Why America Needs to Listen to Black Women

Why America Needs to Listen to Black Women
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Image courtesy of Chicago Reader.

As a writer, a woman, and a person of color, it is often difficult to separate myself, which is personal, from my identities, which are political. I firmly believe the personal is always political and the political is, most definitely, always personal. I don’t know very many Black women, or other women of color, who would disagree; this is just something that is weaved into our experiences on this planet from birth.

Not everyone understands it--- this unique phenomenon of being born both Black and a woman in a world where all the feminist issues are centered around the oppression of white women and where the issues in the black community are centered around the disenfranchisement of Black males. To be born both Black and a woman is a unique phenomenon, indeed, because we are consistently put into a box that is labeled, “Black Female,” and stamped with the pervasive and overwhelmingly negative stereotypes of who we are and how we think or feel about certain issues. We are often the ones leading the charge for what is right on both sides of our identity; we are even expected to fix the problems in our society that we neither cause nor benefit from. There are consistent demands for our loyalties from black men and white women who then treat our need for support as an option and not obligatory. It is support that we don’t get--- not in the media, and not at the polls.

That is why I like contributing to HuffPost because I can be as “woke,” and unapologetically black and female as I want to be in my own space here without having to cower behind something I do not believe in.

Steven Thrasher, Writer-at-Large and Senior Editor for The Guardian didn’t cower, as he addressed the hostility Black women face in American politics when we are game-changers who should be recognized by the machine. In a piece he wrote for The New York Review of Books, Year One: When Black Women Lead, Thrasher puts Black women’s activism in a literary context for the Trump-era. It is a unique approach to understanding where we are headed and one that really conveys the message that as Black women, even our personal writings and our words are political and a form of activism we have never taken for granted.

Image courtesy of National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Thrasher begins his piece by stating an obvious fact that cannot be stated enough: Black women vote for Democrats. We are the base. There’s no “maybe” about it; the numbers speak for themselves. Thrasher writes, “unlike a majority of white women on election day 2016, some 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton—the largest concentration of any demographic to go for any candidate in the 2017 presidential election.” Ninety-four percent! Then why is it that the largest concentration of any voting bloc is so dissatisfied with the Democratic party? The answer is a simple one, as Thrasher points out: we are tired of being ignored and excluded, or even vilified, by our own party.

Last Monday, I wrote a very poignant request on Twitter to the DNC, basically, I urged the party establishment and leadership--- specificallyTerry McAuliffe--- and others to stop railroading and scapegoating Donna Brazile. My reason for it was simple: like many others, I saw the writing on the wall. I saw where it was going because every Democratic pundit said it on every cable news program--- they were trying to set Brazile up to bear the brunt of the blame for their failures if Dems lost key races in states like Virginia. Regardless of what you think, Brazile had as much right to share her view of the 2016 race as Hillary Clinton did a month earlier in her book--- which was also about the 2016 election. My warning to Democrats came on the heels of Donald Trump’s temper tantrum on Twitter where he implied the widow of a soldier killed in the line of duty, a Black woman, was a liar and then proceeded to, along with his senior staff, call a well-respected Black Congresswoman from Florida the same. Trump even took it further by calling her “wacky,” insulting her hats and the like.

Thrasher’s piece reminds us he also did the same to Congresswoman Maxine Waters by making crude remarks about her hair. If you know any Black women, then you know our hair is very political for us. It is a source of pride and a source of pain; our hair holds our struggle and that is something you don’t mess with. If that wasn’t enough, Trump also treated a notable member of the press corps, April Ryan, as if she were the hired help by telling her to set up a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss issues you would think the leader of the free world would take more seriously if he was serious about being a leader; and we know he is not.

Look, we are not just Black women, we are human; we are not your Mammy, your servants or the walking mat you wipe your feet on. We are voters with a voice demanding to be heard; and we are the ones who gave birth to the next generation of voters you will depend on in 2018 and 2020.

Image courtesy of The Houston Defender.

Thrasher chronicles this history of Black women’s quests to be recognized as politically important figures through the literature you won’t hear about on the news or read in school. Many, you won’t even see on the cover of USA Today or any other source that reviews books. The discussion of our activism is one too many fear because they can’t control it; they can’t control us, and people just haven’t learned how to listen to us. This inability of “others” to hear us is what Thrasher points to as the lesson to be learned from the 2016 and 2017 elections: WE. MATTER. Black women matter and we not only have the collective power to make or break elections, we can: make movies that gross $100 million+ at the box office; own multimedia conglomerates with our own television networks and our own daily morning news program; win Oscars; be astronauts; run Buzzfeed, HuffPost and Vox--- and walk out the door without breaking a sweat and our hair in place. The question, then, becomes, “are people listening?”

Are you listening... to me, a Black woman?

Thrasher concludes his piece by saying America should have listened to Black women in 2016. I conclude mine by saying, “Donald Trump is what happens to America when you don’t.”

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