Just a few weeks ago American was rocked, once again with senseless acts of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia that lead to the murder of Heather Heyer. Heather stood up for righteousness and one of her final quotes that she shared on Facebook, “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention,” has reverberated throughout the world.
Apparently, Margana Woods, the Texas representative for Miss America, was paying attention. When she was asked about Trump’s response to the Charlottesville incident during the Miss America pageant, Margana replied, “I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.” Hold up. Someone rewind that for me! What did she just say? Admittedly even I was stunned when she stated her response. Most people avoid having open, honest dialogue about racism in everyday spaces like their dining room table. This young woman was on national television, ready to give an answer that could decide the future of her life and without hesitation, she spoke truth to power.
While Woods did not officially win the crown, America has crowned her for standing up and speaking the truth. I applaud and appreciate White women like Heather and Margana. I stand with Alex Wubbles, the nurse that stood up to the police officer and was subsequently arrested for not allowing him to conduct an illegal search on a patient.
It is nice to see the world rally behind them, hail them as heroes and fighters for social justice.
However, in just a matter of a few weeks, I have seen Black women vilified for speaking the same truth about White supremacy and standing up against injustice.
Recently, Munroe Bergdorf was fired from L’Oréal for making a statement about White supremacy after the racist violence in Charlottesville. Bergdorf stated in a Facebook post, “Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes, ALL white people. Most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege, and success as a race is built on the backs, blood, and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you built the blueprint for this shit. Come see me when you realise racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege. Once white people begin to admit their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth … then we can talk.”
The backlash for her comments was swift, and the obligatory statement from L’Oréal spoke volumes to me about their real intentions when they decided to have a “diversity campaign.” “The L’Oréal Paris, True Match campaign, is a representation of these values and we are proud of the diversity of the Ambassadors who represent this campaign. We believe that the recent comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with those values, and as such we have taken the decision to end the partnership with her. L’Oréal remains committed to celebrating diversity and breaking down barriers in beauty.”
This is what happens when you hire a Black person to represent diversity because diversity and inclusion are trendy buzzwords. Diversity sells products. Diversity gets people to endure themselves to your brand. It is not a surprise that makeup companies are rushing to compete with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line because she developed shades for all women of color. It is not that they truly care about women color, because they would have done it already if they were that concerned. It is that they realize they are missing out on profits by not catering to diversity. Diversity they are learning, is profitable. However, when you have someone like Bergdorf that speaks about White supremacy, that challenges how some in the world view diversity and inclusion, and your company fires her because she spoke the truth, there is a problem.
Black women are not your brand accessory. Black women are not the afterthought so you can meet some quota. Black women are not to be called on to sit, smile and remain silent about the issues that are plaguing our race just so that you can sell lipstick or shoes or a can of soda. If your company really wants to hire Black women, the best thing you can do is allow Black women to have a voice to speak truth to power and stand with them as they stand in their truth.
When ESPN commentator Jemele Hill made a post on her Twitter stating that Donald Trump is a White supremacist that surrounds himself with other White supremacists, Twitter was in an uproar. While many people did defend, Jemele, because Trump’s words and actions speak for themselves, others called on ESPN to fire Jemele. Even the White House Press Secretary weighed in on the issue and said Jemele’s tweet was a fireable offense. Really? In my opinion, the White House has no leg to stand on. They have cast their lot with a man that is racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, transphobic and doesn’t feel ashamed in the least bit about the way he thinks or the vile and evil things that come out of his mouth. This is a man that has vilified innocent Black young men in New York, has been sued for housing discrimination, is friends with known racists, is backed by David Duke, supports policies that penalize miniorites, has racists in his administration, will not commit to signing a joint congressional resolution condemning White supremacists, blames Mexicans for everything wrong in America, fanned the flames and supported the birther movement against a Black President, said that there were good people on BOTH sides in Charlottesville when only one side was shooting guns, carrying tiki torches, screaming racist chants and drove a car into a group of innocent people injuring many and killing one. And THIS is the person you want us to believe is not racist?
Unlike L’Oréal, ESPN has chosen to stand with Jemele issuing a statement only after she “apologized.” ESPN’s statement says, “Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN. She has acknowledged that her tweets crossed that line and has apologized for doing so. We accept her apology.”
There is a problem when Black women are penalized and vilified for speaking the truth. There is a problem when Black women must weigh their employment against speaking up against racism. There is a problem when many in White America shudder just hearing the words White supremacy. There is a problem when many in White America are afraid when Black people call racism what it is. There is a problem when many in White America want sugar coated lies instead of the bitterness of reality. There is a problem when people can hear Black women say the VERY SAME THING as White women allies and yet only Black women are vilified. There is a problem when your organization hires Black women to be the token face of diversity and inclusion, but you expect Black women to remain silent about racism.
Black women have thoughts and opinions. And our thoughts, opinions, voices, and actions are just as valid (and even more so because we ARE BLACK WOMEN) as Heather’s, Margana’s and Alex’s. While I certainly appreciate, White women allies that stand with us, the truth is no less the truth because it comes out of a Black woman’s mouth. Sometimes it appears our truth cannot be swallowed by the masses unless it is shaken, stirred, bleached, watered down and whitewashed first. Trust what Black women are telling you. It does not need to be rearranged on the tongue and ran through the mouth of a White woman for you to understand the truth. The truth is simply the truth. And Jemele and Munroe told no lies.