I’m starting to feel as if I sound like a broken record, stuck on a specific line in a verse, repeating that line over and over again. That’s how I feel, week to week, as I write about how America treats its Black women. I know that some of you are going to read that first line and tune out, thinking, “Here goes another angry, Black woman on a blog,” and you are partially right. I am angry, Black, and a woman who is writing a blog. ( I do, however, find the Angry Black Woman description as a label to be offensive for a number of reasons, but that’s another blog for another day.) I am tired of the way that America is treating Black women, and I will shout it to the roof tops and connect with others until real change is actualized.
I look at America today, a country that I love with all of my heart, and know that she does not feel the same way about me, simply because I am a Black woman. I did not emigrate here, and neither did my ancestors. We were brought here by slave ships, enduring the harshness of the middle passage and forced to work, for free, in conditions that would make the thirstiest worker’s comp lawyer salivate. Even after freedom was granted, other forms of oppression, institutionalized slavery and gender discrimination emerged, to keep us behind the starting point.
I know that some will read this and say that these forms of oppression are not limited to Black women, and I can certainly see how someone would want to make this claim because it seems so true without further examination. Yes, White women face gender discrimination, but they are also blessed with White privilege and receive additional privilege by their mere association with White men. In short, they don’t feel the full brunt of discrimination because, at the end of the day, they are still White and will likely marry White men and have White children. Black women don’t have the luxury of their race bailing them out where gender discrimination fails them; it’s the age old double negative.
Then there’s the question of Black men. Aren’t they also Black? Aren’t they discriminated against very harshly? I won’t deny that Black men have had their struggles in America; that would be foolish to deny that. Black men, however, are also men, and as such, are partakers in the system of patriarchy, a system that they employ readily when its time to dodge advocacy efforts that would benefit Black women. Here’s exactly what I mean.
Since Black people began organizing in this country for social change and advancement, Black women have been on the front lines (and in the background) offering support and advocating for change on behalf of Black men. Black women have even been used, mightily, to effect change for the cause (e.g., Rosa Parks, etc.). When it was time, however, to recognize Black women (and the issues that Black women face) on equal footing, Black men have been silent. Take the March on Washington, for instance; Black women were good enough to be jailed, sprayed with hoses, and killed for the cause, but weren’t good enough to even march down the same street as the men or even to share the podium, despite their support and significant work and influence.
This patriarchal attitude towards Black women in the Black community didn’t just end in the Civil Rights era; consider the many issues that have erupted recently in terms of police brutality: Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown. Each of these cases have received national attention, and there have been significant marches and demonstrations in their honor. When similar cases happened with Black women, barely anything was done, as if it wasn’t important because it happened to Black women.
The recent fall out from the Ray Rice video has been even more sickening. When Rice admitted, months ago, that he hit his, then fiancée and now wife, Janay Palmer Rice, the NFL only deemed two games as sufficient for his punishment. In short, what they were saying is that if you hit a Black woman and a video shows you dragging her out of an elevator, then two games is punishment enough. As a Black woman, that vexed my soul. To add insult to injury, a great number of people blamed Janay for the event, believing that she must’ve done something to provoke such behavior from Rice. Few were willing to stand up for this Black woman despite the images of her being dragged out of the elevator by Rice on the first video clip; instead, she was painted as the villain, while he was viewed as the innocent victim at the hands of the Angry, Black Woman.
Once the full video surfaced, the NFL backpedaled and wanted to fake concern–ridiculous! And even still, with visible evidence that he was in no danger and, instead, struck her repeatedly without concern for her health or wellbeing, many are still choosing to defend his actions and demonize Janay. And I know why; it is simply because she is a Black woman, and in my Kanye voice, “America doesn’t care about Black women.”
My final example for this week is the Black actress who was handcuffed after kissing her White, male significant other in public because the police officer believed that she must’ve been a prostitute. Pause. She was in public in broad daylight kissing her man, and the police came to the conclusion that they weren’t a couple; no, instead, this had to have been a prostitute soliciting sex from this White man. This shows that America places such low value on Black women that it was inconceivable for the police officer, the very member of society who takes an oath to serve and protect the members of the community, to believe that a White man could find affection for a Black woman, especially in public. As a result of his beliefs, the officer handcuffed the Black woman, placed her in the cop car, and treated her like a prostitute.
To say that I am angry is an understatement. This mistreatment of Black women has happened far too many times to believe that it is a mere coincidence. America, we need to do better. Black community, we need to do better. As Black women, we are no longer evoking the “wait your turn” attitude. We have adopted the “Ladies First” mantra and claimed Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. as our theme song. We are tired of waiting. There will be change, and we are poised to employ the same passion that we used to lift our people through the Middle Passage, the enslavement period, the Civil Rights Movement, and today’s struggles to ensure that change comes now. We have been serving as grassroots organizers for centuries, and today, America will not only hear our voices; she will feel our impact. Get ready, America, a change is coming.