Oprah’s speech obviously made a huge impression and once again a Black woman is being called upon to save us from white recklessness/racism.
Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes award-acceptance speech ignited a fiery debate on social media, as people speculated over whether or not she should run for President. Discussions ranged from complete adoration and reckless stanning to fervent disapproval. Some wondered if the latter was due to racism (likely for some). Some blamed sexism. Some highlighted the fact that running a country is not like running a business and that Oprah is not politically versed and gave the names of other, more qualified, candidates.
Whatever the case, Oprah’s speech obviously made a huge impression and once again a Black woman is being called upon to save us from white recklessness/racism. Whether she’s qualified or not is beside the point. What I want to know is why people continue to advocate for a Pine-Sol Lady™ style clean up of their mess?
While the typical Magical Negro is usually a Black man (typically disabled or impoverished) the Mammy stereotype is another gendered racial trope that dehumanizes Black women and seeks to place us in the diminished role of white savior-mother-maid. Mammies are like the tree in Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. If you are not familiar with the premise of the book it goes like this: The tree loves the boy. The boy gathers her leaves and plays beneath her. He shares his woes and receives comfort and support. Supposedly the boy loves the tree. Whatever. The relationship appears mutually beneficial, right? So the boy grows up a little. Stops visiting as much. He’s getting some, he’s going through puberty. The tree patiently waits. The boy occasionally appears whenever he needs comfort for some life disappointment, or when he needs something material. This continues until the tree has sacrificed its fruit, branches and trunk. All while being understanding and kind and never asking for anything in return. The rest is irrelevant. I wept for that tree.
The Mammy is a servant to white/male power. The Mammy is subordinate, and is one of the dominant images of Black women—because Black women did not fit into the white cult of domesticity or of true womanhood. The Mammy is obedient, desexualized, and self-sacrificial. She sacrifices herself for the good of [white] humankind. She is exploitable and deferent, and always somehow saves the day. The Mammy is completely committed to coddling whiteness and white people, no matter the cost to her own well-being or happiness.
That white liberals and various others would expect a Black woman to swoop in and save the day is not surprising. After all, some of you were reared by us. You expect Black women to bear the brunt of your scorn, the weight of your problems. You expect us to deliver. And we do, every time. Black women carry the Democratic Party, yet we continue to live in poverty, continue to be shafted not just by white people but by our very own. And still you expect us to carry you. Expecting Black women to be everything to everyone is not new, and the Mammy stereotype continues to proliferate. See: “The Secret Life of Bees” (2008) and “The Help”.
How long will it take you all to recognize that Black women are not here to be your sacrificial lambs? How long will it take for you to recognize that we are autonomous human beings with feelings and not your emotional dumping ground? Black women have given enough. We have given you scholarship, we have marched for those who don’t even bother to remember our names. We have voted, we have gone door to door campaigning. We have raised and nurtured your children, we have prayed, we have donated, we have delivert. What more do you want from us? That y’all would call for a Black woman to step in after 45 and fix everything he has sought to undo, that y’all would even think to expose a Black woman to the type of vile racism and harm that Obama was is despicable and self-serving. We owe you nothing.
“And after a long time
The boy came back again.
“I am sorry, Boy,”
said the tree, “but I have nothing
left to give you–”