If you deny people a voice, their own voice, there’s no way you will every know who they were, and so they are erased. ~Alice Walker
Activist Deray Mckesson has a saying, “Watch whiteness work.” Think of it as an alert, like “Breaking News”.
It has a lot of meaning in Black cultures.
One meaning is: pay attention to how racism, prejudice, and discrimination predictably come together.
Most of us know that the outcome may likely be suffering, injustice, and oppression for the targets. We live it.
But, that alert is a prompt for people to come out of autopilot and pay attention to how the process works.
I don’t know Deray personally so I don’t know what he hopes will come of this. But when I see that alert, I hope people watch the process and look for ways that we can change or obstruct the process.
Watching Rape Work (adapted from Deray Mckesson)
When it comes to sexual violence, we need to start watching rape work.
Watch how it works when a celebrity is involved in a sexual violence scandal. Watch we as a society handle it.
—>> There is a celebrity accused of sexual violence.
—>> Advocates/Survivors speak out.
—>> Celebrity supporters launch cruel attacks against Advocates/Survivors.
—>> People in the middle await the day when folks will stop talking about it.
—>> After a long battle, Advocates/Survivors and Celebrity Supporters join those in the middle.
—>> People declare: “We have more important things to talk about.”
Translation: They are tired of hearing and talking about this issue.
—>>> Outcome: Victim’s looks, relationships, and past has been autopsied to infinity and beyond. Celebrity has supporters who are now more loyal than ever. Celebrity lost supporters.
Society remains divided.
Myths about sexual violence remain intact.
We are the Problem
And, those in power make sure that we stay divided. How?
1. By intentionally ignoring the problems/issues.
And, 2. Cheering for and remaining content to move forward with things as they have always been.
Sexual violence isn’t just a Survivor’s issue.
Silence is the arch nemesis of sexual violence victims.
Yet, those who haven’t experienced it prefer the silence. Sometimes they demand it.
Racism isn’t just an issue that minorities must bear, endure, and change.
Those who don’t suffer from racism are benefitting and keeping things in place.
Many can’t admit to themselves that all of the injustice, slights, minimization, violence, stays right as it always has been. Deep down they know they benefit and they like it.
The same thing with sexism, ageism, and homophobia.
Nothing will change until the people who are benefitting decide to intentionally change practices that oppress and silence others.
I blame racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia on the people who are benefitting from it. Period.
I blame the stifling climate of silence, degradation, instant disbelief, starvation for justice, and ongoing rapes on the people who are benefitting.
If you are benefitting and not actively working to make changes you are not part of the problem, you are the problem.
That short phrase gave us language to discuss what women and minorities have been feeling since movies have been made.
People in this country love scripted entertainment. We love it even better when it is based on real life.
But here is what I don’t understand: All this real life going on every single minute yet entertainment greenlighters everywhere are scratching their heads and can’t come up with but a handful of ideas. Can’t think of any great stories that are waiting to made?
I call B.S.!
Come on now. Americans love our entertainment. And when it unites and educates us, even better. Movies, stage plays, musicals, and television shows that weave in topics about social justice are often big hits with audiences.
If the messaging, casting, plot and execution is right; we will pay to be there.
Not a believer? Just look at superhero comics and books. Stripped down you have a story about good vs. evil or issue vs. issue. Social Justice.
And yet, greenlighters are still scratching their heads?
At times it is funny. All the time it is tired, dishonest, weak, and infuriating.
We give “time” too much credit. Time doesn’t change anything in the lives of people without the assistance of people.
People must decide to create entertainment that accurately reflects the issues people struggle with.
Basically, stop scratching and start working.
Here are a few suggestions that I came up with. I invite readers to make suggestions.
Start your search engines, you may not have heard of some of these folks or issues. I will be doing the same when you make yours.
Lavon Morris Grant (domestic & sexual violence advocate who survived being shot by her estranged husband 5 times)
Joan Little (Little was the first woman in the history of the United States to be acquitted asserting that she used deadly force to resist sexual assault.)
Phyllis Hyman (mental health, racism)
Pam Grier (sexual violence, racism, sexism, multi racial/culturalism)
Marilyn Van Debur Atler (sexual violence, Miss America 1950)
Salt n Pepa (domestic violence, sexism)
Gloria Gaynor (domestic violence, sexual violence)
Maggie L. Walker (racism, socioeconomic issues)
Aaron Fisher (victim ONE of Jerry Sandusky, sexual violence)
Fannie Lou Hamer (racism, sexual violence at the hands of arresting officers)
Jannie Ligons and other victims/Survivors of serial rapist (57-year-old grandmother who helped to get serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw behind bars)
Eartha Kitt (racism, sexism)
Mahalia Jackson (racism, sexism)
Ida B. Wells (racism)
Lorraine Hansberry (Black Woman playwright, gay rights activist)
Audre Lorde (sexual orientation, sexism, racism)
Lena Horne (racism, colorism)
Chaka Khan (multicultural/multiethnic, overcoming substance use, racism, Civil Rights activist)
Otis Redding (racism)
Mayor Marion Barry (racism, poverty, overcame substance use, inspiring comeback story)
Andrew Young (racism)
Niles Rodgers (Awesome producer, Civil Rights Activist, overcame substance use)
Everyone signed to Motown (racism, etc……….)
James Baldwin (racism, Civil Rights Activist, is Idris Elba available?)
Flannery O’Connor (mental health)
Maya Angelou (sexual violence)
E. Lynn Harris (openly gay Black man, very popular author among Black readers beginning in the 1990s- present. Novels featured intersection of contemporary Black gay men struggling with various issues including sexual orientation., domestic violence, racism, ageism, sexism)
Tip: TVOne has a popular show called, “Unsung”. Just start making every episode into a stage play, musical, movie, and/or television show.
Kaleif Browder (racism, mental health)
Hashtags (we live in a time where unarmed and mentally ill black people are killed by police and justice is not even an expectation. There are many. Too many. Pick a name and start writing.)
Tip: See trending topics on any social media platform, or see any good student of any age of Civics, history,, Native American history, Black/African American history, Latino history, Asian history, Women’s history etc…….
Black Feminist Movement of the 1970’s
Black Women of the Black Panther Party
Black Lives Matter
Black Mothers of this Movement
Controversy of abortion laws and Black Women
Sterilization of Black Women
Civil Rights and the fight against sexual violence as waged by Black Women
The Black Women Who Started and Strategized the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Any HBCU, Women’s College will be able to give you great story ideas
Since minorities do not get to see ourselves visually, many of us tend to read quite a bit. Not often enough, but sometimes we find good characters in books.
I still read two books a day the way my mother made me do as a child. (Hey Mama! Love you.)
I could give you so many titles but I just want to get the list started.
Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey
Family Money, Doris Shannon
Cane River, Lalita Tademy
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
Tip: Hit up any Black, Muslim, Asian, Latino, Native American, LGBT, Women’s book club. They can give you many more titles.
If you are benefitting from any oppression and not actively working to make changes you are not part of the problem, you are the problem.
Please make your suggestions
Tonya is a Social Justice Info Expert with over 23 years experience. She holds a BS in Organizational Management & Development. Her cat MiaBelle is her co-writer.
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