The last few weeks have been devastating for Black Americans, and it’s been weighing on me to share an important thought. It is one that has long been clear, but has become more evident than ever: White people are not Black women’s only oppressors.
I hope that it is received in the spirit that it is written—with love. I understand that sweeping generalizations can be wrong. But Black men must acknowledge their role in our devaluation if we are to move forward in liberation.
I’m not here to placate those who convince themselves that they are not complicit. The hard truth is, if you yourself are not insufferable, you likely know someone who is. In that scenario, if you say nothing about your peers’ treatment of Black women, then you are in fact a part of the problem.
There is something deeply wrong when Black feminism is bashed and seen as an attack on Black men. Black women are not being heard, as countless theorists, activists, and everyday women who have spent what feels like eons explaining and providing proof of the ways which we are mistreated, can agree. Black feminism is not divisive, nor an attempt to mimic white women, nor a distraction from the real issue of structural power abuse. It is an act of solidarity amongst Black women, and one of our only hopes for a bearable future.
The technical term for the abuse we experience at the hands of Black men is misogynoir. It is the coal-hot contempt of Black womanhood. Sometimes it is as loud as flat out saying “Black women are bitches,” while other times, it’s more sinister in covert areas like colorism and silence on matters that affect us most.
In truth, there is still an inclination for some Black men to echo white men’s most vile traits because of the power they hold. Their movements and their stances have become certain Black men’s defaults. With that emulation comes a complete disregard of Black women.
Some of the most impactful thinkers of our time—Ntozake Shange, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker—have had their work torn apart because Black men refused to see themselves. I’m sure it is not an easy task, reconciling your status as an oppressor, but it is necessary if we are truly going to make the world a safer place for Black women.
Saying “protect Black women” online is easy, lazy and not enough. We are not satisfied by empty sayings. They are meant to do nothing more pacify momentarily, anyways. What we are imploring you to do is work. Callous your hands for us. Feel the pressure of the weight we’ve long carried alone. Rally for us. Speak on our behalf, even when it’s not personally beneficial for you.
Protecting Black women means turning down opportunities that feature abusers. Protecting Black women means helping us because you love us, not because you hope to sleep with us in the future. Protecting Black women means listening to us, and holding your friends accountable—not because it is a bad business move to align yourself with a misogynist, but because you truly believe that Black women deserve safety.
If you view these asks, or the implication that Black men need to do better, as offensive, it’s time for you to examine yourself. Black women are worth it.
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