I have seen ubiquitous dialogues centered around a single question: who protects the black woman? The question engendered a plethora of responses, some of which referenced black female independence as negating black male obligation, and others that revisit the late Malcolm X’s contentious claim that the black woman Is the most unprotected person in America.
Malcolm X made this remark as a call to action; thus, to appoint his words as a complaint is to not only misappropriate an ancestor, but to miss an ancestral cue.
The war white America launched on black people four hundred years ago weighs heavily on the black experience. Women keep culture and birth nations, roles that become far more strenuous when espoused to the perils of anti-black racism. But even the perils of racism are not enough to cease black female protection
What I mean here, is that every black woman has ancestral arms around her. The men that comprise a black female past, dismembered in body but made whole in spirit, place arms around the black woman lifting her up and carrying her throughout the fiery threshold of anti-blackness. Nat Turner, Dr. Bobby Wright, Dr. Amos Wilson, Malcolm X, Thomas Sankara, Stokely Carmichael, amongst countless others, protect the black woman with their lessons their lives left behind. These lessons free the black woman from cognitive bondage and gifts the black woman, the keeper of culture and birther of nations, the armor of epistemology which informs their lifelong plight to be.
The black woman remains unprotected under white leadership and in gendered spaces where she maintains status as “other.” It is the eyes and arms of our forefathers that return the black woman to her rightful place as queen. While there are certainly deviations, the coward the western world strives to make of the black king is an anomaly the master narrative posits as a pervasive reality. The reality is that the black male coward performs in the image of his oppressor. Nevertheless, the master narrative is not the master of our story.
To the young black boy who got off a bus and chased me down the block to bring me my keys when I was still in high school, the middle-aged black man who protected me from an inebriated white man who was following me through Georgetown, to countless other black men who have been both literal and figurative shields for the daughters of the diaspora; we see you, we love you, and we’ll continue to protect the legacy we create together.
So, who protects the black woman? The black man, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.