‘Is your protection of Black women conditional?’ – Megan Thee Stallion photo via Wikimedia Commons
Growing up in the intersection of Black and woman, I learned quickly that my safety was not a community concern. The world spent its time placing the burden of abuse on my shoulders rather than shielding me from it. It was my responsibility to remain the perfect victim as my Blackness and my womanhood had already invalidated my right to empathy or justice. I was the person who should not have been dressed in that way. I was the person who should not have raised my voice. I was not the person who could have assumed I would be believed. I should not expect protection.
The phenomenon of “victim-blaming” is all too common when it comes to the trauma bore by Black women. Both in our homes and in the media we are found to be responsible for the pain inflicted on us by others. We are indoctrinated to believe Black women’s suffering and even the tragedy of our deaths has no more value than the ratings it generates.
“As Black women, the responsibility of proving we are deserving of humanity rests on our shoulders”
The summer after my twenty-first birthday I found myself sitting at the bar of a local nightclub. Nothing had felt much different than the nights I had sat there before. A Black man walked over to where I was seated and offered to buy me a drink. I politely declined, he perched himself next to me regardless. He began to tell me about his career as a firefighter, listing his heroic acts at work. Dripping in machismo, he told me what he’d “like to do to me in that dress”.
This wasn’t a bad looking man. He was no more socially inept than most men who breach your personal space and boundaries in the hopes that you’ll reward them for their entitlement. I can’t recall if I was even able to form the words “no, thank you” when gunfire rang out through the windows of the club. Suddenly I felt him grip me on both arms and lift me from my seat to use my body as a human shield. He threw me to the ground and ran out the back exit. Petrified of how close I came to harm but even more terrified of how unsurprised I was that a man would put me in direct danger, I lay frozen on the floor until security came and announced it was safe to move.
This experience was my true turning point in realising just how disposable I am thought to be. And while this event was extremely specific and personal to me, the feeling is one shared by Black women in all walks of life. From me, a twenty-one year old accosted in a small nightclub to Megan Thee Stallion being shot in both feet by a fellow musician and assumed friend. As one of the most popular and highly talented Black woman musicians of the current times, you would think she’d have been met with concern and well wishes. A performer possibly having permanent damage to both of her feet due to the petty and mismanaged anger from a man is more than enough reason for our community to come together to protect her. Instead, she was met with jokes, disbelief and masculinisation due to her height and skin tone.
“Suddenly I felt him grip me on both arms and lift me from my seat to use my body as a human shield”
As Black women, the responsibility of proving we are deserving of humanity rests on our shoulders. Racism, colourism, elitism and sexism twist into a sick game of misogynoir with rules that are bent permanently in the favour of our non-Black peers. Megan Thee Stallion is a prime example of the way the masses love to consume what Black women create without truly caring for us as people. The media and social response told us that being a “Hot Girl” like Megan is deserving of being shot.
Owning your sexuality, your stature and your voice as a Black woman is revolutionary in a world that relies on you to be a quieter, easier, more perfect victim. One that doesn’t hold abusers accountable for the violence inflicted on us, nor those who stand by and do nothing to guard us.
If I told you I was a stripper at work instead of a patron at a bar, would my story pull less on your heart strings? Would I have less value as a human being if I was twerking to my favourite Meg song playing from the DJ booth? If I had cursed that man out for violating my personal space would you advocate for my injury?
Is your protection for Black women conditional? Being Black and woman is not a strike against the value of my life. It is your responsibility to respect our humanity.