In a climate where women’s issues maintain central placement, it is imperative that black women take note of their treatment in American society. Particularly, the illusion of progress, seduces many to believe that black women are part of the #metoo era that, summoned by another feminist wave, started with a chain of sexual assault victims and transitioned into abortion and reproductive rights. This #metoo era exposes white women and the non-black woman of color as saying #metoo to white male supremacy rather than to one another. For clarity, what I mean is that the hashtag, despite seeming to delineate the white woman and non-black woman of color as victims of white supremacy, the reveals the African adjacent’s desire to mimic their white male oppressors.
This praxis proves pedagogical to the black woman. Specifically, the masked intentions and functionality of white supremacy often manifest through gender politics. For this reason, the black woman must say #mefirst before she says #metoo.
We live in a world that values white women and the non black woman of color in a way that it refuses to value the black woman. Reproductive laws exist to ensure that the white population remains the majority. This reproductive hierarchy is perhaps best illustrated by egg donor industries. Egg donor industries offer thousands of dollars to African adjacent women to ensure their presence among the growing population remains lucrative despite black fertility. I say this to emphasize that the black woman who says #metoo signs on to a gradual genocide guised as girl power.
The case for black women as #mefirst practitioners is perhaps best delineated in how America treats black mothers, who lie on the mutated margins of female reproductive politics.
On the last Saturday in June, The New York Times published an article entitled: “A bullet, a miscarriage and an unthinkable question: Who’s the victim, and who is to blame?” The article addressed twenty-seven year old Marshae Jones’s indictment in the murder of her fetus. Jones, who was allegedly involved in a quarrel with her co-worker, suffered a shot to the abdomen that resulted in her fetus’s death. Though Jones’s adversary cast the fatal bullet into Jones’s abdomen, the fetus’s death is apparently her fault. The charges against Jones were eventually dropped, but the question remains: why was Jones even placed in this predicament to begin with? Thus, while the case, article title, and article content place victimhood at it core, its subject engenders something far more deviant.
The case’s media perpetuation proves parallel to Margaret Garner who in the 19th century gained notoriety for her infant child’s death. Though inciting many contemporary discussions surrounding black femininity and victimhood, the case pondered whether Garner, an enslaved woman, could even commit murder. Garner of course would be charged with destroying property, but to many, Garner remains remembered as a murderer. In this case, Garner is not a mother, or a woman cognitively wounded by enslavement, but a menace to an anti-black society. Similar to Garner, Jones is not a mother, but a criminal. Both women illustrate how the white media twists the black narrative to depict the black woman as unfit for motherhood. To villanize the black mother is no small feat; it is a conspiracy to attack a culture at its roots.
The #metoo movement functions to ensure that the African adjacent maternal figure remains chaste and sacred, a move the African adjacent pursue through victimhood. This road to chastity, paved in victimhood, occurs at the expense of the black woman who remains demonized. Thus, in order for the black collective to actualize #mefirst, we must collectively uphold the black woman as queen.
Unlike white and non-black collectives, the black plight is not about claiming victimhood. Rather, our plight is to claim our humanity. The African adjacent claim victimhood as a testament to their humanity. Yet for the black collective, to claim our humanity is to acknowledge that our mothers have been victimized by a poisonous system, but that our ability to survive and thrive in the face of adversity, bears a testament to our pre-humane status. By pre-humane status, I assert that black humanity births general humanity. In short, there would be no “humanity” without black people.
In this anti-black society, black people remain criminalized for “human” behavior. Garner was a human being seeking to counter inhuman conditions, yet punished like an animal for seeking to inact personification. Humans are contentious creatures, but the conflicts of those born black remain portrayed as idiosyncratic of innate criminality. In the instances of Margaret Garner and Marshae Jones, their lack of humanity proves contentious to their roles as mothers. Mothers are human, and an anti-black society thrives on its ability to counter black maternity by insistently infringing on black rights consistent with their status as human.
This post is not to make an “All lives matter” comparison between human rights and the rights of black people, nor are my claims to encourage black women say #metoo to humanity. I do, however, wish to assert that we as collective seize our humanity by acknowledging our exclusion. I contend that our response be not to demand inclusion but to prioritize ourselves amongst ourselves.
Black mothers matter because black people matter. Black women are the roots of black culture and identity; as a collective, we must protect the mother of humanity by honing her deserved but deprived centrality.