My Sister’s Keeper: Thoughts on Sexism, Racism and Feminism.

“Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man thrown down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. Ad been prayin’ duh it tuh be different wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!”  

-Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Korryn Gaines was killed by officers of the Baltimore Police Department. Again, we are forced to endure the death of another Black body at the hands of law enforcement. But something was different this time…. This is familiar… maybe it is not the police’s fault this time… maybe this time she had it coming. She should not have been acting like that, right? And what about the child?! What kind of mother would put her child in that situation? She should not have resisted. What was she doing with that gun? Did you all see her social media posts? Why she gotta act like that? Those are the type of women that always stay in some shit because they can’t keep their mouths closed. She did that shit to herself. She deserved it.

That is the biggest, most putrid, repugnant, malodorous load of horse shit ever.

Violence against Black Women is framed in a completely different way than it is with Black Men. That difference in framing has more to do with gender than it does race. Black Women face the same racism, bigotry and discrimination as Black Men… now let’s add sexism, misogyny, patriarchy to their pile. The Black Woman is your most marginalized American.  One of the many beautiful things about their resolve and resilience is that despite their marginalization, they are usually the first to defend another marginalized groups, ESPECIALLY Black Men. When a Black Man is the victim of injustice, they are the first ones there to love us, nurture us, build us back up and stand with us. But when a Black Woman is the victim of the same crime, brothers, where we at? Our wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters have always and continue to be our truest and most loyal. Why is it that I can protect my brother, but not my sister?

Whether it was Sandra Bland, Janet Wilson, Jessica Williams or Laronda Sweatt, Kisha Arrone or Korryn Gaines, the circumstances surrounding their murders should not be a topic of debate amongst Black Men of whether or not she “deserved it”. Why is it that we do not hear the stories of these women as often and as piercingly as we hear about Trayvon, Tamir, Alton and Michael? Why were we not standing up and being as vocal about Kindra Chapman as we were about Eric Garner? This is injustice. If it has been shown to us that the lives of Black Men have little value, what does this say about the lives of Black Women?

Racism is a problem. Sexism is a bigger problem. In this context, both problems are exclusive only to Black Women (racism even exists in many forms of feminism.) Our patriarchal views of women lead us to value them in a particular way, one that is of less significance than that of men. Patriarchy, which birth the historical and institutional inequality of the sexes, mandates that women remain invisible, silent, powerless, agreeable and non-resistant. We all have been conditioned, in one form or another, to believe this. Its inherence is as bewildering as it is healthy. In result, when issues arise that primarily affect women, patriarchy tells us to be inept, uninterested and dismissive. If patriarchy’s intention is to suppress the voices and rights of women, how does it respond to their defiance?

Hello, misogyny… hey there, sexism? (*waves vigorously).

Sexism is a bigger problem, but racism is still a problem, no less. Racism is equally as dangerous as sexism because both are predicated on the power to enforce prejudice. The effects of overt and institutional racism have shown themselves to put Black people at a tremendous disadvantage (along with having them killed). Racism is either directly or indirectly responsible for urban decay, the ridiculously disproportionate incarceration rates, subjective interpretations of the constitution, Jim Crow and discriminatory practices in employment, housing, finance, law enforcement, and education. Racism was put in place to destroy Black life and to this point, it has been more than relatively successful. The narrative of violence against Black Folk is almost exclusively assigned to Black Men because the narrative of social inequality in America is a story that historically and traditionally excludes and fails to acknowledge women. Black Women have endured the same physical, mental and emotional violence that Black Men have. ***Correction*** Black Women have endured more physical, mental and emotional violence than Black Men, but because patriarchy is so deeply-rooted and constant in all of our social practices, we ignore what should be plainly obvious.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote that “the black woman is the mule of the world…” and I agree. Black Women have always and continue to be the under-appreciated labors and the patient, enduring workers. Their love and labor for Black Men is unwavering, unfaltering and uncompromising, yet Black Men have never truly been able, willing or aware to reciprocate that love, devotion and protection back to them. When issues arise that threaten our lives and safety, it is our wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends that stand up for us and go to bat with us. Where are we when they are being beaten, abused, raped, discriminated against and killed, whether because they are Black or because they are women? To be clear, it is not our responsibility to try to save them. That is not what I believe that Black Women desire of us. They aren’t looking for a hero. They are looking for the companion that we are SUPPOSED to be. I believe that they just would like to be assured that when the world comes for them, they don’t have to face it alone. Don’t abandon your sister when she needs you the most because she has never abandoned you. Be a partner. Be an ally. Be a feminist.

Keep your sister, as you would your brother.

Terrence A. Merkerson is the Founder & Creator of Avenue Fifteen. Terrence earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both Political Science and Gender/Race Studies from the University of Alabama. Terrence also completed Graduate School at the University of Alabama earning a Master’s Degree in Communication.

He currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA.


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