Shahrazad Ali Points Finger At Black Women -- Controversial Author To Speak At Paramount Theatre Tonight

Shahrazad Ali insists she's got a message that can't be ignored: black women are as much responsible for the deteriorating social conditions in black America as black men.

The author of ``The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman'' points to the success of her 184-page paperback as evidence that the message - and the messenger - examined an area of the black American psyche that had been ignored far too long.

Black men, she says, are shouting praises about her controversial appraisal of black women.

The entire community will get chance to hear that appraisal tonight, when Ali speaks at the Paramount Theatre at 8 o'clock.

``Her truth is so to the point that a lot of black women don't see how they can effectively address some of the issues,'' said Curt Smith of Seattle.

But black women, the author concedes, believe it's rife with blasphemy and untruths and half-truths.

Edwina Petties of Seattle, said: ``I've concluded that she should have been clearer about the type of black men and women she was talking about. All black women are not like the women she described in her book.''

Some women have even suggested that the book - which generally portrays black women as headstrong, conniving and two-timing - is merely an exercise in capitalizing on capitalism.

In other words, she wrote the book to make money.

Nonetheless, the 41-year-old Philadelphia resident - mother of 12 children, nine of them adopted - has created a nationwide furor about black men-black women relationships and, in the process, kicked open the door for serious debate about an increasingly bothersome dynamic in the black community.

``I wrote the book because black women in America have been protected and insulated against certain kinds of criticism and examination,'' said Ali, her eyes widening as she spoke unabashedly about the book in Seattle.

``The black man has been critiqued, the white woman and white man have been critiqued. Everybody but us (black women). I decided that we needed a self-examination of ourselves to find out what is our share of the problems in the black community,'' Ali said.

``Whenever there is a breakdown in a relationship, both parties are responsible. But we have always said it was the black man's fault. We have always said that he left us, abandoned the children, beat us and killed us and did a lot of other things to us. My book tries to examine what happens before we get to that point.''

Which, she contends, began during slavery.

``It's entirely possible that hidden some place in the Blackwoman's psyche is a tremendous fury and loss of confidence in the Blackman because he was unable to protect her during slavery,'' Ali writes. ``She doesn't know what he should have done to stop slavery, but she thinks he should have done something.''

Ali admits ``The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman'' is, like her, brutally honest.

``It's straight-talk that cuts through all the jive and cuts through . . . all of the systems and symbols set up by other people,'' she said, the certainty in her voice silenced, momentarily, by the laughter from her daughter, who is traveling with her on this leg of the tour.

``The history of our people could not be complete until we (black women) also examined and forced ourselves to accept our share of the responsibility,'' she said.

Some suggest, however, that Ali is wrongly placing the bulk of the blame for the black community's problems on black women.

``She's got good and bad points,'' said Teresa Carter of Seattle. ``But I also feel she wants to put everything on the woman.''

Others say the dominant society - white America - is equally responsible for the plight of the black community.

``We know that some of the traditions of the white-power structure are at the root of many of our problems. But those are external factors,'' Ali said.

``Internally - inside of the African-American community - we have problems in our personal relationships that are simply a result of contributory neglect - of black men and black women failing to deal truthfully with each other about what the problems are.''