June 10, 2019

“My Issues Are More Important”: The Ongoing Justification for Disrespecting Black Women

Dr. Tyffani Dent, OAESV Board Member and Licensed Psychologist

Recently, Kamala Harris was participating in a MoveOn Forum. Whether one chooses to agree with her stance on the issues, it was her moment. It was the opportunity for her voice to be heard. Yet, in that moment, a white male animal rights activist made his way onto the stage, grabbed the mic from her, and began to discuss what he viewed as "more important issues" than those that were Kamala's focus.

Many were outraged Yet, his behavior is not surprising to me. The comments he made justifying his behavior are not new His insistence that he was showing "profound respect" when he demonstrated the height of disrespect is not shocking The expectation that some put on Ms. Harris to have "done something to him" are the usual argument about what "Black women should do".

Let's be clear, Johnny Jump-On-Stage viewed it acceptable to not only stop a black woman from speaking, but also to invade her space and literally "take the mic" We are not new to this. The voices of black women are often silenced Issues that we view as important are deemed not as crucial within movement spaces

His white maleness made it acceptable and doable to violate her boundaries and de-center her in a space that was designed for her — -because as he stated "he had a much bigger idea"

Yet, even in this, Kamala had to remember that she was a Woman of Color, and even moreso within that, she is a woman who claims her Black identity That she could not pull a Trumpian move and show anger or "eloquent, justifiable rage" at someone for using their privilege to grab the mic from her…to attempt to take over her platform

Because the world would call her angry Because the focus would then turn to the "emotional tendency of women" Because we do not permit Women of Color and specifically those who identify with their Blackness to take up for themselves without facing the possible consequences of society labelling them as The Angry Black Woman

And even in that moment, it was a black woman who came to her defense It was a black woman who tried to stop the onslaught of white male privilege taking over It is us It is demanded of us It is unsurprisingly left to us to somehow navigate these moments when we are reminded that society does not protect Women of Color — and definitely not Black Women That others will see their voices as more valuable than our own And the only thing we can do is try to hold on to the mic To stand firm in making our voices be heard Even when someone else views theirs as more important

#KamalaHarris #MoveOnForum #StopTakingTheMic #ListenToBlackWomen

Dr. Dent is a licensed psychologist. Her hardest job is being a Black Woman who centers the experiences of Black women and girls.

You can read more from Dr. Dent at https://www.facebook.com/DrTyffani/

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