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The Grief Inherent In Being Black And Feminist

03/08/2017 11:34 EST | Updated 03/08/2017 11:46 EST

International Women's Day is a day to remind each and everyone us of how far the struggle for equality has come, and how far it has to go.

I was recently asked to speak about intersectional feminism and it brought up a lot of shit for me -- good and bad. As a woman, I identify with and am all for the plight of women and our quest to achieve equal opportunities to those of our male counterparts. This can and should take place (like, yesterday). But, what's become crystal clear, is that without addressing all the other "isms" -- based on race, class, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability etc. -- there's no way "we" as women can band together and make shit happen.

If you're a true intersectional feminist, you already know this in your core. But in my experience, a real understanding of intersectionality and its importance is rare. And that makes being black and feminist really hard; because I feel like I spend most of my days explaining the need for true equality to other, predominantly White, "feminists" and then engaging in defensive discourse which comes down to someone saying shit like "why can't we all just get along?" or "I don't see colour"...and then I'm forced to muster all the strength I have left, which ain't much, and do my best to see this person with compassion as opposed to smacking a bitch (sorry not sorry).

I have privilege too, and I'll be the first to admit it.

It's exhausting having to constantly point out privilege, what it is, how it operates and how it's insidious and thus extremely hard to see or understand when you have so much of it; which is precisely why even those feminists with the best intentions can get caught up defending their own story instead of listening to the stories of those more oppressed. 

Being black and feminist ain't a walk in the park...I am TIRED. And I don't mean "worked a long day and need to put my feet up" kinda tired. I mean "three plus decades of fighting sexism and racism combined, meaning you take it from all angles and literally all spaces and there is no place on the entire Earth you can escape oppression or its dire consequences except maybe in your dreams every so often" kinda tired.

I have privilege too, and I'll be the first to admit it. I'm young, educated, able-bodied, heterosexual, of a solid socio-economic standing (SES) etc. Some of that I was born into, and some of it I worked my ass off to achieve. BUT. BUT. All of the privilege I possess pales in comparison to the constant mindf**k that is being a woman of colour (and shoutout to my brothers and sisters who possess fewer privileges than I...it's for all y'all that I continue to fight).

To be black and female is to be in a state of constant grief.

black women

We grieve the equal pay we should be earning for the same work as our male counterparts but we also earn less than white folks of the same gender. We experience grief over the racist shit our well-intentioned white friends spew out all too often. We mourn over the constant inner chatter, like "did that manager ignore me 'cuz I'm black...or because I'm a woman?"

I grieve the ability to show emotion without being labelled as "angry" (or the ability to simply just be heard). I am traumatized by the "you're blowing this out of proportion" attitude I'm met with when I call something out as racist or sexist. I'm saddened by a culture that likes to believe we're past issues like racial profiling or modern slavery that further bring oppressed folks down and result in our bodily harm.

Every time I step out my front door I put on an artillery mask so I can handle the ceaseless plague of bullshit that undoubtedly comes streaming my way. All of this on top of dealing with the everyday ups and downs of LIFE. Yup, it's a non-stop, never-ending state of WTF!?, and it's worn me down.

This is not a pity-party, for the record, it's just the facts of my life and the lives of so many other women of colour. Facts that are too often dismissed. Well, please "stop telling people of colour that our experience is an illusion". It is not. When feminists say we need to come together and make change, I am ALL for it. But not if it fails to acknowledge that all of our experiences as women are different and some of us face way more oppression than others. Have been fighting a lot longer than others. Are more exhausted than others, and have been living in a world of grief that deserves specific attention. 

We are tired. We are grieving. And we would so love to feel like this movement really and truly has our backs.

If there's any chance for real equality to be reached, we gotta start sharing our stories with people different from ourselves, calling each other out, be willing to listen when we are, and question our perspective.

How are you part of the problem? What are you doing in your daily life to help the most oppressed? What are you willing to sacrifice? We can only run as fast as the slowest runner y'all, and right now, too many women are trying to win the race without turning around and seeing who's behind them. Ironically, those behind the pack are also the same women who have been fighting for equality long before Trump and well before "feminist" regained its cool.

We are tired. We are grieving. And we would so love to feel like this movement really and truly has our backs. With love, transparency and a genuine will to look into our own shit, I believe it can. xo R

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