Thrown off by the title? Well I was thrown off by a statement made by a white female general manager of a popular local coffee joint when she explained that the rude behavior of the site manager (who yelled at me and my other African American friend after they got our food order wrong) was probably not attributed to us being black, but gave more credit to the reasoning that it was because he was “well, gay” and didn’t like women that much (her words and implication).
Although we did not accuse him of having a racial bias against us, we did mention to her that we have to have a consciousness at all times of how we react as women of color as to not play into angry black woman stereotypes up to not getting cuffed by the police in a “he said, she did” dispute. She mindlessly and politely dismissed the possibility of any racial wrong-doing and skipped to female solidarity, as easy as the butter melting on the hot waffle that I was never served. If we were actually citing racial charge, we had been quickly dismissed. She is not the first that I have ever heard do this and to be quite honest, it is frustrating and exhausting.
So, after Crystal and I explored this issue in one of our conversations, she asked the question regarding “how do you know an issue you encounter with someone is attributed to your race, versus the human character of each person involved?” Crystal very eloquently related to possibly understanding racial bias based on the unspoken and sometimes very overt, unequal, and discriminatory behavior she has received as a woman and I appreciated the correlation. But honestly, I also resented the correlation (not Crystal, just the correlation).
Let me be clear. It is human to attempt to relate to another’s experience by identifying one’s own personal experiences and trying to develop parallels. For this, I have no problem because it is a common way of how we begin to identify with others. The issue that makes me upset, is why is the question consistently asked? Why do I have to provide forensic proof to my white female (and male) counterparts that racism exists? Ever? All the while, sexism is a no-brainer and we must fight for our rights. Right?
The deeper issue that is overlooked and even more upsetting, is that there is a color divide in our sisterhood as women. As a woman of color, it seems our issues are secondary and in many cases not even important enough to show up on the radar. It is naïve to think all women have the same wage disparity, the same history of sexual abuse and assault, the same problem climbing the career ladder, and so on, and so on. It is naïve because whatever my white counterparts are battling, I know as a woman of color, my battle for the same thing is going to take twice the voice, twice the resources, and in many cases, it may just never be acknowledged as an issue.
As I have stated before, my passion for this blog was sparked after realizing a hard truth: we all cried for Sandy Hook (all moms), but not for Treyvon Martin or his mom. Our children of color potentially face so many additional disparities starting at daycare age and instead of being aware of this already or taking my word for it, I have to prove this to my white counterparts as though I am convincing them that unicorns are real. And there is so much more (read more). Standards of beauty consistently underrepresent women of color, and still no outcry of solidarity to see different colors and shapes on magazine covers.
As Crystal and I talked on this issue, we discussed the historical division. Yes, we (African American women) fought for woman’s suffrage too, but you only hear about Susan B. Anthony in our history books and not Mary Church Terrell or Ida B. Wells.
When white women were being praised for being on the forefront of breaking traditional roles by entering the workforce and forcing their way out the kitchen, it was grossly ignored that women of color had been entering their homes for decades as nannies and domestic workers and had been battling the realities of working mothers for some time. That when white women were seeking to gain control over the aristocratic burden of being a young bride and mother, black women were in the field houses being treated like cattle, being raped, force to breed, and had to neglect their own children to be the wet nurse to the children of the Mistress of the house.
It gets so deep that I honestly wanted to leave this issue alone. I wanted to simply tell Crystal that “I just know!” That I just know the difference when the sales person is being friendly and when they are following me to see if I might steal. That I just know the dull tone that someone takes with you at the check-out line that they didn’t have with the previous two to three people they served in front of you. I just know, when I look at the state and condition of what is allowed to happen to our children of color in the criminal justice system, and am told, “Parents should just raise their kids right.” More than anything, I do not want to be challenged on the issue, but want support and true solidarity on the issues that I (we) face too in the spirit of genuine and united sisterhood.
It’s National Women’s History Month, so I’ll close encouraging us all to take the time to read, celebrate and let resonate the still relevant words spoken by Sojourner Truth, a phenomenal woman who paved the way for black, brown, white, and all women in her “Aint I A Woman?” speech from 1851.
Read Crystal’s blog for this conversation here.