Why Kimberly Foster’s Position on Eric Garner’s Murder is Misguided

ChokeholdSome of you read this title, saw my name and picture above, and thought, “Another Black man (a Nationalist at that) is bashing Kimberly Foster for her controversial article “Why I Will Not March for Eric Garner.” Foster’s July 22nd article on the forHarriet.com website has sparked the righteous indignation of many in the progressive Black community, and in my opinion, rightly so.

But this is not a feminist-bashing article nor is this a personal attack of Kimberly Foster, who I believe is a conscious and committed Black woman dedicated to exposing and challenging patriarchy while empowering other Black women.

This article simply represents my disagreement with the position she’s taken, explains how she has confused the real issue, and describes what I believe to be her misguided and divisive approach.  Essentially she attempts to galvanize the Black feminist community by suggesting they be apathetic  toward acts of racist violence against Black men simply because some Black men are ignorant sexists.

I am not a feminist per se, (the growing trend of Black men openly proclaiming themselves as such annoys me and reeks of self-serving political correctness) but I am a student of the Black experience. And it is in this role that I write.

In her article, which I again encourage you to read for yourself, Foster explains how she finds Eric Garner’s murder via police choke-hold personally disturbing. Look at the incident for yourself and you’ll be disturbed as well (especially when you hear him repeatedly say, “I can’t breathe.”

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/us-news/video/2014/dec/04/i-cant-breathe-eric-garner-chokehold-death-video

However, Foster notes that she is equally disturbed by some Black men’s lack of empathy when “Black women attempt to discuss the everyday terrors we experience both in the world and at their hands.”

Her frustration with ignorant Black men that defend patriarchy and insulate themselves from the suffering of our sisters is valid. Such lack of compassion for the oppression of Black women by white or Black men is unacceptable, period. To the same degree that white supremacy conditions most whites to harbor racist attitudes, sexism conditions most men to harbor patriarchal attitudes and/or behavior. Both are reprehensible. So if Foster believes that both men and women should be free from oppression and violence, reasonable minds should agree!

 She then goes on to write a few statements that are particularly disturbing:

…if the NYPD or the City of New York fail to act, I will not march for Eric Garner. I will not rally for him because I am reserving my mental and emotional energy for the women, the Black women, no one will speak for.

In concluding she notes:

Many women continue to believe that offering unconditional support to the men who dismiss their calls for help will result one day in a return of care–as though they are watering a seed. But I have yet to see the fruit from that tree of hope, and I’m tired of waiting.

So I will mourn Eric Garner and I will cry bitter, broken tears for him, but that is all that I can do.

The problem with her position is obvious. Only narrow and dogmatic ideology cloud the issue here. First of all she is the founder and editor of a website that wants to “raise the level of discourse surrounding Black women,” and that pays tribute to a number of strong and activist Black women including Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, Assata Shakur, NIkki Giovanni, Shirley Chisolm, Toni Morrison, Ida B. Wells, and other notables.

From what I know and understand about all of these sisters mentioned, they all understood that Black people were collectively oppressed from within and externally. They all struggled with racism, sexism and class exploitation. And in varying degrees, they all saw Black men as their compatriots and comrades in the struggle, and often fought FOR and WITH them.

It would be easy for me to quote various Black feminists to support my argument. But our history itself if far more instructive. For example, Ida B. Wells fought valiantly against the lynching of Black men; Angela Davis challenges sexism while also challenging the disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown men and women; Assata Shakur fought alongside brothers in the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army; Ella Baker mentored young brothers and sisters in SNCC (while challenging Dr. King’s own patriarchy), and the site’s namesake Harriet Tubman worked to help both Black men and women escape the horrors of bondage.

Way before the term “feminism” and the second wave of the Feminist Movement existed, countless  Black women fought to empower themselves AND their brethren even while confronting the patriarchal views and practices of those same brethren. Fighting patriarchy within the race and fighting white supremacy outside of our race are not mutually exclusive projects! We have indeed reached a tragic moment in our sociopolitical history when we fail to recognize this. Foster’s public decision to do nothing about this incident is both unprecedented and decidedly defeatist.

Secondly, Foster conflates the issues of unbridled police brutality and Black male patriarchy. Try as she might to argue otherwise, these are separate and distinct issues and must be treated as such. She is correct to call brothers out for being backwards and insensitive to the triple oppression that most sisters suffer and the roles Black men play in that suffering. She should continue to fight for our sisters’ FULL empowerment both in the workforce and at home. Her work in these regards is commendable and there will be times when her voice and perspective causes brothers to feel uncomfortable. If brothers embody and manifest anti-woman values and practices, they should feel uncomfortable!

However she fails to  separate one issue from the other and she does this in a way that subtly empowers racist police to continue killing us with impunity! When political-minded, and articulate Black folk take a hands off position, concerning our mistreatment, we empower the enemy and make ourselves more vulnerable by default. This is simply irresponsible and contradictory for one who considers herself a radical voice or advocate for the oppressed and marginalized. Rather than employing a weird and apolitical tit-for-tat approach, Foster might have lent her voice and considerable following to a powerful attack/critique of the growing trend of police using tazers, billy clubs, guns, and choke-holds in their interactions with Black PEOPLE.

Lastly, she frames the issue as a dichotomy, as if police assaults do not also occur to Black women. So-called law enforcement agents assault Black men AND women on city streets and in prisons when I last checked.

Sometimes we become so entrenched in our ideals and isolated in our political bubbles that we forget a simple point: Our political ideologies should identify, critique and resolve conflicts, not compound or ignore them.

Neither Foster’s feminist politics, our long rich tradition of Black feminist activism, or even the deeply entrenched patriarchy of some brothers justifies her apathetic and divisive position in this matter. What Foster essentially says is: “Since I’m frustrated with some brothers’ participation in or failure to address the domination/violence of Black women, I will protest by refusing to raise my voice to address the state domination/violence used against Eric Garner.” In the abstract ideological world of ideas, some will find peace with this logic. But in the tangible world of political practice and power, this amounts to putting one’s personal frustrations and ideals over the ruthless murder of yet another Black man in America. In fact, her position almost subtly suggests that other Black women should take the same position.

The cops will rally to support the actions of their colleagues for sure.  Unfortunately WE will be divided and conflicted in our supplort for Eric Garner because of feminist ideals? How does this serve Black women? How does this impact all the mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, and daughters who’ve lost Black men to police violence? What values or qualities does this promote? And finally, how dies this position help to resolve our issues and empower us?

In conclusion, I believe all of us, Black feminists included, should unite to intelligently inform our sister Kimberly Foster that with respect to this matter, she is misguided, on the wrong side of the issue, and has taken a position that sets us back rather than pushing us forward.

Those cops that killed brother Eric Garner must be brought to justice, and Black people must organize to prevent such tragedies in the future. And this should be done WHILE addressing the intersecting issues of gender and class. If you are Black and progressive, and your political ideas don’t bring you to these conclusions, you most likely need new political ideas. Sister Kimberly, don’t allow your bitterness and frustration with some of our ignorant and insensitive brothers to make you ignorant and insensitive as well….

______________________

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

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25 thoughts on “Why Kimberly Foster’s Position on Eric Garner’s Murder is Misguided

  1. Especially since black women are also targets of police brutality….the prison industrial complex is locking up black women at a rapid rate also…..it’s problem we all face equally….to save she doesn’t have the energy like it doesn’t concern black women is false. Don’t these black men being abused and killed by cops have mothers, daughters, and sisters? Are they not affected?

    • Yes, about the fact that men and women are in this together and you’re right but the article by Kimberly Foster is just a manifesto of Black social betrayal and nothing more. We have to learn to treat people as they are and not what we want them to be. Ms Kimberly Foster is just a belly warmer for the RICH and seeking validation from the RICH and nothing more. And people like her are hoping that we all have very short memories
      For history is on our side but not time…

  2. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
    For this blog!
    Agyei, I appreciate your diplomatic and thought provoking approach to Ms. Foster. Others have viciously attacked her and have started arguments amongst each other, in reference to her thoughts about protesting Eric Garner’s murder by NYPD. Although she can be admired for her work on uplifting black women, like anyone in the forefront, will have a flaw exposed one time or another. Kim Foster’s time is now.
    I’ve read Ms. Foster’s article and became deeply concerned as I read over the items you’ve pointed out. I even painfully watched the video, above. Also, as you’ve pointed out that Kim Foster is also using her website as Harriet Tubman’s namesake. Interesting, yet, contradicting, when you think of the article she wrote in reference to Eeic Garner’s death.
    It raises the question: How do you “raise the level of discourse surrounding black women” when she chooses to not participate in social justice, like this, when a black man(who could be anyone’s relation) be killed at the hands of police enforcement?
    Perhaps, if others took your approach in addressing Kim Foster, we might be able to have healthy dialogue and deal with this issue and others, within our community.
    Whether we are feminists or not, black women need to support black men in their efforts. Every black man IS NOT ignorant and every black woman DOES NOT have deep rooted ill feelings towards black men. We can heal and move forward, collectively, particularly when those of us, in the forefront, such as Agyei begin to address our concerns in the manner that he does.
    Thank you, again Agyei!
    Can this blog be nominated for something?

    • Thank you for your kind word! The problem here in a nutshell is that our sister forgot that the foundation of all activism is LOVE for the people, for justice, nd for liberation. The position Ms. Foster took is bitter, vindictive, and divisive.

      • Why do black men use the word “bitter” when regularly describing black women? Why is that, and “emotional” the go-to words in this respect? It seems antagonistic and patronizing. Especially because it is only used when a woman disagrees with a man’s viewpoint and makes it publicly known, no matter how eloquent or well-informed her argument is.

      • I cannot speak for all Black men and I don’t subscribe to nor promote stereotypes about my brothers or sisters. I can only explain why I use the word “bitter” in this specific case, which I actually did in the article. If you want to make a point about not using gender-based stereotypes, you must realize that you contradict your point when you use them in reference to Black men. The adjective “bitter” was used to describe her words and had nothing to do with her gender. If you review various articles I’ve written, you will note that I’ve used that word to describe men and women.

  3. Eric Garner is State Murder Supported By The US Government; Patriarchy is a 6,000 Years Rule via White Man’s Concept. Both are INVADERS’ CONCEPT…. this is where we have to join. FEMINISM, additionally, is a White Woman’s concept ~ N the 80’s when i thought i could really work w/the Left …. found out 1. They are mostly Lesbians or white women who want our men (then Our Men take positions to protect the “feelings” of their white woman and go against the Black Woman (i have never seen it play out OtherWise); white women have no desire to connect to Black Women; some will unit sexually w/political w/Black Men / NOW Black women_ LGBT Government Sponsored push (LGBT Curriculum R N The Ivory League Universities to the most impoverished Public School / Black folks have WON every legal battle on Real History of Amerikkka & we still don’t have an Afrocentric Curriculum N the most impoverished schools N Amerikkka. I said all of this to say…. if a Black woman ID’s herself as a Feminist … She has cooped the idea that White women conceived ~ and i stand on ~ “White Women want to be the men their mother’s & father’s wanted them to marry.” i agree with you BrothaMAN Agyei, i am not going to march w/a head like Al Sharpton … i want us to sit down and HOLD OUR $$$$$$$$ N O W! Let us not mix up issues … Young Bloods R Cruelly Absent Of True Leadership … so we have to give them information so they can get informed …. i think this is a GREAT PRIMER to how to handle ISSUES! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH_5aqVRdjE

  4. Pingback: Why the ForHarriet.com founder was wrong for not supporting Eric Garner | Kulture Kritic | Kulture Kritic

  5. This single lonely black woman says THANK YOU!

    It’s not what you say, but how, when, and where you say it.
    Foster picked the wrong man (married to a black woman, father and grandfather,) the wrong case, and the absolutely wrong time to scratch and moan about black women being ignored. If she thinks this is the way to garner attention to the needs of Black women in a positive way, she is wrong. She does not nor would I ever have her speak for me.

    My prayers go out to the WIDOW of Mr. Garner, and his family-BOTH genders.

  6. It is simply amazing how many people are missing the point. That point being that the black community continues to ignore the issues of BLACK WOMEN & BLACK GIRLS. EVERYTIME someone looks the wrong way at BLACK MEN / BOYS the Black Community feels the need to mobilize.
    Where was everyone when TaNisha McBride was shot & killed like a wild animal?
    I agree with KIMBERLY FOSTER. I feel bad for Eric Garner’s family & may his soul rest in peace but this isn’t BLACK WOMEN’S problem.
    Just remember that the only thing that the Black Community(men) does for BLACK WOMEN is ignore us & give us grief(Hate) on a daily basis!!!

    • The wrongful murder of a Black man (who by the way is not on record as being a sexist or oppressor of women) is “NOT Black women’s problem?” Wow. To quote my late Grandmother, not only “is the devil busy,” but his busy work has been partly successful. We are witnessing an inability to see issues clearly, bitterness, tit-for-tat logic, and spite-driven politics masquerading as feminist consciousness that is unprecedented and potentially very divisive and damaging. So what happens when most Black men are imprisoned or killed? Will that leave the remaining sisters in an empowered position or make them more vulnerable to the same treatment? Either we’ll work and fight together as intelligent and loving brothers and sisters, or die separately like cowards and fools.

    • Actually her name was Renisha Mcbride and her killer arrested, tried, and recently found guilty. (And there WAS a protest rally for it)

      Now contrast that with what happened to Eric Garner. His killer was reassigned to desk duty. And the paramedics were suspended without pay. No arrests were made…. and none are going to be made.

      I think YOU are missing what people actually get upset about. And you and Foster are ignoring something else very important about the black community as a whole.

      1. The issue is not white person kills black person. That has never been the issue. Nor will it ever be the issue so long as intelligence rules the day. The issue IS.. and SHOULD BE — Racial bias in with regards to the police and the justice system. If someone kills a black person and gets arrested, tried, and goes to prison to serve a sentence that fits the crime – then it works as it should. But if the law has to take a week figure out IF they are going to arrest the criminal (trayvon martin). Or they protect and hide the criminal (eric garner/ michael brown.) . And the killers get away scot-free (all 3 cases). Then the justice system is not working as it should. THAT IS THE ISSUE– FOCUS ON THAT.

      And finally let me point something out to you that black feminists seem to miss.

      There is no black woman without a black man. And there is no black man without a black woman. Trust and believe that if you remove EITHER one from the equation then you can forget about black people as a WHOLE existing in about 2-3 generations. Which means it can happen well within your lifetime. So isolate yourselves if you want.. I’ll call it treason. After all .. where are you going to go.. to the arms of some other race’s men who *most definitely* won’t give a shit about your history, culture, or issues? Then you’re going to teach your mixed children the same hate for black men that you have?

      Think it over.

      • Thank you for reading this article and for taking the time to respond. I find validity in some of your points, especially those directed to Black feminists. I do take issue with your opinion that I fail to understand the real issue in addition to your own interpretation of what that issue is. The studies of police brutality in the U.S. show that Black and then Latino pale are the disproportionate victims of assault and murder by police officers and that in most cases, those officer sare white. So we should accurately describe both the perpetrators and victims so that we can effectively hold pthe right people accountable and resolve the problem. Also, there are times when your response seems directed at me, but you are actually ;speaking to .s. Foster.

      • I was actually speaking to “missybeemine”. I have no problem with your comment(s) nor anything you said in your post. I’m not much of a veteran at commenting on blogs. Sorry for the confusion.

  7. WOW, I just read this by Kimberly Foster and I see why Black Feminist Thought is not taken seriously and pretty much the articulation of betrayal . But the usual paradigm of Black Feminist betrayal of Black resistance and the theoretical struggle for clarity as weapon. I guess the struggle against racist state repression doesn’t compare with bad relation with insincere and tawdry men drawing unfortunate and unhealthy conclusions about short shirts or tight dress. But, what isn’t admitted by Ms Kimberly Foster that a lot of fashion sole role is to objectify woman for retail profit. But that any woman’s choice.
    But reading this, I decided to respond, I make it a point not to respond to dim-witted people around important subjects like state repression and political prisoners etc.etc.
    I gather she never had a cue about the support of Assata Shakur has gotten for all activist from the Black community. Nonetheless nothing is mention about the rallies for Sister Marissa Alexander who simply fired a warning shot at her shot at her estrange husband or Ms. Foster doesn’t deal with a sister named Miss Heather Ellis who was sentenced to over 15 years for cutting a line at Wal-Mart or the sister who send her child to the wrong school named Kelly Williams-Bolar is facing jail time. Perhaps the reason why all of the larger issues are ignored by this post like school-to-prison pipeline, state repression, lack of adequate health care for poor people, lack of housing for people, major austerity cuts for the people, high employment, lost of Black house ownership through predatory lending is that these issue.
    But like most of these socially frustrated middle class forces that may or have not achieve their material comfort zone are just pretty much middle class narcissist who at any moment betray the people of the grass root by their inability to confront. Their idiosyncrasies is that want the rest of us to celebrate their successful careers of betrayal as Black achievement of only giving obscurment of whose material interest they act in behalf of with their social obscurment of subjective idealism.
    But they are just the middle class harlots of social betrayal and nothing more
    Sekou

    • Thanks for your comments! I like how you gave a class analysis in your response. Many if the other issues you raised have been covered in previous posts. Ms. Foster has the right to identify and address the issues she chooses. But,…..well you already read the article….LOL

  8. I support Kimberly Foster. As long as black men receive unconditional support from black women nothing will change. Black women have been leaving black organizations for the past few years due to the refusal of black men to address issues that concern black women. This fact has not been known to the masses of black people until Kimberly’s article. Don’t beat up on Kim. She’s just more “vocal” about her decision. Many other black women, including myself, have quietly made the same decision. The callousness with which black men ignore black women’s concerns is no longer deniable. Black men will only really fight to end racism against black men. Black women are on our own.

  9. Maya Angelous said “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side. When the talk around the barber shop changes from respecting ALL women in the lives of men, instead of bitches, hoes, thots and bed-wenches… THEN the black women will feel compelled to stand by you. When black women come out against a black man to say they have been sexually assaulted and not meant with utter and vile contempt by black men… THEN black women will stand in solidarity. When black men train their sons and check their friends regarding catcalling and showing basic respect for women on the street… THEN you will find the support of black women. The black man has had the backbone of the black women since time indefinite. It’s payback time now. Just because you don’t like the timing, doesn’t mean it ain’t happening. When the overarching theme of black nationalists is the GENUINE love, respect and care for black women (not putting us on petal stools as Queens, but affording us the dignity and equality of human beings), THEN you will see our communities come together.

    You plainly choose to not be on the forefront of that notion, as you sought to be dismissive and deem her viewpoint invalid and state:

    //This article simply represents my disagreement with the position she’s taken, explains how she has confused the real issue, and describes what I believe to be her misguided and divisive approach of galvanizing the Black feminist population//

    Kim said she cried and mourned for her brother. But she, like 99% of other black Americans, would not be marching. And that is her right. The next article should be to your brethern as to why women are choosing to not show them support and what they can do about it…..

    • I do not understand what Maya Angelou’s words have to do with me or what I wrote. My love and respect for Black women is documented and demonstrated in real life, not simply words in a blog. You must have missed my balanced and respectful acknowledgement of Kim’s work and leadership? My love and respect however is not synonymous with being uncritical. And my critique of sister Kim stands, including the passage you quoted from my article. If you disagree with the premise of my article or my assertions, that is your choice and your right. But I supported what I wrote, which was not an attack of Kim herself, but this particular position she took with respect to Eric Garner. If you believe my argument was weak, flawed or unfair, you must DEMONSTRATE THAT. What is invalid about my position? Did I support my position? Did I dismiss her work, intelligence or leadership? What specifically is dismissive about the words you quoted? Did I support the claims in that paragraph? I might also add that I afford the “dignity and equality of human beings,” to sister Kim by being critical of her in a principled way, rather than unfairly attacking her or falsely agreeing with her to win points with her or those who admire her. Providing principled critique and tolerating valid differences of opinion make all involved stronger. Failing to entertain critique leads to cults and isolationist politics, which we simply cannot afford.

  10. My problem is Blk Feminists! Why are they adapting a title from wht wmn! We were born liberated we had no choices in the matter of working! I resent the term and it appears that when many of our sisters begun to move up the educational ladder they joined ranks w/ the feminist movement many begun to identify w/ the Virginia slims commercial! I agree with your position on her point of view. I am a minority because I come frm blk love I had a fab father & mother that coexist and loved ea other to pieces which is a rarity today!

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