The Separation of Myself: A Black Woman’s Burden
Black women in America are problematic. Their everyday lives, challenging. Their very existence, ambiguous.
When society poses the question, whose side is she on, what should a black woman’s answer be? Should she stand by the side of a black man or attempt to work in stride with white women?
Either answer is considered a betrayal, either decision leaves her in the shoes of a traitor.
The black community insist that the black woman hold her man down because regardless of whether she is a woman or not, she is still black.
Women on the other hand insist that the entire female gender faces the same challenges, regardless of race.
Each group demands the loyalty, work and support of the black woman but when push comes to shove, which demographic is as concerned for black women as they would like black women to be concerned for them?
When given the choice between aligning themselves with minority women or aligning themselves with men, white women have historically aligned themselves with the ladder. In American society, no other demographic is as free or as privileged as the white male and as his counter, the white woman, who desires privileges that resemble his own.
This became clear when black women marched with white women in the early 1900’s for the right to vote for all women but only white women truly received the honor. For 40 plus years, white women did not protest against the unfair voting practices that prohibited minority women from voting.
No, instead white women rejoiced in their victory and allowed their allies to become a distant memory. Once black women helped white women get the right to vote, they left women of color to sort through their civil rights trials on their own.
White women deserting their sex in favor of their race is an old phenomenon that recently played out in the election of Donald Trump. In fact, white women contributed the largest boost to the Trump camp, demonstrating clearly that race is bigger than gender.
So should the black woman follow the white woman’s cue? A black woman would be insane not to abide by the racial binary over the gender binary when those who share her gender have deserted her for better prospects.
But would a black man ever abandon a black woman for better prospects, for an easier win?
Black men would say of course not, further they would imply that any black woman who posed this question, is being misled and manipulated by media to desert the black man and destroy the black family.
So the consensus in the black community is that the black man and woman need to lean on each other for support in a world where black is at the bottom of the societal totem pole.
That is fair because it is true. But, another truth must be acknowledged before this consensus can become the gospel: black men are a marginalized but also a privileged demographic; marginalized because they are black but privileged because they are men.
The duality of their life, surprisingly, makes it difficult for them to discern between any marginalization that does not directly affect them.
Police brutality in black communities is rampant but the majority of the victims’ names that we know are men’s names. When a black woman does receive national attention like Sandra Bland, men from the black community immediately look to criticize the encounter and blame the victim for their deaths.
The black man’s caveat to defending a black woman is, she should have been quiet, she shouldn’t have spoken to him with an attitude, she should have complied with his request.
But when Michael Brown was murdered after responding to the officer with an attitude, after disregarding a power trip filled request, black men were not critical of his behavior.
Shouldn’t the response from black men, for black men, be the same from black men, for black women?
Shouldn’t white women want the same rights for all women?
Society is not sure, but what is certain is black women have to choose between a race that does not care to understand gender privilege and a gender that does not care to understand racial privilege.
Right now, those minor examples of black women being left behind seem like isolated incidents, small examples blown out of proportion. So, let’s make the inequality as clear as it can be.
White men make 100 cents on the dollar for perspective. His female counterpart makes 78 cents on the dollar. Black men make 75 cents on the dollar, while black women make 64 cents on the dollar.
When black women were marching with white women, they had a common goal. When black women march for black men, they have a common goal. But once black women have done the leg work, the allies seem to retreat into the safety that black women have helped provide. These allies do not take on black women’s burdens as black women have taken on their burdens.
So the black woman is left to choose. A choice between those who have left her behind time and time again. A choice between those who demand that she fight against their experienced injustice but would have her silenced when discussing the injustices, she has suffered at their hands or the hands of others.
A choice, that is not really much of a choice at all, when you think about it.
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