Friday, October 9, 2020

Every Black Woman

 When I was in seminary, one of my dear classmates used to always tell me to"fix my face." 

Now, she, like me, was one of a handful of Black people at our Midwest seminary.

I honestly didn't even know I was doing it.

My kids - all teens and young adults now - said that my "face" meant they were in trouble, needed to stop whatever they were doing, reconsider, or really, just back away.

I remember once when my youngest son was away in college and I was shopping with my only daughters and last two children. We were in Target, probably back-to-school. Anyway, I guess "the face" was invoked and they took a picture of me to send to my son.  

"Oooooh, what did you do????" was his response to his little sisters.

"Fix. your face." It is something we either think about or just let happen.

Senator Kamala Harris was every Black woman the other night as she was sitting at a desk, protected by plexiglass, while a mediocre White man gaslit, mansplained, interrupted, and otherwise exuded the smelly excrement of his cis-het, evangelical male privilege.

Even the fly knew it was an odorous thing coming out of him.

But Senator Harris had to do a thousand cartwheels in her mind while being denied her time with no help from the woman moderator who was every KarenSusanAmyBeckySally we have ever encountered.

Her face, though, her expressions, though, told the story.

It is unconscious.

We can not say all we are thinking, especially when we are in spaces where our everything is scrutinized from our hair to our shoes. We can not be smarter than them or expressive.

I studied Womanist Thought, wrote a class with that title, while I was in seminary because I was tired of all the maleness that was in Western culture. Hypermasculinity. The very sacred texts I was reading were through a series of compromises from a bunch of men who still wanted to hold onto their version of power and control.

The Black Woman's essence, mind, body, soul, and spirit, has been up for grabs for everyone but us for years.

Kamala Harris was all of us. The Asian Aunties who have been stereotyped to be docile and compliant. The African American sisters who have to code switch for mixed audiences. She was everyone of us except the white women who want to claim her phrase, "I'm speaking" for themselves.

The SallyKarenAmySues of the world were the moderator, the same woman who kept thanking the man who interrupted, went over time, and essentially did not follow the rules.

It made me think of my sixteen year old daughter who was watching the debate with me and was giving commentary about "that man." 

I began to wonder about what we have gained over the generations. This is the 100th year since women, note, white women, were granted the right to vote. For the rest of us, suffrage is still a dream, so many obstacles to the ballot. But I paused to wonder about the place of women.

RBG famously said that a woman's place is anywhere decisions are being made.

Black women have been making decisions for centuries. In this country, since 1619, the emotional, physical, and spiritual maneuverings we have had to make have been to save our families and ourselves. Womanists before Alice Walker coined the term. We had to.

And we always had to "fix our face" and "moderate our tone" and "smile for the people" because to do otherwise would have meant sure and certain destruction.

Senator Kamala Harris, likely, measured all that she was when she sat at the table.

As a writer, I wonder what she was doodling on her pad, how many unspoken words and gestures made it to that tablet. What we could not say outloud.

To be sure and certain, these are difficult and differing time, unlike any I've experienced in my lifetime. But we all say that in the middle of a cultural shift when we are alive in that moment. Yet, even history tells us that this time is different.

And every Black woman knows it.

So, since we know it, we may as well act on what we know.

We know we are drivers of our family's essence, the nucellus of the neighborhood. We see even what they do not want us to see. 

This election is crucial. I may not be alive in fifty years to know the long-term effects of these decisions, the impact of over 210,000 souls gone to Covid19 and the 840,000 newly unemployed on top of all the others who lost their jobs since March 2020. The homes people have lost, the health and education of our children forever altered. We know how crucial is.

So, what I told my college freshman daughter, her voice and her pen hold power. Use it. She is not like me, they say, her face does not give off the tell-tale signs of aggravation. So I told her to use it, to change what she can, to vote.

Every Black woman. We know what is at stake and for that, so many of my sister circles have been teaching and leading and educating each other on everything from the Census to Covid19 to this election. Because it is crucial. 

We are less than 28 days to making a decision, not only for the highest office in the land, but for the Senate, the House, the Judges, the State and local races.

Every Black woman has a voice. And a platform.

And like Senator Kamala Harris, it is time for us to declare, "I'm Speaking." and let our voices be heard for the future we need and want.


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