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Posted under: Opinion Culture

Black Men Need To #SayHerName A Lot Louder And Fight For Black Women, Too

When Malcolm X said “the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman,” he was not lying.

We’ve got to do better. When I say “we,” I’m talking about Black men. Oftentimes, the idea of privilege comes up and we forget that we have male privilege. While we are oppressed because of our skin color, we still benefit from being men and it’s time we use that advantage to help elevate Black women — cisgender or otherwise. 

Black women have been on the frontlines for centuries, risking their lives, to advocate for us. Imagine how disappointing it is for them to be oppressed by the very same group of people they team up with to fight white supremacy.

Since the George Floyd protests began, the erasure of Black women from the Black Lives Matter movement has been unsettling. In all of the demonstrations to protest George Floyd’s murder, why haven’t we kept that same energy when it comes to Breonna Taylor, who was murdered a few months prior? Is her life not as valuable? Some may gawk at that question but the truth is, we really need to examine why we feel so empowered to protect each other, yet turn a blind eye when it’s time to redirect that same energy to Black women, who have gone to war and back for us on every single occasion.

Are we willing to go to war for them? When Florida activist, Oluwatoyin Salau spoke about the sexual assault she experienced, she soon went missing with her body being found not long after. This same woman went viral for her passionate remarks that denounced white supremacy and the unlawful killings of us — to turn around and be killed by one of us, a Black man. We didn't have her back at all.When Salau tweeted about her sexual assault, we had a moment to rally behind her and support her. We chose not to and as a result, we've lost her. While we weren't the ones to physically harm her, not addressing her allegations is just as bad.

We have the opportunity to honor Salau by believing Black women when they are vocal about any abuse that they face. We need to take a stand to not only believe them but honor them by making sure incidents like this do not happen again. We can protect other Black women and Black girls in the future by listening and taking action. Sitting idly by when injustices occur is equivalent to committing said injustices. 

Misogyny and classism aren’t attributes exclusive to non-Black men; it’s something that we perpetuate more times than not.  When we take it upon ourselves to deem which Black women are worthy of support and which are not, we are saying that the lives of Black women are expendable. We’re letting them know that if they do not accommodate our fragile egos then they don’t matter. We may attempt to disguise these harmful traits but we don’t even try to pretend that we aren’t transphobic.

Dominique Fells and Riah Milton are two Black Trans women that were killed this month. But again, where is our outrage for them? The transphobia is blatantly obvious with little to no mention of their names in protests or other demonstrations. Are their Black lives any different than anyone else’s? Why aren’t we chanting their names like we did for George Floyd, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin? Why aren’t we saying the name of Priscilla Slater, a Black woman who died in a holding cell? When Malcolm X said “the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman,” he was not lying.

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As said before, we need to do better. Actually, we need to be better. How can we, in good conscience, march through the streets demanding that non-Black people recognize that Black lives do in fact matter when we aren’t even upholding that in our own community? Black lives will not matter until we stand up for Black women, cisgender or otherwise. There is no reason for Black women to be marginalized from a fight that they are holding down.

The sheer arrogance and entitlement that we have in thinking Black women should continue to defend us despite our willful disrespect is ridiculous. We have the ability to center Black women in these conversations on police brutality, but we choose not to and that is something I’ll never understand. But I believe it will have to start with us holding each other accountable.

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When we see a buddy cracking jokes or making obscene remarks, let’s use that opportunity to unpack the misogyny and hold him accountable. We can also make efforts toward learning how to be better allies when it comes to advocating for Black women. There are a lot of things we can do but my point is that we need to do something. We can’t continue to sit by and watch our Black sisters get slain by the forces that be, while not offering support. It’s true that Black women will always come out on top and hold the community down, regardless if we support them or not, but why should they have to?

If you haven't, please sign this petition to seek justice for Breonna Taylor.

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A Detroit native, Kenneth 'Kenny' Williams Jr. is a self-described cultural critic and visual storyteller. While at Michigan State University, Kenneth received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and went on to obtain his Master of Arts degree in Public Relations. Kenneth's passions include pop culture, writing, and using his skill sets to actively and positively promote the narratives of Black people and Black culture. Interested in seeing more from Kenneth? Follow him on Medium at https://medium.com/@kennethwilliams310