One thing is certain. Y’all don’t deserve black women. On Tuesday the Alabama Senate race took place. Roy Moore, a repugnant alleged serial child molester who believes that women should not have the right to vote, civil rights should be scrapped and slavery was lit, lost by a hair. Doug Jones, Moore’s opponent, was carried to victory by black folks—specifically black women. Exit polls showed that 98 percent of black women voted for Jones, as compared with 93 percent of black men, 35 percent of white women and 27 percent of white men.
Listen closely. Do you hear it? That, my friend, is the sound of hundreds upon thousands of black women letting out a resounding “We tried to tell y’all.”
Every time there is something good in this world—know that black women probably did it first, said it first, seent it first. Someone was so sure about this that they put it on a T-shirt. Conversely, most negative things in this world, black women tried to save you from.
It was Anita Hill who exposed the predatory nature of men on Capitol Hill, long before Monica Lewinsky’s heels ever stepped on the carpets of the Oval Office. It was Tarana Burke who sent the first #MeToo into the world, 10 years before the movement was appropriated by white feminism. Twenty years prior to the pink pussy hats that filled the streets of our nation’s capital, 750,000 black women gathered for their Million Woman March.
Furthermore, black women were the only demographic that vehemently opposed the election of Donald Trump, and exemplified that in their votes. And 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton—12 more percentage points than black men and over 20 more percentage points than the Latina and Latino population. It is unclear why J. Cole’s “No Role Modelz” isn’t consistently at the top of the charts—because clearly, this nation don’t wanna be saved.
Trump’s slogan betrays him because it belongs to black women. We have been trying to make America great from the jump. So much nonsense could be avoided if this nation listened to us. There is something unique about black women. Like our male counterparts, we built this nation. However, black women also raised it. We nursed and bathed its children—both black and white—fed its workforce and cleaned its households. We know more about black men, white men and white women than they know about themselves. Therefore, we are in a special position to predict the unknown, advise the unknowledgeable and reshape the unseen future.
It would seem that these traits would make America treasure us, holding us up as a pinnacle of wisdom. Instead, as Malcolm X said:
The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.
And that’s on a good day. Let’s take a closer look.
As black women, policed by Eurocentric beauty standards, we are routinely attacked for our appearances. Michelle Obama, Rep. Maxine Waters and Leslie Jones are just a few examples of black women whom the internet and media have dragged for filth.
Our spirited personalities are denounced as inappropriately dominant. Our strong leadership is constantly reduced to words like “controlling” and “pushy,” rather than being seen for what it is: dynamic.
Sojourner Truth, in her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, conveyed that society claims that women are to be coddled, put on a pedestal and given the best treatment that society has to offer, but no one ever does that for black women. In fact, when it is done for black women, it’s “corny”—what people call Russell Wilson’s excellent treatment of Ciara. Aren’t we women, too? Do we not deserve to be cherished?
Since slavery, the black woman has been unprotected. We bore whips and savage rape from white slave masters. Our children were ripped away from us and sold as property. We became the targets of forced sterilization, the government’s horrific plan for population control. Our households’ resources waned under the strain of the systemic underemployment and mass incarceration of black men.
Presently, our own community has the audacity to continue this heinous legacy. Sixty percent of black girls experience sexual abuse at the hands of black men before the age of 18. Yet these perpetrators rarely face consequences, because black women instinctively protect black men from white supremacy and imprisonment. Intimate-partner violence is the leading cause of death for black women. Yet these victims are rarely depicted as innocent but, rather, as emasculating, domineering, mouthy instigators.
We are even punished if we try to protect ourselves, like Marissa Alexander, who received 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the air to ward off her violent ex-spouse, or Cyntoia Brown, who is serving a life sentence for shooting a man who purchased her for sex from a sex trafficking ring when she was 16.
Black women are often erased from movements we create and/or prop up. Why is it that we can rattle off facts about Malcolm, Martin and Medgar, but rarely hear about the women of the civil rights movement? It was Amelia Boynton who wrote to Martin Luther King Jr., convincing him to come to Selma, Ala., yet there is no mention of her in most movies and textbooks. It was Autherine Lucy Foster who suggested laying Jimmie Lee Jackson’s body on the steps of the Alabama state Capitol, but the idea is often credited to James Bevel. Men may have been the faces of this movement, but women were the strategists.
After the 2016 presidential election, white women rushed to adorn Susan B. Anthony’s grave with “I Voted” stickers, but where were the stickers for Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell—who fought for women’s right to vote even when the racist suffrage movement left them out?
This is mirrored today. The Black Lives Matter movement, founded by three black women, is often tied to DeRay Mckesson and Shaun King. #MeToo was founded by Tarana Burke, a black woman, yet its appropriation by white women leaves people out who look like its very founder. White utterances of #MeToo have stripped some of the most notorious men of their power and influence, yet when Lupita Nyong’o and Aurora Perrineau came forward, they were swiftly decried as liars. Black women must alway work twice as hard to get half as far and hope that no one falsely claims even that small victory for themselves.
Maya Pope described America’s relationship with black women best in Scandal’s season 6 finale:
I tell you … being a black woman. “Be strong,” they say. Support your men. Raise a man. Think like a man. Well, damn. I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me? Carrying my burden? Building me up when I get down? Nobody. Black women out here trying to save everybody. We still try. Try to help all y’all, even when we get nothing. God forbid you let a sista like me help you out. No, you don’t want that. Don’t let me put you on my back when you fall, wipe the crust out of your eye, put a pep back in your step. Because when we do, you resent us for making you better, smarter, stronger; then drop us so you can be with someone basic. Someone without all that baggage you left us with. But we still try.
W.E.B. Du Bois once said that on judgment day, he would forgive slavery, but what he could never forgive was the “persistent insulting of black womanhood.” And neither can I. There will come a day when the same nation that stepped on black women will run, shouting, at our doors to save it. And we will whisper “no.”