I witness Black folks of marginalized genders pleading with Black men to protect us, and I am completely devoid of any hope that they will.
“Black men internalized the white man’s opinion of Black women.”— ASSATA SHAKUR
I would turn this world inside out for Black women. I would kill god for Black trans and nonbinary folks—the genderqueer, the gender subversive, the gender expansive, the gender transcendent. I would break every part of myself if it meant that the rest of you could be free.
I read about Oluwatoyin Salau. I bear witness to her assaults and I think about how a Black woman is murdered by a Black man every 21 hours, and how Black trans women keep being found dead and accused of deception for being true to themselves. I watch as #SayHerName is intentionally erased and Black men again falsely force themselves to the center of this movement, and as #BlackTransLivesMatter is denounced, pushed aside, and declared unnecessary.
I listen as Boots Riley dismisses and gaslights Noname and talks in circles when she says that the rest of us are too often forgotten about, refusing to hear her words because they are uncomfortable for him to sit in. He demonstrates the familiar way these conversations often go—Black men, even and especially the “radical” ones, stonewall and obfuscate at the mere suggestion that there is room for them to grow. We ask them to be better and they tell us no, in so many words.
I study the new lyrics that have come to us from J. Cole’s pen, about his own inadequacy next to an outspoken Black woman’s knowledge and conviction. He could thank her and graciously receive the gift of their substance and direction, but instead he chastises her for her “tone” and beseeches her to educate him and others “like children.” All I can think about is how Pam Grier literally taught Richard Pryor how to read. She supported him, held his hand through his education, mothered him, and he still abused, gaslighted, disregarded, and dehumanized her. I do not think her tone was the problem.
“Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns.”— AUDRE LORDE
I see a video circulating online of a Black woman knocked unconscious after being hit in the face with a skateboard by a Black man, angry that she rejected his advances. His friends laugh while she lay motionless on the concrete and he fumes about her “disrespect.” Another video emerges where a group of Black men harass and assault a young Black woman before throwing her into a dumpster and laughing as she begins to shed tears, humiliated, and discarded as if she were trash. The metaphor here is painfully obvious. And her tears are familiar to me, the kind that fall after a slow realization comes creeping over you—that you will never be human to them either; that if white supremacy doesn’t kill you then Black patriarchy will.
I witness Black folks of marginalized genders pleading with Black men to protect us, and I am completely devoid of any hope that they will. The reality is that I have given up on trying to find any common ground with them, because I no longer see any. Not even our Blackness. In their imagination, their Blackness is worthy of pride and power and matter, but ours is not. Our Blackness is to be ridiculed by them and pounded into the dirt. Our Blackness isn’t worthy of tenderness, unqualified for the solidarity they afford each other. Gendered violence against us is always a “separate issue” for them and queerphobia is always “irrelevant and unrelated” to the conversations they want to hold, which are always, always about those who fit the categories of cis, hetero, Black, and male.
The narrative continues that these protests are “for Black men” and them alone, that it’s Black men and them alone who are killed by police and funneled into prisons at alarming rates, that it’s Black men who are in the most danger. Again and again, we lift up the names of the Black folks of marginalized genders who have been taken from us. We offer the numbers that show how Black girls and women are even less protected from state violence and carcerality, let alone patriarchal violence. We try and try to show them the way, to “educate” them. Still, their self-centered narrative continues.
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But they call us “queens” so it must be alright, we must be just fine. The word is evidence enough of their reverence for us, they say, and demand that we let them “queen” us into submission. They expect us to lower our heads to accept the crown they’ve offered, so they can step on our necks. This crown, it lacerates and wounds. And we are ungrateful bitches for not accepting it, for not enduring its many harms, for refusing to let them leave their footprints on our backs as they climb their way to the Black Liberation that they envision without us.
“A crown, if it hurts us, is not worth wearing.”— PEARL BAILEY
Black men continually reject any opportunities to grow for the betterment of the collective, they refuse accountability, they demand access to our labor, they plug their ears to what we say about them whether or not there is gentleness in our tone, they thrive on our subjugation, and they enthusiastically participate in our dehumanization. They do all of these things, and more, to evidence their already thinly-veiled hatred. They treat and regard us in the very same ways that white people do, sometimes in even worse ways. The Black patriarchy they love is white supremacy dipped in chocolate.
Each valid and necessary critique of Black patriarchy and its violences, each charge of misogynoir and male supremacy is readily met with their vehement denial. “Not all Black men,” they insist. To that I say, prove it. If there was ever an opportune time for them to prove it to us, it would be right fucking now. But I’m not holding my breath for them, not spending any more energy or wasting any more time anticipating the day they wake up to the reality that all Black oppression is tied up together and so is our liberation. I’m not waiting around for them to catch up. We’ve got work to do.
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