If you’re unsure about me because my skin color confuses you in some way, I am a black woman. Not in a Rachel Dolezal “I identify as black because I feel black” kind of way. I am black in a “my mother is black, her parents are black, her family is black” and “my father is black, his mother is black, his family is black” kind of way. I’m not so naive to the fact that my skin is almost comically light so it may not be obvious to people that don’t know me that I am very much a black woman. I’m also not so naive to think that my struggle is anything even remotely like what women darker than me grapple with. I can tick a lot of boxes in the privilege survey, I’m light, able-bodied, healthy, and gainfully employed. I acknowledge my privilege and I’ve definitely abused it when I could (not cool, at all).
In an attempt at transparency, because there are likely plenty of receipts, there was a phase in my teen years where I did not claim to be black. When I was little it didn’t register how I could be “white” if everyone in my family was brown? It didn’t make sense to me. When I was little, I cried very real crocodile tears about it because I wanted my skin to be brown like my mom’s (I sometimes still wish for this). During my “mixed” phase in my teens, I tried to pass and I wasn’t even remotely successful. I stopped getting my hair braided and my mother relaxed my hair with Just For Me. We all know there is an obvious difference in the look of relaxed hair and naturally straight hair but I figured no one would notice. In my mind I could be ambiguous at school and go back to being black at home. I would answer mixed when asked “What are you?”, because no one ever asked “Are you white?”. I joked that I wasn’t one of “those” kinds of black girls, we know what kind I meant – I’m not getting into that because it’s horrible and I was horrible. I made statements about being “color blind” and “one day we’ll all be the same color!”. We won’t. I bubbled “Other” or “Two or more races” on anything that asked for demographics.
(It’s obvious which one I am in these pictures, right?)
I stopped pretending after a while because, well, it’s stupid and that’s something I’m definitely not. I am thankful that I smartened up and I didn’t perpetuate this dumb persona for very long. I made a conscious effort at first and found that I didn’t need to, it felt natural. I spent more time with black people that I wasn’t related to, I went to a HBCU, I made sure to learn black history and listen to black stories, I stopped bubbling “Other” and started bubbling “African-American”. A weight was lifted that I didn’t even know I was carrying. Regardless of what I pretended to be and regardless of how long it took me to stop, it was black people that always accepted me. No matter what I pretended to be, black women were there for me. They were there for me before I was ever there for myself. When I decided I wanted to stand with my black brothers and sisters, their arms were open and waiting as if they always knew I’d find my way. They didn’t have to and I would have understood if they didn’t. Black women have saved me time and time again and continue to save me if I ever I should need it. Black women are heroic without ever trying to be.
Why did I put a post about my blackness in the feminism tag? Because it was black women that stuck by me even when I mistreated them. It was black women that taught me sisterhood and what it meant to be a real friend. It has always been black women that make sure I’m safe in a “You ok, sis?” moment. No one policed my blackness but me. Intersectional feminism is the only feminism I can get down with. If your feminism isn’t inclusive of women that don’t look like me, I don’t want it. You can keep your “us first, you next” white feminism with your suffragettes, pink pussy hats, and burning your bras (that one was just for me because I like wearing a bra). Black feminism, or whatever you want to call it, has always been inclusive even if it wasn’t always intentional. When black women benefit, everyone benefits. Black women show up and out for the benefit of all women, all people in general. We see this every day, in every capacity. We saw this at the polls in November. We see this with our missing girls here in DC. There was a particular day on twitter where I watched black women band together for hours to try and track down a missing girl with Autism that they suspected was being trafficked.
While black women are busy showing up for everyone else, who shows up for black women?
When white feminists rally about pay gaps, they’re not wrong, there is a huge pay gap between men and women However, what you wont hear at these marches is, black women are paid roughly 66 cents for every dollar (compared to 79 cents for white women) a white man makes for equal work (source and another source). White feminists may be surprised to hear that a lot of their issues they talk about also affect women of color. But, while they’re looking out for themselves, black women are looking out for everyone. Black women have led hundreds of people from slavery to freedom, thanklessly raised white children for decades, endured hate from every possible direction, sent American astronauts to the moon, and still remained at the forefront of women’s rights and human rights in general.
How can you not ride for women that effortlessly embody the saying “good lookin’ out“?
If you want to be a better intersectional feminist and ride for all women, listen to marginalized groups, learn, read, let marginalized women speak for themselves, use your privilege to give these women platforms to do so. Don’t continue to fuck up and look to black women to save you even though they will, every single time, and you don’t even have to ask. Taking that into consideration, black women should to continue to uplift other black women and not fall into the trap of respectability politics. Black women don’t have to conform to anything for anyone, ever. Black girls don’t have to fit into white feminism, white feminists need to check themselves if they want to call themselves allies and intersectional feminists or womanists. Black girls are magic, all black women, regardless of how they carry themselves or what they look like. Black girls are magic even if they weren’t born biologically girls.
A moment about the missing black girls in DC: I know if a girl with skin and a name like mine went missing, there would be no stone unturned looking for me. I’m not saying this because I think I’m so important that of course people would look for me, I’m saying it because it’s very easy to look at me and assume that I could be white. That shouldn’t be a deciding factor. There shouldn’t be a reason not to look for these girls. But they’re runaways! So what? They’re not any less missing They’re not any less vulnerable or targeted. In fact, runaways and homeless youth are likely the easiest targets for traffickers, pimps, and violent offenders because of that vulnerability (Source). Find our girls, bring them home, worry about semantics later.
Protect our young black girls, afford them the same innocence and attention that little white girls naturally get.
All of that being said here are some resources if you want to know more about all of the missing girls in DC. Fact checking is just as important as awareness.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying black men don’t show up for black women, they absolutely do. I’m not saying white women/men or other PoC don’t, there are a lot that do. However, no one shows up for women as a whole like black women do. I’m not interested in debating this.