Black women are being excluded from the community they created

Illustration by Monte | The Signal

When millennials chant, “Black Lives Matter,” it is clear that they are mostly referring to Black, cishet men.

Misogynoir and transphobia claim the lives, safety and health of Black women at an alarming, disproportionate rate compared to non-Black women.

Studies show that Black women are less likely to be seen, believed, treated or acknowledged, yet we are urged to prioritize one-sided progressivism to avoid being “divisive” in our struggle.

Cishet Black men have a responsibility to put their pride and ignorance to the side and create a safe space and platform to the issues plaguing the women in our community.

This is not to slander cishet Black men; instead, it’s a call to action. Cishet Black men are the most privileged group within the Black community, so their treatment of the intersections within our community dictates how we function in our community.

The key to being an ally to Black women starts with humanizing Black women. In addition to denouncing internalized white supremacy, we must denounce the objectification of Black women’s existence. 

We are not your whores, bitches, trap queens, ride-or-dies, mentors, “moods,” “vibes” or property. We are people with pain receptors and a full range of emotions. We need treatment, support and nurturing like any other human being. 

When acknowledging our humanity, avoid the strong Black woman stereotype. We are not strong as an aesthetic or for the meme. We are an oppressed group of people who are given no space to breathe except to internalize trauma.

Do not praise our “strength” because you benefit from it. Instead, hold our abusers accountable. Whether it is the white supremacy of the police force or the rape culture or transphobia in our community, you as a Black man shouldn’t be indifferent to what has murdered or traumatized the women in your community. 

Your indifference to the trauma of Black women shouldn’t be dependent on their proximity to you. A woman shouldn’t have to be your sister, mother or significant other to be valuable or worthy of protection. Protect the women of your community the way you want to be protected.

If you are passionate about unlearning misogyny, you would do yourself a service by educating yourself outside of this article. Black women’s experiences in our society aren’t monolithic. It is important to enrich yourself with first-hand experiences of transphobia, rape culture, sexualization of Black girls and featurism.

In this journey of education, do not rely on Black women to offer their traumas for your consumption. If a Black woman has not publicly shared her trauma or if the conversation doesn’t progress naturally, realize that your education is your responsibility.

On your path to enlightenment, avoid historical revisionism and conservative lenses. No harm will come from reading titles by “angry Black women,” “radical” womanists or other candid literature. Before getting uncomfortable, remember the discomfort of women walking past a large group of men.

Before starting with “not all men,” remember that “not all men” have to travel in packs to go to the bathroom. “Not all men” are afraid to walk past a large group of women. “Not all men” will be raped for turning down a rowdy club patron.

Accountability is an important part of allyship. The time to educate yourself isn’t when you need to avoid accountability for attacking your fiance or after you’ve called a Black woman a “bitch.” 

Social media has magnified the plight of Black women. Social media backlash practically includes a dissertation explaining your error and why it was problematic. Education has been there. Acknowledge that it wasn’t important to you then but that it will be now.

Enlightenment should lower your tolerance for the disrespect of Black women. Don’t post how much you love “your queens” (to reiterate: we don’t belong to you), only to sit idly as your friends mock dating violence and rape.

Before praising how a leader overcame a racialized plight, please make sure that he is not a rapist, a colorist, an abuser or otherwise malicious toward Black women. Love is protection. If you love Black women, don’t praise men who built their careers off of our backs.

In your allyship, recovery from misogyny is never complete. As a Black woman, I have to catch myself from perpetuating my internalized misogynoir, a system that doesn’t benefit me. If I haven’t recovered from it, neither have you.

Black women aren’t asking for Black men’s heads on a platter. We are not irrationally angry or aimlessly complaining. We are asking for visibility because we aren’t seen or heard in the medical field, on the street, in our community or in our own homes.

We are asking for a safe space. Black women are dying, and we can no longer carry your ego and ignorance. The fragility of your ego is incomparable to the fragility of our lives.