I recently read an article in a mainstream Black publication that disappointed me. It seemed that the goal of the piece was to persuade Black women to support a particular group and perhaps even see that we actually have more in common than we think.
Yes, Black women get these pitches from time to time, so the tactic was a familiar one.
It went something like this: “Black women do experience domestic violence at extremely high numbers. I assert that the reason is because Black men are very violent.
And, listen, you Black women are silly enough to put up with it because that’s what your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother did. Now stop being naive and show your strength by joining forces with us.”
This take isn’t new or shocking to most Black women. Too many groups, sub-groups, and entire organizations have been using this “sales pitch” for generations.
After all this time, it’s a visibly well-worn spot on the carpet now. It’s also insulting. Stop.
People see the numbers. Black women are struggling against violence and abuse more than any other racial group. Truth.
It’s also true that Black people have been plagued by racism, oppression, rape, and other violence for generations.
Black women are like anyone else in relationships. We admire, love, and even fall in love with our relationship partners.
We want to be loved.
Like other human beings, we get excited and happy too when we find a partner to love and who loves us back.
We want good, healthy, and dependable relationships with the fathers of their children.
We enjoy the companionship that a relationship offers.
We want to love and we want to be loved.
The differences, with other races enters most strongly when it comes to going outside of the home for help.
When it comes to getting support and help in relationships where violence is present, there are unique barriers to aid and services.
Barriers to getting help, assistance, and/or intervention include: (adapted from WOCN Inc.)
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- Cultural and/or religious beliefs that restrain the survivor from leaving the abusive relationship or involving outsiders.
- Strong ties to one’s race, culture, and family.
- Valid reasons to distrust law enforcement, criminal justice system, and social services.
- Lack of service providers that look like the survivor or share common experiences.
- Lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
- Lack of trust based on history and present-day racism and classism in the United States and U.S. Territories.
- Fear of disclosing any details that might reflect on or confirm the stereotypes placed on their ethnicity, or culture.
- Assumptions of providers based on ethnicity.
- Attitudes and stereotypes about the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual
assault in communities of color.
- Legal status in the U.S. of the survivor and/or the batterer.
- Oppression, including re-victimization is intensified at the intersections of race,
gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, legal status, age and
The tactic of suggesting, “Hey Black men are horrible people aren’t they? Why don’t you come unite with us?” rarely works. Whether or not a Black woman is in relationships with a male, she still may have Black male relatives, friends, fraternity brothers,…...children.
And no matter what our ties and connections, out of tradition, culture, and historic necessity, our concern tends to be for the community.
In other words, know that Black Women do not need a connection to a Black man to care about the health and status of the Black community.
Other communities can avoid approaching Black women or other women of color with a presentation about “how bad your men are.” That rarely inspires interest, let alone, lasting “unity”.
A more effective approach might be to start by….
- Making a convincing case for how we as Black women can enjoy healthier, happier, and safer relationships IF we work in collaboration with you.
- Making a convincing argument for how we can help those under our watch to do the same thus benefitting from our hard work, making sacrifices, and taking risks.
- Making a convincing case for how all of this can make for a healthier, happier, and safer community.
- Making assurances that Black women will continue to lead these efforts or at least, co-leading these efforts.
- Making assurances that Black women will maintain full acknowledgment and credit for our work.
In other words, make a case for a win-win strategy. Propose it, and mean it.