On the last big election night, back in 2016, as data shows, black women showed up in droves to support Hillary Clinton in her race to become the first woman President. Although many of us weren’t #withher, we were with YOU and this country, so we got in formation. Today, we are asking for you to show up for us.
After the election, I saw many women vowing to use their influence and privilege to advance the rights of the folks who were reeling at the reality that an uninformed racist would be in charge of the country. They shared images, reposted statements, and raised their hands on Facebook status’ counting themselves “present” to be taken to task.
Big events like the election, or school shootings, or incidents of police violence always seem to bring out the helpers. Thank God, because we need people who are interested in advancing and supporting folks other than themselves. Marginalized groups need allies, and people with power who open doors or pull chairs out at the table.
The desire to support others is noble, indeed. I appreciate the sentiment. I do, however, have a few requests, particularly if you’re proclaiming to be an ally to black women.
If you are promising to show up for us, don’t let it only be in the way that YOU feel comfortable. Thank you for inviting us to speak at your conference. Do you have any Black women in senior management of your organization? Thank you for donating to our cause. Are you also having conversations with your friends and family members about the need for race specific organizations? Thank you for posting our Facebook statuses. Are you making sure your clients understand why diversity is important to you, and are you willing to walk away if they won’t budge?
Check your actions and attitudes towards Black women. After the election, I was moved to reach out to a few friends after seeing them being asked to be called out because of positions they have put me in without even realizing it. Are you going behind a Black woman’s back who is in charge to team up and strategize before you have a discussion with her? You don’t trust her. Check yourself.
Have you ever went over a Black woman’s head to discuss an issue that affects her and she wasn’t involved in the conversation? You’re infantilizing her. Check yourself. Have you ever ignored a Black woman in a social setting, or in an online group (except for the “cool” ones), but you’re super outgoing and extroverted any other time with everybody else? You’re just being mean. Check yourself.
Don’t make us have to call you out. If you want to show up for us, do that work. Call out your friends. Call out your family members. Check yourselves.
Listen. Hard. Not just to the Black women who are saying the most. Or to the ones who are speaking the loudest. And not just to the Black women with the clout, or who are in the “in crowd”. Listen to the quiet ones. Better yet, ask the quiet ones how they’re doing, what they need. Invite THEM to speak at your conference, or to interview for a job with your organization. Check in on those women. Sure, there is less glory when there are fewer people watching, but you’re not doing it for the glory anyway, right?
Accept the fact that the life and experiences that you may have been privileged to live are quite different than that of many Black women. When a friend shared how she was surprised about the way that North Carolinians voted in the election on a status that I posted about NOT being surprised, I pointed out how that reaction was a result of not experiencing the racist North Carolina that I grew up in. Black women have known that this country is filled with racists. Oh, and along those lines…you don’t have to call me “girl” if that’s not your speak. You can honor my Black experience without mocking me.
I am a woman, but I can never be JUST a woman. That’s not because I want to be divisive and just point out differences for the sake of it. I am always a “Black woman” because of the history of this country. I have worked and supported girls and women of all races for as long as I can remember, and I will continue to do that. With all of you promising to come together and do the work, we should be able to get a lot done.
Don’t let your work merely be a status update, and a “cool kids club”. Do the work when it’s dirty, when you’re alone, and when it’s uncomfortable.
Thank you for showing up.