The No. 1 Thing to Leave Behind in 2020: The Disrespect for Black Women
COMMENTARY | It never fails. Every year, we start off with some grand “new year, new me” resolution of what we’re going to do differently in that year to make ourselves better and stronger than in the year before (and by the time the second week of February arrives, we’ve usually fallen back into the same old things we just said we weren’t going to do anymore). I’m no different. I’ve fallen into that trap a million times, so I’m not dissing New Year resolutions. I wholeheartedly agree that people should set goals for themselves and learn to let some things go as they move forward into a new calendar year. It’s understandable that individuals would want to improve upon their health, their financial circumstances, their familial relationships and develop professionally (which are the more popular areas of growth to which most people make resolutions). But, if I may, let me suggest adding one more resolution for 2021 that isn’t normally on the list: respect the voice, contributions, and concerns of Black Women.
Amidst a year that brought over a quarter million deaths related to the coronavirus (and disproportionately affected women of color), as well as the unleashing of social unrest stemming from the recorded murder of George Floyd, Black women have been superheroes politically, economically, athletically and socially.
In 2020, Black women not only used their own voice, but forced the majority to utilize their influence to create the change they all say they seek.
This year, we saw Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer of Netflix, call for companies to put their money where their mouth is and financially support racial injustice. She also helped develop the #ShareTheMicNow Instagram campaign, challenging some of the top white Instagram accounts to do more than just post a black square to show solidarity to the movement, but to allow Black women to take over their accounts in an effort to amplify their messages and experiences.
We saw Los Angeles Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike inspire by aspiring and become the first Black woman to co-host her own daily national sports radio show. And if that wasn’t enough to solidify her impact on the culture for 2020, she made the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
Let’s not forget that while the country was burning with rage through protests and riots, we saw Mayor Ella Jones and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms rise from the ashes of the turmoil. Mayor Jones serves as the first African-American and female elected to the position in Ferguson, MO., the same city that erupted in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown. And Mayor Bottoms held firm to her duty, stood up to her opponents, challenged the decisions of the 45th President of the United States, and reminded the pride of the south that as a mother of four children, including an 18 year-old son, she could not be “out concerned” about Black lives and police brutality. She urged Atlanta residents to cease the violence and destruction while battling unprecedented obstacles of COVID-19 in one of its hardest hit cities, as well as pushback from the state’s conservative legislators, not excluding Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.
Yet, notwithstanding the role Black women played in combating the difficulties of 2020, we are still largely ignored and often omitted from the conversations that we should not only be a part of, but should be leading. “Protect Black Women At All Cost” isn’t just a saying for social media clicks and likes, or a pretty cool slogan for a t-shirt to slay the gram, but a cry out for folks to stop sliding us and our contributions to society to the backburner, and recognize our worth, side with us when we’ve been wronged and elevate us to the positions we rightfully deserve.
In 288 days, Breonna Taylor still hasn’t received justice. Rapper Megan Thee Stallion still faces backlash and public scrutiny, even though she was the victim of gun-violence by the hands of a so-called friend. Cardi B is still labeled a trash example of womanhood because as a wife and mother she told women to appreciate their W.A.P., despite historically sitting atop the Hot 100 longer than any other female hip hop artist for the track, earning Apple Music’s highest ever debut by a female artist, or having the fastest song in Apple Music history by a female artist to peak at #1.
It’s time we leave the disrespect and silencing of our melanin queens in 2020, because it was us who moved the needle across this nation that shaped the direction of where we are now headed.
It was the Black women of the WNBA who placed justice for Breonna Taylor as the central focus of their 2020 season in Bradenton, FL. It was the Atlanta Dream who reminded the Senators in Georgia that their seat wasn’t safe. It was LaTosha Brown, founder of Black Voters Matter Fund that ensured Black communities in the south were not only registered to vote but understood the strength of their vote. It was Fair Fight founder and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams that saved democracy, pushed the envelope against voter suppression and helped turned the Peach State blue. It was Gabrielle Union that called out the toxicity of workplace harassment and continues to speak out about workplace racism. It was Naomi Osaka who made sure that every day she ripped through a U.S. Open match, the world was saying the name of another victim who had fallen to racial violence. And most importantly, it was the 91% of Black women in this country who said “enough is enough” through their power at the polls and showed up to show out against misogyny, against sexism, and against every other ism that aided in perpetuating this continual disregard for our agenda.
As we prepare to enter the New Year, anxiously awaiting the ascension of Kamala Harris from Senator to the second highest office in the land and reflecting on all the lessons we learned in 2020, let us just this once actually keep a resolution and absorb arguably the biggest message the past year left us: Black women matter and the voices of Black women matter, so let’s leave the disrespect behind.