I find it so interesting that the whole world has essentially jumped on the #metoo moment. People who once scoffed at the idea of feminism, or referred to it as the ‘f-word’ are using the language. High profile men are being outed as misogynistic, predatory or flat out rapist. They are resigning, being fired, forced to confront their misogyny and sexism.
Don’t get me wrong….this is great. Yeah for women. Although that sentence really should read, ‘Yeah for White women.’ It’s ironic really that a movement started by a Black woman has been co-opted and now all but excludes the voices of Black women.
We know Black women experience the brunt of sexual violence and harassment. It starts younger for us. It’s also embedded in our cultures and community. I grew up in a Black neighborhood and could barely walk two steps as a pre-teen and then a teen without being harassed, called ‘shorty’, ‘lil’ sis, cars slowing, asking if I wanted a ride, or creeping along beside me, young men, much older than me, hanging out the windows asking for my number. Black women know harassment. But we also know racism and for many of us…myself included, when a conversation arises about sexual harassment and anti-Black racism. It’s racism that wins out. My identity as a woman is second to my identity as a Black women. I am Black first.
I don’t feel dis-empowered, disenfranchised or attacked for being a woman….I feel all of those things for being Black.
So where is the #metoo movement for racism? This week, I had two separate Black friends on the phone with me, crying over the overt racism, and subtle miroagressions that they’ve been dealing with at work. Both wanted validation that they weren’t imagining things, that what they were experiencing was in fact problematic and unfair behavior. One quit her job, preferring to be unemployed and save her sanity, than suffer the stress, exhaustion and fragile mental health that comes for Black people working in a White world (ever wonder why black people cling to religion so hard? It’s how we keep our sanity).
My other friend, seemed shell-shocked and in a complete state of disbelief that her hard work, her good ideas, her experience, could be discounted over a small mistake (the same mistake another colleague made). She was consumed with confusion over the fact that her high profile file could be taken away from her, for something so small and given to someone with no experience. Someone who had also made the same mistakes and more… For this friend, her belief in her equality and the idea that the people she worked with respected and valued her as a colleague and didn’t see her colour was so strong, that it was shocking to her to be faced with the stark reality that as the only Black women in the entire company, she simply had to ALWAYS be three times better. She was not allowed to make mistakes…ever…and the white mediocrity around her, would always be rewarded, always made allowances for, always supported…above her.
We need a #metoo movement for racism. It’s glaring that people are so able to listen to the stories of women and believe them without question, but throw in a story about race in there and everyone has excuses. It becomes the ‘race-card’, you have a ‘chip on your shoulder.
The same people who support #metoo, start to say things like, “my husband is Black, or my daughters best friend is Black, or they say that their Black kids are bi-racial, or they don’t see colour, everyone is the same.” They say all of this…anything… so as not to to confront the fact that despite their perceived close proximity to Blackness, they can in fact still be racist. They can still participate in all the things that stress Black people, that require us to have our #metoo reckoning.