<Ascends royally to her soapbox, grabs the megaphone, daintily clears her throat, waits for silence and yells…>
FEMINISM IS NOT THE SAME AS BLACK FEMINISM!
Let me tell you why.
Being black in America is no joke. You can argue this with me if you want to. But I’ll just side eye and point to the pages in history books that people keep trying to tear out, the talks of police brutality sparked by the dead brown faces littering my newsfeed, and really…just my life in general (and mine has been pretty privileged).
BUT THEN there’s being a black woman in America.
So now I’ve gotta deny the creation of systemic oppression by referring to my ancestors as participants in the “Atlantic Triangular Trade” as opposed to calling it what it is (being kidnapped and enslaved), not get pulled over and/or shot and killed, AND THEN deal with a glass ceiling while trying not to accidentally ask for accidental gropes by men in power.
Got it. Totally cool.
Black women have always thought they were included in all the social movements. And for that reason, black women have been carrying around the same tired pompoms for centuries. We’ve been marching for white women to get equality and for black men to get equality — and somewhere along the way everybody forgot about us over here in these old 1900s cheerleading uniforms, holding the beat up megaphones, and waving the two-stringed pompoms.
When I think of a movement, I think of recognition of strength and power and dedication to self-advocacy. This goes for both the feminist movement and the racial equality movement. As much as we would love to cry out that we are equal in this fight, we are not. The fight for equality of the black woman is significantly more nuanced.
As I cross this bridge from Black History Month into Women’s History Month, I want to highlight some figures that fall out of the cookie-cutter Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart references. When looking back in history, specifically black history, women were not only involved in the civil rights movement; they were often leading it.
It was the Women’s Political Council, a group of black women, who first called for a bus boycott and then later put foot to pavement printing and passing out literature to ensure the continued participation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
It was Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith who stood up in court and challenged bus segregation.
It was Diane Nash who organized and coordinated the reinforcements for the Freedom Rides when the original protestors were brutally attacked and could not continue.
It was Daisy Bates whose leadership helped desegregate Little Rock Central High School.
It was Ella Baker who picked up and moved to help organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
I literally just pulled those off the top of my head without research. So I’m sure there are COUNTLESS others.
And when it looks like defeat is on the horizon, we step in like no other. Black women have almost always picked up the stick when people thought the race was over. Coretta after Martin. Betty after Malcolm. Myrlie after Medgar. The fact that they were so easily able to immediately step into these roles is sheer indication that we were absolutely a force and power behind the movement.
And black women are still starting movements. #metoo #blacklivesmatter and #blackgirlsrock were all started by young black women just trying to help protect and uplift our community.
So since we are so often doubly invisible, I’ll just take this light and shine it on us and proclaim this Black Women’s History Day.
Being a woman of color has a very specific set of challenges. But fighting sexism and racism has definitely gotten my weight up. And sure, this month is about women and I will be there to march with all women — both white and of color. But to deny, or at best dismiss or belittle, our particular struggle, our power, our passion, our dedication, our organization, our past success is like putting a bullet in your own foot.
Limp around if you want to. Meanwhile, I’ll just be over here…changing and saving the world…again.