Black women writers and activists are not obligated to represent, advocate for or speak for other people of color. As a 26-year-old black woman who has frequently written about racism and inequality, no argument is posed more frequently by other minorities whenever I present arguments against white supremacy than “but what about (insert other minority group)? Everything isn’t a black/white issue”. While I do acknowledge the reality that other minority groups face harsh inequality and discrimination, the truth is that I do not have the experience nor the education to speak on their behalf. And, quite frankly, I should not be expected to.
One of the first times I encountered this argument, I just wrote an article highlighting facts white people should know before discussing racism. The piece addressed the black/white wealth gap, the myths of ” black on black crime”, “reverse racism” and “colorblindness”, white guilt and offered a link to the tragic history of Black Wall Street. Most of my writing reiterates these facts, namely because this is the only way to raise awareness: repetition. Multiple commenters noted that the piece made racism “a black/white issue”. My then co-writer responded, by apologizing on our behalf for failing to address the struggles of other communities. I refused to do that.
Other minorities must not forget the sacrifice made on the part of black people to secure freedom and rights that inevitably benefitted all minority groups and marginalized voices. Were it not for the civil rights movement, there would be no affirmative action that indisputably have given all groups access that would’ve been otherwise denied were it not for that fight or those sacrifices. Multiple black leaders lost their life, liberty and freedom in pursuit of just those things. The list is unfathomably far too long to even begin noting. Many other communities have been uplifted upon the backs of black leaders and activists. And need I not even mention the truth that many of these groups actively discriminate against or hold negative views of black people in the first place?
I learned this first hand as a young girl. My blackness was often made a problem that cost me many friendships and far too frequently my dignity. I will never forget the day my hispanic friend’s uncle accosted me at their annual family barbecue, which I had attended for years and years up until that point.
“Why are you bringing a black girl to a hispanic family’s get together?” the uncle questioned and taunted as I stood nearby, mouth agape.
Then there was the time a girlfriend begged me to use my home to practice for her quinceanera, that I was not to be a part of.
“Everyone already has a partner,” she coaxed when I asked her why I could not participate.
As her group of Hispanic friends practiced their dances to Bachata, Salsa and Merengue, I stood on the sidelines watching in my own home. Until, one day, a loud bang on the door interrupted the weekly get together. It was a woman screaming in Spanish.
“What is she saying?” I demanded of my then girlfriend.
My girlfriend responded through tears, “She said ‘Why do you have my daughter in this house full of ni**ers?'”
She never returned to my home to practice after that day and we pretty much stopped speaking as well.
Yet, this very same group, “Hispanic” people, frequently make their way to my writings to eschew opinions about my lack of inclusiveness. That, somehow, I am not representing or advocating for their cause. Is my struggle, that is further exacerbated by members of that very community not enough of a burden to bear? Inarguably, I believe it is.
In truth, the struggles that black women face are innumerable and infrequently do we have any support. Black men are battling mass incarceration, police brutality and their own feelings of inadequacy prompted by marginalization, oppression and the incompleteness of a masculinity ideal that often cannot be attained. White women us their whiteness to create a feminist platform that absorbs the black female struggle without specifically addressing it or doing anything to alleviate our burdens. I– like many other black women–have been discriminated against by Asians, Hispanic people and most other minority groups. Yet, somehow, I’m responsible for alleviating their struggles while my cries, and the cries of other black women, go unheard?
The platforms black women have built for themselves to tackle issues most affecting black people– like Black Lives Matter, or even the spaces we have worked hard to create such as online blogs or magazines and articles are not meant to be shared. They are ours. And there is no shame in that. Black women do not owe anyone their voice.
I will apologize to no one for advocating for and putting the needs of black women before other groups.