This is the intersection of being black and being a woman. This is how they come together to further oppress black women in a way that most people don’t even realize. Black women have to deal with the treatment of being black and being a woman. Within the community, we’ve seen how black women have supported and fought for justice for the murdered black boys and men at the hands of the police. It is no exaggeration that without black women, civil rights movements such as Black Lives Matter would have not had as much impact or success in challenging the national narrative around the lives and experiences of Black Americans as it has.
But who fights for the black women? We all know Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, George Floyd and Freddie Gray but how many of us can name just as many black women who met similar ends? We look at the incarceration rates for the black men and boys put behind bars for nonviolent crimes and talk about how they were targeted and their lives taken away but what do we say about the deaths of black mothers in a healthcare system trained to ignore their pains, what do we say about the women left behind when their husbands, boyfriends, sons, and brothers are swallowed by the justice system? Eviction is to poor black women as prison is poor black men.
Black men’s athleticism are celebrated nationwide but how are black female athletes like Serena Williams treated by the media? Black men who write explicit songs about sex, money and drugs get shows and brand deals but why are Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B catching flack for the same content? No one blinks at the success of an overweight black male artist or comedian but if a black woman like Lizzo dare to be confident in her body, she’s normalizing fat-ness and glorifying an unhealthy lifestyle. Why do we continue supporting and protecting men like Chris Brown knowing they’re abusers?
Black women are held to this impossible standard. You must be strong but not too strong or else the men feel emasculated and you get masculinized. You must be silent. You must be attractive but not too confident in your attractiveness or else you a hoe. You must uphold the male members of the community or else you’re a traitor and tearing the community apart. God forbid you date a white man, then it’s “Are black men not good enough for you?” but black men who “land” white women are praised.
In portrayals of black couples in media, the man must always be darker than his wife or girlfriend. The darker you are, the less desirable but there’s no such standard for black men.
Less than whiteness and less than men, black women have become the afterthought, urged to put aside her needs in order to support the rest of the community. When will it be black women’s turn? When will we give the black woman her due?
Let’s end with the words of Sojourner Truth:
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something
out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women
at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty
soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages,
and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody
ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best
place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have
ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head
me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a
man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a
woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to
slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus
heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it?
[member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that
got to do with women’s rights or Negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold
but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me
have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much
rights as men, ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ
come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a
woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world
upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it
back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it. The
men better let them.
If you’re up for it, here’s a list of books and resources to learn more about the intersections of race and gender: https://elon.libguides.com/antiracism/intersectionality