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WGST Feature Story: Show Up for Black Women

By Hannah Patterson

At the forefront of every movement, you will find Black women fighting for human rights. Always on the frontlines showing up for their people, demanding to be seen and heard, they are angry, and rightfully so. They are passionate about the advancement of the Black community. This is an admirable display of the selflessness of Black women that has existed for centuries. But if Black women can find a way to show up for everyone else and fight for human rights in every aspect, why is no one showing up for them?

Dr. Carmen Kynard is a Professor in the Department of English and the Lillian Radford Chair of Rhetoric and Composition.

I sat down with English professor Dr. Carmen Kynard for a candid conversation of the necessary liberation of Black women where we highlighted the way Black women are gaslit, negated, and silenced.

Black women have a kind of foresightedness where they present their progressive ideas publicly as a clear, tangible solution to societal problems. However, when ideas come from the mouths of Black women, they’re shut down as “too radical” or “absurd and illogical.” When Angela Davis spoke of prison abolition, people thought she was crazy. Now, it’s 2020 and trending.

Kynard, weighs in “It’s like everybody else is always catching up to something that’s already been presented, to which Black women are never given credit.”

In our contemporary moment, we’re seeing a lot of Black women showing up front and center for protests and marches, but this was also the case for movements long before 2020. Fannie Lou Hamer, Audre Lorde, Ella Baker, Maria Stewart, and so many more did what we are now seeing our moms, sisters, cousins, aunts, doing. These names may sound unfamiliar because of the consistent whitewashing of American history.

“We know of the white colonization of Black struggle but there is also white colonization of Black success,” Kynard adds. “Even Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and its moment in the way we learn it has Mahalia Jackson removed when she was in his corner that whole talk.”

The white patriarchal foundation of America allows for the further oppression of Black women in contrast to Black men. Gender inequality can be seen in every facet of society, including the Black Lives Matter movement. Black men and women get separated when it’s convenient for white profit.

“Patriarchal interests lie in Black men’s assimilation to whiteness which will always be at the expense of Black women,” Kynard explains. “Even though white, male patriarchy does not benefit Black men hypermasculinity and the toxic masculinity of white patriarchy does not benefit Black men, it gets you in prison.”

The great Black feminists that came before this moment would be sad to see we’re still in the same positions of silence and oppression. They’d be happy to see we’re still fighting. Ella Baker summarized it best when she announced, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Black women are strong, ever-enduring a lot, this is true. However, this gets used as an excuse by society to ignore Black women because it seems as though they’re able to handle the heaviness. The world is waiting for Black women to drown before they save them. Society has to start advocating loudly, blatantly, publicly, intentionally for Black women, in all aspects. Black trans women, Black queer women, Black pregnant women, Black homeless women, Black mothers, all our Black women because only then will we see a world interested in listening to and aiding the Black community.