An article shared this afternoon on my Twitter feed caught my interest. Dani McClain asks why there’s such an intense focus on black and Latino boys and men when black and Latina women and girls suffer just as much from the economic, political and societal discrepancies embedded in a culture that touts whiteness as the norm.
Some of the points McClain make include nearly 40 percent of all black and Latina girls; black girls experience sexual violence at a higher instance than their white and Latina counterparts; and most interestingly, the leading cause of death among black women between the ages of 15 and 35 is intimate-partner homicide.
I won’t copy and paste passages from the article as I’m afraid it would leave out the context needed to grasp the point of the article, but I do want to preface what I’m about to say with this from McClain’s piece:
By outlining challenges facing black and Latina girls and women, I don’t intend to play into some kind of intraracial oppression Olympics, in which we pretend that boys and men aren’t suffering or argue that this public-private partnership should do nothing for anyone if it can’t do something for everyone. But these statistics should raise questions about the case made in the 2006 Times article. At the time, experts argued that poor black women had already gotten a hand up through welfare reform, the new enforcement of child support obligations and a booming economy in the ‘90s. Girls’ and women’s ongoing uphill battles against poverty and criminalization should also make us question why, as the African American Policy Forum reports, the philanthropic world has invested $100 million in initiatives targeting black and Latino boys over the last decade but less than $1 million targeting girls and women in those same racial and ethnic groups.
This question is intriguing as mainstream America typically approaches the problems black and Latina girls and women face with a charity case mindset: it’s in vogue to empathize what we go through and use our stories to prop up feminist-leaning efforts, but those efforts typically fall short to address the institutional and structural barriers we face. And within our own communities, any efforts to address problems specific to black and Latina women and girls are often dominated by mostly cishet black and Latino men who believe any discussion about us automatically means their lives will be placed on the back burner. And since many black and Latina women and girls don’t want to appear to be man-hating, domineering matriarchs whiteness says is part of our inherent problems, we often remain silent at the expense of our own lives.
While I’m proud President Obama is stepping up efforts to focus on helping black and Latino men and boys achieve economic actualization, one can only look at the aforementioned stats and wonder why there’s no mention to address the criminalization of black women, the economic marginalization of Latinas and both groups’ higher chances of becoming victims of intimate-partner violence.
Why has the nonprofit world invested so little towards efforts to help black and Latina women and girls, despite the fact that many of these organizations wouldn’t think twice to use our images and stories to generate sympathy and support from WASPs?
The lack of a public policy push for black and Latina girls and women reflects the underlying
hatred indifference whiteness and some black and Latino men and boys have for us. It’s a reflection of how our humanity and dignity are routinely denied to us as we are forced conjure up ways to battle the social, political, sexual, economic oppression saddled upon our shoulders. It’s a reflection of how little attention the aforementioned stats get, even though just about everyone knows a woman who has been a victim of intimate partner violence, has faced racialized sexism in school disciplining and workplace retaliation and has had her immigration status used against her in some form or fashion.
It’s a reflection of how our own lives in our own communities are devalued, as many black and Latino men and boys murder, rape and assault black and Latino girls and women. It’s a reflection of how many black and Latino men and boys have no shame in abusing and harassing black and Latino women and girls on social media and the internet at large. It’s a reflection of how white men feel it’s his duty to protect himself by shooting a black woman in the face. It’s a reflection on the triple jeopardy black trans* women face when they step out into the world on a daily basis. It’s a reflection on how a satirical news outlet felt it would be cute to call a black girl a cunt via Twitter.
Like McClain said, this isn’t some call to play Oppression Olympics with the menz. I don’t care to play games when it comes to social justice movements as they don’t do nothing to advance the cause of dismantling white supremacist heteorsexist capitalist patriarchy. But, we can’t continue to act like black and Latina women and girls are living in some separate utopia where the problems of our male counterparts don’t even factor into our own existence. We can’t continue to relegate the lives of black and Latina girls and women to the back burner at while the various crises affecting black and Latino boys and men dominate media coverage and public discourse.