I love black men, God knows I do (I absolutely said that in my Oprah as Sophia in The Color Purple voice) – but part of my frustration has to do with the fact I had to start off acknowledging my love for them as a disclaimer for what I really want to say. Since I have been old enough to understand the very basic parts of racism against black folks in this country, I have been indoctrinated with the “black man’s struggle.” I think most black folks; girls and women in particular, have heard it since childhood:
- The life playing field isn’t level for a black man.
- It’s harder for a black man to get a job.
- It’s harder for a black man to get a promotion when he does have a job.
- It’s harder for a black man to get respect everywhere.
- It’s harder for a black man to be acknowledged in the academic world.
- You know, you really have to be supportive of black men and boys because after all, it’s harder for them.
I’m sure plenty of folks reading this know this unfortunately true rhetoric. Most of my life, I assumed “white men” were the implied group of privileged folks who had it easier than black men and what I thought totally made sense because the concept of white privilege is real. But these days, I’m not so sure the “white man” is the only one implied to have the lion’s share of privileges. In all this talk of how hard it is to be a black man (or boy), the black majority has forgotten an equally important conversation – the fact black girls and women have it just as hard, if not harder. The playing field isn’t really level for black women either. It’s challenging to be taken seriously in the professional world, despite one’s educational background and body of work that should speak for itself. Promotions are definitely not growing on trees specifically planted and grown for black women. It’s difficult for black girls and women to find respect in the white world, let alone in the black one. Black women graduate from college more often than black men, but we’re often discouraged by professors, administrators, lovers, and family members during our educational pursuits. And we have to rail against sexism outside of, but more importantly, within our race, and shit – it’s just hard being a black woman in this society. And folks thought it was hard out here for a pimp. He should try being a ho and see how that works.
Black girls and women are beaten, raped, and murdered by law enforcement officers just like our beloved black boys and men. We are denied opportunities we earn, just like our beloved black boys and men. We struggle with finding our footing in a society that constantly reminds us it doesn’t love us, just like our beloved black men. And from childhood we fight against being told we aren’t worthy, smart, beautiful, relevant, creative, innovative, or worthwhile, just like our beloved black men. But we forge our way anyway. We plot, plan, protest, politic, and prance up and down streets on behalf of our boys and men reminding this world the lives of our counterparts matter.
But who exactly marches for and with us? Who lets folks know when we say, “Black Lives Matter,” Black includes girls and women? Who campaigns for us with photo shoots shown in caps and gowns, posing mug shot style, with a sign in our hands stating our major in which we earned a degree? Who tells our story about how hard it is to be us and about how we really just need support during our struggle? Who surrounds us with love? Who RIDES for us? Who lets the world know we aren’t petty or unaware of the way our gender counterparts suffer just because we point out the fact we suffer too? Unfortunately, the answer to that is usually – US.
I love black men, God knows I do, but I don’t love them or respect their struggle any more than I love and respect that of black girls and women. To succeed, to progress, to exact change in any way, we must support each other. The struggles of black girls and women must be acknowledged and seen as inextricable to the black struggle. I can be about that ride or die life, but I don’t always want to be in the car alone. ©