly by a media and world infested by a white hegemonic ideology.
This notion of black dehumanization is best illustrates in the news— a consistent source of anti-black propaganda. The Washington Post recently featured a story on B. Smith, a former model and lifestyle brand, who in 2013, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The story, though employing B. Smith’s body and celebrity for traction, was not about her. No, the story revealed that Smith’s husband Dan Gasby, referenced as “struggling” with her illness, had not only taken a girlfriend but that this girlfriend had moved into B. Smith’s estate. His girlfriend? A middle-aged white woman.
“News” or Racist Propaganda?
The story sparked a lukewarm outrage, some were mad because of Gatsby’s decision to go public, others disappointed that an “esteemed” publication such as the Washington Post would even run this story.
No news, aside from the few black publications that remain, maintain reputable status as accurately and impartially presenting black news. Thus, the post is doing what all forms of media do—reduce the black body to a spectacle ensuring the black body proves lucrative. The story is both enraging and heartbreaking, depicting a black woman buried alive in a racial paradigm that thrives in her disrespect. Additionally, this story exposes B. Smith as a casualty in a much larger war against black women. Specifically, this story depicts the disrespected black woman as a spectacle rendered entertainment in a normalized evil.
Truthfully, Gasby, his child, and his girlfriend should be imprisoned for abusing a disabled woman and charged with robbery for allocating her money to fund said abuse. But because their actions are in accordance with the pervasive anti-blackness of white hegemony, B.Smith is not an abused woman, but an entertainer worthy of gossip not serious or legal contemplation.
It is imperative to note that one need not be a good person to employ ethics in this situation. Gasby took a vow that read “in sickness and his health.” Thus, if not rooted in love, he was contractually bound to Smith “til death.” Contrary to the information Gasby provided in several interviews surrounding his decision, B. Smith is not dead, “gone” or dead. His wife, in her illness, created a stage for Gasby to make good on a promise he made years ago. Her illness presented an opportunity for him to take care of her, as her talent, beauty, and charisma took care of him for decades.
Married while Black
Marriage is different for black people. This partnership must ensure that the parties who enter into it not only mean what they say but that they realize the necessity of exchanging these vows. For the African adjacent, if their spouse fails them the legal system and the racist paradigm of white supremacy ensures that they can not only survive but thrive. For the African in America, this vow must represent shared values and an unconditional communal love equipped with responsibility, not the fleeting praxis and often pseudo-sentiments of western romance.
Gasby never married Smith, he married her money. Money is also the reason why he is currently still legally married, though in a romantic relationship with another woman. It is likely like Smith’s sudden illness made it impossible to amend their “contract.” Before she was ill, there was most likely a marital clause that makes it so that if he walks away from their marriage, he walks away from a good portion of her fortune. Gasby, who has seemingly employed his wife’s fortune as bridge into negropean status, wishes to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to keep his stake in his wife’s fortune, though he clearly no longer wants his wife.
This is more than just a case of infidelity, which, if I may add, is no light matter. As Christina Sharpe notes in monumental text In the Wake: On Being and Blackness, “care” is an essential remedy in uniting the severed pieces of the black diaspora. The core she speaks of is not conditional because it cannot be. Thus, vows of partnership are especially important to those of the diaspora as it provides a gateway to community.
The abuse factor is guised by the infidelity that is associated with black men in a violent caricature and ingrained belief that suffering is simply a way of life for the black woman who opts to be in a relationship with a black man. This behavior is not regarded as abuse simply because B. Smith is a black woman. As a black woman, B. Smith’s abuse is not only normalized but necessary.
Gasby’s logic, speaks to the plantation politics that continue to shape how black people are viewed globally. Just as the value of a slave depreciated with age and their growing inability to function to the economic or sexual benefit of their masters, the black body imbues a similar perception when they can no longer fulfill the selfish needs of those around them. White hegemony teaches the colonized mind that their own bodies are disposable. Gasby substantiates this contention, as B. Smith was not only replaceable in his eyes, but replaced at her own expense.
A Gentrified Love
There is an additional layer to this ordeal. The scenario proves emblematic of how the invasion of black space imbues black erasure. Gasby’s girlfriend’s invasion of B.Smith’s home represents white invasion of black communities— an act both welcomed and celebrated by blacks, like Gasby, seeking validation from their oppressors.
What I find particularly disturbing about this feature and even its caption, is the emphasis on what B.Smith’s illness is “doing to” Gasby. The reporter and Gasby’s daughter note Gasby’s frustration, but no verbal articulation is afforded to what B. Smith must be going through in her illness. Her voice is silenced by those who do not love nor care for her.
This situation begs the question: who stands up for B. Smith? Who stands up for black women everywhere?
The truth is black men and black women do. This story functions to deflect from the reality that there are black men and black women who have dedicated their lives to their collective. These people though, seldom make headlines and rarely spark the deserving conversation. Thus, this post is not to police a black man, because Gasby is not a black man. He is an imposter that we as a community must be sure not to claim in our strive to for pro-blackness in an anti-black world.
B. Smith, we love you and you’re a Queen always. 👑
Black Power ❤