I am exhausted, tired of being tired, and worn down with the constant ignorance that has made a bombastic return in the 2015s. Maybe I am just more aware, considering my profession and the causes I attach myself to. Maybe I was previously until 2015, living in a bubble of dainty, suburban shallowness, where Black women are universally loved and face no difficulties that are any different from their American peers. But here we are, with archaic tropes rearing their ugly two-faced heads puffing out airs of unawareness and flat out ignorance that continually put down Black women. Really we’re (back) at a point, where it’s damning to be anything that doesn’t fit into the constraints of European ideals, regardless of race and ethnicity. While I’ll paint this discussion from the perspective of Black women, because that is me, I’m aware that this affront we’re experiencing is transversing over to any race/ethnicity who dares to exist in Western society and revel in their own cultural norms.
I am humored that the latest entree in how many ways can white women showcase their blind ignorance, comes via the new Hollywood movie, Suffragette, which covers the women’s suffrage movement. The era that was the birth of feminism, as white women across late 19th century rallied together to fight for the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement that ostensibly went through great lengths to prevent Black women from participating in the fight for their equal rights as American citizens. Also the era where intersectionality for Black women begins to take clear form, as they join the rallying cries of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, having just come out of slavery via the Thirteenth amendment being added to the Constitution in 1865. We took on a call that spoke to our womanness, while still pushing back against our own peers who attempted to diminish us because of race. When the National American Woman Suffrage Association, denied Black members the right to attend the 1903 convention, or attempted to keep Ida B. Wells from walking in the main section of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March, Black women still fought on for the greater cause. This is has been the underlying current of feminism in the 20th and 21st century.
So when Meryl Streep and the cast of Suffragette decide to promote their movie via shirts that have “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave,” boldly printed on the front, it’s inherent of the ignorance that has long permeated the (white) feminist movement. The women’s suffrage movement was started while black women were still considered slaves in most of the United States. It was won during the post-slavery era of Jim Crow laws that later morphed into our modern day incarceration system, keeping black Americans oppressed well into 2015. So thank you Meryl, the benevolent saint of white women, for reminding us that even as Viola quotes Harriet Tubman on the Emmy stage, most of her white peers were lost on the essence of her point.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. – Audre Lorde
Then in the same week we get a flowery headline that leads to a story of “beautiful Long Island dermatologist and mother” who after a “night of blowing off steam in Manhattan” was found dead in the doorway of a Manhattan apartment after “possibly doing cocaine,” according to the Daily Beast who detailed the facts of her “mysterious death” in the most flowery and whimsically dainty way. You could smell the subtle touch of sage, mixed with lavender and gardenia, hand picked from the garden of the antebellum plantation where with rosy cheeks, fair skin and perfectly pink lips, Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny twirled through life until she somehow found the misfortunes of a crack house. These kind and flowery words that are never offered up in detailing the lives of black women. Even Michelle Obama, the most flawless of First Ladies to ever grace the White House, is often relegated to animalistic and aggressive terms that seek to highlight her confidence as a direct opposition to her femininity. When Bobbi Kristina met the same fabled fate as her famous mother, Whitney Houston, was her obituary handled with the same fragility and flowery softness of possibly doing drugs because she was blowing off steam? Shall we even touch on how, beyond race, dangerous this narrative is as it attempts to beautify the risks of doing drugs no matter how socially cool they are.
I’m always annoyed about why black people have to bear the brunt of everybody else’s contempt. If we are not totally understanding and smiling, suddenly we’re demons. – Toni Morrison
What is the give? Where is the moment of understanding? Or are we just being trolled via clickbait and controversy because any way to trend via #BlackTwitter, even if it is due to outrage, is a good thing that leads to an uptick in your AdSense coins? I’m still tired…