Picking Your Battles: When To Speak Up Against Sexism And Racism

Obviously being a black woman in America (Can’t speak for black women in Europe and Canada) this means that we are supposed to fill many roles. Mother & Father. Sister, Friend, Role Model. Woman who supports feminist issues. Soldier in the black community against racism, diligent worker who is at all times professional & many more. But out of this list soldier stands out the most. Black women have been trained from birth to be a soldier. We are supposed to steadfastly stand behind black men and the racism that they experience at the hands of white men. And we are supposed to be soldiers in the fight for gender equality with white women. (I know other races of women are feminists  but the feminist movement is largely headed by white women.) This puts black women in a tight bind. If they speak against sexism over racism, we are painted as traitors to the black race. In fact, there have been many times I have heard from black male commenters online that black women are the reason that the civil rights movement failed. Because they jumped on the white woman’s bandwagon, therefore supporting a movement that allows men to be men.

On the flip side if you speak up against racism instead of sexism, you are immediately categorized as a traitor to your gender. And when it comes time to discuss how racism and sexism combine white feminists stand back because our problems are relegated to “black issues” which they don’t feel the need to speak up on. Or they don’t see a problem so it doesn’t matter. The same goes for black men. Black me don’t see a problem with the deep rooted sexism in the black community so they don’t care.

This leaves us black women in the worst position. Being slammed from both sides and not having either stick up for you when you really needs it leaves you in a terrible position. Especially with the guilt that comes along with choosing either side.  As a black woman I experienced this exact thing when it was time to vote in the 2008 elections. If you didn’t vote for the 1st black president you were an “uncle tom” and if you didn’t vote for the 1st woman you were supporting the patriarchy.  It gut wrenching to be castigated by both sides for simply being … you

From all of this I have learned something. That in both situations  You only need to speak up for yourself when it directly affects you. Because in most cases what each side is fighting for, as i have stated in my earlier two posts, this rarely affects you. For example, I was helping my mothers friend move her stuff out of her apartment. We were carrying her shelf from her house to her moving van past a black girl and and a black guy when she said, “See they’re eying my stuff. I want my stuff to stay my stuff.” Immediately I thought, “That’s Racist” and I could feel my blood boil at the thought. But then, I thought to myself. Why waste my time is this affecting me. Yes, she just said a bigoted thought, but I don’t have to surround myself with her. Unless you have to directly work with, like at a job for example who cares? Not to mention Black men don’t appreciate it(This is another post) And I let the comment slide.

I’m actually glad I did because when I casually commented on this to my mother about how it was racist my mom actually told me that her friend has said that they always ask her about her stuff. So they actually were “eying it.” Incidentally that same day, her sister said something that was considered sexist.She was talking to her nephew ( my moms friends son) about not getting a girl pregnant because, “Some girls will trick you and lie to get you to pay.” I immediately wanted to scream at this woman “Sexist!” mostly because most teen pregnancy’s have girl show have not much financial or moral support from the child’s father. To support this theory. The nephew responded with a half chuckle, “My life’s not going to change, she’s the one who will be affect the most.” I didn’t say anything here either. For two reasons. Black women are already seen as argumentative. and two if a white women doesn’t think its sexist to the rest of the world there is no leg to stand on. Not to mention as I said before I didn’t have to be around this lady. I could walk away.

And I wasn’t forced to be around her except for in that moment. Later when I left, and I recalled the conversation she had in my head I felt almost a certain relief at not having to respond. I felt free. Not to mention She made herself look stupid all on her own. Her own nephew found it dubious that anyone would do that without me even saying anything at all.  I think that’s what black black women need to first learn. Is that it’s alright not to  respond to every offense thing if its not directly affecting you, just because you have been guilted into it. It’s okay to say NO. It’s okay to shrug it off. It’s okay NOT to be a soldier on duty ALL the time.

However I feel the need to say that if something is directly affecting you in regards to racism or sexism, in a situation you cannot walk way from. I say you need to do your best to either file a complaint or, kindly assert your position or, if possible get as far away from that person as you can.


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