Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer is another woman whose story I cannot believe I did not know. An incredible woman, even, an exceptional one. In "The Special Plight and the Role of The Black Woman," she speaks to a mixed audience in this piece with a certain message for each one. And, in each message, she illustrates the different ways that women are marginalized by the patriarchal structures.

The first point she addresses is the sense of being special that has been bred into white women. “You thought that you was more because you was a woman, and especially a white woman, you had this kind of angel feeling that you were untouchable. You know that? There’s nothing under the sun that made you believe that you were just like me, that under this white pigment of skin is red blood, just like under this black skin of mine” (263). This is the first suggestion of the psychological damage that has been perpetuated by the institution of racism. Those who were in power, even those that were not enfranchised, still held this idea of themselves as better than those that, first, lacked freedom, and then, lacked education and opportunity. A socially spread disease with deep roots.

But Hamer is not just chiding white women. She has a message for black women as well, one that does not exclude men even while being feminist:
We have a problem, folks, and we want to try to deal with the problem in the only way that we can deal with the problem as far as black women. And you know, I’m not hung up on this about liberating myself from the black man. I’m not going to try that thing. I got a black husband, six feet three, two hundred and forty pounds, with a 14 shoe, that I don’t want to be liberated from. But we are here to work side by side with this black man in trying to bring liberation to all people. (264)
There is still this sense that feminists want to bring men down, not work with men, or feminize men beyond recognition. Hamer does not want that kind of feminism - she wants to work with black men to bring about the goals that they should both share. Her plain language brings the point home even more clearly by making sure to point out that her man is large in stature, not brought down by her goals in the slightest.

While Hamer’s message for white women is, essentially, to check their privilege, her message to black women is a call to action. Her own work with the poor in her southern county was not exclusive to black folk. She specifically mentions including a white family in need in the program. As the ones so often on the bottom of the heap, “we have a job as black women, to support whatever is right, and to bring in justice where we’ve had so much injustice” (265). She lived by her words, by her sentiments in this speech, despite the lack of privilege and opportunity afforded to her by the circumstances of her birth.

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