Naomi is a final year advertising and marketing student and has been a part of the Sisterhood group (for BAME women) for over six months. She has written about holding men accountable, specifically calling on black men in the context of the fight for racial equality and the lack of reciprocity.
CW: Discussion of racism, misogyny, sexual abuse.
The prevalent “strong black women” trope prohibits us from being delicate and being treated delicately. Resisting this results in us being labelled as the “bitter black woman” before our words are heard.
Since I was made aware, the murder of Oluwatoyin Salu has weighed heavy on my mind.
She was 19. A BLM activist and a black woman. She was described by her community as an “emerging leader” and a “prominent voice”. Ironically, despite being a relentless activist for black lives, no one but black women and black LGBT+ people rallied to ensure that her life mattered.
She was found dead, days after tweeting about her sexual assault at the hands of a black man. He later confessed to kidnapping her, raping her and killing her.
I don’t state that he is a black man to paint a negative light on black men, but to show the extreme vulnerability and danger black women are subjected to, due to the lack of care and protection given to them by black men. There is little to no reciprocity as it pertains to protecting the community between black men and black women.
Of course, like most things, this is rooted in slavery
The imposition of Eurocentric beauty and cultural standards, and the dehumanisation of blackness resulted in black women being hyper-masculinised. This has created detrimental stereotypes that black women still face today. The prevalent “strong black women” trope prohibits us from being delicate and being treated delicately. Resisting this results in us being labelled as the “bitter black woman” before our words are heard.
It’s taken me a while to write this article, because it meant I would have to confront my own dark skeleton of sexual abuse. I shoved it to the back of my mind and convinced myself I was the problem.
Maybe if I wasn’t so friendly, or maybe if my body hadn’t developed as quickly as it had – maybe if I didn’t wear shorts or maybe if I stayed up that much longer instead of going to sleep.
It made me realise this body is mine, but it does not belong to me.
This body is mine but it does not belong to me. I carry it with me everywhere I go, I nourish it with colourful foods and adorn it with sweet fragrances and sparkly jewels, yet it is not mine.
I make sure to dress it in the softest fabrics and track every change, yet it can be used at any moment. I make sure to apply only the most nutrient and organic butters on it, yet it can be taken from me.
My abuse made me believe love should hurt. I thought to get to the good parts you have to struggle, be spoken to like a wild animal and neglected. I thought I only existed to please men. I clung onto an unhealthy relationship thinking, Well, this is the best someone like me is going to get’. I walked around with rage that could sustain a furnace because I wouldn’t dare to speak up.
The abuse distorted the way I interact with men and my view on love. It skewed my relationship with my body, left a lasting impression on it, to the point where only until recently I discovered my body is mine and it belongs to me.
In South Africa (where I am from), there is an active femicide, where 51% of women experience gender based violence. Now, of course I have to acknowledge that I do not currently live in South Africa, and I feel safer in the UK because there is no active femicide. However, that does not mean my body is protected.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that between April 2018 and March 2019 there was a 27 per cent increase in women killed by their current or ex-partner in the year before.
The number of female victims of overall homicides in England and Wales rose by 10 per cent in March 2019 – the highest number in 13 years (Independent, 2020).
Moreover, figures highlight that between April 2018 and March 2019, 13.2% of black women aged 16-74 experienced domestic abuse (Gov uk, 2020). The facts are there. Men are not holding each other nor themselves accountable for the violence they inflict on women.
I acknowledge that this data is not entirely specific to black women. However, it’s important to note that within black culture, there is much we don’t disclose to the outside world for the sake of “privacy” and keeping up appearances, even if it means maintaining an image that could lead to your demise.
I’m calling for black men to march and burn down streets as we have for the sake of their names.
Unrelated to statistics, there is this notion held by black men, that black women have to accept their struggle love. You have to go through being cheated on, abused, neglected and prove that you are a “ride or die” before you can have a stable and somewhat loving relationship with them. This feeds into our mistreatment and the cycle continues.
I’m calling for black men to stop abusing their community.
I’m calling for black men to rally around us as men of other races rally around their women. I’m calling for black men to march and burn down streets as we have for the sake of their names. I’m calling for black men to actively call out other black men for issues such as colourism, texturism, transphobia, misogyny, and many more.
Black women are fragile. Black women deserve to be treated as humans. Trans black women deserve to live, uninterrupted by the shame of a cis-het men who can’t come to terms with their truth. The queer black community should be able to love and live without fear of the consequences for being loud and proud.
I’m applying pressure to black men because I have seen us (black women and black LGBT+) risk our lives to fight for yours.
We have abandoned our needs to make sure yours are met. I have witnessed us break our backs to give you the attention and affection you desire. We have cried seas of tears at the announcement of your deaths or pain, yet you meme and mock ours.
I’m calling for black men to care. I’m calling for black men to break this cycle.