The Black Woman and the Mythos of American Democracy

I received several emails, texts, and alerts rejoicing in what the white media calls the first black vice-president-elect. A black female CNN political analyst even called Harris’s “victory” a poetic rebuttal to Trump’s four years. To this, I say two things. The first is that Kamala Harris as Vice President functions a lot like Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of the White House— a strategic gesture employed to engender a reaction from whites simultaneously appointing blackness as the means to this end. Overtly, both symbols appear to embody the “audacity” Harris referenced in her first speech as Vice-President elect on Saturday evening. This “audacity,” however, is nothing more than black people and black interest converted into political ammunition solicited specifically for white supremacist gain.

The second point is that there is nothing poetic about blackness as a prop, unless, of course, one is referencing the racist poet Walt Whitman ( see Song of Myself Stanza 10). This comment, however, along with the millions who share this sentiment, betray the “jelly stuck between ‘lizabeth Taylor’s toes” that Amiri Baraka references in his poem “Black Art.”

Nevertheless, I digress.

Harris, like Stacy Abrams, illustrates the black woman’s nuanced role in perpetuating the mythos of democracy.

Let us not forget that when Kamala Harris called out racism as a presidential candidate she lost, but when she stood beside a racist she proved victorious. Similarly, Abrams lost her electoral bid, yet earned public reverie after coming to the defense of white nationalism. Collaboratively, Harris and Abrams delineate that the black woman matters only when she acquiesces to her social position as a political concubine.

I employ the term mythos to contend what black philosopher Alain Locke noted two centuries ago, that the US has yet to manifest a democracy. Democracy is a myth the US engendered to right the wrongs of enslavement and color-based discrimination. Under the myth of democracy, these sins function as a “necessary evil” for the good of all humanity where national sin functions as cinderblocks to erecting the systemic franchisement built by the actual bones of the disenfranchised.

The black female role in the democratic mythos is, of course, nothing new, as the enslaved black women played a critical role in the nation born from the (not so) domestic institution of slavery. It was she who birthed the minority, the white man’s children to embody the “slave” that engendered the white male role as master. It was “she,” the black woman, who became the determining factor of black identity. If she was enslaved so were her children. Her job to birth the minority and to keep culture proves as integral to white nationalism as emasculating, asserting, and rendering the black man invisible.

If we look at the Biden-Harris ticket, which directly appealed to white men, white women, teachers (specifically the white female working class), black women, South Asian women (the brown woman), migrants, there was no direct appeal to the black man. The obvious cure for this would have been the campaign’s inclusion of Harris’s economist father who was noticeably absent and silent throughout the campaign aside from his status as the unacknowledged source of Harris’s blackness. Black men and women as symbiotic forces proves detrimental to pseudo-democracy and instead stirs a pot for the potential uprising—as does electing a direct descendant from those whose largely undocumented sacrificial blood plains a white republic red, white, and blue.

The black woman emerges as an agent of democracy mythos when isolated from her black male counterpart and distanced from the foundational presence of the Africans who built and birthed America. This democracy mythos is perhaps best propagated by the social reproduction of the “good master,” an image elucidated by the media shaping Biden-Harris’s “victory” as due to black input. This depiction also stealthly posits Biden’s black constituency as political slaves who only exist to appoint and serve white supremacy as master. Harris as Vice-President-elect acts as America’s subtle implication that black lives matter with a recidivist’s response to the George Floyd’s, the Breonna Taylor’s. However, what this framing articulates is that black lives matter when preserving white interest. An interest that does not and cannot become an ideology without black participation.

I opt to end with a pig anaology to access the social prowess of a self-proclaimed former “top cop.” To do so, I’ll employ Chester Himes’s novel The End of Primitive where the protagonist encounters a metaphorical quagmire in a dream. The protagonist dreams that he’s reading a short story where pigs do not have to be slaughtered for sausage. The way this white supremacist world shaped black contribution to the 2020 election, notably the black female contribution, is to suggest a literal manifestation of the slaughter-free sausage. Blacks, however, remain the sacrificial source to uphold this nation and its faux democracy. Thus, the black female “pig” not only depicts this sacrifice, but promises to birth a generation of those who will make a similar sacrifice displaced as a contribution to a democracy that has never existed in America .

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