For Those of Us Who aren’t Beyoncé, Nikki or Rhianna

SAPPHIRE UNBOUND

 

 

This past few weeks have found me thinking of us Black women who are not Beyoncé, Nikki Minaj or Rhianna. The seemingly growing outcry for the #MissingDCGirls, Bill O’Riley’s “critique” of Maxine Waters, and the audacity of the White House Press Secretary to scold veteran journalist April Ryan, which all led to #Blackwomenatwork really does make me think of how we are valued. How do we even see Black women that are removed from the public eye? How are us “regular” Black women framed and talked about? We are often made invisible.

Here’s what I know

 

The Erasure of Black women is real.

 

  • Black women and girls often disappear in our conversations on state sanctioned violence. Thus giving way to hashtags such as: #IfIDieinPoliceCustody, which was a response to the murder of Sandra Bland.
  • Black women and girls are often erased in research and even when included in research we tend to be treated as “problems”.
  • Black women and girls disappear in conversations on public policy. Unless the policies are designed to “punish” us and/or correct our behaviors.

 

But yet, Black women tend to actively participate in the public domain. Consider that Jane Junn tells us that

“Women of color now make up nearly a third of female voters, and support Democratic candidates by wide margins, with African American women the stalwart of the Democratic Party.”

 

Why should we even care about the invisibility of Black women?

 

For Black women like me, we face another layer of invisibility. We are not hashtagable—unless we physically die (and often violent deaths at the hands of the police). And while we collectively face oppression in a structure that portends liberalism, no one tells our stories unless something sensational happens. So we live everyday walking on what feels like broken sea shells—in other words we work in ironic spaces that have some beauty, but the beauty can be so broken at times that it causes injury.

 

For those of you that are apt to respond with “stop being a victim”, please don’t bother. Telling this story doesn’t render me a victim. Each day, I and other Black women dance a delicate dance of pain and joy. Our tangos are so intricate that those looking from the outside in simply cannot replicate them. Those folk that are ever ready to chose not to hear us or would dear scold us when we try to respond can never imagine the dance we do.

 

But that cost…

 

Representative Maxine Waters responded to Bill O’Riley, “I’m a strong black woman”

 

 

 

She asserted her strength as a marker of her resistance not to be intimidated by racist-patriarchal structures.

 

But for how long must Black women be strong?

 

In Barbados we does say “One one blow does kill ole cow” (simple or minor annoyances may build up to cause major damage). Each blow to Black womanhood is tantamount to a “death” of  our physical, emotional, psychic and spiritual bodies. And regardless of how strong we are, we carry a cost–and sometimes that costs is carried across generations.

 

Which leaves me to wonder…

 

How are we being repaired when we are attacked in these ways?

How do we repair when our girls go missing—in the U.S. and outside of the U.S?

How do we repair when HIV/AIDS is ravaging our communities?

How do we repair when Black women have to trade sex for housing?

How do we  repair when Black women are over represented among those that are evicted?

How do we repair when Black women are being locked up at alarming rates?

 

We are not Beyonce, Nikki, or Rhianna. We are just regular Black women who exist in a world that seems destined to annihilate us. But yet we are here—shaking our heads, hashtaging, asserting our strength. We continue to fight for our humanity by telling our stories every chance we get.

 

The challenge is not one of Black women not speaking. It’s not that Black women aren’t making themselves visible. The challenge is that some refuse to see us.

 

So how will you fight for the visibility and humanity of a “regular” Black girl and woman today?