Photo credit: Create Her Stock
Unless you have absolutely no black friends (real ones, not someone who is in the breakroom when you are), you’ve heard Malcolm X’s speech about “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” I know the speech well, but as a black woman, there are times when I really try my damnedest to block it out. I would be miserable most of the day if I just started counting the number of times we’ve been purposely overlooked and blatantly disrespected. But in less than 48 hours, I’m beyond belief at the immediate level of pushback I’m seeing regarding everything from black women voters to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and nationality.
It started off small. I retweeted a celebratory comment: “Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is making history on so many fronts: the first woman, the first black woman, the first Asian American, the first HBCU graduate, the first AKA and first member of the Divine Nine to be the VP-elect. She’s made history again and again and again.”
Of course I was expecting a comment from the usual non-black guy, who is notorious for appearing to preach on social media and in person about identity politics, summarizing it as “conglomerations of immutable characteristics” all while having a personal bio full of characteristics — “Anabaptist, Independent | Entrepreneur, Executive, Engineer | Cruciform Christianity, Science, Philosophy, Journalism, Politics.” It falls right in line with people who say they “don’t see color” but love to point out their womanhood, wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, cheer for being “an American” and have a flag posted in the front yard. But black women loving being black women? Pssst, who wants that to happen?
I rolled my eyes and prepared to go back to celebrating until I looked at my replies. What made me stop cold was a comment from a fellow Medium writer — who actually asked me to write about racism and diversity for her publication, but I opted out — who immediately sent a tweet saying “Indian American, Indian American, Indian American, that’s important.” I paused over the correction, wondering if my original retweet missed the historical merit of Kamala Harris being of Asian descent, too. Nope, it didn’t.
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Apparently the issue was that “Indian” wasn’t specified. Now normally this would’ve been met with a, “You’re right. Good point.” But I pondered on why this same user (a white woman) wasn’t making a big deal of talking about how “important” it was to mention Kamala Harris’ Jamaican descent, too. Her response, “Jamaican American too.” It was not a surprise to me that the “important” part was nowhere in that reply — and not typed three times for emphasis. Less than a few hours after the woman won as VP-Elect — and before she could make a speech proudly stating the significance of black women voters — even my own Twitter following is trying to erase the black off of her.
Kamala Harris’ Indian heritage is indeed important
After the whole temper tantrum I had about Netflix canceling “The Patriot Act,” I get that nationality is an important detail. While one user pointed out that “it’s not like Asia is an eighth continent” and Asia was mentioned in the original tweet, for whatever reason, this user wanted specifics. Is pointing out her Indian American heritage important? Absolutely. I tweeted my thoughts on that weeks ago. I didn’t know what a “chitti” was before Kamala Harris said it, and I am always in the mood to learn about new cultures. If I don’t know it, show me. If I didn’t learn it, teach me.
Spanning 600 feet along the sand, these Chicago benches were covered with graffiti until 1993. Then Rogers Park started the annual Artists of the Wall Festival, where images like these are painted annually. (Photo credit: Shamontiel L. Vaughn)
But the way it was done felt like a slight. Don’t highlight one if you’re going to dismiss the other — for a Jamaican/Indian American woman who claims it all. Still, I pondered on whether I was being too sensitive. I deleted the Twitter debate, retweeted the original tweet again, unfollowed the user and went about my business. I was in a celebratory mood and was not going to get thrown off by something like this within a matter of hours of my presidential pick winning — along with the VP-Elect who I wanted to vote for as president in the first place.
Then here comes Eva Longoria to let me know it’s not my imagination.
Eva Longoria, Election 2020 doesn’t need to be a POC competition
When Longoria was asked about people of color (POC) who turned out for 2020 elections, instead of just big-upping Latina women like herself who were active voters, she went to a place that absolutely never needed to happen.
“‘The women of color showed up in a big way,” Longoria said. “Of course you saw in Georgia what, uh, what black women have done. But Latina women were the real heroines here.”
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. When discussing women of color, I try to be careful about this, specifically because over the years I’ve had a social circle of men and women who were Puerto Rican, Mexican, Dominican and Bolivian. So I’m not ever trying to knock my Latina (or Hispanic, ’cause some hate that term) friends over the years. But that “real heroines” part rubbed me all wrong. It not only didn’t name-check well-known black women who pounded the pavement to encourage voter registration and followed through to the polls, but dismissed their work altogether as not the “real heroines.”
First of all, if the 2016 election went how black women wanted it to go, we would’ve never had the last four years of a Donald Trump presidency. Black women voted for Hillary Clinton by 94 percent. Latina women voted for her by 69 percent. Am I supposed to ignore that gap? And if we want to go further into Longoria’s point about women versus men as voters, black men even outvoted Latina women on Clinton — with 82 percent.
But let’s fast forward to Election Day last week, shall we? It is indisputable to ignore how red states turned to blue states — and I’m not talking about Florida where Latino voters (Cuban and Venezuelan) supported Trump in large numbers once again.
See full exit poll results on NBC News
Instead, NBC News reports that the election came down to racially diverse urban centers and increasingly diverse suburbs in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Black people, who make up 39 percent or more of the population in those areas, primarily chose Biden. And from this “Frontline” episode on Milwaukee voters, it is a major feat that they even made a dent in elections. When votes started getting counted in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta, Trump’s lead in their respective states went kaput. Biden wouldn’t have even been the Democratic presidential nominee without Black voters in South Carolina, who initially got him to that 270 that he needed.
Photo credit: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash
Unless she slept through the entire Election Week, she had to have noticed that flip from red to blue when ballot counters went to these cities. Even the most delusional and narcissistic man in the entire world noticed! So of course I understand why black people like LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright (co-founders of Black Voters Matter Fund) and Georgia’s own Stacey Abrams were significant in leading the Democratic election. Just imagine how petty I would look if I started complaining, “Why aren’t black women in Chicago mentioned? They’re heroines, too.” As a black woman in Chicago who is relentless about voting, it was not our time to shine. While other blue states showed support for Biden and the electoral college needed us, too, the historical flips in these battleground states are worth all the credit they’ve been given. And I have zero problems giving it to them.
I’m not sure how many other nonsensical remarks will come up from 2021 to 2024, when Kamala Harris actually enters the White House and gets to work. What I am quickly finding out is that although no one is disputing President-Elect Joe Biden as a white guy nor are they disputing who did and didn’t vote for him, this shunning of black women in less than 48 hours is about as annoying as the Obama birtherism argument. If we’re not being “corrected” for celebrating the HBCU graduate in a Divine Nine organization who had parents involved in the Civil Rights Movement, now black women who helped get her there are getting treated with amnesia brain, too. Pace yourself. We’ve got four years of this kind of disrespect to go. Can we get these two in the White House first before you so quickly forget your fair-weather fighting for black lives? Or, do you think you get a free pass when the black lives are black women?