“I speak here as a woman of Color who is not bent upon destruction, but upon survival. No woman is responsible for altering the psyche of her oppressor, even when that psyche is embodied in another woman.” –Audre Lorde
“The way I feel about life? It’s a struggle. You have to stop getting mad and get smart.” – Mamie Lee Melton Nichols
Sunday night as the Oscar’s came to a close someone at The Onion (a satirical news outlet) thought it would be funny to tweet that sweet 9-year old Oscar nominee, Quevenzhané Wallis was a c*nt. When I saw the tweet I was incensed, but felt like tweeting about it wasn’t enough so in frustration I tweeted, “ignore the crap.” I was wrong.
The devaluation of Black women and Black girls is so systematic that it’s become primetime punchline fodder, which has created a culture where Black girls like Willow and Gabby Douglas are endlessly ridiculed (often by other Black women) and where grown Black women fight each other for ratings. Just last week in NYC, news stations reported and showed video of two adults forcing their six- and seven-year old niece and daughter to fight each other for entertainment in a Bronx park. And through every bit of offensive ratchetness there’s “Black Twitter” up in arms and furiously shaming the guilty through tweets.
The thing is I feel like Black women spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook & Twitter rebuffing ignorant acts of racism & sexism. I’ve grown weary of venting and posting and retweeting dumbasses to put them on blast. It’s time to take a different approach. I feel like action is necessary for me to survive in a society that cares less and less about me. I mean who in their right mind could call a child such a heinous and monstrously dehumanizing, not to mention sexualized word? Who!
The Onion has since apologized, but believe me that is not enough! The time has come for us to stop getting mad and get smart. This kind of anger rooted in smarts and strategy is rooted in Audre Lorde’s fantastic essay: “Uses of Anger.” Before social media I wrote letters, made phone calls and would fax the press & politicians. Recently I was reminded of the potency found in that agency by fellow writer dream hampton who went to DC to do this. Tweets are cool and they are effective to a certain extent, but it seems if we want more than an apology (and we do) it’s time to start writing letters again. It’s time to call folks out, point fingers and make a ruckus and that especially goes for women who may look like us.
Like a tender pecan being crushed in a nutcracker, our minds and spirits as Black women have been wedged so tightly within the confines of race, power, beauty, class and sex that something in so many of us has been crushed. We don’t like ourselves, we crave validation, we have forgotten that we are queens. So we make our daughters fight each other like roosters in a cockfight for entertainment, for sport, for pity on our own torn and shattered spirits. So reminiscent of the mandingo fights featured in “Django Unchained,” where slaves were forced to fight each other, I cried when the woman urges the young girl to “slap her” and then laughs when she does. And when the other girl protests and says, “Stop playing, I really like her,” everything in me just cracked. It was too much. I want to hug those girls and let them know they are loved. Initially I wanted to slap the adults involved, but now I want to wrap my arms around them too and tell them they are loved. They are beautiful. They are important. When you have mags casting white girls and styling them in brown make-up and calling them “African Queens” then you tend to feel less relevant. You begin to feel invisible and so you act out to be seen. It’s historical and it’s so friggin tragic! But it doesn’t have to be our future. Back in the day I used to wear this button that said, “Love, Respect & Protect The Black Woman.” I’m going to start wearing it again. I’m going to try to make more phone calls and write more letters. I’m going to spend more time with my niece. I’m going to be smarter. Try to use my anger to illuminate, protect and hold tight what I value most.
If you want to join me, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about the Black girl love ruckus.