What happened to Chikesia Clemons shows how dangerous it is to be a Black woman doing anything at all.I haven’t watched the video of two white police officers assaulting 25-year-old Chikesia Clemons at a Waffle House in Alabama; part of my self-care practice is not subjecting myself to images of violence against people who look like me. Let white people who don’t believe in institutional racism watch it and get an education—I don’t need to see it to know it happened. However, the video illustrates the misogynoir that exists in the country and how dangerous it really is to be a Black woman doing anything at all. When Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, the outrage was immediate, and the company announced that they would be closing on 29 May for a company-wide racial bias training. When video emerged of Clemons’ attack, Waffle House said they agreed with the police action taken, and that was that. Even with video depicting the violence that she endured, the reaction elicited a pathetic “meh.” There was no justice. No immediate interviews. Just a video of a Black woman being brutalized and circled around the internet for the voyeuristic pleasure of others who consume the brutalization of Black bodies and the abuse of Black women. This is common history though. The bodies and lives of Black women have always been something that was considered up for consumption by any and everyone. From Sarah Baartman, the so-called “Hottentot Venus”, to Aunt Jemima smiling back from boxes of pancake mix, the pain and service of Black female bodies is expected and goes without comment. In the culture of white supremacy, we are seen, automatically, as unruly. We are not women in the same sense that white women are seen as women. We are seen, perhaps better explained, as female, a sexual object at times but more so as a receptacle of white supremacist culture’s fetishes. We exist to receive and serve so when we step outside of that role, as Clemons did, as Sandra Bland, Korryn Gaines, and Amia Tyae Berryman did, we are brutalized, we are killed. And the problem isn’t just police officers, it’s the society we live in.
Despite a society hellbent on silencing their stories, there will always be nasty women, fragile women, slutty women…difficult women.Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women” went to print at a time when the United States was putting its first female Presidential nominee against its most vehemently and openly misogynistic candidate in this century. To beat that female nominee, the misogynist would use labels: “liar,” “criminal,” “traitor,” and more. The label that would later unite women across the US against him, however, would be “nasty woman.” He would follow up with “lying woman,” “frigid woman,” “man-eating woman,” and “crazy woman” before the end of the election. These labels are the very root of Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women”, a book about feminine labels, create at a time when the leader of the free world tried so hard to reduce women to labels, and the women found the strength to push them back. In fact, 2017 could be called the “Year of the Difficult Woman”. From the indictment of white women for electing Trump the black women who saved Alabama from itself, the pink pussy-hatted woman, silenced and disrespected women of Congress, as well as the most prominent difficult women, those of the #MeToo movement. The year was all about women marching, speaking up and speaking out against the sexual harassment that men once thought was their birthright. It was as if the Universe had read Gay’s work and decided to have it acted out in a single year. In 21 stories and 256 pages, Gay explores the labels given to women in today’s society when that woman becomes something other than compliant. She takes the label, distorts it with the image of the woman carrying it. That distortion reduces the woman to a character that is still human, but now she is her label but is more palatable to a reader who has been conditioned to NOT see past the label. By the end of the story, the reader has no choice but to see the strength and power that underlies every woman as she struggles under the auspices of the label. The reader must empathize with her or simply gather an understanding and move on. This is how each woman fared in the 21 stories.
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.
May white feminism stay and die in 2017. They have really outdone themselves. My newsfeed curation is constantly being managed by my trigger-happy fingers that have turned ‘unfollow’ into a reflex reaction. Yet, I can be laughing uproariously at some delicious