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I am deeply disappointed that the Voice of San Diego published this July 16 sexist rant of an opinion piece from Shane Harris. Harris has significant credibility issues in the community due to his self-appointed, call-on-me-for-everything, media-hungry, braggadocious, style of community gate-keeping. He has appointed himself the serf lord over Black San Diego.
He takes advantage of the protective spirit of the androcentric African-American community. African-Americans have a near exclusive focus on how males and law enforcement intersect. This is done to the complete absence of attention to other very significant issues that affect our women, children and elders. Unfortunately what is not understood by White culture is that while the world screams, “Black Lives Matter” for men, sometimes men turn around and kick down to Black women and do so with no consequence.
When the KKK would ride through the Black community and land at a doorstep, women would hide men in large flour bins. Taking the risk on the front line to face the knight riders knowing that she would be raped with a 50 percent chance of being murdered all because the man faced a 100 percent chance of being murdered. This is the lengths to which the community protects men today in various forms. So when Black women sounded the alarm on Harris it was significant. Harris has harmed many Black women and they have grown tired of it.
He provided you with a paternalistic “I will deal with those Black women when I get a chance” as if to say Black women just need to be managed. Lumping Black women together is sexist, as it leaves the impression that the issues raised are minor and like a father, he can just sort out the minor disagreements. Intimating that Black women are just being difficult and angry – long-standing stereotypes that Black women have had to endure striving to survive inside both Black sexist and White racist patriarchal systems. There is an old saying identified by newly freed Black women paying attention to how they were erased inside Black spaces while crying for racial justice and inside women’s spaces fighting for sex-based rights and justice: “All the Blacks are men and all the women are Whites” is the term that illustrates this phenomena – something prevalent today.
When it comes to Harris’s comments on White women, the description of “Karen” is sexist and abusive. White women should never be casually called Karens. Karen is a very specific term to describe a white woman who pre-emptively weaponizes her race and gender to bring harm to a person of color. None of the White women working inside political and/or social justice spaces in the San Diego Black community have weaponized their person to inflict physical harm or to wrongly incarcerate anyone. “Karen” has a second, more abusive meaning. Harris’s improper use of this term is also a sexist slur now used conveniently and primarily by men to silence White women when engaged in a discussion where there is disagreement. It is egregious because use of the term “Karen” outside its true meaning dilutes the seriousness of the issues presented around race, and shifts it to yet another sexist, demeaning way to silence women.
Harris leaves the impression that Black women and White women are nuisances requiring management and chastisement. The truth is he does not want these two forces to come together, work smart and start to address the real issues.
Suzanne Forbes-Vierling has 25 years of combined experience in higher education, management and mental health and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Dhalia Balmir is the founder of Balmir Inclusive, a consulting business specializing in racial equity discussions, cultural competency, DEI and social justice and education advocacy. Dinah McGraw-Goodspeed is chief financial officer for the Black American Political Association San Diego and as third VP for Blacks in Government Regional Office, headquartered in Washington, D.C.