Crazy Faith Ministries
While I celebrate women coming forward to share their stories of being sexually harassed or worse, I struggle with reconciling how Black women have been sexually violated for years in this country by White men (and Black as well), their stories left untold.
A major reason for the lynching of Black men was based in racially-driven sexism: White men treated their women as objects and would regularly rape Black women, knowing that Black women had no recourse. Those violent sexual encounters resulted in the births of many mixed-race children, fathered by men who said they abhorred the idea of race-mixing.
They only abhorred it if said children came from the union of a Black man and a White woman.
With the recent death of Recy Taylor, the very real life struggles of Black women push through the “MeToo” movement that is being driven primarily by White women. Recy Taylor was raped by six White men in 1944 in Abbeville, Alabama, as she walked home from church. Her body was left by the side of the road, but she was found and survived the ordeal.
The six men admitted to having raped her, but two all-White, all-male juries acquitted them. Recy’s life did not matter; her spirit did not matter; her rape did not matter. And hers was just one of many stories like it. The assault of Black women has been an integral part of American history.
We can only imagine the trauma that Recy lived her entire life. Whenever there is aa traumatic situation in White schools, stories report that counselors are sent to help the children cope. Nobody has ever helped Black people in general cope with the horror and trauma of White supremacy. There have been no counselors.
Black women’s bodies have been used and abused without anyone caring, and it is still our reality. Pregnant Black women have shared with me that they worry about delivering their babies, not because they are worried about the pain of childbirth but because they are sensitive to how they are treated by healthcare workers, including doulas and midwives. There is a scorn and disrespect for them that they feel that White women never have to experience.
The bodies and the spirits of Black women are abused so often and so regularly that society has normalized this behavior. The pain Black women experience when they are raped, abused by men or by police officers, when they mourn the tragic loss of their children and spouses due to violence from law enforcement or the streets – is ignored. Historically, the pain of Black women in having their children ripped from their very arms during slavery, and their husbands as well, has never been acknowledged as being as traumatic as it is. Black women have been expected to “get over it.”
Nobody “gets over” trauma like that. All human beings internalize trauma, and those who are able seek help to get through it. I repeat, there were no therapists on the plantations to help grieving Black mothers mourn their lost children. There were no therapists to whom Black women could speak when they were raped or when they were abused by men in general. In the present day, there are no therapists dispatched to Black communities to help Black women deal with the trauma caused by White supremacy.
We move on, but we do not “get over it.” Erica Garner, the 27-year-old daughter of Eric Garner, who died even as he cried out, “I can’t breathe,” took her pain and translated it into action – but it affected her heart. At the time of this writing, she lies in a coma, reportedly brain-dead after suffering a heart attack. The mother of Kalief Browder, the young man who was kept in Rikers Island in solitary confinement for over 300 days without a trial for a crime he did not commit, held out hope that he would be released – and he finally was, but a year after his release, she too succumbed from a heart attack.
The mothers of slain Black boys never “get over” their grief. From Mamie Till, the mother of Emmet Till, to Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, Black women have borne the weight of immense grief and worked for justice when they often knew there would be none. They are ignored. Their pain, their grief and their resolve are all ignored.
Black women have been so objectified that the society in general treats it as normal. Black women are demonized and are never appreciated for the chutzpah they show in moving through their pain, a pain that many White people would never be able to handle.
Black women have a “MeToo” movement that should be recognized in a way that the current “MeToo” movement cannot closely appropriate. The White women of the “MeToo” have suffered, but in the end, many of them gained jobs and positions even as they were compromised.
Black women have gained nothing but more resolve to keep on keeping on, in spite of a world which does not respect them. By the grace of God, Black women have persevered, sidestepping efforts to destroy them, their families and their dignity.
It is a story that is not told often enough, and it is time that changes.
Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.