We Can’t Just Keep Thanking Black Women Every Time They Save Us
Acknowledging their work is a good start, but it’s not nearly enough.
I’ve spent the last month reading and writing extensively about the 1964 Democratic National Convention and the way the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party organized and fought against voter suppression, anti-Black mob violence and systemic governmental disfranchisement to shake the country and change politics in America. Black women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Gray and Annie Devine used their resources and fight to galvanize an entire country that mostly saw them as disposable. It’s hard to put into words what it was like to write about these women as I watched Black women continue that fight in real time.
Stacey Abrams, for instance, is from Mississippi. She is the descendant of the Black women who fought in 1964. But it wasn’t just Abrams. There was Latosha Brown and countless other organizations mostly led by Black women in Georgia working together to get enough Black people to vote to flip the state blue by registering hundreds of thousands of people to vote. Across the country, Black votes, largely organized by Black women, essentially removed a fascist regime from the White House. I’m in awe of what Black women accomplished, especially given what so many of us did to them in 2020.
One of the first articles I wrote this year was about Terry Crews throwing Gabrielle Union under the bus, publicly disparaging her claims of mistreatment on the set of America’s Got Talent. This, of course, after she put her name on the line defending Crews from online abuse after he came forward about being sexually assaulted. It seems like every week since featured another horrible headline about some way this country harms Black women.
We saw police murder Breonna Taylor without any justice being served. We watched Black women have to organize to get her name spoken as loudly as Black men killed by police. We threatened Gayle King for trying to make us reckon with sexual assault. We saw a Black man murder organizer and activist Toyin Salau. We saw the internet make fun of Megan Thee Stallion after Tory Lanez shot her, gaslighting her and making memes over the violence she faced.
And through it all, Black women were on the ground organizing, working towards their best interests which always end up coinciding with the best interests of the country as a whole. All year leading up to the election we saw people celebrating the fact that Black women will save us. And after Black women did just that, those same virtue signalers made themselves feel better by cheering on Black women, offering gratitude and not much else.
And while it’s important to acknowledge the work Black women have done and continue doing, we can’t just keep simply thanking them every time they come through for us. Appreciation is meaningless if it doesn’t come with something tangible and transformative. What are we going to do to show them that they are appreciated and valued beyond the labor they can do for us. Congratulations aren’t enough. Especially when the same people thanking Black women are turning around and posting Meg Thee Stallion memes and harming women in their own lives.
We need to create a world in which Black women don’t need to save us. One that allows them to live their best lives without having the burden of carrying us on their backs to freedom. And the very first people who need to help create this world are Black men. We have to show up for Black women even more than they show up for us.
We need to check our brothers and ourselves. Give our sons the talk about consent and how to treat Black women’s bodies. Believe Black women. Hire Black women. Refer Black women to jobs. Make spaces for Black women’s voices to be heard. Stand guard outside a Black woman’s house when she’s being threatened. Advocate for Black women. Be uncomfortable. Reckon with ourselves. Challenge ourselves to do better. March for Black women’s lives. Fight for reproductive rights for Black women. Donate to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Or Black Girls Code. Or The Essie Justice Group. Hell, Cashapp a Black woman $20 for lunch just because.
Read Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison and Jesmyn Ward and Imani Perry and Taylor Crumpton and Tressie McMillan Cottom and Clarissa Brooks. Love Black women not just because you have a daughter or mother but because Black women deserve your love. #SayHerName. Show your daughters all the healthy ways they should be loved. Vote for Black women.
Show the f*ck up for Black women. And that’s just the start.
We’ve thanked Black women and benefitted from their work long enough. It’s been past time to reciprocate so we can walk side-by-side in lockstep to freedom instead of being dragged kicking and screaming at the Black women doing the work. This should be the last time Black women have to save us from white supremacy and ourselves.