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Black Women, Relationships, & Violence

Domestic violence within African-American relationships can not be understood when violence against women is conceptualized without reference to the relationship. The focus is often on patriarchy and removing women from its hold; however, patriarchy ignores the cultural allegiance that Black women feel towards their relationships with Black men and their community.

Collectivism within the African-American community encourages members of the community to set aside individual needs and accomplishments and focus on the success of the collective members as a whole. Established historically as a strategy for empowerment, the value of collectivism can mistakenly be interpreted as, encouraging African-American men and women who are in violent relationships to withstand the experience of violence and forsake individual pain to 'save' the relationship.

I would like to offer a healthier view of collectivism. The relationships between African American men and women are framed within a unique cultural and societal context that influences how they interact with one another and the systems that surround them. When African American women are allowed to articulate their own experience, Collins (1991) and Hamlet (2006) argue that Black women experience a privilege to engage in a self-definition of the struggles they encounter that can promote human dignity and empowerment. If given the opportunity to openly discuss struggles related to being Black and female, resolutions from within the culture can become salient.

Removing Black women from their home, community, and thereby their culture is a safety strategy; it is not a prevention strategy. The protection of the female victim is always paramount, prevention efforts that challenge the ideology of our culture must occur concurrently. Collectivism manifested within the Black community is a protection of the entire community from the systemic discrimination that occurs within the larger political, social, and economic systems. Cultural factors such as issues of racial loyalty that prevent African American women from reporting abuse intersect with political and economic structures (i.e. unemployment and poverty) and undermine the true meaning of collectivism. Anything that undermines the power of the whole is in direct opposition to collectivism and there is nothing more debilitating to the Black community than violent relationships between one another.

Washington, DC, USA

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