“I didn’t have the luxury of only loving my own children. My own mother, I remember being blue. Blue from the dark of the morning. When the moon would still be up, she kissing me and my sisters on the eyelids, us pretending to be asleep. She going off to work to wake and kiss some other woman’s children in the sunlight. I swore that my own children would have all of me. Now I know what my mother must’ve of known. That is something had ever happened to that other woman’s children, that would have been the end of us. Now I know she left us not just out of duty but out of love. Now I know, that love is a kind of survival.”
This quote is from the Netflix movie, Mudbound, in which Mary J. Blige, plays Florence, a married Black woman that must leave her own family and take care of Laura’s children, a White woman, whose children have have whooping cough. Florence has to “clean up” Laura’s mess because she failed to take her children to the doctor when they first started getting sick and now weather doesn’t permit them to drive to get medical attention. Florence, who isn’t a nurse now must find a way to use her skills as a mother to tend to Laura’s family. The failure of Laura to do her part has now somehow created an emergency in Florence’s life.
I watched this scene, and my mind keyed on Florence’s words, “I didn’t have the luxury of only loving my own children.” I was reminded of how many Black women had to hold White children to their breasts, feeding and nurturing the children of their slavemaster. Black women are never allowed just to be whole. The world always comes to steal pieces of them, and they are left picking up the fragments of themselves, fashioning them together in some Frankenstein creation, always left quilting together their humanity.
Why must Black women always be the clean up woman?
In the wake of a Sport’s Illustrated investigative story that exposed the rampant sexual harassment allegations of the championship Dallas Maverick’s, Mark Cuban revealed that a Black woman Cynthia Marshall has been hired as the “interim” CEO. While many people celebrated her appointment on social media, I paused and asked myself, “Why now?” “Why did Mark Cuban hire Cynthia at this moment in time?” Cynthia Marshall is a Black woman that has been honored twice by Black Enterprise as one of the 50 most powerful women in corporate America. Black Enterprise describes Marshall as, “a quick thinker, straight talker, and highly respected leader who was senior vice president, Human Resources, and chief diversity officer at AT&T before she retired in 2017 to launch her own consulting firm.” Black Enterprise goes on to say, “A San Francisco Bay area native, Marshall was on a visit to her hometown when her phone rang. It was a former colleague, calling on behalf of Maverick’s owner, Mark Cuban, who was eager for the opportunity to speak with her directly. Cuban was facing a crisis, the colleague told her, adding, “You are uniquely positioned to be helpful to him.”
Uniquely positioned to be helpful to HIM. Really? Imagine that.
Before I finish this blog, let me say, I believe that Marshall like MANY Black women are HIGHLY qualified; and if I may be honest, even OVER qualified for many positions. So, why do Black women always have to be hired after a scandal, after an incident, after the social media misstep, after the drama, after the crisis?
Why are Black women always called in to clean up the messes?
When I expressed this concern on social media, someone told me, “I just think that you tend to see bad where maybe there was some good. I appreciate that Cuban hired the best person for the job. I hope you don’t think he just put her there because of her color and the fact that she’s a woman.”
In fact, that is precisely what I think.
Do I think Cynthia Marshall is qualified? Undoubtedly. Do I believe Cynthia Marshall will get the job done? Indeed. Cynthia Marshall is more than qualified to right the ship. I do not now nor will I EVER doubt her abilities. Cynthia Marshall was qualified BEFORE the sexual harassment scandal. And that is where my issue lies.
There is this continuous theme in America, and it has happened since Black women were brought to this land. Black women had to sacrifice the very being of who they were in order to clean up the messes of White people. Black women had to pick the cotton, birth her kids, raise her kids, raise the slavemasters kids, be raped by the slavemaster, birth kids that were conceived through rape, cook for the slavemaster’s family, take care of her own husband, help the slavemaster’s wife give birth, and then breastfeed the slavemaster’s children. Black women had to clean up all the messes.
And if and when Black women had a moment to breathe, here comes the world calling. Once they have made a mistake. Once everything has gone to hell. Once everything is turned upside down. Once everything is ruined. Please, Black woman, come fix it. Just give it to a Black woman, she will fix it! I feel like Black women are locked behind one of those cases where people keep the fire extinguisher that reads, “In case of emergency, break glass.” Come fix it, Cynthia Marshall, even though I ignored the rampant sexual misconduct in my own organization. Come fix it, Michelle Obama, even though this nation never COLLECTIVELY stood up for you or your husband in 8 years. Come fix it, Oprah, even though we voted for a reality TV star. Come fix it, Anita Hill, even though we didn’t COLLECTIVELY stand up for you as you were battling sexual harassment. Come fix it, Black women, even though we still voted for a racist, alleged pedophile. Come fix it, Black women even though 53% of us voted for a man that was racist and divisive. Come fix it, Black women. Clean up our mess. Let us nurse on your breasts some more.
I KNOW Black women are QUALIFIED. WE KNOW Black women are QUALIFIED. BLACK WOMEN HAVE BEEN, ARE, AND ALWAYS WILL BE QUALIFIED!
IN KNOWING THAT, BLACK WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT- ONLY CALLED ON ONCE SHIT HITS THE FAN!
Perhaps, just perhaps, Black women wouldn’t have to rush in and CLEAN UP YOUR MESSES if you THOUGHT ABOUT BLACK WOMEN AT THE OUTSET! What would this nation and world be, if Black women were considered, BEFORE THE CRISIS? What if you recognized the value of Black women BEFORE you started your so-called “diversity campaign?” How different would the outcome be if you listened to BLACK WOMEN BEFORE YOU VOTED FOR AN ASSHOLE? What could we become if you listened to Black women FIRST and not LAST? If you asked Black women NOT to be the “interim” CEO but “THE CEO?” What could your organization be if you invited Black women to the table BEFORE the scandal?
We are tired of only being asked to the table so that we can swoop in to clean up your messes. While I know Black women may make this look easy, it ain’t easy. We do not have an S on our chests. We are tired of being the afterthought; the Black woman that’s looked over until there is an emergency. We are tired of cleaning up your messes. We are tired of being your maid and wet nurse. Black women are qualified from the very beginning, and I am willing to BET if you listened to Black women at the OUTSET, you wouldn’t need to call us in to clean up your messes in the end.
Featured Photo: The Help