Neither steel nor iron, but flesh and blood

As humans, our beautiful bodies are made up of 70% water. Prick us, and we bleed plasma and cells. And although a few of people hardly get sick (note: this is not me, but I’ve heard of you magical unicorns before), no one body is indestructible. We all need a break from time to time.

I say this to remind everyone: Black women’s bodies are not unbreakable.

Three weeks ago in North Carolina, a Black girl, a middle schooler, was caught fighting. Or she was caught trying to break up the fights. There are different accounts. What I do know, what we all know, after seeing footage, is that a school officer came over, lifted her off the table, and slammed her to the ground. That is not an exaggeration. He slammed her like she was a rag doll, an item in the war against middle school fights. She later suffered a concussion.

It’s been 24 whole days, but I haven’t been able to put that image out of my head. It plays in my brain–this grown man, slamming a child to the ground. It reminds me of the Black women who, a few years ago, was thrown to the floor from her desk by a cop. And it disgusts me to my core. Even if this girl was the most frustrating shit-talker, even if she was leading the modern-day French revolution at her middle school..for what? That man has a good 75 pounds on her at least. Picking her up alone was not okay, but he could have done only that. Why did he feel the need to slam her?

Unfortunately, this isn’t new, and we know this will continue not to be new.

We live in a world where our bodies are disposable, casual objects. When we face police brutality, we may not only be murdered, but others will forget to say our names. If we don’t die, we are chased at pool parties and sat on. If we are sexually assaulted or harassed, we are mere Jezebels, our bodies “asking for it,” especially if the perpetrators are White men. God forbid if the perpetrators are White men. We are kicked in grocery stores, ignored when we need help in public places but shoved when we are “a nuisance.” Our hairs are chia pets, yankable in the eyes of non-Black folk. We are spat on or spat near for wearing a hijab or a dashiki or for speaking our languages. We are grabbed and pushed and pulled up–and this starts in elementary school. Hands are laid on us, and not just in church. And if a woman is Black and trans, we know violence is more likely to happen- 17 reported times in 2016, to be exact.

Often, and always, the breaking moves past our physical bodies: We will speak up against injustice, online or in person, either in the most blunt or passive way, and people will find a way to invalidate our experiences, or call us “irrational” or explain “what is or isn’t a big deal” (in fact, if someone does this with this article, congratulations: you are the annoying prophecy I predicted). We will be told we are untrained, or thieves, or dumb, even if we’re actually doctors (no, really, yes, we are). Or just trying to shop peacefully in Victoria’s Secret. Or demanding to be seen for our brilliance. We will be told we can walk home alone because “Black women are un-rapeable,” we will be called everything but n****r in college (and I do mean everything), our names will be stripped away from its native tongue and butchered and we’ll be told our beautiful string of consonants and vowels are “hard to pronounce” or “too ghetto.” 

And yes, to anyone ready to question–some of this, from the physical threats to the emotional dismissal–includes me. Although I am “soft,” I, by virtue of being Black and being woman, I know what it’s like to be seen and treated as “unbreakable.”

At times, we may be loud, angry, tired, sleepy, strong, sassy, and/or upset, but that doesn’t give others licence to treat our bodies like trash. These are, in fact, human emotions and traits that everyone possesses, demonized in us because it is easy to demonize Black folks and it is easy to demonize women, so naturally, “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”

We have got to do better. I think about the work I need to do, from making it a point to #SayHerName (and be active on Kimberle Crenshaw’s #SayHerName site), to constantly working against my cissexism and remembering trans and non-binary Black women in the fight for honoring our bodies. But I, and other Black women, are not the only ones who have to roll up their sleeves. Beyond recognizing this country is built on the backs of Black women, non-Black folks and Black men need to do the work with us, and give us space to tell our stories. And damn, we need justice for Black girls in schools, girls who are not only seen as problems but are manhandled instead of the humans they are.

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But could we all vote, though?

Women’s Equality Day is creep creep creeping around the corner, a date I almost forgot until I saw a post on a Facebook page. According to the National Women’s History Project, August 26 is “the date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.”

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That’s cute. First, of all, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18th, so I don’t know where this new date comes into play. But besides that, I want to make something very clear:

  1. Women’s Equality does NOT celebrate the right for all women to vote. Let’s get this right. The minute the 19th Amendment was passed might have”legally” been for all women, but it was truly not the same minute, day, year, or decade all women of color could vote in this country. Thanks to some awesome disenfranchisement methods, it is only when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed that more people in our country could vote. Check out this handy dandy U.S. Voting Rights Timeline if you don’t believe me.
  2. Additionally, the suffragettes of lore were hella racist. As in, they were proud White supremacists. Proud White supremacists that forced Black women to march in the back. But of course, depending on where you go to school, educators won’t bring this up when you a baby glimpse of it in Iron Jawed Angels (it’s almost like the U.S. school system is run by White supremacy and privilege or something).

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I say this because I’m sure, like last year, Facebook is going to create a cutesy graphic with women of all races celebrating August 26, without acknowledging that only White women could vote when the 19th Amendment passed. And without fail, some White feminists will add some sort of pro-Women’s Equality Day post, and then get mad when someone calls it out. I can already see the “why are you dividing the movement?” comments, and it makes my blood boil. Girl, I’m not dividing the feminist movement; your refusal to name the exclusivity of the 19th Amendment and voter laws is doing the job!

I also say this because this is yet another blatant reminder of how WhiteFeminism™ refuses to acknowledge any intersectionality in the feminist movement, and SAYS THAT WE’RE THE ONES CAUSING TROUBLE when we critique the “equality for some” notion of feminism. And then refuses to stand up for anyone who, well, isn’t a White woman. For example, I think about the misogynistic hate crimes Leslie Jones is receiving, as her White co-stars sit in radio silence, with nary a mention of solidarity. I’m not saying the ones most responsible are not the racist fuckboys who are sending her hateful tweets and hacking her website (because White masculinity is so fragile, they  can’t handle a reboot of Ghostbusters. It is amazing how quickly racism and sexism comes into play when men feel their “nerd space” is “threatened.”) But I’m also asking… Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon. You self-proclaimed feminists. Where you at?

#sorrynotsorry if you think I’m being hateful. I think it’s hateful when one doesn’t want to admit to the whitewashing of history. And just know that if you can’t stand for all women (women of color, poor women, undocumented women, queer women, trans women, women with disabilities, womyn/womxn, women who fit all and any of these identities and more), and then get mad when we point out the inequalities in your feminist movement, you didn’t really want equity, did you? In a marginalized group, you just wanted to be on top. You just wanted things to be equal for those that look like you.


Shout-out to those who still cannot vote, such as undocumented individuals, those who are convicted of a felony, individuals in U.S. territories, those who do not have access to polling stations, those suppressed by voter ID laws, and more. In the spirit of what I just wrote, if I am forgetting a group please let me know. Also, shout-out to the baddest b, Ida B. Wells, who refused to march in the back during the 1913 suffrage parade and instead slipped into the Illinois delegation after the parade started. For the person who wrote the Wikipedia page for Iron Jawed Angels: I hope you meant the way Wells and Paul had the conversation during the 1913 march is fictionally portrayed in the movie, and not that Ida B. Wells marching into the Illinois delegation is fictional. If you meant the latter, know that Ida B. Wells is giving you side-eye from the grave, and is better than you.

Mother [doesn’t] know best

My mother, or both parents actually, have taken it upon themselves to remind me at every turn how I need to find a man. This concerns me on a number of levels. First, I refuse to give in to the idea that my life is somehow incomplete, less valuable, without a partner. I am focused on being unapologetically independent and ambitious at this point in my life. I’m not saying I don’t care to find someone but if he can’t get on board with that (the case more often than not in my experience) then No thank you.

Second, if I was going to pick a spokesperson for myself, it would not be my mother. Below is a typical exchange between my mom and the men she hopes have connections to other men. (Yes, this actually happened recently.)

She describes me as best she can and then throws in “She’s a feminist.” Its as if she’s saying, “Caution! I want your friends to know what they would be getting themselves into!”

Man: Oh so she’s opinionated (If you mean, I have strong views, then yes, yes I am.)

Mom: Yeah, she likes to debate.

Did you hear my giant sigh come through the screen, cause you should have. Let’s be clear – I do not like to debate. I will if you say something racist, sexist, chauvenistitic, or <insert institutionalized oppression term here>. And if I happen to be dating a person and wanted to talk about the pay gap between women (yes, it’s real and factual. I have no time for anyone who says otherwise). And he turns and wants to debate the subject. I will just as easily and happily show you the door after I remind you of the factual nature of the pay gap.

Contrary to my family’s beliefs on who I am, I know who I am and what I stand for and I will not find myself in a relationship of any kind (platonic or romantic), where I feel the constant need to “debate” my views. I am not naïve. I know I won’t agree with everyone in my life, 100 percent of the time. But if you are willing to engage in healthy dialogue and be open to my world view, then maybe we can talk.

This is how I’d like this to go:

Me: I can’t believe it’s 2015 and we are still having to struggle with a pay gap between men and women / police brutality / racism.

Partner: Yeah. It’s just not okay.

…and a lively conversation about the topic ensues …

Because, let me be clear. I will not apologize for who I am or what I believe and I will not sacrifice those beliefs to have what others consider “true happiness” (read: a man). I don’t need a partner to be happy and I’d rather be single than have what my mother deems a nightly “debate” (her real thought: argument) about whatever social justice issue, my patner pissed me off about that day.

#sorrynotsorry

A small caveat: I know my parents love me and are doing what they believe is best for me. We just fundamentally disagree on what that means