The recent legalization of “gay” marriage in the United States has exacerbated a growing divide in the Black Conscious and Civil Rights communities over sexuality and gender issues. Some say that homophilia (homosexuality) and transgenderism are non-African imports from West Asian (European) culture and have no place in the African(-Diasporan) community. Others insist that it’s hypocritical to call for equality, rights, inclusion and justice for some but not others. So, should African(-Diasporan)s embrace marriage equality?
Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?
African(-diasporan)s built the New World, and financed the Old World, and civilized Asia. So we have the absolute right to marry according to our customs and traditions.
I can’t help who I love, I love women- why won’t people accept us?
I can’t help it, either- where are my rights?
I’m in committed relationships- just like any other couples.
All the justifications “they” use are just as valid for us, which means we have just as much right- no, more- in the countries we’ve sweat, bled and cried for.
Our similarities are greater than our differences
Polygyny might just be the one thing that can unite the spectrum of Pan-Africanists. Whether you’re
- Biblical (Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, etc.),
- Indic (Hindu, Buddhist, Yogic, etc.),
- Islamic (Five-Percenter, Moor, NOI, Orthodox, etc.),
- Judaic (Hebrew, Israelite),
- Kemetic/Ma’atic, or
- Traditional (Candomblé, Vodun, Yoruba, etc.),
polygyny (multiple wives) is part of your heritage.
Balance and Reciprocity
Polygamy is part of the fabric of life all over Africa- north, south, east and west.
It’s not about sex- it’s about building.
Through polygamous marriages women in precolonial Africa often had greater personal autonomy. As new wives joined a compound, older ones could focus on their trading. And successful women traders, such as the Iyalodes in Yorubaland, had a lot of power. While autonomous female traders are traditionally linked to West Africa, studies have found a long history of women’s trading also in places such as among the Kikuyu in Kenya as well as groups in Uganda and Zambia. (knowledge of self)
Pan-Africanism is about families, the building blocks of societies and kingdoms. It affirms men and women, masculinity and femininity, with equal emphasis. Pan-African feminists must understand that there has to be a masculist discourse as well, or there is no balance. Balance is ma’at.
Why polygyny? Why now?
Like you just read, balance. “They” just made a major move to change us: we must make an equal effort to assert our identity and heritage. You do not choose your enemy’s tactics: you counter them. Now is the time to assert our values in every arena: personal, daily lives, social media, legal status, everywhere.
Don’t respond with negative energy: the Supreme Court of the United States just legalized same-sex marriage, everybody’s rainbowing their Facebook profile pic and posting pictures of 80-year-old men getting married in Texas. You can’t stop or reverse that. The worst thing you can do is respond with bigotry that’s only going to help the other side.
What you can do is… you. Assert yourself. Develop arguments and talking points for African family values. Come up with rebuttals to common arguments against those values (and share them here!). Start up advocacy groups, the same ones that took same-sex promiscuity from pariah status to counterculture to mainstream in 40 years. Best of all, practice what you preach: get married and have kids!
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me…
Remember what-and who- it was that turned us against our family system then, because it’s the same thing turning you off from it now:
Of course, whatever autonomy polygamy afforded back then was subsumed by colonialism and the rise of puritanical missionary teaching. (knowledge of self)
Right now we have lots of missionaries: feminists, social engineers, progressives, liberals, conservatives, lobbyists, Family Planning, welfare, music, TV, print media. Ideologues and propagandists. Systems and ideas that always put African(-diasporan)s last.
Our ancestors made and sustained us, and in doing so showed us the way to make and sustain life.
Whose call will you hearken?