Writing has always been my solace, my peace, and my escape. I’ve been writing since first grade and don’t see myself stopping until the lights go out.
Finding Medium was like the Mothership welcoming me home. Finally, a place where I could write freely about racism and injustice and connect with brilliant and engaging writers that inspire me to be better and learn more. It enabled me to remain on the front lines of the literary world in the fight to secure our liberation.
But none of us live in a utopian society where only like-minded people co-exist, and this platform is certainly no exception. I understand there will always be individuals who have different points of view and that’s actually what makes Medium and the world at large so rich and interesting. The problem I have is when people who don’t agree with my thought process assume they have the authority to change it.
To put it bluntly, I’m speaking of the White men who may have left the plantations physically, but forgot to detach themselves mentally.
I write a series called “Dear White Women:”
Dear White Women: Now That We Have Your Attention, May I Have a Word?
Five Thoughts from the Heart of a Black Woman
Take one guess who often leaves rude, racist, and misogynistic comments even though the articles aren’t directed towards them. Here’s one example:
“HARD STOP. Indeed. There is so much wrong with this article I can’t even begin to criticize it. It would take me the whole afternoon, and then I’d get an article just like this one in my inbox tomorrow. I won’t be Medium’s Sysiphus.”
When I responded to ask what exactly he took issue with and in particular, why he was taking issue at all as a White man, he responded:
“I’m a white guy and not American. Medium being a public space, I feel entitled to speak my mind even when I’m not the target audience. But I have friends in the US, and I begin to worry about them. If your way of thinking becomes the norm, whites will become second-class citizens soon. As has been openly announced on Twitter by at least one BLM figure.”
I appreciate the fact that he has given me the power to change the trajectory of thought in America, but those of us who live here and are tapped into reality know better than that.
White men come for me from every angle and it never ceases to amaze me. After reading some comments and direct messages, I’m left thinking…What is wrong with you? Why are you so completely triggered by what this Black woman is saying? Is it because I’m telling the unapologetic truth? Is it because I am not afraid to call you out on your BS? Is it because I have stepped outside of the box you built for me, kicked it down, and then burned it to a crisp?
The latest installment of “White Men Who Come for My Life” comes from a man who hides his identity. I would have had more tolerance for the exchange if I at least knew who I was talking to, but I digress.
I wrote an article entitled “Non-Black Allies, This is Not Your Time to Shine. This is My Life.”
Non-Black Allies, This Is Not Your Time to Shine. This Is My Life.
A message for everyone jumping on the allyship bandwagon
It speaks to the frustration I feel seeing performance allies who callously use Black trauma to promote their own personal agendas. I began the article by acknowledging and thanking those who have good intentions when engaging with the Black community and who also understand that this movement isn’t just a moment in time, but a lifetime of work. I guess he chose to skip over that part because this is a portion of the message I received:
“Instead of alienating the very people who at the very least are bringing more exposure and knowledge to the plight of African Americans, perhaps you could be grateful that others are helping to build your house and that the foundation is stronger when people who have different experiences bring their willingness to help to the cause.
While white people learn to be better humanists in general, perhaps you might learn how to better respect allies who help advance your cause by redirecting your judgment of other’s motives to those that are actually working against you. If you want real change, take all the support you can get and build a coalition. Accept help where you can get it, and be grateful when someone helps you.”
Now I’m sure his well-crafted comment (I noticed that it had been edited, which meant he re-read it and made some adjustments to make sure he really drove his point home)was meant to make me, a Black woman who had clearly forgotten her place is in this society, rethink my entire article, realize the error of my ways, quickly bow down to this oh-so-wise-and-powerful White man, and thank him profusely for showing me the way, the truth, and the LIGHT.
Um…no. I don’t think so.
His comment immediately created a disturbing vision in my mind of an enslaved woman trying to cook a decent meal for her family using the scraps from the slave master’s table. (Yes, I took it there.) She would never have the right to ask for fresh food with healthy, nutritional ingredients that hadn’t been picked over and discarded on the floor. Instead, she would have to accept what was given to her whether it was harmful or not with no questions asked, while demonstrating the mandatory gratitude to prevent her family from going hungry.
The man who wrote this comment made his assessment after reading my account of these so-called allies' lack of regard for the damage their “help” often inflicts on the positive emotional well-being of the Black community. In his mind, I should just suck it up and accept whatever offer was extended with no questions asked because at least it would bring attention to my plight, right? And how dare I take issue with the fact that these people were spreading toxicity throughout our neighborhoods with their self-absorbed agendas! As a Black woman, who is lowest on the totem pole in this country, I should just be grateful for the scraps that I was given.
Who did I think I was? Didn’t I know my place?
Naturally, I responded in what came dangerously close to a full-length article, but here is one part of my comment:
“The ‘help’ that I speak of in this article is counterproductive to this movement. This ‘help’ exploits the trauma that Black people continue to suffer in this country as we watch people who look like us murdered on television over and over again as if we were animals.
This ‘help’ is not about anything you are speaking of. It is self-serving, self-righteous, and completely highjacks the fight for Black liberation. It uses our pain and trauma to advance their own agendas. It is NOT what Black people need and I have every right to speak on this because their self-centered actions directly affect the safety of my family and those I love.”
In response, he pulled out one of the oldest racist tropes in American history, The Angry Black Woman Conclusion:
“Jeanette…really take a look at the very selective text you copied out of my response and ask yourself if what I said there deserved the response you gave. At no time did I say or even allude to the things that you accused me of. I’m sorry you’re in so much pain that you have to lash out at people who actually try and empathize with the problem and try to create solutions. In the future, you might try asking yourself if what you are hearing is skewed by your anger, which I get. But, try directing at the people that deserve it. Good luck.”
Let’s take a moment to unpack this very loaded comment.
“Ask yourself if what I said there deserved the response you gave.”
Translation: Clearly you did not put enough thought into your response. You over-reacted and obviously didn’t understand what I said, which is typical. You need to rethink your comment and redirect it in a way that is more satisfying to me.
“At no time did I say or even allude to the things that you accused me of.”
Translation: I see where this is going and you will NOT call me a racist!
“I’m sorry you’re in so much pain that you have to lash out at people who actually try and empathize with the problem and try to create solutions.”
Translation: You are an angry Black woman incapable of logical thought and are completely led by your emotions. This is why it’s impossible for you to see these good White people trying to help you. We are obviously more superior than you and you need us to help you fix all of your problems. We know you can’t do it without us, but you people are always playing the victim.”
“In the future, you might try asking yourself if what you are hearing is skewed by your anger, which I get.”
Translation: It’s a known fact that Black women don’t have the ability to discern between fact and fiction when they’re angry. You are better off not trusting your own thoughts, but instead, look to others (White men in particular) to help navigate your life. You know your anger makes it harder for you to decipher what you think you’re hearing. I get why you’re so angry, but that won’t stop me from inserting myself into your space and dictating how you should think and behave at any given moment.
“try directing at the people that deserve it. Good luck.”
Translation: It’s not like I’m burning crosses on your lawn or calling you the “n” word. Those people are the REAL racists. I’m just trying to set you straight and help you realize that you have to stop worrying about the well-being of Blacks, humble yourself, and take the help from these good White people whenever (or however) it’s offered. Because after a while, especially if you all keep judging the way we choose to help you, we will stop offering altogether.
This is what microaggressions look like at work. They may not always appear blatantly racist on initial inspection and often only seem condescending at best which is bad enough. But if you read between the lines, as Black people must often do while we navigate living with our dark skin in this country, you will likely find more insidious messages embedded within these seemingly innocent observations.
I can already hear the “you’re reading too much into this” comments, so I’ll address them now. I’ve learned through my direct dealings with certain White men that they never expect Black women to have advanced thoughts. They come from the school of “the eternal master” where Black women need to be told what to do, what to think, and when to do it. They view us as angry, irrational women who do not possess the intellect to engage in meaningful dialogues with anyone and particularly not with them as the Alpha males of this society.
They will talk over us, look through us, disrespect us, fetishize us, and disregard what we have to say. There seems to be a great disdain for Black women who openly speak their minds and are more concerned with expressing unadulterated truth than appearing pleasing in the eyes of White men.
This is one of the many reasons the “angry Black woman” label was created. There had to be a way to deem us ineffective and irrelevant because clearly trying to silence us was never going to work. Discrediting our thoughts is their best attempt to reassert their control. Since it is illegal to hold a human being in physical bondage, bigoted White men have opted for mental enslavement as it serves an even greater and more enduring purpose.
I didn’t write this article to be petty about receiving negative comments. I welcome all communication from everyone on this platform as I do in my personal life outside of cyberspace. But I wanted to highlight a tiny snapshot of what Black women experience, often on a regular basis, because this has historically been normalized and we are more than tired of it.
Here is my direct message to White men who have no respect for Black women and insist on reading and commenting on my articles and my life in general:
For you, this country is free and you are the majority leader in every environment. I understand you have no concept of what oppression, sexism, misogyny, and racism feels like, though you regularly inflict all four on unsuspecting Black women without much thought. In your mind, you feel you have the right and authority to speak on any subject in any matter you choose without regard for the effect you leave on a group that is already traumatized because after all, you’re in charge of everything, right?
But here’s something for you to chew on: we have long since been on to you because you aren’t a difficult nut to crack. You are driven by fear and the unnatural need to reign over the heavens and the earth with a God-complex on steroids. This has been your mantra since the beginning of time so we have quite a bit of history to use as a reference. One of the worst things for you to encounter is an intelligent Black woman who not only refuses to bow to your will but who also effectively challenges you in the process.
I would be open to an intelligent, respectful conversation with you on how to repair the damage that hundreds of years of the oppression that benefits you have wreaked havoc on Black women, but I’ve lived long enough to know this is not your intent. Your main objective when commenting is to discredit and dismantle the thoughts of Black women and to keep us “in our place.” You know, the one you created for us? When we see you coming, we already know what to expect. It doesn’t surprise us, it will never change what we choose to write about, and it most definitely will never silence us.
The next time you think it’s necessary to go toe-to-toe with a Black woman, consider all that we have already overcome. The fact that we are still here in this country that once reduced us to property is a miracle in and of itself. We have endured what you could never imagine and not only did we survive, we continue to THRIVE. That comes with strength and power completely foreign to you who were raised in ease and privilege in a world that constantly caters to your every whim and desire.
You are no match for us. So please, don’t come for us unless we SEND for you. And if you insist on coming for me, come correct with intelligent and valid points so we can have an adult discussion.
Otherwise, what’s the point?