What We Know About How the World Sees Black Women in 2014

by Candace Simpson

2014 has been one for the books, in terms of the progress Black women made – and the backlash they received. Despite their success as primetime TV’s leading ladies, the world called Viola Davis “less classically beautiful”, posted memes about Olivia Pope being the “side ho role model”, and argued that “Annie” should never have been “black-washed.” And yet, it has been an incredible year for Black women and girls. Here are five things we’ve learned about how the world sees us in 2014… and what we learned about ourselves in the process.

We are beautiful, but the world isn’t ready for that.

Lupita. Tracee. Viola. FLOTUS. These women served as a reminder that we are gorgeous. Sometimes, though, those praises turn into objectification. We’re aware of that. Still, saying “I am beautiful,” is an act of resistance. And we are beautiful all the time: whether we’re posing in our #BlackGirlRedLip selfies or wearing that freakum dress that hugs our curves. Our hair is magnificent, however we wear it. Simply put, we’re flawless.

We are brilliant, but the world isn’t ready for that.

Some folks think that we’re not capable of being gorgeous and smart at the same time. Sadly, when Black women show that we have something important and meaningful to say, we are often misrepresented or mocked. This is the story of Signithia Fordham, whose research was improperly cited by President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.” In fact, when Black women expressed discontent with this initiative, some took that to mean that we didn’t want Black men to prosper unless we could first. Thankfully, we had some awesome Brothers who advocated for our inclusion. By speaking up, we let people know that we matter too. Our brilliance will not be dimmed.

We are committed to the liberation of our people, but the world isn’t ready for that.

Since the beginning, women have been at the forefront of the movement in Ferguson. They also changed the way that we imagine activism. This is not the movement of the past. There is no charismatic male leadership here. This is a collective. And while there are many Black men protesting for the past four months, it is quite clear that Black women are ready at the center, bringing awareness of how police brutality affects all of our lives. We are reminded of the words of Assata Shakur, who begged us to remember that, “it is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win. We must love and support each other, we have nothing to lose but our chains.”

We love being happy, but the world isn’t ready for that.

This was the year of the #CarefreeBlackGirl. For proof, look no further than Solange’s wedding, where she biked to the ceremony and danced in the streets of NOLA. How awesome was that? Or when her sister Beyoncé, after a year of flawless artistic promotion, debuted her “7/11” music video. Yes, I found myself doing many of those dance moves in my mirror. No, the world is not yet a perfect place for us. Yes, there is still work to be done. But we all deserve a night to be liberated and have fun with our girlfriends.

We are here, and the world isn’t ready for that.

This has been a year of tragedy, violence, and bloodshed for Black America, with the police brutality and shootings. There has also been violence within our communities. While we march and work towards liberation for our community as a whole, we still experience violence at the hands of the Black men we love. Look no further than the issues surrounding Bill Cosby and Ray Rice. In an effort to affirm Black men’s lives, we almost negate the importance of Black women’s lives. When we speak up and demand that the world sees us and acknowledges our pain, we are nearly called “race traitors.” But still, we’re here.

In 2014, Black women defined our own narrative. I dare not argue that we’ve made it, but we are pushing onwards and each effort makes a difference. We’re not perfect, but we are necessary. Ava Duvernay’s Selma has been nominated for a Golden Globe, which makes her the first woman of color to hold this honor. Quvenzhané stars in the new remake of “Annie,” to be released on Christmas day. Lupita snagged the cover of Vogue. Thursday night is Black Girl Central on ABC. We are here. We are creating, protesting, thinking, loving, laughing, praying, writing, reading, dancing, performing. The most subversive action we take to combat interlocking systems of misogyny and racism is to do exactly what we’re good at: Keep on keepin’ on. We’re here, and the world may never be ready for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re going anywhere.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Candace Simpson is a regular contributor at For Harriet.

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