It is a known fact, that black women are almost always victimised but are never viewed as victims in any instance. Society has this obsession with favouring us as the aggressors, without us ever having to open our mouths. We are regularly verbally abused, degraded, meme’d and caricaturised for the amusement of others; often the biggest perpetrators being black men. We are constantly told we aren’t desirable and constantly being compared to monkeys and faeces, specifically those of us with dark skin. Despite being the most educated and successful demographic of our race, we are treated as if we have no value or anything to offer the world. We are vastly influential and our features are desired by non-black women, but we cannot be considered beautiful unless we adhere to strict beauty standards - and those same features are only praised when they are not on our bodies.
We’re either too loud or not loud enough, too much or not enough. We are caged birds with clipped wings and yet we still manage to open our mouths to sing.
Many of the prominent faces in activism, currently and throughout history, have been black women. As black women our intense desire to protect and fight for other marginalised groups is constant, coming from a place of empathy rather than sympathy. However, often times our advocacy can come at the price of our mental health and wellbeing. Many ‘woke’ white people often look to black women to explain oppression to them rather than researching it themselves, almost as there is an expectation for us to educate and bottle feed everyone information. While we’re expected to lead the conversations for change and be at every protest, no one ever bothers to wonder if we need that same support.
When it comes time to stand up and fight for black women, whether in life or death, nobody shows up. Case in point, Oluwatoyin Salau. In the wake of the George Floyd protests in the US, she was a prominent face and voice against police brutality. She advocated for her black brothers that fell victim to a corrupt and racist system, yet she was not afforded that same treatment when she became a victim herself. When she went missing after revealing she was assaulted (even providing descriptions of the man and the location) it was black women who rallied for her safety and for her to be found. When she was murdered, we were the ones mourning her death. And to this day we are the ones who make sure her name and legacy is never forgotten. Where were the black men who she had dedicated her life to protect? Silent as usual.
I have seen this happen way too many times. The claims and glamourisation of black love when black women are never on the receiving end of that love never seems to be addressed. When we seek love outside of spaces that hate us, we are seen as a traitors of our race; all the while black men are actively allowed to only want to be with women who do not look like us.
We are battling our own unique battle of antiblack racism and sexism neatly packaged as misogynoir. Forced to create our own spaces but then be told we are excluding those who didn’t want us around in the first place. I refuse to exist in this world, that openly hates women that look like me but it is becoming tiring trying to manage the ‘strong black woman’ facade. Especially when you aren’t seen as multidimensional. But I refuse to not speak up to try to change the narrative. I refuse to give it any more reason to try to break me and I will not be doing it at the detriment of my mental health. As a collective, we are opening our eyes to where our priorities should lie. While we will never stop advocating for our brothers and sisters in plight, we will always put ourselves first.
At the end of the day, black women are the only ones there for black women. But don’t expect us to prioritise ourselves over the world.
Written by Tennille Rolingson