Four Pieces of Writing by Black Women You Need to Read

Black women are brilliant. Read their words.

Street Harassment: The Black Girl's Bat Mitzvah by Maya Francis

Street harassment, in its own sick way, was the way I figured out I wasn’t a little girl any more. Even though, at 15 years old, I was very much a child. It’s almost a rite of passage. The Black girl’s Bat Mitzvah.

If you’ve ever followed the conversations on Twitter, you’re probably pretty versed on what street harassment is. It’s when some mouth breathing asshole decides that a great way to get a woman’s attention is to honk his horn at her. Or make passes at her while she’s walking down the street minding her own damn business. Or physically stop her. Or call her a cunt when she doesn’t give him the response he wants. He “deserves.” Or worse.

There are, of course, levels to this shit. Some of these idiots are harmless. But — and fellas please pay attention — when it’s dark and/or you’re alone, it can be very hard to differentiate between harmless idiot and fucking criminal.

T.I.’s New Found Colorblindness For Iggy Azalea by Bené Viera 

Somehow a white female rapper appropriating black women’s whole style with a fix-a-flat booty, faux southern ‘hood accent isn’t mediocre, but black women with their tracks showing is soooo mediocre. And this song is for us. Cute.

I couldn’t get out of the listening fast enough.

Maybe I was so bothered by his rhetoric because the room was hella white, and some white people tend to take what black celebs say as the holy grail voice of The Blacks. Maybe I’m overly sensitive because Iggy gets to appropriate shit black women have authentically been doing for decades, but gets to do so without the scathing degradation of insults of being a “bitch,” “hoodrat” or “ghetto ho,” something black women aren’t exactly afforded the privilege of. After she’s done playing dress up, her whiteness remains intact. Maybe I’m sick of culture vultures dominating black music and the black men who rush to co-sign or save them. Maybe I’m frustrated by the trendy suburban white boys whose voices and pens are at the forefront of coverage on the culture black folks created while black journalists and black press are treated like dust. And yes, I’m definitely sick of hip-hop writers/journalists (black and white) who do very little critique of hip-hop, no pushing the culture forward, but come to events to stan out, get a quick quote for their blogs and tell everyone how dope the music is.

It’s Time for White Feminists to Stop Talking About Solidarity and Start Acting by Kesiena

To be feminist is to be aware of our interconnected struggle as women, but to also see that not every struggle is our own. Use your voice as a privileged white woman to shout down racism wherever you see it. Be thankful that you will never know the sickening lurch that sways through your blood when your humanity is denounced and denied because of your race by women who profess to care about all women’s liberation. The title feminist is to be taken up by women who have moved beyond a selfish view of one’s relationship to society, an outlook that is nurtured and encouraged by the neo-liberal matrix we find ourselves struggling to survive in. It is difficult to throw off no doubt, but we can and we must. In her speech “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action,” Audre Lorde spoke of how she was doing her work to dismantle the binds of this sick sad world and questioned her sisters, ‘…are you doing yours?’

I recently wrote a Facebook status explaining how sick and tired I am of asking white people to stop wearing bindis and fashioning their hair into the mess that they have the audacity to call dreadlocks. Predictably, it didn’t end well. I explained that I can’t abide the blatant and flagrant cultural appropriation of symbols that are dear to people of colour. It’s simply not fair that people of colour’s own cultural markers mark them out as ‘backwards’, ‘unclean’ or ‘unprofessional.’ Meanwhile white people don the same things and are lauded for their (stolen) creativity and uniqueness. White women who have sat by my side in feminist meetings, who I was once proud to call my sisters, rushed to shout me down and accuse me of stirring hatred and racism and it then dissolved into personal attacks on my character. The thing that really struck me was their repeated affirmations that they cared deeply about tackling racism and wanted to work together to end it. Well to them I say: listen the hell up when a woman of colour calls you out! I was literally giving them an easy way to chip a little bit of racism away from the world but their cognitive dissonance is so strong that they can say we will fight racism with one side of their mind whilst perpetuating it with the other. This is how whiteness operates; it is insidious and sly. It lets white women feel that they have the coolness and collectedness of reasoned, dispassionate logic on their side and thus they reign righteous over women of colour’s understandable anger and frustrations. I once made the mistake of falling for a ‘feminist’ white girl who would get angry at me for daring to call out the racism and misogynoir of a mutual male friend, though of course she would never admit that she might hold racist thoughts herself via her tone-policing and what I came to see as her fetishistic view of me and other Black people. This is the reality of our white supremacist society, and by extension the feminism of white women who allow it to permeate them without critical reflection.

Carrying Jada: When ‘Standing With’ Isn’t Enough. by Stacia L. Brown

We think it is rape culture or gun violence that will define us as a fallen civilization. But it’s the indifference that will do us in. It’s our fierce commitment to independence — emotional, cultural, financial, spiritual — as our most prized and noble value that dooms us.

We are nothing without each other, nothing if all we can manage is protecting our own children, nursing our individual grief, urging others to be more like someone else who was “independent” enough to “move on” and “dust herself off” and “get over it.”

We look at little girls like Jada and we call her brave for speaking out against her own ongoing violation. She whose small body has withstood a behemoth of trauma is now expected to be publicly strong enough to fight an Internet meme proliferating faster than her own words can carry.

It is foolish to think that by devoting a few tweets or blog entries over a news cycle we are truly standing with her. It is foolish to think that standing with someone online or in a city hall or by a courtroom telecast on TV is affecting longterm change. I am often of the mind that girls who’ve gone through what Jada has don’t need us to stand with them. They need to be swept off their feet, hoisted onto our backs or shoulders, and carried. We carry the Jadas of the world by teaching their peers, that it is their own inability to empathize with her, their own voracious appetites for cell phone footage of active crime scenes, their own shrugging in the face of others’ tears that eggs their friends on. We carry her by emphasizing to young women and young men already embroiled in these dark, embittering battles that their is us and them when it comes to rape. You are not better if it has not happened to you. You will not be praised for never having done it or for leaving the scene as it’s about to occur and keeping silent about the terror you sensed there, afterward.

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