‘Your Blood Drank The Sustenance Of Life From Me’: A Black Woman Speaks Of White Womanhood

3 Posted by - December 23, 2020 - AMAZING IMAGES, BLACK WOMEN, LATEST POSTS, Poems, SLAVERY

A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood

by Beah Richards

“You were afraid to nurse your young
lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
drank the sustenance of life from me.
And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
I could have lied,
told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
and as for color knew no difference.
Yes, in that first while
I kept your sons and daughters alive.
But when they grew strong in blood and bone
that was of my milk
you
taught them to hate me.
Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
so that strength that was of myself
turned and spat upon me,
despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
You know I speak true.“

(Beah Richards, excerpt from “A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood”)
Brenda Koro’s photo

Read the entire poem here

4 Comments

  • R February 3, 2019 - 3:12 am Reply

    😑

  • William M. Conner, Jr. December 24, 2020 - 4:45 pm Reply

    Enslaved African women in the USA that nursed white European American children were called “Wet Nurses.” White European Americans would force enslaved African women to become pregnant so they would be available to wet nurse while European infants. I recommend reading “They were her property” a scholarly book by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers. I read that history book during Breakingbrown (on YouTube) book club during the 2020 calendar year. I also recommend going to ADOS101.com to learn about the economic disparity impacting American Descendants Of Slavery and ADOS political agenda: Reparations. Fait accompli.

    • Suzanne December 30, 2020 - 2:32 am Reply

      The Enslaved Indigenous Aboriginal People of Turtle Island were those who were first and foremost reduced to such, after stealing their ancestral lands and knowledge of survival!

  • Mon December 28, 2020 - 9:15 am Reply

    Unfortunately the page is gone. Here is the whole poem:

    AfroLez®femcentric Perspectives
    Coined in 1990, by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, AfroLez®femcentric defines the culturally conscious role of women who identify as Afrocentric, Lesbian/Queer, AND Feminist.

    A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood by Beah Richards

    In response to the insulting book and now the wretched film “The Help,” I was reminded of Beah Richards’ most appropriate, poignant, and (unfortunately) TIMELESS poem, written 60-years ago. (Thank you Barbara Kellom)

    For my known and unknown maternal and paternal BlackWomen ancestors who both slaved and worked (for barely liveable wages) in White folks’ homes for centuries…

    by Beah Richards 1951

    A Black Woman Speaks…
    Of White Womanhood
    Of White Supremacy
    Of Peace
    It is right that I a woman
    black,
    should speak of white womanhood.
    My fathers
    my brothers
    my husbands
    my sons
    die for it; because of it.
    And their blood chilled in electric chairs,
    stopped by hangman’s noose,
    cooked by lynch mobs’ fire,
    spilled by white supremacist mad desire to kill for profit,
    gives me that right.

    I would that I could speak of white womanhood
    as it will and should be
    when it stands tall in full equality.
    But then, womanhood will be womanhood
    void of color and of class,
    and all necessity for my speaking thus will be past.
    Gladly past.

    But now, since ‘tis deemed a thing apart
    supreme,
    I must in searching honesty report
    how it seems to me.
    White womanhood stands in bloodied skirt
    and willing slavery
    reaching out adulterous hand
    killing mine and crushing me.
    What then is this superior thing
    that in order to be sustained must needs feed upon my flesh?
    How came this horror to be?
    Let’s look to history.

    They said, the white supremacist said
    that you were better than me,
    that your fair brow should never know the sweat of slavery.
    They lied.
    White womanhood too is enslaved,
    the difference is degree.

    They brought me here in chains.
    They brought you here willing slaves to man.
    You, shiploads of women each filled with hope
    that she might win with ruby lip and saucy curl
    and bright and flashing eye
    him to wife who had the largest tender.
    Remember?
    And they sold you here even as they sold me.
    My sisters, there is no room for mockery.
    If they counted my teeth
    they did appraise your thigh
    and sold you to the highest bidder
    the same as I.

    And you did not fight for your right to choose
    whom you would wed
    but for whatever bartered price
    that was the legal tender
    you were sold to a stranger’s bed
    in a stranger land
    remember?
    And you did not fight.
    Mind you, I speak not mockingly
    but I fought for freedom,
    I’m fighting now for our unity.
    We are women all,
    and what wrongs you murders me
    and eventually marks your grave
    so we share a mutual death at the hand of tyranny.

    They trapped me with the chain and gun.
    They trapped you with lying tongue.
    For, ‘less you see that fault-
    that male villainy
    that robbed you of name, voice and authority,
    that murderous greed that wasted you and me,
    he, the white supremacist, fixed your minds with poisonous thought:
    “white skin is supreme.”
    and therewith bought that monstrous change
    exiling you to things.
    Changed all that nature had ill you wrought of gentle usefulness,
    abolishing your spring.
    Tore out your heart,
    set your good apart from all that you could say,
    think,
    feel,
    know to be right.
    And you did not fight,
    but set your minds fast on my slavery
    the better to endure your own.

    ‘Tis true
    my pearls were beads of sweat
    wrung from weary bodies’ pain,
    instead of rings upon my hands
    I wore swollen, bursting veins.
    My ornaments were the wip-lash’s scar
    my diamond, perhaps, a tear.
    Instead of paint and powder on my face
    I wore a solid mask of fear to see my blood so spilled.
    And you, women seeing
    spoke no protest
    but cuddled down in your pink slavery
    and thought somehow my wasted blood
    confirmed your superiority.

    Because your necklace was of gold
    you did not notice that it throttled speech.
    Because diamond rings bedecked your hands
    you did not regret their dictated idleness.
    Nor could you see that the platinum bracelets
    which graced your wrists were chains
    binding you fast to economic slavery.
    And though you claimed your husband’s name
    still could not command his fidelity.

    You bore him sons.
    I bore him sons.
    No, not willingly.
    He purchased you.
    He raped me,
    I fought!
    But you fought neither for yourselves nor me.
    Sat trapped in your superiority
    and spoke no reproach.
    Consoled your outrage with an added diamond brooch.
    Oh, God, how great is a woman’s fear
    who for a stone, a cold, cold stone
    would not defend honor, love or dignity!

    You bore the damning mockery of your marriage
    and heaped your hate on me,
    a woman too,
    a slave more so.
    And when your husband disowned his seed
    that was my son
    and sold him apart from me
    you felt avenged.
    Understand:
    I was not your enemy in this,
    I was not the source of your distress.
    I was your friend, I fought.
    But you would not help me fight
    thinking you helped only me.
    Your deceived eyes seeing only my slavery
    aided your own decay.
    Yes, they condemned me to death
    and they condemned you to decay.
    Your heart whisked away,
    consumed in hate,
    used up in idleness
    playing yet the lady’s part
    estranged to vanity.
    It is justice to you to say your fear equalled your tyranny.

    You were afraid to nurse your young
    lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
    and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
    And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
    Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
    drank the sustenance of life from me.
    And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
    I could have lied,
    told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
    But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
    For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
    and as for color knew no difference.
    Yes, in that first while
    I kept your sons and daughters alive.

    But when they grew strong in blood and bone
    that was of my milk
    you
    taught them to hate me.
    Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
    so that strength that was of myself
    turned and spat upon me,
    despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
    You know I speak true.
    Though this is not true for all of you.

    When I bestirred myself for freedom
    and brave Harriet led the way
    some of you found heart and played a part
    in aiding my escape.
    And when I made my big push for freedom
    your sons fought at my sons’ side,
    Your husbands and brothers too fell in that battle
    when Crispus Attucks died.
    It’s unfortunate that you acted not in the way of justice
    but to preserve the Union
    and for dear sweet pity’s sake;
    Else how came it to be with me as it is today?
    You abhorred slavery
    yet loathed equality.

    I would that the poor among you could have seen
    through the scheme
    and joined hands with me.
    Then, we being the majority, could long ago have rescued
    our wasted lives.
    But no.
    The rich, becoming richer, could be content
    while yet the poor had only the pretense of superiority
    and sought through murderous brutality
    to convince themselves that what was false was true.

    So with KKK and fiery cross
    and bloodied appetites
    set about to prove that “white is right”
    forgetting their poverty.
    Thus the white supremacist used your skins
    to perpetuate slavery.
    And woe to me.
    Woe to Willie McGee.
    Woe to the seven men of Martinsville.
    And woe to you.
    It was no mistake that your naked body on an Esquire calendar
    announced the date, May Eighth.
    This is your fate if you do not wake to fight.
    They will use your naked bodies to sell their wares
    though it be hate, Coca Cola or rape.

    When a white mother disdained to teach her children
    this doctrine of hate,
    but taught them instead of peace
    and respect for all men’s dignity
    the courts of law did legislate
    that they be taken from her
    and sent to another state.
    To make a Troy Hawkins of the little girl
    and a killer of the little boy!

    No, it was not for the womanhood of this mother
    that Willie McGee died
    but for a depraved, enslaved, adulterous woman
    whose lustful demands denied,
    lied and killed what she could not possess.
    Only three months before another such woman lied
    and seven black men shuddered and gave up their lives.
    These women were upheld in these bloody deeds
    by the president of this nation,
    thus putting the official seal on the fate
    of white womanhood within these United States.
    This is what they plan for you.
    This is the depravity they would reduce you to.
    Death for me
    and worse than death for you.

    What will you do?
    Will you fight with me?
    White supremacy is your enemy and mine.
    So be careful when you talk with me.
    Remind me not of my slavery, I know it well
    but rather tell me of your own.
    Remember, you have never known me.
    You’ve been busy seeing me
    as white supremacist would have me be,
    and I will be myself.
    Free!
    My aim is full equality.
    I would usurp their plan!
    Justice
    peace
    and plenty
    for every man, woman and child
    who walks the earth.
    This is my fight!

    If you will fight with me then take my hand
    and the hand of Rosa Ingram, and Rosalee McGee,
    and as we set about our plan
    let our wholehearted fight be:
    PEACE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE IS EQUALITY.

    JULY 23, 2011 (8:20 AM)

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