My name is Adriana and I, too am a student at Duke. You cane find my blog, Tactfully Controversial, here.
But I’d like to welcome you to my guest column: Intersectionally Speaking.
I’d like to take you all to a place that examines the many facets of my own intersectionality. In each series I seek to provide insight on some topic, which ultimately will be routed back to some form of intersectionality. This week, I’m going to start with two of the most basic things about myself: being black, being a woman, and the sort of responsibility that comes with those identities.
From the title, I’m sure you’re all wondering what does she mean by “reclaiming the spade?”.
First let me provide a literal definition of a spade as well as the word as slang in historical context AND in modern context.
So, what is a spade? By literal definition, it is a tool used to cut the earth. It is a part of the four suits of cards alongside hearts, clubs, and diamonds. In a historical context, spade was used a derogatory term for people of African descent or those with slave ancestors. It was no different than jigga-boo, porch monkey, or the all-too-famous nigger. As a modern term, the spade has been used as a symbol for white women who
prefer FETISHIZE black men, usually in a sexual context. These white women with an untreatable case of jungle fever frequently get tattoos of spades in places such as their thigh, bikini line, or ankle as an expression of that “preference.”
I have recently decided to have a spade designed and inked on my body. This decision is a statement of my love for my own blackness, my adoration for black men, and my role as a woman who happens to have a little more melanin in her skin. Much like black people have reclaimed nigger and sex-positive feminists have reclaimed whore/slut/etc, I am reclaiming the spade.
My decision to do such is well rooted in feminism, my own womanhood, and the rejection of the privilege white feminists possess.
Black women, far more than any other race, are raised to protect their black counterparts of the opposite sex. Branding the spade as a method for black men to be victimized is a practice I have naturally found myself wanting to combat. Dating back to the times of slavery, the hypersexualization and subsequental fetishization and objectification of black men was often used as a tactic to justify many disproved allegations of rape of white women. As a result, many of this men were killed or wrongfully imprisoned. In this regard, or any regard for that matter, fetishization is not a symbol of real adoration or love.
I am in no way denying that white women with genuine love and appreciation exist, but the notion of the spade in that use is problematic for those reasons. There is a fine line between fetishization and preference.
In example, many of my white female classmates swoon over the basketball players at my university, vastly black, but have no care for black men in other spaces or black issues. The lack of sympathy for their struggle as a race is what breeds fetishization.
White feminism in itself allows this sort of thing to happen. Black women are not allowed to “prefer” men of a specific race outside of their own without being seen as trying to upgrade, as if their own race is inherently lower.
As a black person, I have the ability to empathize for the black man in ways a white woman cannot.
My spade tattoo will scream I’m here for you.
It reinforces the love for my own blackness, my kind of feminism, and the way I was raised a black woman.
It is a culmination of the two most important parts of myself.
And as the literal function of the spade, I am sowing and reclaiming my roots.