The good news is, Carlesha Freeland Gaither survived.
The bad news is– we too often must. The thing about survival is- you just do it, with no thought to the fact that it’s being done. And those outside of you who get to live in the ways you must survive, know nothing of the pains you take to do things that are quite arbitrary to them.
The thing about survival is– everybody’s doing it. Some more than others. But I’ve too often made the mistake of thinking that having to survive in one way, is to understand survival in another. It seems that as the days pass and the leaves turn, I’m finding more and more ways in which Black women are surviving uniquely and all by their lonesome without anyone to turn to but each other. The thing about surviving is– it leaves little time to fret about the ways in which we are rendered invisible. WE. JUST. DO.
And we do well. We are in fact so good at surviving that society has made our surviving our living. Black women’s identities are in a persistent state of survival. We are so cute, so tough, so resilient. We raise families (sometimes alone even), we work, we look good, we support Black men, we have sex, we go to church… we don’t smile because the work is hard, but we also never cry because the work is intrinsic. When we do feel anything, it’s that overwhelming urge we have to “sass” or get “angry.” The collective “we” knows that none of this is really true– but in the midst of surviving who has the time to defend their own humanity?
But, to take a look at Black women in the news this month– is to know that simply surviving is no longer feasible. Not only must we create space to live, we must call our ‘friends’ to task and state once and for all– your silence is no longer an option. I’m talking to you Black men and White women. It is time for you to be outraged. It is time for you to discover what we have known for centuries— your survival is forever tied to ours. When we toiled in silence from enslavement to suffrage, from reconstruction to civil rights– we knew very well that when and where we entered, you entered with us.
And now, it is officially time for you to be outraged. There is so much to choose from.
- Be outraged that Carlesha Freeland Gaither was snatched from a Philadelphia street after getting off the bus. Thankfully Carlesha was found safely in Maryland.
- Be outraged that Black women are regularly harassed on the street- at any time of day, in any type of outfit.
- Be outraged that men can place their need to say ‘hello’ or ‘you look nice today’ or ‘smile,’ above the needs of Black women to feel safe and unviolated…. ESPECIALLY in the wake of seeing a video like the Carlesha Freeland Gaither kidnapping.
- Be outraged that there was more outrage about Black and Latino men being catcallers than there was about Mary Spears being murdered by one.
- Be outraged that a Black woman graduate breastfeeding was shamed just months before a white woman graduate breastfeeding went viral.
- Be outraged that a white male “comedian” tweeted slavery rape fantasies about First Take host Cari Champion.
- Be outraged that Chris Brown referred to women of color as “trout mouth ass bitches” and “Muppet face ass basic bitches”
- Be outraged that after being promised a resolution, the girls in Chibok have not been returned and will likely never be.
- Be as outraged about Daniel Holtzclaw as you are about Darren Wilson.
- Be outraged that Janay Palmer Rice was re-victimized this Halloween.
- Be as outraged that Bill Cosby has a known history of sexually assaulting Black women as you are about his respectability politics– then believe the survivors when they showed you who he was the first time.
- Be outraged that over a year later we have not found the killer of Islan Nettles.
It is time to stand on the front lines with Black women because your silence is beginning to drown out the noise of our enemies. Get mad. Stop talking, listen. Hear what we are saying, and take our word for it. In your barber shops, during your football games, on your way to grab your pumpkin spice latte, and on your twitter and facebook feeds– it is time to become your sister’s keeper. Hold each other accountable. Be vulnerable enough to confront the ways you have failed us. And if nothing else, speak our names.