Monday, October 9, 2017

[xoNecole] Here's one empowering thing 45 has done for black women

Just a few years ago, I was mute when it came to my feelings of my president in a public setting.

When a colleague made a comment at lunch that she didn’t understand the big deal of having the first black president, my first thought was, The hell you mean, bih? But it was a total Issa Rae in Insecure moment where I’d reserve my true response for my bathroom mirror and offer something a little less telling in reality like continuing to chew my beef noodle dish while someone else answered.

When then-President Barack Obama ran and ultimately won for a second term, I set up a separate, personal Twitter account to show my support because I didn’t want to offend potential readers on the account I used to build my writing career. I also saved strong commentary for my friends, who likewise kept their political opinions private because they worked in conservative fields like public education and corporate America.

Part of our restraint was due to the fact that we’re all black women.

Earning a whole 37 cents less than white men nationally, we didn’t want to say anything to lower that gap another 63 cents only to have to fight for unemployment benefits or damage the rapport we managed to develop with our peers across departments. And considering that we often have to work two to three times as hard to get recognition or a promotion, we learned to bite our tongues and mask them with fake smiles because we wanted all of our coins.

But our lips and tongues hurt.

With the departure of our beloved 44th president, Barack Obama, comes Donald Trump, sometimes dubbed “45” among other names. Last month, ESPN sports journalist Jemele Hill called Trump “the most ignorant, offensive president” and a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself [with] other white supremacists.”

I didn’t see the lie. The man stays name-calling, saying insensitive things or mixing pettiness with politics. Had I seen her tweets in real time, I would’ve quote-tweeted them with praise and clap emojis – from my writer account because that’s my mood nowadays.

Somewhere between 45’s defense of white nationalists as “some very fine people” and his description of a majority black group as “sons of b-tches,” many more of us have grown appalled by the blatant racism and the consequent message that it’s okay to mistreat us wherever we occupy space and that includes our jobs. Until now we’ve sat back like our Grandmas who’ve watched a grandchild act a fool from a distance but finally stepped in when we realized the very ones who made him like this couldn’t or wouldn’t shut down his shenanigans. So we’ve spoken up without mincing our words mainly because we didn’t even want him as our president in the first place. We still claim number 44.

Other visible women have begun to use their platform to point out the disregard for our brown humanity like Rihanna, who hopped into 45’s mentions last week – twice – to remind him that Puerto Rico needed hurricane relief in case he forgot.

Even our young black women take an active stance against racial injustice like Yara Shahidi – who recited a poem last week that included the words, “Trying to create unity but your policies make it impossible to believe in the power of we; it’s now you versus me.” – and the young high school student Kamryn, who knelt before her volleyball game in protest also last week only to be ostracized by her peers and their parents.

It’s an indication of a new group of active voices in the world of politics.

While we might’ve avoided political talk in the past because we wanted to preserve feelings or entire working relationships – or maybe we didn’t even feel directly affected by anything that happened in Washington – we’ve now found ourselves under an administration that could likely destroy our livelihood.

It has opened our eyes to the chaos and potential destruction it can cause to us, our families, homes, jobs, health, and security. It has made us realize we cannot stay silent.

And as long as 45 remains in office, we’ll be still standing, still watching, still writing, and still tweeting because we can’t bullied into silence.

The original version of this essay was published on xoNecole on Oct. 5, 2017.

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