“We simply cannot build back better without retiring the rhetoric that hails Black Women as the arbiters of America’s conscience but fails to hold America accountable for withholding freedom from Black Women in every imaginable space.” — Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, “Black Women Best”: The U.S. Economy Benefits When We Center Black Women
For far too long, America held strong to the belief that there cannot be any Progress if whiteness isn’t centered, that whiteness should be at the helm of any consequential change benefiting non-whiteness, and that if you give it first more advantages, more comforts, the natural progression would see those advantages trickle down to non-whiteness. But as we have come to witness in the last four years, this rhetoric dangerously disregards uncomfortable truths about an America built on the back of Slavery, Segregation, Jim Crow, Voter Suppression, and all the macro and micro aggressions that make anti-Blackness systemic.
The Biden-Harris campaign ran on the promise of Building Better. The promise was not a return to the comforts of the status-quo, but of understanding the deep flaws that delivered the nation to the willful cruelty of a wannabe dictator, of acknowledging that far too many were eager to help in attacking the very fiber of democracy in service of white supremacy. And it took horrifying degrading acts for Americans to finally grasp just how deeply rooted anti-Blackness truly is, and how dangerously close the nation came to falling into the mendacious hands of a despot because of its constant refusal to root out systemic racism.
President Biden has admitted that the change won’t happen overnight, but the objective is to make strides to end systemic racism starting in the White House and every level of government. He has already signed Racial Equity Executive Orders that promote Fair-Housing policies, end federal private-prison contracts, and reverse the past administration’s bluntly racist orders such as banning government agencies from offering racial-sensitivity training. Yesterday, he delivered on a key pledge to get the desperately needed funds to help Puerto Rico’s recovery, and has already started cabinet meetings regarding his pledge to work with Congress on legislation to combat systemic racial disparities originated from policies discriminating against Black people in education, criminal justice, and housing.
You’re off to a good start, America. Only time will measure the value of this administration’s promises on fighting systemic racism, but what has been made very clear by the Biden-Harris Administration is that progressive change will come from combatting systemic racism and for it to happen, Black Communities must be centered.
Three days ago Black Women braced themselves for the next 28 days where they will patiently listen to whiteness attempting to center itself in Black conversations, quoting the words of every Civil Rights Giant taken out of context to fit a narrative that suits its purpose, challenging Black Women to endless debates on said reimagined narrative, and finally reverting to hardly-veiled bigotry for refusing to accommodate their entitlement and to follow their lead away from the only Party that made Black Women central to their every policy. Otherwise known as Black History Month.
It’s no secret that I admire so much Black American Women who have rebuilt a party that was once founded on white supremacy. Their unbeatable spirit managed to reshape the Democratic Party into an inclusive diverse tent where the marginalized find comfort, support, and recognition of their full Equality. As chaotic as it often is, there’s no doubt that the present Democratic Party is an intersectional party that manages to negotiate with its many opposing factions, from Center to Left, and to steer that monstrous coalition towards common goals.
And the backbone of that party are Black Women. Black Women who weather attacks with hilarious snark and fighting spirit. Black Women who embrace you for the very reasons white supremacy had othered you. Black Women who by sheer unbending will have saved America from self destruction, time and again. Black Girl Magic is rooted in the certainty that self-preservation is lifting up every community from its weakest and most marginalized, and that certainty is compounded knowledge where doing the necessary takes precedence over ego.
Someone once said that Black Women hold a grudge, that they never forget your every transgression and keep receipts until their last dying breath. That’s of course just a misogynoir trope that willfully refuses to see the simple beauty of how Black Women protect themselves and their loved ones from harm by keeping a mental score card, not to hold grudges, but to point out clear patterns. They are revered, admired, and feared for their receipts and the constant accuracy with which they produce them. And when that quick wit built on decades of survival is applied to the political arena, when comes the time, they reach for that scorecard on every candidate and look for patterns of intersectionality, anti-racism, and allyship built on years of trust; this helps them coalesce behind the best person they feel will meet the challenges of the moment and guide all the communities they carry on their shoulders into a brighter future without leaving anyone behind.
So in celebration of Black Women, this Black History Month, strive to decenter whiteness and to instead center the voices of Black Women. Not the Black Women who kowtow to your and tell you lies to soothe your ego, but the Black Women who truly speak for their communities; those who make you uncomfortable for they refuse to coddle white privilege in favor of salvaging a nation; those who bluntly tell you why you’re wrong and bring out the uncomfortable embarrassing receipts; the very Black Women many ignore until it’s time to demand they do the impossible and save a nation from its constant fck-ups.
Finding yourself in the midst of uncomfortable new spaces, listening, and learning, will help you further recognize and value Black voices; they will point out inaccuracies and dog-whistles that your ears aren’t trained to hear but your being was raised to follow; they will reveal the true faces of those who convinced you they’re worthy of being elevated as leaders. By the end of the month, you might come to better appreciate Black Women’s daily fight to keep everyone’s head above water, and the next time some grifter attempts to fool you with false promises by stoking your inner privilege, you won’t be so shocked to learn exactly why the backbone of democracy refused to elevate that grifter or offer their support.
For the next remaining 25 days, dare to amplify Black Women’s voices instead of White voices conveniently interpreting Black Messaging. Make it a point to stop amplifying those constantly attacking Black People under the guise of ideology, those known for erasing Black voices and denigrating their vote, and for perpetuating the very root evil of slavery by plagiarizing Black words and appropriating Black work. Dare to walk the talk and truly embrace progress by decentering white privilege if truly to you, Black Lives do Matter.