“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can't seem to get over that line.”
Third world women are no strangers to the cold pang of exclusion that they are often faced with when trying to position themselves within the “feminist” movement. But in the quest for inclusion, women of color are forced to confront a very harsh reality.
Their white “counterparts” that championed the feminist movement were not truly vested in understanding or appreciating the perspectives of women of color. Women of color then had to encounter not only the diminishing of their cultures but the bastardization of them. The images and stereotypes that portrayed them further served to keep them in a place of inferiority. The struggles that these women endured were romanticized. When Third World Women finally received their mention in the discography of American feminism, they were no more than pathetic, minstrel footnotes.
“And When You Leave Take Your Pictures With You” is one the most important sections of “The Bridge Called My Back” in virtue of the fact that it is not actually a segment in the length of the proverbial bridge but one of the pillars on which it stands. It is nod to the true identities of the ostracized and insignificant that have been silenced for generations. “The Bridge Called My Back” sought to carve out a space where the women who have lead the bulk of their existences trapped in the shadows may share their voices, their stories, and their visions in the hope of creating a feminism that was less Betty (Friedan) and more Badu. Typical gender theory and feminist thought implicitly highlights the idea that their only one way to be “woman”. The works of these radical writers are immensely polarizing because they challenge the stagnant ideal of what women are should be while allowing various different women to create their own spaces and share their unique perspectives.
Kate Rushin - The Black Back Ups
“[Black women] are the women left behind. We are the women who have cared for other women’s children while ours were taken away.” She cries all day but she expected to sing the songs of THEIR happiness. Her children are gone or far, but she is left to care for theirs. Black women of today and yesterday are routinely injected into the mammy stereotype. They take care of and nurture everyone while their own needs, for all intents and purposes, are never met. They are most often objectified, seen only as step ladders for other to climb on or rest stops for the weary. Their only function simply being to magnify another. White men are placed firmly in the foreground, while they display their beautiful black birds singing sweetly and soulfully in their cages.
In “The Black Back Ups” Kate Rushin (1993) confronts this heritage unflinchingly. Rushin poem has carved out it's a singular space for itself within the black feminist anthology by exposing the woeful neglect that black women endure while simultaneously “backing up” those around after which they are inevitably forced into obscurity. Rushin chronicles with distinction the rigid dichotomy between living as a white man and existing as a black woman. “I swear there was always somebody telling me that the only person in their whole house who listened and understood them despite the money and the lessons was the housekeeper.” (Rushin 1993) She depicts black women for what they are in truth, those who are seldom seen, but understand others deeply.
Moraga, Cherrie & Anzaldua, Gloria (1981) “This Bridge Called My Back Writings by Radical Women of Color”
Oluo, Ijeoma (2016) “Beyoncé's Lemonade is About Much More Than Infidelity and Jay Z”
Rushin, Kate (1993) “The Black Back Ups” Poetry: Ithaca, NY. Firebrand Books