A tale as old as time entrenched in an ugly history of racism, sexism, and anti-Blackness.
While recently speaking with a fellow Black female faculty member, licking our wounds, and commiserating over living life as Black women faculty in the ivory tower, I could not help but think, “why are people so mean to Black women?” I realize I sound like my four-year-old daughter asking this question, and perhaps it is a bit infantile of me. But Black women undoubtedly face unique experiences of utter nastiness from their co-workers, strangers, and even other Black people that women from other racial and ethnic groups do not experience as routinely. By no means is this a woe is us rant, but the heinous experiences that many Black women sometimes face, point to a much larger issue in which Black women have been dehumanized and objectified. Therefore, devoid of feeling or any other emotion than what has been prescribed to us as acceptable to express and to experience. Yet often, when I speak to Black women about these experiences, they are drained and are simply seeking peace.
Shortly after wrapping up my conversation with my colleague about teaching while Black in higher ed, I read an article about some of the criticism that Viola Davis recently received for her role playing Michelle Obama in The First Lady. I don’t think that Viola Davis received harsh criticism solely because she is a Black actress, and the critics who dished out their critiques very well might have had the best intention to be fair and objective. But in many cases, I think it is easier for some people to be harsher toward Black women than White women.
During the interview with BBC, Davis said, “How do you move on from the hurt, from failure? But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.” I felt her words in my soul. They touched me, and I automatically connected to them. For many, it goes without saying that when we receive corrective feedback about an area that we hold a tremendous passion for and that we have worked hard at, the experience can be disappointing and hurtful.
However, Davis expressing her pain and disappointment struck me as sad yet necessary. Because I often question if some White folks genuinely care about or consider the feelings of Black women. After all, a…