We commend the Women’s March for denouncing the President’s verbal assault last Tuesday calling former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman “that dog” on Twitter. There are few who wouldn’t agree with the Women’s March that “Omarosa, a Black woman is a person”, or that we are dealing with “an abuser”. No one, no matter who they are, their political affiliation or their actions should ever be called a dog and in Omarosa’s case, the word “dog” is no doubt a substitute for “black bitch”. Black women have for generations navigated sexist/racist tropes of jezebel, mammy, mule and sapphire.
This is not a letter to provoke the Women’s March or its supporters. This is a letter to the brazen women we witnessed mobilize a quarter million others to converge on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017. It is time we allow our suffering to speak. As women of African descent and Black feminists, many of us have watched the Women’s March these past eighteen months as the movement squandered its popularity, its platform and the support of all representations of women and girls including our own public letter encouraging Black women to march on January 21, 2017.
The Issue at Hand
Omarosa is hardly the microcosm or a representation of the full circumstances of Black women. America post-Women’s March, remains a dangerous site saturated with the belief that Black female energy deserves punishment, degradation and neglect. No matter its form, the struggle for Black women across this country, and in particular the southern states, is still for full control of our own bodies, for autonomy and for integrity. The threat has not dissipated as the elimination of basic resources to communities of color that could empower all of us to prevent rape and other sexual violence against cis and trans-identified women still looms.
Research by Black Women’s Blueprint still reveals that girls in our communities experience sexual assault at a rate of over sixty-percent before their eighteenth birthday. It is the unsolved rape-kits of Black women that disproportionately line the shelves of police storage facilities, according to The Rape Kit Action Project. It is the bodies of Black women who represent those more likely to be murdered by their partners than anyone else; 4.4 times more likely according to the CDC—a full fifty-seven percent dying by gunshot wound. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), flawed though it may be, is in this very moment at the center of a war being waged for, with and on behalf of survivors of gender-violence—Native American women, immigrant, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans identified family. Exacerbating their situation is a broken social contract which fuels growing economic disparities for Black women, increasing their risk for sexual exploitation.
Sisters from the Women’s March, the issue are the recent actions by our federal government and leaders to dismantle our civil and human rights by plotting to eliminate access to health care, and in particular reproductive justice as Black women are four times more likely to suffer maternal morbidity and mortality in hospital wards across the nation according to the CDC. The issue is the proliferation of prisons for profit and the number of Black women thrown in those prisons at rates outpacing men everywhere in this country. What is being perpetuated is what James Baldwin prophetically proclaimed—“the American Dream is at the expense of [Black people]”. The physical, financial and social enrichment of the nation-state at the expense of Black bodies and at the expense of Black women is too old a strategy and it has been allowed to occur unchecked.
Yes, we commend the Women’s March for coming to Omarosa’s defense, but there are a multitude of racialized and sexualized abuses which continue against Black women and girls which are still not challenged with outrage, do not make our social media pages or our national television screens.
What We Urge
We urge the Women’s March take this movement beyond the National Mall. How are you centering your movement around the plight of Black women, beyond Omarosa? Declare yourselves to be on the side of all Black women today.
Sisters at Women’s March, we are proud to be living in this moment and time where our children have the opportunity to witness the acts of extraordinary women across identities resisting oppression, challenging rape culture and fascism everywhere. The Women’s March organizing toward “Power to the Polls” is also a feat. For this reason, we ask that you acknowledge the backs and shoulders on which you stand. It is time the work of Black women, the strength, the voice and the power that Black feminists have given to women’s liberation be leveraged to benefit us.
Black women are a powerful voting block and have been instrumental at the polls. This coming election is no different. We march to the 2018 midterm election imbued with full recognition of our civil and political rights. Mainstream movements cannot keep pocketing and back-seating Black women’s realities. What costs might we face if we go into this next election phase ignoring or riding out the persistent historical amnesia about how Black women live, how we vote in this country, how our voting is suppressed and our voting rights stripped from us?
We urge you beyond the elections, ground your work in coalition building and healing justice, and be present for the women across identities who still see no place in the Women’s March. We urge you to embody the intersectional feminism which continues to give Black women, LGBTQ+ and gender-fluid people at the margins the language to name our oppression.
What are your intentions toward Black women as the world is watching? What are your goals for a broader and deeper impact, while solidifying infrastructure and transforming the Women’s March into a more sophisticated, yet engageable movement for all women.
We cannot allow an isolationist and establishment impulse to dictate our movement strategy given the social and political urgency of now. Rather than concerning yourselves with celebrity status, we charge you to move with us at the margins. Rather than rubbing elbows and entreating known misogynist leaders, rather than remaining silent about the sexual abuse and commodification of our girls, or denying survivors, we charge you to meet us in the trenches and confront sexual assault head-on.
Meet us at the place of struggle within the struggle against racial capitalism and imperialism, where immigrant women in deportation and women forced to live in poverty and incarcerated women are fighting to change the material conditions of their lives. We urge you to learn from us and other marches why Black women deserve better.
Given that there are leaders of color among you, last September 2017, the Women’s March should have issued a rally-cry to its people to show up in great numbers for Black women at the March for Black Women.
Resist complacency. The March for Black Women turns its back and walks away from the National Mall spilling onto the streets, and the Black neighborhoods of Washington D.C. on September 29, 2018. On September 30th the March for Black Women sits in vigil as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is set to expire at midnight. Rally with your feet, rally with your voice, rally with your heart, rally with your conscience and your vote. This year marks one hundred years since the lynching death of Mary Turner in 1918, and we invoke anti-lynching crusader and white women’s march crasher Ida B. Wells and say #BlackWomenRise. Rise with us in D.C. and rally with us in NY.
Signed: Black Women’s Blueprint
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