Reclaiming my time; saying ‘yes’ to me

It ain’t easy being a Black woman. Never has been. But I guess I figured we wouldn’t have to still be working this hard just to stay behind, no matter how much education and how many skills we bring to so many tables.

For every dollar that a white man makes, a Black woman earns 63 cents (even lower than white women, who earn 80 cents to the manly dollar). A Black woman must work eight months longer to earn what a white man earns in a year. In other words, a Black woman, even coming to the work game with excellence, has to bust her ass to have what comes naturally and with much more modest effort to even the most mediocre of white men.

So after you bust your ass, what next? As a Black woman, you are at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In fact, while the saying “Black don’t crack” is entrenched into our consciousness as a statement of fact, the reality for many of us is far more sobering. We might look good and we might look young, but the collective weight of navigating life as a Black woman creates an extreme stress that causes wear and tear on our internal organs which leads to higher rates of illness and earlier death.

As this 2010 National Institute of Health study pretty much lays it all out, there is a real cost to being a Black woman. Let’s be real: it’s stressful. From birth to death, we often beat the odds in so many ways.

But again: At what cost?

I have been asking myself these questions for the last several months. I started going to therapy and immediately it became clear that I am doing too much. There is my day job as the Executive Director of Community Change Inc. We are a small, scrappy anti-racism organization that receives little in the way of grant funding; we are 90% donor funded. I spend a lot of time convincing people to support our work. Since 2014, I have managed to financially stabilize the organization and grow our programming, this is no small feat considering the other things that have happened since 2014. My marriage ended and I moved out of the family home in fall of 2015. My son got married in 2016 and became a dad in 2017, thus making me a grandmother. I also worked to grow the readership of this blog.

Our readership now extends far beyond Maine and New England. Last month a patron made a gift from Australia. This year alone, I have had over a dozen speaking engagements across New England and my fall speaking calendar is 90% full. But I have had to hustle for all that harder and longer than have my professional peers who aren’t Black and female.

My youngest child just turned 13 and I spend 50% of my physical time with her, but in the last three years, I have spent no more than 12 consecutive days at my own home due to my travel schedule. And sometimes that means time spent with her is at the family home I left when the marriage ended, while I’m in-between travel and my real home. And as you can imagine, that can get awkward no matter how well my co-parent and I get along.

I am inundated with requests to speak/teach/show up and honestly it’s overwhelming. People are forever asking if I want to engage in social/racial justice work during my off time. I’m frequently asked to do work for free or for amounts so low they might as well be free when you factor in travel costs and time lost. Um, NO! Even when I state this clearly, people still think they are an exception and ask for XYZ. Clearly the idea that a Black woman might have boundaries is hard for people to grasp.

All this to say: I have been heading head-first into the wall of exhaustion. I spent months trying to decide if I should take the plunge and quit my day job and trust that it would work out. I started ramping up my No’s.  No is my new jam.

The thing is, my situation isn’t unique. It’s what many Black women face, we give so much of ourselves and rarely is anyone concerned with our personal well-being. Even in a Black Lives Matter climate, how often do we see the Black women in our lives and ask what can we do for them? Do we see them as individuals outside of their Blackness? Or do they remain a fixed modern day Mammy whose mission is serve us, teach us and guide us? I’ve seen so many pieces published on how Black women are saving the country in so many ways by making things happen and building awareness and getting out the vote, but why are they leaned on so heavily to do that? Where is most of everyone else?

After months of feeling stressed, I worked up the courage to ask my board of directors at the day job for a sabbatical. Long story short: I am off work until after Labor Day. No emails, texts, calls or meetings.  Last night I slept for eight hours. To wake up and not feel like I have to hit the ground running is a marvelous feeling, it’s damn near orgasmic to not have to do anything and to not have to worry if I can pay my rent since this is a paid sabbatical. The internal silence is a gift. (However, as you see right here, I still have to hustle to work on the website here and post blogs and monitor my social media and promote stuff, sabbatical or not.)

This post is a bit more personal than my usual these days but I wanted to be honest about where I am at this moment in my life. While I am not on a sabbatical from BGIM Media, I am taking it easy especially because I have enlisted the assistance of a podcast producer and we record our first episode next week. The podcast will launch right after Labor Day. Weekly postings will continue though we are looking at six posts this month rather than the usual eight.

For all of you who are there for Black women—I mean, really there—thank you. For those of you who haven’t been, please start stepping up because we can’t do so much alone and we damn sure can’t do it without some emotional, social and financial support for our efforts.

f this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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No, no…you can’t do it *that* way (why not?)

Sometimes white people say they’re on my side. Then they say some shit like this:
I don’t think that kind of protest is a good idea because of how it looks.

The ironically obvious problem here is that just by giving that unsolicited advice, they are ignoring it for themselves—in other words, it’s a terrible look. I mean, the fact that anyone says that shit in public proves that they have no idea how their words make them look to people like me. But, you know, how things look to people like me are almost never really the concern.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail Dr. King wrote about the shortsighted need some feel to criticize acts of protest. Believe it or not, that criticism is alive and well and the how-it-looks version has to be the most fucking annoying.

It makes this presumption of authority. They say it as though they are veteran leaders of the most thorough focus groups. Or noble pollsters of the highest order. Or objectively stalwart students of the human pattern. In reality, that Black friend they won’t shut up about doesn’t even remember their name.

For real, to whom do these actions not look good? For whose favor should we adjust our behavior? Do you think that there are people who say shit like, “Well, I didn’t used to think that Black people should be killed by the cops … Right up until I saw them stand up for themselves!”? Trick question. Some people like that are definitely out there—it’s just that they’re lying when they say they weren’t always okay with violence against Black people.

This idea of people who will be put off the idea of racial justice because people of color protest is flawed because there is no such group of people. No one is on the fence about race. There are motherfuckers losing their goddamned livelihoods because the president fucked them over and they proudly still support him. You think they want Black people to do anything other than do what we’re told? They don’t. They don’t care about us or how anything “looks.” Again, not to be petty, but their president’s head looks like balled-up, wet toilet paper held together with dried up smoker’s phlegm, old gum and shower-drain hair.

Did you know that Obama lost the white vote both times? Did you know he got 5 million fewer white votes the second time around? Well, that’s all true and ain’t none of it because his behavior was offensive.

I agree with what they’re saying, just not how they’re saying it.
This is similar to “how it looks,” except, this one is usually a fucking lie. If you see someone getting murdered and say, “I agree that you’re being murdered, but I wanna talk about why you’re being so rude about it,” it’s pretty hard to believe you care about anyone’s life but your own.

I don’t like the president, but I want him to succeed.
Do you? Really? Because that’s what he’s doing. He’s completely succeeding in tearing children from their families and appointing judges to remove the rights of our fellow citizens and destroying our relationships with allies and aligning us with dictators and on and on. He is absolutely succeeding and that’s what you want? Maybe you mean you want the country to succeed. They’re two different things.

I’d love to hear them defend that!
I hear this after every single shitty thing the republicans do. The thing is, they will defend it and it won’t matter how inadequate you think that defense is. They’re only paying lip service. It’s not about compassion or humanity. Not for them. They don’t answer to you.

Hate never wins.
Tell it to the Native Americans.

America is better than this.
Oh, yeah? Is it? Since when? Do you want to MAGA?

In the end, this country is only a story we tell ourselves. There is a USA for white people and a completely different USA for Black people. Black people know this because we’re in your country all the time. Just to exist, we have to hear your stories everywhere we go. Your books and movies. Your history. We know the role we play in your story, but you don’t know the role you play in ours. You don’t come here. You don’t know our stories. You don’t know Ezekiel Rawlins, you haven’t heard Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and you don’t really know how we got here. If you did, you’d know when to listen.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Black women’s blood is spilled too freely

So, today I want to talk about the killings of two Black women. Well, honestly, I don’t want to talk about it, but I feel that I need to, if for no other reason than the words of Malcolm X that still ring so true today: “The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.”

Also because of this not-so-little truth bomb: According to a CDC analysis of data from 18 states between 2003 and 2014, Black and Indigenous women are killed as a result of homicide at rates more than double what women of other races experience. True, homicide is one of the leading killers of women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but Black and American Indian/Native American women are the most vulnerable.

As you might guess, the killings I’m going to talk about are the vicious stabbing murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson in Oakland at a BART train platform and MeShon Cooper, a 43-year-old mother of one in Kansas City who was killed by an alleged white supremacist (I mean, if y’all in the media don’t want to “assume” white supremacy/racism, at least use “likely instead of alleged—the man in Kansas City was previously charged in 2011 with second-degree assault for hitting a Black woman on the head with a hammer as she slept and then sexually assaulting her).

There are any number of layers I can get into here on either or both killings. But probably none of you have time for a research paper right now.

In the Bay Area, the BART transit system already has a checkered past with Black people; we still haven’t forgotten Oscar Grant’s murder by police in 2009, which got big-screen attention in the film Fruitvale Station. Black people don’t necessarily feel protected on the transit system, and when the BART police officers aren’t doing racist things, there are civilians running amok and we kinda feel like focusing on them would be better than going after people like Oscar Grant because maybe then Nia Wilson would still be alive. And, of course, Oakland is also the source of the BBQ Becky nonsense that has been followed up by so many other white women (and now an increasing number of white men, too) needlessly calling 911 on Black people for—well, basically for existing.

And in Kansas City, killer Ronald Kidwell tried to make himself into the victim (and the New York Post and other media helpfully gave him a way to do it). Of course, MeShon Cooper was last seen on July 6, in Shawnee, Kansas, where she lived—then the next day her car was found 12 miles away over state lines, in Kansas City, Missouri, with Cooper’s keys still in the vehicle. And then, y’know, a week later police found her body at the Shawnee home of Kidwell. Not generally how things play out if you’re really the victim. Not to mention Kidwell’s daughter Carolyn Foster mentioned that he has bragged about being in the Ku Klux Klan and liked to show off a swastika tattoo on his arm—plus once threatening to kill Foster and her three children if she “ever spoke to a person of color.” And still there are people who want to debate whether he’s racist and the killing is racially motivated.

Again, what it boils down to is how easy it is for Black women to end up victims—and when they go missing they don’t get the kind of media attention or “Amber Alert”-style attention that white girls and white women do. America, on the whole, doesn’t really care what happens to Black women. They tend to be seen as unworthy of respect, aren’t allowed to express emotions, aren’t seen as worthy as making money for hard work, and so on. As bad as women in general have it in America and as bad as Black and brown men have it, Black women get it worse than anyone else but an Indigenous woman. In general, too, killings of Black people lead to arrests less often than if victims are white.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: We need to say their names. We need to remember these victims and we need to change things. Black women deserve better, and that’s a plain fact.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Tess Nebula from Unsplash