Its been a while since I have written something so… Happy new year!
I feel like its really upsetting, sad actually- that I am going to start a whole blog post about a feminist issue that’s going to seem- for many- like yet another division within the movement. However, we gotta do what we gotta do for the advancement of all womxn. I think one of the reasons we find ourselves in very violent situations of erasure and silencing is our reluctance to recognizing our differences. Differences in terms of experiences and indentity. Our favorite Audre Lorde once said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept…those differences”. We like to stay in the comfort of homogenous experiences as womxn and homogenize womxnhood as an experience even at the expense of others.
I am a Black Afrikan womxn! I say Black for a reason, I say Afrikan for a reason and I say Black Afrikan for a reason.
The lens in which I experience life within the systemic structures is different for me as a Black Afrikan womxn and is as unique as it is shared. It is intellectually dishonest to lump my experience within the U.S. as that of every womxn. While yes, I am Black and my blackness does determine how I navigate spaces- I do not mirror all the experiences of every Black womxn because that is ignoring history, nationality, sexuality, able-bodiedness among others. There are privileges I may have that others do not have and there are privileges they have that we do not share. We do have an immeasurable amount of shared experiences as the diaspora collective of Black womxn but recognizing the differences as well is just as important in order for us to build radical solidarity.
This is the frame work I come into this conversation with.
To start off, I am exhausted! I am exhausted with the erasure and violence that continues to be imbedded within the term or identity description “womxn of color”.
Many times, I have seen white womxn and non-black womxn of color (nbwoc) feel uncomfortable with saying and/or recognizing Black womxn and calling them so and feeling a safety in saying womxn of color. They choke at the words “Black” womxn.
When we are thriving, we are womxn of color but every other day on the streets, we are Black! Black as in you want to distinguish yourself from us and do not want to be like or associate yourself with us.
The term and identity of womxn of color has created more room for Yt and nbwoc to continue ignoring the issues of race and anti-blackness. There is comfort in knowing that with the existence of non-black womxn of color within this term, we never have to address the issue of anti-black racism that occurs from both Yt and nbwoc. There are nbwoc who are afforded the privilege of whiteness and experiences mirror that of white womxn. Recognizing the violent erasure of the term “WOC” is to address the continuous history of anti-blackness in many communities of color. It brings forward the fact that there is denial that there are white folks within these spaces we call of color (and we really just have to come to terms with this) while simultaneously denying the existence of Blackness. Like when are we going to talk about Black Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Indians, Koreans, Dominicans…? This space of WOC, does not require many to move so much on the spectrum of having to address anti-black racism. They only have to move a little, in the terms of bell hooks “the margins”.
I have begun to see how violent this has been for me. I will be at the table, an environment where people are supposed to be focused on addressed issues of womxn of color and come to the realization that I, a Black womxn, is actually not part or the puporse of this conversation.
A few weeks ago, I re-read the work of Morraga “This Bridge called My Back” and I remembered asking a friend of mine what their thoughts were on the book and she affirmed what I had been feeling- a violent silencing of Black womxn. A space of muted anti-blackness. I asked the question “who do you think of when you hear womxn of color” because it helps you understand who is doing the epistemic violence in this case. Many times, it is non-black womxn of color who get to speak in these spaces. They become the spokespeople of womxn of color but disregard the anti-black racism that goes on. What is even worse, is the performance and insistence that we have the same experiences. The fact that we will have non-black womxn of color outwardly refuse to recognize black womxn as knowers. The false idea that we have the same experience then creates room to justify the erasure and violence of black womxn. Why? because if we have the same experiences, the non-black womxn of color at the table should suffice, right? Their voices should be our voice and us calling them out is to opt out of solidarity with them. Many times, non-black womxn of color will even go as far as impose themselves in experiences of Black womxn instead of having Black womxn speak on the issues of anti-blackness. They will inhibit Black womxn narratives before they accept the violence that is being done to black womxn. Disclaimer: Cherrie Morraga continues to do this, especially in her recent version of This Bridge.
The erasure of Black womxn in WOC discourse is so overt that we have even forgotten and refused to recognize that the very birth of the political term “womxn of color” was from Black womxn wanting to be in solidarity with other marginalized womxn.
I am no longer confident that the term womxn of color is supposed to serve any structural good for Black womxn. I no longer feel like it has the ability to create a space where my experience as a Black womxn can be reflected. Being called as such is begin to feel like I am both invading a space and in a space that is not meant for me and does not see me.
We are getting to a point where we are rejecting this violence and demanding to have a space that sees us and our experiences in multiplicities. We are no longer satisfied with being the side pillows for womxn parading as transnational feminists or intersectional feminists that refuse to see blackness and be accountable for their anti-blackness. We are tired of stretching ourselves for the sake of solidarity, and getting erasure in return. We can no longer accept only to be good in the service of others. We cannot continue this dance of being asked to step aside for solidarity when you do not show up for Black womxn.
We will have Black womxn sharing their experiences and being met with this whitewashed response of “as a womxn of color I understand you…” NO! Stop diluting Black womxn’s experiences so you can center yourselves, whiteness, and the common anti-black narrative- in their narratives. They chose to say BLACK womxn for a reason. And instead take this time to address your internalized anti-blackness. True co-strugglers (because we left allyship in 2018) and solidarity cannot be built on anti-blackness and the myth of womxnhood as a homogenous experience.