So can we please go ahead and stop speaking over Black Women. This of course goes beyond just this marginalised group of
people queens and should be applied to all marginalised, oppressed, and unheard groups of people. But lets stay on task with this post. Can we please stop speaking over Black Women.
The inspiration for this post came from an article I read about 2 weeks ago, with the intention of writing and posting rather soon after and keep it topical and related but I’m really not good at writing for external relevancy (and tbh there’s so much shit going on daily that there’s no way to keep up). Because I had left it so long I was just going to bin the idea, but then it occurred to me, this problem isn’t of a moment, it isn’t a singular occurrence. It is continual, it is daily, it is written in the history book (all 2 pages they let us have) going back for an age. We are not listening to Black Women.
The article in question was detailing a conversation had during a Women in Film luncheon at the Sundance Film Festival. The Black Woman in question not being listened to was Jessica Williams (quite literally the Doppest of Queens. Check out her podcast 2 Dope Queens with Phoebe Robinson).
Now I’m not going to take too much from the article and would just recommend that you read it for yourself (I’m awful of relaying stories.) But things appeared to take a turn for the worst when, in response to a call for everyone present ‘to explore their inner identity’ (in the face of a post trump election) by actor Shirley MacLaine, Jessica asked what about those who are already at war with the world just by the way they look (i.e. intersectionality). This received opposition from Actor Selma Hayek and descended into a back and forth, but a back-and-forth where no one listened to what Jessica was actually saying, instead speaking over her and shutting her down. Whilst it did feel like it was the intention of ‘coming together as a collective women to overcome the powers that be’ that Selma was speaking from, in the same way that certain people within the LGBTQ+ community or the black community (pertaining to me personally) push the rhetoric of ‘we are all facing the same evil lets put differences aside to overcome’ but that just isn’t true, it isn’t a reality. Whether it be the Women’s Suffragette Movement (worldwide), Stonewall, or the Civil Rights Movements, members of these communities that face oppression and marginalisation on more than one count are frequently (to the point of systematically) forgotten about. And this happens because we are not listening.
So if Jessica as a Black Woman is standing there and telling you that the ways in which she has to navigate this world to succeed or even survive are different from you, even though you may very well be black, or you very well maybe a woman. It is for you to listen, understand her plight and seek to find ways in which you can use your privilege (male or white) to help her get to this Utopia of magical equality with you (not straggling behind.)
So if I as a queer Black man is standing here and telling you that the ways in which I have to navigate this world to succeed or even survive are different from you, even though you may very well be black, or you very well maybe queer. It is for you to listen, understand my plight and seek to find ways in which you can use your privilege (hetero or white) to help me get to this Utopia of magical equality with you (not straggling behind.)
As it is collectively our responsibility’s as cis and non-disabled people to listen, uplift, and understand trans and disabled voices and experiences because history tells us that this is not what has previously transpired and people have suffered as a result.
The thing that struck me after reading the article was that this was not even the first time this had happen to Jessica. When Jon Stewart stepped down from hosting the Daily show and his successor was yet to be announced, many urged for Jessica to get the job. In 3 short tweets Jess let the world know that she would not be filling the seat because she didn’t want to. This led to a patronising (and in her words, insulting) article informing Jessica that she was suffering from imposter syndrome and labelled her as a victim. Do you see what happened there. A Black Woman is standing in front of you and telling you what she thinks, what she feels, what she knows, and the immediate response is to shut her down and project upon her your thoughts. NO. Just listen.
My heart truly goes out to Jessica, because just from reading that dialogue it sounds like a truly gut wrenching experience to sit in a room of your peers and to continually be shut down and not heard.
You also have to look at it like so, if this is happening to a successful Black Woman on 2 occasions in the most public of spaces, imagine how much more frequently this is happening to someone not famous, not as successful, or just behind closed doors, on an everyday basis.
So I want to close this post out by saying, this world which we all inhabit and move through has a fuck load of ailments that effect different people in very different ways. If we really want progress & equality, to see things change and get better I implore all to listen to each other. Making note to pay special attention to the voices that have historically been ignored. Make your fight for justice for everyone, make your fight for justice intersectional. As I like to say, “if it ain’t intersectional don’t @ me”
Oh, and word to the wise. Listen to Black Women, they haven’t steered me wrong yet.
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*Credit to Deathtodickens.com for the featured image.