An exploration of the tense terrain of relations between black men and women.
Sociologist Franklin (Ensuring Inequality, not reviewed) holds that much of the tension between black men and black women is the fruit of weak family life, which is itself the perpetuation of social patterns established during the era of slavery. A divorce rate double that of the rest of the US population, a dramatically accelerated intermarriage rate among blacks and whites, a steeply rising rate of domestic violence, and widespread adultery among black husbands are the most obvious social catastrophes afflicting relations between black men and women. All of which, individually or collectively, has led many black women to become reluctant feminists. Franklin traces the historical roles of black men and women in the post-Emancipation period, providing some provocative analysis of the role black women played in the suffrage movement (and of their less-than-stellar leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement) along the way. She offers an intriguing exposition of how the concept of black beauty was developed and how it helped to divide black men from black women; she also discusses how the Civil Rights Movement brought black men closer to white women, in such a way as to drive a wedge between black women and black men. Inevitably, perhaps, the author flogs the Tyson rape case, the Simpson murder trial, and the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas Affair once more, without adding much that hasn’t already been said. But she often breaks new ground, perhaps even at the expense of her personal reputation: her analysis of why black men are attracted to white women and vice versa is not likely to win her any support among either group. Similarly, black women may be inclined to mock rather than cheer her for her overall efforts—if for no other reason than the fact that, as Franklin herself states, race in the black community always “trumps” gender.
Despite the somewhat glib and frivolous title, a serious discourse on black male-female relations.