On Being Divisive

In the days since I published this piece, I've come to realize that I made a grievous error in neglecting the potential harm my words could bring to Mr. Garner's family and friends, and to them I offer an apology.

My frustration lies not with the murdered man, but with the hypermasculine posturing that follows these tragedies. Threats to the safety and security of Black men necessitate a call to which Black women, are expected to respond for the good of the community.

Yet black women's grievances, our pain, our needs are seen as distractions from the larger, more pressing agenda, and it seems there's never a good time to talk about the relative lack of care. Sexism deems our lives unimportant, so when we call for an equitable distribution of community resources, we are said to be creating division. But calling upon black men to acknowledge the pervasive and systemic misogyny that exists within black communities is not divisive; however, continuing to deny that black women's issues are those of the community is. If you are truly concerned about the best interests of the race, you must also be concerned for protecting our safety and defending our humanity.

Moving toward liberation requires both black women, black men and those in our communities who are gender non-conforming to cast off the chains of the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy; thus, we do, in fact, have a responsibility to each other. As a cisgender heterosexual black woman, I, too, must refuse not to contribute to the marginalization of those whose bodies exist outside of gender binaries and those whose sexuality makes them subject to exceptional levels of harassment and violence. That is undeniable.

Yet this duty does not require Black women, to be complicit in our own destruction. And though I can hardly express the depths of my admiration for the fortitude of our foremothers, many of whom had no choice but to endure public and private abuse without expectation of recompense, I desire not to follow that trodden path but to seek new possibilities that do not normalize our silent suffering.

Undoubtedly, we are all victimized by the same institutions, and the oppression of black women by black men is a reflection of the violence enacted upon black male bodies by the state. But Black men are not absolved of the ways in which they seek dominance over Black women through violence, sexual assault, humiliation and exploitation.

Expecting us to continually build bridges of understanding and solidarity is yet another form of exploitation that leaves us searching for rare opportunities to address the physical and psychological toll of being served last.

Healthy relationships cannot exist without accountability. Black women are in dire need of a new paradigm for our relationship to Black men--one that does not cast us as a perpetual after thought. And instead of waiting on any group to relinquish their privilege en masse, we can take ourselves back by refusing to deplete our energies on those who continue to use the litter power they have to marginalize us. We can make it clear that no parts of ourselves will be abused with impunity.

By demanding reciprocity from those in Black communities who would misuse our work indefinitely, Black women assert our fundamental right to life and send a clear message that trickle down liberation will not do. We, too, deserve a chance to thrive, and we shall not be denied it.

Photo Credit: National Action Network

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or

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