How many times has your voice been ignored, abated or outright silenced?
Whether in boardrooms, political chambers, media, or social movements, attempts to eradicate Black women’s voices prevail. Senator Kamala Harris was interrupted and silenced numerous times while questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions during Senate hearings last year. ESPN’s Jemele Hill was suspended for 2 weeks after accurately naming Trump a “white supremacist,” and then was told she should stay in her lane by male co-host Stephen A. Smith. But it is not only men who habitually nullify us; white women minimize our voices too. Recently, women have risen in solidarity around the #MeToo movement but with little acknowledgment for its Black female founder, Tarana Burke, who initiated the movement more than a decade ago.In an age where expression is paramount to power, we must find ways to amplify and elevate Black women’s voices.Click To Tweet
The age of appropriation is over.
The appropriation of the #MeToo movement reflects the way women’s needs are often only acknowledged and validated when dictated by cis white women. The Women’s March on Washington is no exception. In 2017, millions of people across the globe marched in solidarity on inauguration day and took to social media using #WhyIMarch to name the reasons for their engagement – women’s reproductive rights, immigrants rights, civil rights, economic justice, and environmental rights. On the one-year anniversary, thousands reclaimed the streets except this time many women of color opted-out. Although the organizers engaged women of color, like co-president Tamika D. Mallory, on the board, several criticized the march for focusing little attention on the needs of women of color and trans women. Inclusivity is implicit under the guise of centering equality, yet little was done to expose and rectify the conditions experienced by Black women in the U.S. – including underrepresentation in state and federal government, employment and wage gaps, poor health outcomes and access to health care, and violence against us to name a few. This is not to minimize the Women’s March (I participated in the 2017 Atlanta Women’s March myself), but to question whose rights are at the forefront of these movements emboldens us to break the constraints of appropriation and liberate our voices.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Putting our fate in the hands of white women is a gamble. Allies are important, but too often even the most well-intentioned white women still uphold and endorse white supremacy.
When the stakes are high, they choose privilege over discomfort. I’ve had lifelong white friends who turned cold after the election when I prompted them to take action and influence their peers who voted Trump into office. While they are willing to share their anxieties and frustrations about the inequities or discrimination they feel as women, they are not willing to stand up to their white husbands, friends, and family members who are complicit in systemic racism. In my attempts to encourage them to use their voices for good, they balked at being held accountable or expected to upset their social contentment. Instead, I was labeled as “negative” and “unconstructive,” which is a pedestrian way of dismissing me an Angry Black Woman. Even self-proclaimed white cis feminists democrats can choose to uphold white supremacy.
Setting Our Own Table
Of course, there are many white female allies who are out here fighting the fight. But a shared gender identity should not be used to compare or diminish Black women’s lived experiences. While all women might face the glass ceiling, Black women also face the “Black ceiling” and experience both racial and gender wealth-gaps. While all women are susceptible to violence, Black women are executed by those who are sworn to protect us (and many white women are still hesitant to say that black lives matter). This is why a community like BlackHer is so critical. This movement is not for them, this is for us (cue Solange Knowles epic 2017 album, “A Seat at the Table”).