‘We Still Haven’t Learned From Anita Hill’s Testimony’

February 26, 2020

 

Malcolm X said it best. “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”
 

 

At the epicenter of race and gender, there is an intersected experience.

Frances Beal said it best. Being a Black woman is a double jeopardy.

At the closing of February comes the arrival of March, at the dusk of Black History month comes the dawn of Women’s History Month. In many ways, the Black agenda continues because it is the vessel of Black women that the Black experience is ushered.

 

Malcolm X said it best. “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”

Black women have been culturally coded under the most detrimental identities in our popular culture. From the popular servant “Mamie”, the character in Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel Gone With The Wind, to the enticing and exploited Jezebel, and finally to the fiery Sapphire.

These three women make up the experiences of Black women, past and future.

Writer Jocelyn Frye writes in her 2019 American Progoress.org article “Racism and Sexism Combine to Shortchange Working Black Women” that “Black women experience both a race and gender wage gap that reflects the intersectional reality of their daily lives. The sharpest earnings differences are between Black women and white men, who are benchmarked as the highest earners, but Black women also experience wage disparities when compared with white women and Black men. As experts have noted, it is important to understand that this race-gender wage gap consists of more than simply adding the separate numbers associated with each gap. Rather, it reflects a unique effect that results from how the combination of race and gender are perceived together.”

This unique effect is why experiences of Black women are studied away from that of Black men and White women.  More often than none, Black women’s experiences are pigeonholed into umbrella-like identifies that devalues their experiences: Black experiences and experiences as a woman. Both valid identities however not mutually exclusive.

There are a plethora of experiences and figures that have argued that within the Black community, there is systematic practice of inequality and that system is blatant misogyny and disregard for experiences of the “Other.”  Writer and scholar Kimberle’ Crenshaw writes in her 2018 New York Times article “We Still Haven’t Learned From Anita Hill’s Testimony”,

“Black women are vulnerable not only because of racial bias against them, but also because of stereotypes — that they expect less nurturing, they are more willing, no one will believe them. This is what marks them as prey to men of all races. Long before Anita Hill’s poised testimony, black women knew all too well the many ways in which the mere facts of their race and gender identities made them targets….White feminists cast her as an accomplished lawyer and legal scholar whose race was immaterial.

Such colorblind feminism did a profound disservice to Ms. Hill. And it marked another key moment of political erasure — in this case, one that effaced modern feminist history. Treating the racial backdrop of the hearing as just noise meant that we missed an opportunity to create a nuanced understanding of sexual harassment. In the great awakening around sexual harassment, race was politely ushered offstage.”


What will it take for Black women to have their experiences center stage?

 

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