I don’t know that I have written much about the tremendous, burdensome “loyalty” that many Black men exact from Black women in order to treat us with even just the smallest modicum of respect or give us even the tiniest crumbs of love and affection, but I know I have spoken tomes about it in arguments that I have been having with those Black men since I was a fucking kid. I am talking TOMES.
Zora Neale Hurston put some of the realest words about the coerced codependency of Black women in the mouth of Nanny, the wise grandmother that raised Janie in the iconic Renaissance novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Nanny said the Black woman is the mule of the world. And with so much that is happening now – Tory Lanez shooting Megan Thee Stallion, that one backhanded “Black women are going to save the world” meme circulating, Daniel Cameron continuing to let Breonna Taylor’s murderers go free – I daresay: Nanny was deadass. Zora was more political than she wanted to acknowledge or admit.
According to the snickering news reports, Tory Lanez, a Black man, shot Megan Thee Stallion, a Black woman, while she was trying to exit a vehicle last weekend, evidently against his will. Articles indicate that police are investigating the assault, but make it seem like the allegation did not come directly from Megan herself. There has been no arrest made, and the only statement Megan has made is that she is traumatized by what happened and can’t understand how people can laugh at her for sustaining a serious injury.
So she is the one that got shot, but she is the one shielding her shooter on the backend. I wish it did, but that doesn’t surprise me. Not one whit. It goes back to that “loyalty” I mentioned in the opening of this post. The perennial saddle heaved onto the back of the perennial mule.
All my life, I have watched and listened as Black girls and women “protected” Black boys and men from the violence of white systems by lying for them, covering for them, refusing to use the mechanics of those systems to get things they (the girls and women) need, refusing to use the mechanics of those systems to hold them (the boys and men) accountable for crimes they have committed or harm they have done. I have done some of this “protecting” myself, even if just in the benign form of keeping secrets and swallowing truths that deserved to be told.
We Black girls and women do this enabling because we have had it hammered into us that the system will destroy “our” boys and men, and so it is treasonous to turn them over, even if they have done wrong – even if they have acted in ways that are so egregious they might put the white man to shame with their callousness or viciousness.
And we girls and women have habitually gone along with that tremendously unfair expectation. We have very often sacrificed our own safety – our literal bodies and our very lives – acting as proxies and shields – martyring ourselves as if we do not matter unless and until we suffer willingly and gladly for the sake of “our people,” which somehow always boils down to the men – the self-appointed most important members of the race.
So Tory Lanez has very probably shot Megan Thee Stallion, and in keeping with custom, she has very probably decided not to snitch on him. And what has she gotten in return for that immense and undeserved act of misguided love? (This is the point of this post and something you Black readers very probably do not have to guess.)
She has gotten Black people – men and women – going off on her on Twitter. Mocking and making fun because she has a raucous, raunchy rap persona and so – in keeping with the Jezebel and Sapphire stereotypes that we uphold more religiously than white folks at times – is a “bad” woman that deserves punishment for not living up to the pristine ideals of mainstream, i.e whitewashed, middle class “respectability.”
That is the thanklessness she gets for playing her position – for being the “ride or die” that on the other hand – opposite of Claire Huxtable and Michelle Obama – Black women are exhorted to be.
And it is bullshit. Utter bullshit. And we need to check ourselves about it. Men and women. We need to be better about how we show up and hold up Black girls and women.
See. That is fucked-up thing about misogyny. In its perpetuation, men develop a secret hatred for women that they can’t perceive or recognize for what it is.
They develop this conviction that they are entitled to judge women and say what makes a woman not just good or fit to be their individual or specific partner, but to be a worthy member of the community at all.
They develop a very deep ingratitude for women – a bred in the bone idea that it is women’s usefulness that determines how much respect and regard they should receive and not their sheer humanity.
They develop this idea that women that make them uncomfortable about themselves and their manhood deserve to pay for that, and they are perfectly right to exact that payment in whatever wild and destructive way they see fit.
They develop this belief that women are wrong if we do anything other than supplicate ourselves to men because they need that supplication so badly to feel important or better, and they won’t push themselves to be big boys and figure out how to supply their own needs and fix their own issues rather than plug people into their emotional and psychological holes to give them life like electrical plugs into sockets.
And then it does another, equally damaging job on women themselves.
Out of fear of men and the desire to be accepted into the community – whose cover women need desperately in order to survive since racism AND sexism are perpetually coming for our necks – women buy into the oppressive bullshit of misogyny in order to be even just a little bit safe.
We rake ourselves and each other over the scathing sexist coals before men can do it or right along with them so that we can mitigate the harm. We do it preemptively. We do it for the same reason that Sula cut off the tip of her finger in the Morrison novel to scare off the Irish boys that were bullying Nel and her. We figure if we do it, the men and the white people will see that we have gotten what we have coming and leave off from punishing us themselves for not being “right.”
And we refuse to question the suppressive and regressive nature of the norms used to measure and manage us because that transgression – which is how so many of us regard being openly or insistently feminist or womanist – costs too much (emotionally, mentally, even physically) for many of us to commit.
We don’t want the hostility, ridicule, and outright rejection that comes with being something other than a “good” or “strong” woman according to the stringent, abnegating standards mandated by misgynoir.
We march for men that are willing to assault us in the alleyway during the protest.
We ride for men that are willing to shoot us in the car.
We live for men that are willing to dismiss the value of our lives if we don’t cook or we are fat or we are overtly sexual or we are loud or we get mad or we have the audacity to insist they keep their fists or dicks to themselves or use their time and money to take care of their kids or they take seriously the pain we feel when they spin, ghost, dump, clown, dog walk, and otherwise dismiss, disuse, or disrespect us.
Like I said before. I have been up on this soapbox time and again. The reason these words can flow from my fingertips this agilely is because they have flown from my mouth in one configuration or another a hundred times since I was 13 and learned what the word “feminist” means.
As a cis femme hetero woman that grew up on hip hop, steeped in Black culture, dating Black men exclusively, I have done all kinds of dumbass dances with many magnificent but truly messed-up men.
I have been treated like shit for my willingness to speak up and take up for myself.
I have even been told by my own father that when you have a big mouth, people don’t feel the need to pay attention to your feelings. His way of explaining to me why some men are so menacing toward me. As if one thing cancels out the other. As if I should accept that the payment for my voice is a sum of love or kinship that I should just automatically expect to do without.
Well, I do not accept it.
I do not think that men or women should rest in the idea that a certain way of speaking or acting or dressing or dancing or making money earns a person – a girl or a woman – lesser treatment or worse – out-and-out abuse or assault.
I think that we need to tighten up with our intraracial biases and bigotry and do better by each other in terms of gender (and that means cis and trans).
If Black men want the cover of Black women’s refusal to work with police against them, then what are you going to do for us to ensure that we get the protection we need?
What are you going to do to hold your own homeboys accountable when they cross the line and violate one of your supposed homegirls? Your so-called sisters?
When are you going to examine your end of this dynamic? Your adherence to this rule that you are so quick to enforce when it comes to us but not necessarily yourselves?
Because y’all stay on these internets snitching to anybody that will read or listen about how you feel we fall short of the glory – are not nearly as anything as our mothers and grandmothers – do not measure up to all your faulty, self-serving standards.
When are y’all going to give the loyalty you want to receive in the world?
When are y’all going to love us in the kamikaze way you expect – shit – that you mostly demand that we love you?
Long story short, who is going to go and get Tory Gunz and make him answer for what he did to Megan?
Who is going to go and get the next Tory Gunz and the next Tory Gunz? If not the police?
Black men – y’all stay trying to shame us because we will not regard or regale you as the “kings” you claim to be.
Well, kings make a way for their people. ALL of their people. Be they “right” or “wrong.”
And the Libra in me just can’t accept you levying love that you will not give.
You are important, there is no doubt, but you are not more important than us.
And we will never make it to the mountaintop – men or women – if we can’t all climb together. Because we are tethered.
We will never not be each other’s business, as Amanda Seales likes to say.
As quickly as you will use that hand to push me down when you think I need it, you should be ten times more willing to use it to pull me up.
Stop being sexist. Stop making excuses for your boys’ sexism.