THOSE PEOPLE

A black magazine for people too hip for black magazines. 

Miss Me with #MeToo

Miss Me with #MeToo

 

When the #MeToo hashtag started, all I could do was sit back and stare at my computer screen. So many women saying they were sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. By the way, #MeToo, but that’s beside the point.

White women in my Facebook friend list who never post or comment on anything even vaguely political were joining these voices.

And all I could feel was disappointment and anger toward them. And myself. I mean, I already know, based on the fact that 53% of white women voted for 45, that unless something affects them personally, they stay quiet. They don’t care. The funny thing is that most of what they are silent about actually does affect them. And little did they know that #MeToo was actually started by a Black woman named Tarana Burke 10 years ago. So their new movement? Been there and done that.

When I speak out about racism and white privilege, I’m not asking white women to give up their white privilege, and it’s not like they could if they wanted to (and we know they don’t want to). I just want them to help us in the fight. So when they finally decided to open their mouths with #MeToo, I was disgusted. I’m a Black woman, and we have fought to have license over our own bodies since our ancestors were kidnapped and brought here as slaves. 

 
ALL IMAGES CAPTURED BY KWESI ABBENSETTS

ALL IMAGES CAPTURED BY KWESI ABBENSETTS

 

Shouldn’t this be obvious?

We are not a rainbow of colors for nothing.

Generation upon generation of white men have forced themselves on Black women. And Black women have been paying ever since. How can white women — because aren’t we all women? — not see this? Not care? Our skin tones run from the color of cream to the darkest ebony. Why? Because our bodies have never truly belonged to us.

So why should I, as a Black woman who is both a sexual harassment and sexual assault survivor, join my voice with this sea of white women when they have never joined their voices with mine?

They should care that I don’t know any Black women who haven’t been inappropriately touched or groped, raped or violated.

 

 

And it was the ancestors of these #MeToo women who allowed this to happen. Their ancestral white women were so afraid of Black women, that they stayed silent while their husbands, brothers and fathers visited slave quarters to violate Black women. 

White women endangered those babies that were born out of such violence, and they happily inflicted their own pain

on those small bodies.

The same white women insisted that these babies be sold off, forever separated from their families, so they wouldn’t have to see faces, eyes, and noses that so resembled their own.

 

As Black people struggle to understand our place in a country that has caused us so much harm, I have to wonder what goes through the minds of white people when they meet a Black person who shares both their last name and and their physical features. Do they wonder, “Is she really my blood?” Do they think about how that probably happened? Do they even dig that deep?

I suppose I’m one of the “fortunate” ones who has some idea of my white ancestry. My biracial great-grandmother was born in 1898 in rural Mississippi, and she lived to be almost 100 years old. I made a point of talking to her about the white side of our family, so I knew the names of her father, uncle and first cousin. It took me years to find those white relatives.

Why did I look?

A few years before she died, my great-grandmother mentioned she wanted to meet them. So originally I was looking for them for her. After she died, I simply wanted to know about that side of our family.

Years later, I found a white cousin on an online genealogy forum. By then I had put together an impressive family tree based on the names she had given me. We answered questions from each other over email. It turns out he had put together an extensive family tree, and he added my great-grandmother underneath the name of her father. It was then that I discovered she was probably his only child. This new cousin sent me the family tree, and we emailed a few more times. We friended each other on Facebook. He also told his sister about me, and she friended me, too. A cousin who lives in Mississippi was excited to know of us and called to talk to me. We chatted for hours. He wants me to come visit, and I would really like to meet him.

 
ALL IMAGES CAPTURED BY KWESI ABBENSETTS

ALL IMAGES CAPTURED BY KWESI ABBENSETTS

But the cousin I originally found or his sister?

In the several years since we have known of each other, we have never even spoken on the phone. Not once. I asked if we could talk right after I found my cousin, but he didn’t seem interested.

Why wouldn’t they want to speak to me? Are they ashamed of their ancestor? That maybe my great-grandmother is a product of rape? That she looks too much like them?

 

 

I have seen pictures of them, and there is definitely a family resemblance. I was eager to get information about our history, stories about this man, pictures of him, anything they had.

But now I want nothing from them.

Why should I when they, like most white people, refuse to acknowledge their own complicity in the violation of Black women? When they refuse to even come to terms with our existence on the branches of their white-blossomed family trees?

#MeToo has been the experience of Black women for generations, and still we fight for our voices to be heard. So you can miss me with this movement. Instead I will honor my Black sisters and all the generations who have come before us by saying…

#AffirmBlackWomen.

#BelieveBlackWomen.

#StillWeRise.

 
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