Dear Black Women, Are You Okay?

I have to ask this question to my sistahs, because the past few days I have experienced countless different emotions over my struggles of being a BLACK WOMAN. Before I lay out the details of this struggle I want to disclose that as a black woman I can only speak for myself and from my OBSERVATION na EXPERIENCE on the many attempts to silence us. This is for all of the “problem seekers” out there that need to read between the lines and be on some reverse the roles type mess. The ones with a problem for every solution. This post ain’t for you.

The other day I came across a video by a black man where he discussed discrimination against black women anytime they want their voices to be heard. He used an example on a post where he discussed the criticism of Kendrick Lamar’s fiance and the issues of colorism. I will not speak specifically on Kendrick Lamar’s situation, but more so on the attempt to silence black women when they have an outcry, because as a black woman I often feel the attempt for society to silence us as a whole. I will address this through examples and the countless stereotypes that I think we sometimes face in this world full of misogyny.

“The Angry Black Woman”

This is the dehumanizing seed that has been planted in the minds of people anytime a black woman attempts to have a voice. I will use my personal experiences to explain this as I have always found myself struggling to find my voice in issues, especially at work, and that is because of this label. I can’t equally express my concerns the same as other people in my office, because subconsciously in the minds of my coworkers I am an “angry black woman”. They don’t have to say this verbatim from their mouths, however their actions speak louder. I had an issue with someone I work with indirectly, an older white man, and I found myself in a defenseless position. I consider myself a woman with a professional stance at work at all times, so I am always sure to speak to people with respect and an extended courtesy. However, I feel when I’m not met with the same, I should be allowed the opportunity to maintain my dignity and defend myself, but I haven’t been granted that without resistance. Every time I interacted with this specific man, I encountered disrespect. For a long time I remained silent on the issue in order to “get the job done”, but one day I had stayed at work late and was corresponding with him on a work related issue. I was yet again met with disrespect, but on this day I decided to call him out on it and refused to tolerate it. On that day, my supervisor received an email from him, playing the victim and accusing me of having an attitude. When addressed by my supervisor, I provided proof of his constant disrespect with led up to the email where I told him not to contact me unless he changed his tone. Instead of being understood or defended, I was told that I need to continue to extend myself to him despite the fact he was the one being difficult. The excuse given to me was, “that’s just how he is”. I couldn’t believe it. As time went on these issues occured over and over, however anytime I defended myself I was accused of having an “attitude”, but he was just “being myself”. How come this same excuse wasn’t rendered to me? Can I not “be myself” when I’m defending my dignity and refusing to be disrespected? Obviously not, because I am supposedly an “angry black woman” and I need to “humble myself” to an egotistical man that everyone passively excuses anytime he is disrespectful. This is not the only situation I’ve encountered in my career. Throughout my career, I constantly faced the struggle to equally find my voice because I am forced to walk around with this label that I believe is incorrectly placed on me. And I won’t be quiet about it anymore. I have also met with many black women, especially in a professional setting, that have also experienced similar scenarios. It seems to be a double standard of perceived anger. Of course anger is a basic human emotion, that I believe we all should have the right to feel to express, unless it causes harm. However, when can I, as a black woman, express myself in a manner that is perceived as angry even when justified? I have that right and will continue to exercise it appropriately.

“The Bitter Black Woman”

The “bitter black woman” is something I have been called many times. It seems as though anytime I say something about a black man while recounting an experience with one, a man feels it necessary to call me “bitter”. It seems that I am bitter about speaking about experiences with black men, despite the fact I see them relentlessly speaking negatively about black women on a daily a daily basis.

. However, I, a black woman, seem to be the only one in these exchanges tagged with a label. When can we, black men and women, both speak on our disappointments or concerns in the opposite sex without a double standard? When I constantly see black women being called bitter for their disappointments in black men that mistreated them, it suggests that they have no right to feel hurt by their actions by dismissing them as just being “bitter black women” with illegitimate concerns. Even though the concerns they speak on can be justified depending on the behavior they’ve encountered. Black men seem to be the main ones that dismiss the concerns of black women, which causes me to believe that many don’t really care about addressing the mistreatment of black women. What disappoints me more is the reverse guilt that many respond with; “well, you chose him”. It seems to be another tactic used to keep black men from taking accountability. This seems to be yet another attempt to silence us, and I can see how many of these stereotypes are merely to keep tape over our mouths. It’s becoming oppressive.

Another example can be found in the way we respond to music where we force this label on our sister artists and not our brother artists. Despite the relentless and countless misogynistic messages in hip hop music, it seems that female artists that release a song that speaks about men, there is much resistance. For example, Nicki Minaj’s song “Lookin Ass” received a lot of backlash despite the fact that her male counterparts make similar tracks about women. While Nicki Minaj was heavily criticized on social media for her unapologetic message in her disappointments of black men, people seem to be very fond of songs like “These hoes aint loyal” by a male artist.  I’m not saying I support either message, however there indeed is a double standard and believe that all black artists, men and women, should be able to get the same respect when expressing themselves. Even artists like K Michelle and Mary J Blige that sing about the pains of relationships, are faced with being called artists that make music for “bitter” women. I don’t see male R&B artists that have many heartbreak songs being accused of the same for so-called “bitter” men. Do we place more sympathy on the black man than we do the black woman? It seems to me that society only allows black men the opportunity to be victimized and speak on their pain without much resistance. Where is the same courtesy for black women?

“Ignoring of Injustice against Black Women”

I hesitated to speak on this issue, because I believe that we need to support the injustices against BOTH black men and women, however, I honestly do feel we support injustices against black men more than women. I am proven this every time I bring up black women being unjustly killed, and many people don’t even have any idea on the story. However, I see these stories all the time on my timeline and share just as much as the cases of Trayvonn Martin, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray and other black men that have been unjustly killed. I feel that we do not equally spread awareness or protest and march for the unjust killings of black women. And every time I speak on it, I’m accused of “being divisive”, however these same people most likely won’t even share these posts or speak on it, thus proving my point. I will not go deeper into this, because I am presently upset by this, and I don’t want to speak based on my emotions. Here are some stories that also speak on this:

The Black Feminist”

There seems to be a huge disdain in the black community for feminists, almost to the point of many black “enlightened” folks acting out in a state of paranoia, especially black men.  In yet another attempt to silence black women, many black “enlightened” men seem to be going on a rampage calling every black woman that disagrees with their opinion a feminist. Some even calling this “emasculation”, which is why I have come to hate this word. To me being a called feminist is the new way of calling  a woman a”bitch”. I find it most interesting that the feminist label seems to be tagged on black women in the moments when black women are speaking on legitimate issues that effects black women specifically. Many black men are uneducated on the issues that black women face, so instead of seeking knowledge on the issues black women speak of, they find ways to dodge having an intellectual discussion about it. I think what is most disappointing, being a huge supporter of black men all my life, everyday I am realizing that many black men; 1) really don’t understand black women at all, and 2) really don’t give a damn about black women. I find it most interesting when a black man claims to be seeking “knowledge of self”, yet neglects to really innerstand his half, the black woman. I believe that in order for the black community to truly unite and progress in achieving liberation that both black men and black women need to study each other thoroughly as possible. For example, as a black woman, I find myself trying to understand many complaints made by my brothers; “they don’t want to be labeled as thugs”, “they don’t want to be labeled as dead beat dads”, “they feel many women have privilege in the court system over them in regards to custody of children”. Their concerns are my concerns, however, it would be nice to see many black men extending that same courtesy to our sisters. There seems to be a huge disgust for the feminist movement, and for the part they believe it plays in the decrease of strong black families. Actually, the feminist movement seems to take the sole blame for it. Anytime I see a black man randomly label a black woman as a feminist, there is a suggestion that particular black woman is being seen as an enemy, the same way black men see white supremacists as the enemy. I don’t see how any form of uniting can be done, when black men believe black women to be co conspirators in their oppression, despite black women not holding any power as a majority. I don’t see how my brothers fail to see black women are just as victimized by this patriarchal white-supremacist system as they are. Many will dismiss black women when they bring up examples, or say that since it doesn’t affect them directly or include them, they are not as concerned. This is the true definition of privilege. I have not identified myself to be anything outside of a black woman, but my views on where I stand on being oppressed for being black and a woman will be expressed in another blog. At this point, I can only request my brothers to be open to understanding, or I will have to see them as they sometimes express themselves to be. An enemy.

I posted this to speak as a black woman based on my experiences and observations. I love my people, however, due to recent issues I’ve encountered, I have to extend myself to any other black woman that feels the same way I do. So I have to ask my sisters…..”Sis, are you okay”?

© Tanisha R. Coleman, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tanisha R. Coleman with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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