If you don’t recognize the disrespect here, there and everywhere, then you are part of the problem.
Six decades ago, Malcolm X stood before a crowd in Los Angeles, California and gave one of his most provocative speeches — a defense of Black women. “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman,” Malcolm X declared.
In her critically acclaimed artistic masterpiece, LEMONADE, Beyoncé conjured the spirit of his speech on her record “Don‘t Hurt Yourself” taunting the legions of haters that have tried desperately throughout history to destroy Black women’s spirit because we dare to be Black, bold and exist outside the mold in a society that doesn’t celebrate or revere us.
So, last night when Will Smith took to the Oscar’s stage to slap comedian Chris Rock, live on national television for making an incredibly disrespectful joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair loss due to her Alopecia diagnosis, the weight of that slap traveled well beyond that moment to a much deeper history of abuse and neglect of Black women.
For far too long Black women have not only been the mules of the Earth as Zora Neale Hurston said through character Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God — being forced to place the needs and value of others before themselves — but we have also been fair game for jokes about our hair, bodies, and demeanor. There has been no time in the world’s history where Black women have been cared for and protected the way the world runs to the aide and protection of white women and their perceived pains and suffering. As Dr. Yaba Blay said recently on the We Can Do Hard Things podcast, society has been socialized into believing that white women are more human and needing of more care — which leaves Black women where exactly? There is a reason Black women carry the moniker of strength and toughness — it’s not by choice; it’s a necessity for survival in a world that uses our pain for profit and trauma porn.
Violence isn’t excusable.
Consequently, should the violence — whether physical, emotional, or spiritual — launched against Black women be dismissed? How many jokes at our expense are we (and…