Thanks to the good folks of Generation Z, marginalized folks, and Black and brown folks, we staved off the worst predictions of a red wave and kept democracy from completely flatlining for another two years.
However, the House of Representative did fall to GOP control, which is a huge blow to progress. And with the announcement that Trump is planning another run for office, we can barely waste time reveling in what wins we did achieve—we still have plenty of work ahead of us.
Remember, our enemies include people bold enough to storm the United States Capitol and willing to make anti-abortion laws so stringent that women experiencing miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies cannot get proper care. These people have no limits to what they are willing to do to maintain whiteness and a rabid patriarchy as a way of life for all of us.
Given the work that lies ahead, I need to point something out. In the United States, we have a tendency to over-rely on Black women to lead and guide us through the hard moments. Which, I suppose—if Black women were treated with the respect we deserve—maybe, just maybe, that would be okay. But can we get real?
Every time I read a think-piece or see a meme about Black women “saving” democracy, I cringe and a little piece of me dies. For all the love we say we have for Stacey Abrams, for example, at the end of the day the majority of white women in Georgia did not support her. While we could chalk it up to Georgia being “just” the South, the fact is that white women are reliable foot soldiers for white supremacy and white patriarchy. They understand that their continued support allows them access to privileges and they have no interest in losing their unique position as both the oppressed and the oppressor.
At the same time, increasingly I am painfully confronted with the reality that even white people who are attempting to dismantle their relationship to white supremacy often see today’s Black woman and the collective work of Black women as akin to being a societal Mammy.
No doubt, if you are a white-bodied person reading this, a part of you may be tensing up and that’s okay. Discomfort can be a valuable stop in the journey to racial and collective liberation.
However, when I look at the state of Black womanhood—as a Black woman—I see a world that, in the words of Bill Withers, is content to “use us up.”
Where should I start?
Black women have the highest levels of what public health researchers call allostatic load—the cumulative burden of bodily “wear and tear” from chronic stress and adverse life events—compared with other groups in the workplace. That burden puts us at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, overall decline, and early death. But whether we are being asked to save the world, the company, or individuals, how often do white-bodied people think of this when they are asking us to keep showing up for ingrates who never show up for us?
Most Black women keep showing up because we want a better world for ourselves and our progeny, but who wants a better world for us? If I am being completely honest, I am not sure that anyone does, other than other Black women. We do show up for each other, partially because we know that we are all we have, and no one shows up consistently for us. It is a painful acknowledgement and reality. As we say amongst ourselves, “We are all we got.”
Even when white people claim we are “valuable” and that our work has value, too often we are reduced to groveling to get our needs and wants met. Black women earn sixty to seven cents to every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white man, and we earn 12% less than white women. Even education doesn’t get us to economic parity. A Black woman with a bachelors degree on average earns 36% less than a white man with a bachelor’s degree.
That racial wage gap has real-life consequences when you understand how racial disparities overall have prevented Black generations from creating any kind of wealth. It means we are burdened with debt in ways our white counterparts are not.
From birth to death, we are faced with heavy loads. Not even wealth and celebrity can shield us from society’s callous disregard for our lives, and yet the magic of Black womanhood is the rich tapestry of life that many of us weave for ourselves despite everything. I often joke that we juggle so well perhaps people really cannot grasp the magnitude of what we carry.
But make no mistake, our loads are heavy and rather than expecting us to save the country, white-bodied people would do well to level up their own resilience and strength and drive to live their espoused values. Rather than constantly asking us to show up for a thankless task that adds to our loads and rarely gives back to us in any meaningful way, step up more yourselves. In your communities, in your families, in your own work to change yourself and the world around us all. Anything less and you are asking Black women to serve as your new millennium Mammy.
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