Last night while scouring the comments on my latest column, I found this: “The best recipe to inspire racism is to read the rantings of a militant, belligerent, obnoxious black female author who gleefully lashes out at every possible moment because of her pathological insecurity that perhaps someone, somewhere is discriminating against her” in response to “Is your hair real?” (Commentary, March 18, Page 7).
Boom and blast! This was probably the most badass comment I’ve ever received. Why? I was totally called a militant, that’s why. I can’t even tell you how flattered I was, because, before this, I had never thought myself to be a militant. But unknown to me at the time, I was in fact exactly that: a black woman feminist, and in essence, a militant.
The life, work, and consciousness of a black woman feminist will always be one of a militant. For the black woman has, under the most strenuous adversities, survived and continues to survive. This is undeniable. Professor Michael Eric Dyson, on a segment of the show Tyra, shares this sentiment when discussing the black woman. On this segment entitled, “Changing Stereotypes of Black Men”, a guest describes black women in similar terms: militant, belligerent, and obnoxious. Dyson then states, “…if you find a sista with that kind of strength that got to race through slavery, that got to race through Jim Crow, that stood us [black men] up when we couldn’t stand up, you expect that sista to be strong…Don’t be mad when she shows strength now.”
And to this I say, against the never-ending patriarchy and its inseparable oppressive counterpart, white supremacy, the black woman feminist – the militant – still strives to race through. She does not stop; she cannot stop.
But I admit. Sometimes I do wish that it could stop. I wish as though I could stop this life, work, and consciousness. Sometimes I vehemently wish to reject it, reject it all – everything. For sometimes it is tiresome and frustrating and saddening and painful and suffocating. It is so fucking suffocating! This life, work, and consciousness become you. You embody this. You embody this existence every moment, of every second, of every day. The world becomes a more distrusting and disheartening place filled with what seems like impenetrable structures of racism, sexism, and hatred. And I admit. I know I distrust this world, and, too, its people. I realized and accepted this after my first attempt at sharing this mystique with others during my first year. But it’s safe to say that the black woman feminist, for them – for the world – wasn’t a good look then, and still isn’t a good look now.
And so this struggle, mystique, and existence can, too, become one of loneliness sometimes. The battle to eradicate the oppressions of this world becomes a battle fought alone. Then the frustration continues and increases and intensifies, and hurts. It hurts a lot.
This woman’s work. This (black) woman’s work is something we as the defined, titled, and self-bestowed black women feminists/militants must never stop. This world needs us. This world that ceases to rid itself of its racisms and sexisms needs us, and needs our work. We must fight by any means necessary to make this world a post-racist, post-patriarchal, and post-oppressive world. We must stand by our struggle, for, as (the beautiful, so beautiful) Desmond Tutu states, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Indeed, I am black; I am a woman; I am a feminist. And, as a black woman feminist, this too makes me a militant. I am a militant. I am a militant who will not stop and cannot stop this woman’s work – this (black) woman’s work.
And so I wish to share this piece of advice with all my black women feminists – my militants – who feel sad and angry and frustrated and disgusted and tired and suffocated with this life and this work and this consciousness, in this world of constant oppression. I promise, it works. Find a comforting spot, turn on your computer, and go straight to Youtube and search for Maxwell’s track “This Woman’s Work”. For, he is speaking to you, to us. And as the melodic sounds fill the room say these lines with him: I know you’ve got a little life in you left, I know you’ve got a lot of strength left.” These lines speak truth. For when all is said and done, we – the black women feminists, militants – may have just a little life in us left. But we will forever have a lot of strength left.
Tyrone Speaks is a twice monthly column written by Christiana Collison on the subject of black feminism. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.