Over the past few days, many Presidential candidates have spoken eloquently about Black women and our strength, power, and abilities. As I thumbed through my Twitter feed, I came upon Elizabeth Warren’s tweet that had a new plan to address issues that are impacting Black women. I also came across a video of Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg stating, “I stand here aware, that Black women are not just the backbone of the Democratic Party but the bone and sinew that is making our democracy whole.”
Black women aren’t just the backbone of the Democratic Party, they are the bone and sinew that make our democracy whole. When Black women mobilize, outcomes change. #essencefest pic.twitter.com/p3k5ZVpCbI
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) July 7, 2019
Thank you, Pete, for that information.
However, newsflash to Pete and anyone else that wants to echo his sentiments…you are not telling Black women anything that we do not already know. And here’s the kicker, we KNOW that you KNOW and have always KNOWN the power, influence, and impact of Black women which is why throughout history, White America has either tried to silence it, kill it, or commandeer it -which is where we are now in America.
Right now, we are in awakening where people see the power and potential of harnessing the talent, creativity, ingenuity of Black Women not because they have any real interest in uplifting Black women but because the influence of Black Women is now a commodity. The influence of Black women can make or break an election. The influence of Black women can cause your products to fly off the shelves. The influence of Black women can shift industry standards. The influence of Black women can impact an entire economy. The influence of Black women sets the trends.
Before it was convenient just to hijack and co-opt everything about Black women. Why actually get a “real” Black woman when you can take a White woman and surgically enhance her until she “looks the part?” So, they snatched everything- our hairstyles, our skin color, our lips, our hips, our slang, our mannerisms, our food. Some of them have built entire empires co-opting the essence of Black women. But the funny thing is, no matter how you attempt to co-opt Black women, imitations will never be as great as the real thing.
And this world noticed the shift. So now it is socially acceptable and profitable to pull Black women from the kitchen to the spotlight. It is now cool that a Black woman is your bestie. It is seen as progressive to say you watch Joy Reid and love April Ryan. It is catchy to call Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “Auntie Maxine.” It is all the rage now to get in formation. It is acceptable to invite the Black woman to your brunch. It is seen as progressive to have a Black woman on staff. And it’s always punctuated with the selling and talking point, #TrustBlackWomen.
For me, that hashtag has become as common as #Diversity and #Inclusion. Those words are stamped on to everything because diversity and inclusion are good for business. However, when I see these hashtags, my first question is, “What is your motive?”
It is easy to create a hashtag and never do one thing to practice diversity and inclusion truly. (I understand that some of the Democratic candidates have some Black women in leadership roles however this extends far beyond any political campaign.) It is easy to say Trust Black Women and NEVER do anything to show that you actually do Trust Black Women. I do not get excited when I hear White people say Trust Black Women. As a Black woman, I understand this phrase in practice often translates to use Black women, allow Black women to do all the work, allow Black women to be the feet and never the face of movements, steal from Black women, harness Black women’s ideas and creativity for White America’s gain, pay Black women less than their worth, never promote Black women, allow Black women to lead from the back of the line, step on a Black woman’s back to get to the top.
Trusting Black Women is more than a catchy hashtag. It is more than a talking point on the campaign trail. Trusting Black Women is more than inviting a Black woman to the table without any leadership or decision-making authority. Do not invite me to the table if I am expected to sit pretty and poised with no power. Do not invite me to the table if you want a sassy, finger snapping, Black woman for entertainment purposes only. Do not invite me to the table so I can be the face of your faux Trust Black Women campaign. Making a hashtag does absolutely nothing without clear motives and actions behind it.
Trusting Black Women isn’t done so that Black women can carry you on our backs. Trusting Black Women means as a White person, you are willing to fall back, step aside, decrease so that a Black woman may increase. It means giving Black Women their credit. Trust Black Women means paying Black women their worth. Trust Black Women means listening to the issues that impact Black women and swallowing down the need to say, “Not All.” Trust Black Women means owning your part in a system that has been designed to benefit White people. Trust Black Women means allowing Black women to lead with authority. Trust Black women means being a real ally and having difficult conversations with your family members. Trust Black Women means not tone policing Black women because we have said something about racism that made you uncomfortable. Trust Black Women means standing with Black women in our times of need. Trust Black Women means reevaluating and tearing down every single system in America that has benefited White people. Trust Black Women means listening to Black women at the beginning, and not after all hell has broken loose.
If you want to Trust Black Women move beyond making this sentiment a social media hashtag for your gain but make it something that you practice in your everyday life. Only then will things truly begin to change.
Trust me. I’m a Black Woman.