#protectblackwomen This trending hashtag has dominated our social media timelines in recent months. As the late Malcom X once stated "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman." I agree with brother Malcolm. Protect black women sounds good coming from civil rights leaders and it also makes for a great t-shirt, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the internal damage that we as black women cause one another. Are we truly our sister's keeper? While we oftentimes cannot control how others treat us, we must take full responsibility for how we treat each other.
As I reflect on the success of my memoir; Sorrow to Shero: Pain, Power, and Peace, I am reminded of the village of women in my life. My friendships with these women have played an integral part in my healing process. They never questioned the validity of my story when I described the abuse I endured by my late husband. In sharp contrast, when I read about claims of abuse by black women at the hands of black men it is oftentimes other black women that attempt to discredit the victim. Two high profile examples include Jennifer Williams of Basketball Wives and rapper Meg Thee Stallion.
I have personally witnessed black women create friendships solely because they shared a common enemy. I have also seen black women dragged and ostracized in the workplace for no legitimate reason by (you guessed it) other black women. What is most disheartening is when these bullies are asked why they have such disdain for the victim their go to line is almost always "She thinks she is all that" or "Something in my spirit......." These sorts of responses are intellectually lazy at best. They require no original thought. In fact, they are a scapegoat from admitting a deeper issue.
Why is it that some of us have a crab in a barrel mentality? Why is it that we don't mind others doing well as long as they do not surpass us in social or economic status? Why is it that we secretly compete with even our closest friends? Why is it that we will size another woman up and down upon meeting her as if she is auditioning to be in our friend circles? Why is it that we throw subliminal shade on social media? Why is it that we make a point to publicly proclaim that we don't "do" her? Why do we betray the women we refer to as "sis?" Why do we talk behind each others backs and effortlessly share each others secrets? Why is it that when we engage in these behaviors and the targeted woman cuts us off, we pretend to be victims? I have so many questions!
In Sorrow to Shero I openly admit my past struggles with low self-esteem. As a result, I have been guilty of some of the behaviors mentioned above. At times I have felt envious of another woman and wondered "why her and not me?" BUT I am able to admit my errors. I had to be willing to acknowledge that I had a problem. More importantly, as a woman approaching 40 years old I have proudly changed these behaviors.
Emotions are normal. Feelings are normal. They are a natural part of being human. What becomes problematic is when our internal struggles negatively impact the emotional state of someone else. Our insecurities are not an excuse for us as black women to treat each other the way we do. The emotional wounds that some of us have inflicted on each other is inexcusable. If black women are ever going to be "protected" we must start with protecting one another. We cannot expect others to do for us what we are unwilling to do for ourselves.