Most recently this semester I’ve noticed that the more I know the harder it is to just accept things as is. For example this Halloween it was extremely hard to pick a costume, I couldn’t stop thinking about appropriating culture and the lack of Black characters I’ve had growing up. Things I probably would have never thought about before I would have just went on and enjoyed the holiday but I couldn’t. I stressed myself out trying to find a costume that was respectable in fear of offending someone or denying who I am. That was the first instance of my new found knowledge taking over, the second came while watching the 13th, a documentary on Mass Incarceration and the criminalization of African Americans.
I can say wholeheartedly that while I was watching this very powerful documentary one of the things I could not stop thinking about was Crenshaws video on Intersectionality, and how there are women who have faced the same fate of our brothers but are unfortunately forgotten. While I found the documentary very moving and powerful I couldn’t stop thinking of the names of the women that weren’t mentioned. Just a few short weeks ago these were people that I have never heard of and I can’t help but think that a documentary like this would have been the perfect outlet to inform us about these women.
With all that aside I think it was awesome to see women of color testifying to the horrible reality of mass incarceration. Activist from the past like Angela Davis and women of the future still fighting this exhausting and ongoing battle for all African Americans. Seeing these women were truly empowering.
The 13th documentary created by Ava DuVernay brings activist, socialist, and people of all statuses to explore the Mass Incrimination of African Americans. Within the Netflix documentary we are able to start from the very beginning, slavery, and slowly move towards different versions of slavery masked by names like Jim Crow to target and control Black people.
This documentary was one of the most necessary things to emerge out of Netflix. As mentioned “Right now, we now have more African-Americans under criminal supervision than all the slaves back in 1850s” (Cory Booker, 13th). That fact should not sit well with anyone. What breaks my heart even more is that these people have been marked as criminals because of the color of their skin. The color of my skin has literally started wars, it goes beyond making people feel uncomfortable, people are threatened and they feel like they need to protect themselves from my melanin.
The scariest thing about The 13th is how relevant it is now. One of the last lines in the documentary was that “people say all the time, ‘well, I don’t understand how people could have tolerated slavery?’ ‘How could they have made peace with that?’ ‘How could people have gone to a lynching and participated in that?’ ‘That’s so crazy, if I was living at that time I would never have tolerated anything like that.’ And the truth is we are living in this time, and we are tolerating it.” (Bryan Stevenson, 13th). Today, in 2018 there is another form of this criminalization and slavery happening. However, I feel like instead of throwing us in jail we’re going back to the basics and killing. Just like the people before us we aren’t going down without a fight, the Black Lives Matter movement, taking a knee, not being silent. This is our way of not allowing history to continue to repeat itself.
In hindsight the academic aspect of High School was very uniform. It was not until stepping foot on Kutztown University’s campus that my academic curriculum branched out. As I continue this journey towards my undergrad degree I am not only expanding my knowledge but I can see myself becoming a completely different person because of it.
My sophomore year I took a course titled the Psychology of the Black Experience, BxP for short. When I told my mom that I was taking that course she asked why I needed to take a class that taught me to how to be black? But I explained to her that it was much more than that, I was learning things about myself that I’d never thought about before. From there I would look for classes that followed the same plan, classes that taught me about myself and the people around me. I took so many courses that I completed the Women and Gender Studies minor before I even knew what it was. Declaring this major has been one of the most life altering experiences for me, because just like BxP it changed me for the better. I now consider myself a feminist, use my voice when necessary, and teach when equipped to. I owe it all to the courses I’ve taken within this minor and the people I’ve met because of it.
This Feminist and Gender Theories course has been no different, if anything reading these pieces by these strong and powerful women has solidified the minor for me. The things I learned are far from linear, I’ve never said “when am I ever going to use this”, I’ve already started making connections from this course and witnessing different ideas in my everyday life. I really enjoyed this course overall, I’m really grateful for what it’s taught me and I’m a better Woman, person and ally because of it.
To be a Woman and to be Black. In the eyes of many is two of the most beautiful and strongest things to be. However, if history has taught me anything it’s that people tend to fear beauty and strength. They don’t like when something yields so much natural power, therefore it must be weakened, feared, and diminished until it recognizes its own strength and beauty as weakness. Until it starts to compare its gift to others and feel inferior. Its very easy to weaken something or someone who doesn’t know its own strength. So to be a Woman and to be Black has become a constant and exhausting battle, however we continue to fight. One of these battles that Cheryl R. Hopson mentions in “The U.S Women’s Liberation Movement and Black Feminist Sisterhood” is the urgency to fight within the feminist movement, to claim the struggle of all Women as our own; however the movement itself does not include the struggle of a Black Woman.
Within the text Hopson calls on powerful voices like Alice Walker to better her point. Walker points out that “the number of white feminist who are racist far outnumber the number of non racist feminist” (Walker, 264), what this means is that the struggles and oppression that a Black Woman has to undergo would be overlooked. This diminishes the sisterhood that was referred to in the start of the text.
It was also noted that Black feminist are capable of damaging the sisterhood. A statement I can stand by, “black feminist participate in their own oppression and the oppression of their sisters, in the name of solidarity and allegiance to Black men” (Walker, 264). Being a Black Woman faced with intersectionality it’s easy to think that you have to pick a side, do I stand by my blackness, Men included. Or do I puncture this bond, unfortunately held together by fragile masculinity, by fighting for my rights as a woman.
There are so many different types of feminist in the world with different approaches. However just speaking from my experience, as a newly found feminist, I haven’t experienced this division first hand. That has everything to do with who I associate myself with and what I have been exposed to in this new life thus far. With that being said I think that this reading was very necessary for me. This experience was good for me to read about so that I don’t fully enter this new world thinking that this sisterhood is perfect, but I understand that it’s still worth fighting for.
I can recall just a couple speeches that have actually pulled on a heart string and made me look at life differently. This speech on Trans Women of color by Laverne Cox is one of them. Within this speech she touches on her own personal experience of bullying that was laced with a coat of misogyny, transphobia, and topped off with racism.
In the video Cox explains that “Trans women of color are the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTQIA+ community. Trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA+ homicide victims, and 89% of these victims were people of color”. I believe that this is a form of Intersectionality that Kimberle Crenshaw defined in her TED Talk “ The Urgency of Intersectionality”. The bullying that Laverne Cox talks about and everything that it’s laced with has to do with her skin color, the fact that she’s a woman and to top it off that shes apart of the LGBTQ community. All of these things intersect and these women, that 89%, has a target on their back just because of who they are and “there are a lot of intersecting identities and intersecting oppressions that make that happen. (2:08)”
The most moving part of this speech for me is when she explains the amount of homophobia and transphobia she experiences amongst the Black community, specifically from Black men. However she does something I don’t expect which is to rationalize these actions, “most of us know that during slavery and during Jim Crow, black bodies, usually black male bodies were often lynched. In these lynchings, the men’s genitals were cut off. Sometimes they were pickled and sometimes they were sold. There was this sort of historic fear and fascination with black male sexuality (3:23).”
When any of my male friends say something that they feel as though would make anyone question their sexuality that automatically say “no homo”. This phrase is supposed to make us aware that they are not gay and are confident in who they are sexually. One day I actually asked my friend why he felt the need to say that, I told him that if he’s confident in who he is then he doesn’t have to make a huge dedication that proves it. I see a lot of this amongst my male friends and family anything that seems to tear them away from their masculinity is made to be the enemy. Cox sums this up for me by saying “I believe that a lot of black folks feel that there is this historic emasculation that has been happening in white supremacy of black male bodies. I think a lot of black folks dealing with a lot of post-traumatic stress see trans, my trans women’s body, and feel that I’m the embodiment of this historic emasculation come to life (3:41)” While pointing out the fragile relationship men have with masculinity and where she believes that relationship comes from she displays a true testimony to her belief and character. She doesn’t fault these men for their emasculation and unhealthy relationship with it. But rather she finds a sense of forgiveness and explains where we go from here which is to spread love.
When the Kimberle Crenshaw’s TED Talk began I found myself silently judging the individuals who sat down after the names of men who lost their lives to police brutality were called into the crowd. How could they not know who these men are? Then I ultimately landed on privilege and just dismissed the thought. Until names that I had never heard of were thrown into the mix, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Aura Rosser, Meagan Hockaday, names of African American women who lost their lives by the same fate. I was now sitting, but what excuse did I have of not knowing what happened to these people. Women of my own community gone, but why haven’t I heard of them? Crenshaw answers this question for me, I haven’t heard their names because they are Black and because they are Women, the reasons you would think they would be plastered up and down news outlets is the same reason why their names were buried with them. Crenshaw talks about why this is, explaining intersectionality and its role in the lives and deaths of African American Women.
She goes on to say that “These women’s names have slipped through our consciousness because there are no frames for us to see them, no frames for us to remember them, no frames for us to hold them. As a consequence, reporters don’t lead with them, policymakers don’t think about them, and politicians aren’t encouraged or demanded that they speak to them. (3:25)” This fact is so disheartening, it reminds me of an episode of Scandal where they are trying to find a ton of missing Black girls but in order to get the attention of the media they had to make sure that she fits this frame that Crenshaw talks about. That meant that they had to find a girl with a name that wasn’t “too black” with a clean honor roll reputation or else people wouldn’t pay attention.
This video just reiterates the hierarchy of power for me and how Black women are at the bottom of the list, even when it comes to us dying. We hear the names of our brothers spoken simultaneously when people talk about the Black lives Matter Movement and how society thinks of our community. Not that I want to be in competition for this spot of who’s dying more, however, It’s just saddening that Black women aren’t talked about at all. It’s like we’ve been hit with a double whammy and our lives mean even less than we thought. But just as Crenshaw said “we have to be willing to do more. We have to be willing to bear witness, to bear witness to the often painful reality that we would just rather not confront, the everyday violence and humiliation that many black women have had to face, black women across color, age, gender expression, sexuality and ability. (14:03)”, we need to Say her Name and then some.
Alicia Garza came to Kutztown University not long ago to speak and educate many about the Black Lives Matter Movement, conversation included why and how it started and also what it’s mission. Before this event even began I knew, and I’m very confident that she knew, that the question of “All Lives Matter” would pop up; along with the preceding statements about how everyone should be included because everyone’s life is worth the same. Garza answered this question in the most profound way. She went on to lay down the foundation, mentioning police brutality and every point needed to show that the lives of Black individuals do not hold the same value as others.
Yes, all lives matter however society seems to forget that black lives matter too and Garza rightly pointed out the we should not have to add the “too” to the end of it. By doing so she said we would “perpetuate a level of White supremacist domination by reproducing a tired trope that we are all the same.” We should be able to lay down the facts, show the footage, write out the list of names of innocent people who have lost their lives, and have that be enough for people to understand that we are not being valued. That is what the movement is for and therefore it should not have to and should not be altered for any other purpose. That was Alicia Garza’s main point as should looked to the crowd of students in Schaeffer Auditorium and still her point in this article.
I set that scene to make a point. Alicia Garza came to Kutztown University in March of 2016, this article was written in October 2014 and she still has to say this louder for the people in the back. Even today Garza and everyone who supports this movement is screaming “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation.” To be honest it’s becoming a bit tiring but I know once I let the fatigue in the movement dies, just by lowering my voice a little weakens its growing power.