Malcom X ain't walked amongst us in way more than a month of Sundays, yet this quote is as true today as it was when he said it.
I stayed up REALLY late last night and watched parts 1-5 of "Surviving R. Kelly" - the 6-part Lifetime documentary series detailing the life and abuse allegations of this singer. Episode 1 was like memory lane: I grew up on Chicago's south side and recognized many of the places and events mentioned and shown. I couldn't relax into nostalgia, however, because I knew that some fuckery was afoot. By episode 5, I was peeking through my fingers at the TV screen, feeling like I was about to vomit.
R. Kelly was known for hanging out at a neighboring high school around the time I graduated and left for college. It wasn't even a secret. When I was in college, I heard that his grown ass had married Aaliyah, who was 15. I wasn't clear on whether or not her parents had okayed it, but it all sounded like some "crazy Hollywood shit" so I declared it Not My Business™️ and continued to bop to both of their musical offerings while getting my OWN life together. I was a superfan of neither, but when their music came on, I didn't turn it off.
As decades went by, allegations continued, Aaliyah died in a plane crash (rest her soul), a rape tape surfaced that included footage of R. Kelly peeing on 14 year old (I saw the tape- it was him), EVENTUALLY there was a trial... and I- by this time an adult with life experience and a different perspective, wondered how the hell this man was still walking around free.
I firmly believe that had he been raping and pillaging white girls wholesale for 30 years, he would be under the jail by now, dead or alive, prolific music catalogue be damned.
A few days ago, I saw a video circulating on the internet of young, black, female McDonald's employee physically assaulted by an older white man. Not only was he a man (which is bad enough), but he was MUCH larger than her. After a heated exchange about there not being straws at the drink station, he reached across the counter and choked her. She summarily proceeded to beat the shit out of him until her coworkers pulled them apart.
The comments seemed to be comedic ones, largely centered around the fact that she beat up a man almost twice her size, however I saw it differently. I had a viceral reaction to the fact that this woman, fighting for her life, was being lauded for her fighting prowess instead of being tended to. After the fight, the aggressor, not realizing he had been video-recorded, started blaming her and barking orders at other employees. A manager came over to address his concerns. NOBODY checked on this young woman. A later news story confirmed that SHE HAD TO CALL 911 HERSELF, and that she is afraid to go back to work because now she feels like anyone can do anything to her. This, my friends, is how PTSD works. But black people don't get to have PTSD or other mental illnesses. And black WOMEN barely even get to be sick at all.
"All the blacks are men, and all the women are white."1
When "Black" issues are addressed, they are primarily black MEN'S issues, and where "women's" concerns are brought to the fore, they are almost always WHITE women's issues. Black women who point out these facts are usually chided for being divisive.
In the meantime, we buttress everyone else's causes: donning our pussyhats in honor of a feminism that views us as an afterthought (if at all) while we continue to make less money on the dollar than white women doing the same work, and kneeling as a show of solidarity with black men, too many of whom never reciprocate when faced with the opportunity.
We fight to survive (often physically) and are maligned for being "aggressive" when our non-black counterparts are "spunky," or "fiery," or "assertive". We are constantly told that our hair and our bodies are the wrong kind, which has proven to be code for "the wrong color". We change them, and others make fun of us for trying to do what we have been told is beautiful. Our non-black counterparts make those same changes and are lauded as "exotic" and "desirable". We don't change them, and we are put down for not trying hard enough to be beautiful. We exercise our creativity in a myriad of forms, many borne of not having many resources, only to have those creations labeled as "ghetto", then co-opted by others, renamed, and declared "elevated". I call bullshit on all of this bullshit. TO-day.
Yes, #BlackLivesMatter and the #MeToo2 movement are valid and important... but so are black women. Full stop. It's high time that we move through the world in full possession of this knowledge, and stop accepting anything less than what we deserve from whomever offers it.
1. From the title of THIS book.
2. A movement created by Tarana Burke (a black-American activist) in 2007, and largely ignored until co-opted by white feminists in Hollywood ten years later.