Echoes of Disrespect: The Enduring Struggle of Black Women in America.

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( On May 22, 1962, speaking to a crowd in Los Angeles, Malcolm X declared that the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. 62 years later, his words still ring true as we witness the continued disregard for Black women, particularly those in positions of leadership. The recent incident involving Representative Jasmine Crockett being insulted on the floor of the House of Representatives by Marjorie Taylor Greene is just one example of the pervasive abuse faced by Black women in both the public and private sectors. This incident is not isolated; it reflects a broader pattern of disdain and disrespect directed at Black women, particularly those in positions of power and influence.

Echoes of Disrespect: The Enduring Struggle of Black Women in America.

In our cultural landscape, no figure is more scrutinized or misunderstood than a Black woman who is unafraid to speak her mind. The pushback against this boldness, however, often comes at a high societal cost and extends beyond the halls of Congress—permeating our online spaces and everyday interactions. High-profile figures like actress and social activist Amanda Seales have often faced relentless criticism and sometimes virulent attacks simply for expressing their opinions. Seales’s appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s  Club Shay Shay” podcast, where she discussed her exclusion from Black Hollywood and negative media commentary, sparked a significant online debate and crude critique under a thin veil of “likability.” Her candid recounting of the slights she has endured attracted skepticism from some quarters and highlighted the intense scrutiny and polarization that outspoken Black women often endure.

This phenomenon extends far beyond celebrity. For instance, my critique of a recent documentary on Black Twitter, which featured Seales, was met with extreme pushback from one of the men profiled in the series, whereas male viewers with similar feedback faced no such opposition. In another instance on the X platform, popular media personality DJ Vlad threatened to report Black Princeton professor Morgan Jerkins to her employer for a ‘quote tweet’ on one of his posts, later retracting his threats amidst public backlash. A more chilling example is the racist verbal vitriol directed towards UK MP Diane Abbott by Frank Hester, the CEO of TPP and a large Tory donor, who said, “you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like…you just want to hate all Black women because she’s there. And I don’t hate Black women at all, but I think she should be shot.”

While each example is unique, they share a common denominator: no matter how Black women ‘show up’ and present our views, we are often seen as problematic, eliciting unwarranted assaults on our character, our humanity, and even our lives. The racism perpetuated by white supremacy fuels these microaggressions. They have become so commonplace and normalized that they are often overlooked. With Representative Crockett, the personal attacks from Greene that sparked the heated debate on the House floor were dismissed with a mere reprimand, allowing Greene’s comments to remain on record. When Representatives Crockett and Ocasio-Cortez exposed the hypocrisy in the proceedings, their colleagues responded with ambivalence to the double standard.

It is this slow erosion of dignity, where the cumulative effect of countless small affronts takes a devastating toll on Black women. This aggression is rooted in anti-Blackness and misogynoir, reinforced by stereotypes such as the ‘angry Black woman’ and the ‘sapphire caricature.’ Dr. Shauna Knox describes the severe social consequences of these stereotypes: “Any Black woman deemed to be an Angry Black Woman will quickly find herself shunned for this fatal flaw, castigated for the way it impacts the entitled contentment of her environment and the people in it, incessantly denied the support she deserves to mitigate the issues she is contending with, and left enduringly alone, because she is intolerable and understood to be exiled to an isolation of her own making.” We can understand this normalization of dehumanization by examining the psychology of cognitive biases and societal structures that perpetuate this marginalization. When Black women are seen as less than human, it justifies our mistreatment and exclusion. Cognitive biases, such as the outgroup homogeneity effect, lead those in a more dominant class to perceive members of marginalized groups as more similar to each other and different from the in-group. Societal structures that privilege certain identities over others reinforce these biases, even within progressive circles. This psychological underpinning explains why harmful stereotypes about Black women persist and why society routinely ignores our protests about these experiences.

It is imperative that we, as a society, commit to dismantling these harmful perceptions and stereotypes of outspoken Black women. Even within our own communities, the insidious nature of this internalized racism is clear. It is only when the verbal assaults on Black women in the public sphere become too egregious to ignore that we are forced to confront the harsh reality that society often expects Black women to be seen and not heard, especially if they stand unapologetically in their power. Alice Walker’s poignant words resonate deeply here: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” However, a more sinister dynamic is at play here—the societal effort to strip power from Black women by convincing the world they are unworthy of being heard.

I am not advocating for a society that shields Black women’s views from critique, especially when those opinions are reductive and lack substantive facts and evidence. Constructive pushback is essential to expand ideas. However, it is crucial to distinguish between opposition intended to foster debate and that which seeks to dehumanize and marginalize, as is often the case with Black women. The incidents of disrespect experienced by Black women, the recent attacks on Black women in leadership, and the strategic dismantling of DEI initiatives all spring from the same source: fear.

Our society is terrified of a world that is increasingly Black and increasingly female. The powers that be are not ready to share power with Black women. Supporting Black women in reclaiming their rightful power means recognizing their worth and defending their right to speak their truth without fear of retribution or undue malice. This is not merely a matter of justice; it is about respecting and protecting our collective humanity. We must create environments where Black women can express themselves freely and safely, ensuring their voices are not only heard, but also valued and respected.

Written by Kimberly Bryant

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