Today’s post is going to be a partial rant about injustices but it’s also going to be an in-depth look at me attempting to sort out dealing with both anti-black, white supremacist and sexist moments all at the same time. To be clear before I start, I am not “dogging” black men or women in this post. But I am also not adhering to respectability politics.
The book on the left side of the collage is a book that I’ve been gradually easing through for the past year. It is the only book written to date that chronicles the experiences of black women dealing with both sexism and racism at the same time and how it impacts health, mental, physical and psychological as well as emotional in a statistical forum. The photo on the top right is me, being a goof ball geek and the photo on the bottom right is a painting by one of my favorites. Kerry James Marshall is an artist that I was exposed to in college and I fell madly in love with his work. One day, I will buy one of his works and display it proudly in the home that I make with love and care and pride in black works by and for black people. The piece is entitled, Is This Love? and it deals with so much in one small photo. I pieced all those photos together because, well, they are what is black womanhood for me at the moment. Goofy, strong and beautiful gazed, helplessness, sex, fear, heartache, visibility or lack thereof, etc. But alas, it is here and now that we dive into the topic of the day.
Black women in the world don’t get to separate the burden of being both black and woman. As difficult as dealing with both are, I would choose to be nothing else in this world. I was speaking with someone once and they could not understand the usage of the term “Silencing” when referring to the behavior of those who do not wish to uplift black female voices and instead seek to keep them hidden and out of sight. I haven’t done this in a while but lets head to Merriam-Webster.
to put or bring to silence; still.
to put (doubts, fears, etc.) to rest; quiet.
In many areas for many years, black women in this country have dealt with being silenced. Purposely brought to silence, stilled. We have been filled with doubts and forced to be quiet. Why? Well, we can theorize for days about why that is, but the first step in changing something is to acknowledge that this is in fact taking place everyday in the world around us. To deny it is to continue to silence black women. Black people are consistently shifting in this world but in specific to this post, in America. We code switch, we shift our gaze, etc and we’ve been doing it for centuries. However, for black women it’s different. We are on the bottom of the social stratosphere. When black people gather, black womens’ voices are the last heard and even then, colorism within the community as well as sexual orientation, economic standing, education level, weight, etc. ranks who gets the microphone and when. I’m not going to lie, as a straight passing, light skinned, educated, young woman from New York, I usually get the mic pretty quickly in succession behind black men because of privilege. I acknowledge it. I am not in any way attempting to claim that I don’t. This isn’t just in the social climate of the black community either. At home, in familial settings, in friendships, in relationships, all of these moments contribute to black women experiencing silencing within the black community.
I can speak to my own experience, growing up in an urban setting with a single parent mom. There’s a saying that I heard a lot growing up: ” Black women love their sons and raise their daughters.” As I look around at the black men and women around me and even my own life, I’ve been forced to really look at what that means. In my own life, I was always made to be accountable. Tears were a luxury that I simply didn’t have time for. I worked hard, I took time to investigate and find myself and really branch out as an adult despite feeling silenced, suffering from depression, sexual abuse, etc. I would defeat the odds, according to my mother. The men in my life were the opposite, not being made to truly extend themselves and instead participated in the active silencing. My rapists were black men, my father is a black man, my brothers and cousins are all varying shades of black and brown men. Does that mean that all black men have been the enemy? No. But they certainly have not been a source of shade in this storm for me thus far.
I recently was informed of the suicide of a friend. A fellow young black woman. It made me think, just how many black women in my age group are breaking under the strain of forced silence and feeling left alone? I am aware that stats are rising in my age group significantly, from 20-30 years of age. If the black woman is queer, that raises the stats significantly. So I must ask, why is accountability so difficult? Why is it that when a black woman speaks out about her experience, she’s seen as “betraying” black men?
Earlier this year, photos of Lil’Kim came out. Her skin lighter, her hair blonde, her face obviously re-shaped. I watched social media talk all the shit in the world, but when she replied that whenever she dealt in relationships with black men, they always wanted lighter women, my heart broke. I remember sitting in front of the tv as a young teen and loving Lil’Kim. I loved her look, her brown skin, her gorgeous eyes, her body, her voice. I saw her as one of the most gorgeous women I had ever seen. She was a rap goddess along with Missy Elliott, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, Remy Ma, etc. Yes, I’m including light skinned women rappers that I looked up to beside dark skinned women rappers. We, the black community had failed Lil’Kim and countless other women. I learned to hate my hair not from white people, but from my own community who re-inforced the colorism/anti-black behavior. On the opposite end, I learned to value parts of myself as a light-skinned woman that were oppressive to other darker people around me from people in the black community. Everyone is so willing to talk about the oppression from white people. Lord knows, I’m head of the team, but what about uplift from the inside?
To healing, hope and accountability