Updated: Oct 22, 2020
A Guide on How to Better Protect the Black Women In Your Life
The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.
The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.
The most neglected person in America is the black woman.
- Malcolm X (May 22, 1962)
We all have heard it. We all have said it. We all have shared it. So, how can we change the narrative?
From showing up to the polls to speaking up about injustices, Black women are at the forefront of every movement. We agree that Black women must be protected, respected, and supported, but our actions do not uphold this long-held belief. America must work harder to protect Black women, a demographic that has helped preserve its existence for so long.
We must acknowledge Black women's plight and mistreatment and make a conscious effort to help protect, respect, and support Black women. Read on for five steps you can take in your own life to help change the narrative.
Far too often, Black women’s stories are met with skepticism. From Megan Thee Stallion to Oluwatoyin Salau, our experiences are met with accusatory interrogations, minimized, or written off. Both women shared their stories on social media, both were met with more suspicion than support, and both were alleged victims of physical abuse (and in Oluwatoyin’s fatal case, sexual abuse) at the hands of Black men.
To protect Black women, we first must believe Black women. Our stories must be met with confidence in our truths, confidence in the allegations, insistences, and experiences.
Our stories must be met with more empathetic support than skepticism. To protect Black women, we must replace:
“If this is true” with "I'm sorry to hear about your experience."
"This could never happen" with "Thank you for bringing this to light."
"I don't think ____ would do this" with “I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this…”
STAND WITH US
Oftentimes, when Black women experience injustice or are victims of police brutality, there is a distinct difference in the response compared to a Black man’s experience.
We have seen it in the lack of protests to the killing of Korryn Gaines and Atatiana Jefferson. Most recently, Breonna Taylor's death took far longer to gain national attention compared to George Floyd’s. The lack of response and the backlash that follows statements of protecting Black women is disheartening to experience as a Black woman.
The outcry for protection turns into ALL Black Lives Matter, or our stories are deemed different from our Black male counterparts, like in the instance of Charles Barkley saying, “Breonna Taylor Isn't The Same As George Floyd.”
Every person mercilessly murdered by the police should be remembered and receive justice. Black women support this notion and fight for names to be remembered and justice to be met. However, Black women also require the reciprocated support, amplification, and awareness of our names and stories when we are victims of police brutality and discrimination.
ACKNOWLEDGE, RESPECT, AND SUPPORT OUR DUALITY
The duality that exists within the identity of a Black woman is essential to remember. As an ethnic and sexual minority, Black women encounter both gender and race discrimination. To protect Black women, we must acknowledge the role this dual discrimination has played in shaping Black women’s social status and experiences.
We experience racial and gender discrimination simultaneously and consistently. We must not ignore the facts that both Black men and White women are afforded unique experiences and opportunities of privilege and power that are not given to Black women.
White women benefit due to their proximity to whiteness, and Black men benefit from the specific privileges of the male gender. You can acknowledge Black women’s intersectionality by accepting your participation in these systems and policies, even if it only offers you small rewards. Take a look at the life examples* below. Do you agree with any of the below statements?
I don’t feel obligated to choose my race over my sex in political matters.
I do not have to worry about being considered a traitor to my race if I call the police on the opposite sex.
I have the privilege of marrying outside of the race without pushback.
My character is defined more by things I do not do than what I do.
My sex and gender are more frequently represented across my political, professional, religious, and cultural institutions.
I know men who are physically or sexually abusive to women. I call them friends, and in some instances, I have helped them advance their careers.
Black women are not allowed to choose one oppression over the other. We must fight with all of our identities in mind, and we can’t fight for our advancement without you.
SPEAK UP FOR US, NOT AGAINST US
As a Black woman who advocates for the advancement of Black rights and women empowerment, I am very conscious of how I speak about Black men and other women.
I do not tear down Black men, and I fight for women’s rights, even when women of other races choose to be my enemy over my ally.
However, the reciprocation often goes unmatched for Black women. From romantic preferences to higher mortality rates, Black women shoulder the burden of a lack of allies speaking out on our behalf.
Without reason, our bodies, complexions, and behaviors are offered up to be the butt of jokes or to highlight the Black man’s preference for White, Latino, or exotic women.
Additionally, the lack of advocacy for us can lead to death as Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth than women in all other racial and ethnic groups.
Black women are devalued and disrespected by the people who we stand with and support. Protecting Black women requires us to receive the same support as everyone else — speak up and advocate for Black women when our voices are being ignored or unheard.
BE OPEN TO INSTRUCTION
Recently I learned, “Say Her Name” was created because Black women are often left out of conversations about police brutality, especially Black trans women. When even done unintentionally, using “Say His Name” erases the phrase’s intention and overlooks Black women.
After learning this, I made it a point to only use the “Say Her Name” hashtag while still sharing Black men’s and other victims’ stories of police brutality and discrimination.
However, I noticed people — in most cases, Black men — objected to only using the Say Her Name hashtags, claiming that it was similar to “All Lives Matter” and disrupted the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protecting Black women requires open-mindedness and willingness to accept instruction on how to be more inclusive and respectful of Black women’s needs in our fight for equality and protection.
While this is not an exhaustive list, we can begin to actualize protection for Black women by following the above recommendations. Please contribute to the list to help us continue the fight to protect and respect and support Black women.
*adapted from the The Black Male Privilege Checklist you can view the full list here.