We’ve seen time and time again that society and our own communities don’t protect us. So a new class of BW are doing it all by ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago the US rapper Meg the Stallion was shot. The details surrounding the shooting are murky and none of us really know what led up to her being attacked. In all honesty the juicy details aren’t important. The fact is, she was seriously hurt and quickly became a meme. I mean immediately afterwards people seemed to care more about Tory Lanes’ height than what had happened to Meg. Literally, social media centred the cause of his alleged fragile ego over Meg’s pain. I couldn’t believe it. This is a woman who had just gone number one with Beyonce a few weeks before this incident. A woman who had taken social media by storm with the dance challenge to her hit ‘Savage’. A woman who’s rise to fame everyone had championed and supported because even if you didn’t love her music, we had seen the hard work that fuelled her come up. Without knowing her personally you just wanted her to win because she just seemed like all round good vibes despite everything she’d been through personally. Now let me clarify, no woman, regardless of levels of success or perceived ‘pleasantness’ deserves to be involved in something like this. But this shows you that even with all these indicators, she was treated with such little respect by the perpetrator who wished to cripple her, the police who arrived and took forever to help her, and the internet. The whole thing just shook me to my core, and I was disgusted.
None of us know the facts of this case, but one thing is clear as day. Society does not respect black women. Not even at the pinnacles of success are black women, especially dark-skinned women offered an ounce of sympathy. We are told that we are strong and capable, and I feel a collective visceral rejection of this label. Where is the space for us to be soft, feminine and in need of protection? BW are tired of wearing this cape because honestly what’s in it for us? How does being this source of strength benefit us in any way?
If you are a non-black woman let me clarify, this label is not always the compliment you think it is and can actually be quite dangerous. It absolves society from being held accountable for its systemic disregard for black women’s existence. When John Boyega tearfully told black men to protect women at a Black Lives Matter protest, I must admit I sighed to myself a little bit. Sweet and well intentioned as it was, I could literally feel that part of the speech collectively going in one ear and out the other. How can we even begin to fathom what protecting black women looks like when the disrespect is so insidiously woven into the very fabric of society and within our own communities? It’s there in the songs we listen to, what it means to be a ‘good woman’, sexual violence, our tenuous relationship with the healthcare system, and so much more. And when we bring these issues to light? We are often left unprotected, gaslit and manipulated.
I see instances like Meg, and I think of Breonna Taylor, Toyin Salau, Belly Mujinga, and Shakuri Abdi. All without justice. Still. I see Kanye West attempting to humiliate a black woman at his rally while hugging and encouraging her white counterpart. I see Talib Kweli harassing a woman on twitter for weeks on end and truly seeing nothing wrong with his behaviour. Moreover, I see a culture that forced a black woman on Twitter to compile and privately share a list of prominent abusers via DMs because that is literally the only way, we saw to protect ourselves against the prevalence of rape culture in our community.
Now if you’ve gotten far, first of all, you’re a real one. But I want to make clear that this piece is not meant to be defeatists in any way. I’m so tired of the romanisation of black women’s trauma. Log onto social media and it’s there. Read the news and it’s there. And I get it, its 100% important for us to critically engage with all these structures that are harmful to us. We have no choice, burying our head in the sand will continue to cost us our lives. But my God, it is draining to experience this constant onslaught every day. That’s why I loved the Instagram Live Meg did where she showed us that despite everything she’s been through, she chooses joy. She’s been through the worst trauma, losing her parents and going through this situation all by the age of 25, but still she chooses a mindset of positivity. That was crazy to me! Does it play into the harmful ‘black women are so strong’ archetype? Yes. Does it fuel the notion that we have to be well put together even in our most vulnerable moments as we aren’t given the space to portray fragility? Yes yes and yes.
But let’s not take away her agency in this. There are women out here that are optimists despite everything and honestly, I love to see it. This doesn’t mean ignoring your trauma at all. It’s important to acknowledge it, process it and find coping mechanisms that best work for you. But I love to see the black women who acknowledge the challenges we face and make active steps towards change; in any way they know how.
I’m talking about the women who are solutions oriented; the boss babes giving us tips on how to smash these glass ceilings; the intellectual babes, schooling the masses on the systems and structures that perpetuate our situations, fighting deliberate ignorance with facts. And of course, the babes that are ‘just vibes’. I’m sorry but that is not a negative for me. Energy is real and the influence that you have on others by choosing to emit positive energy is radical and revolutionary in and of itself. ‘Irrational black joy’ as Akala put it, is so healing in ways the source probably doesn’t even understand. These types of women show us that happiness really isn’t a destination or something that can be handed to us, but a decision you make every day. It’s an oftentimes difficult choice that forces us to look inward, unpack harmful mindsets, remove toxic influences and invest in ourselves. It really has the power to change the course of our lives in very tangible ways.
So in light of the lack of protection from our wider communities, we are out here protecting ourselves and each other. I hate that we have no other choice, but man do we do it beautifully. I am inspired by so many of the women I’ve met over the past couple of years who are using their platforms to amplify our voices and spread knowledge, provide safe spaces for us to heal, sharing their creativity or are just authentically being. Because honestly, that is more than enough.