By Klarke Stricklen
Last issue I wrote an article titled “Is your MLK post your Black History Month Celebration?” While writing the article, I had three major points that I wanted to convey to readers: first, a basic definition of black history month and its history in America. Second, an analysis of the struggles Carter G. Woodson and his colleagues faced at a time where the upliftment of anyone who identified as black in America was considered criminal activity. Finally, an exploration as to how we as Americans can truly celebrate black history month to its entirety.
As I wrote this article, I aimed to vividly describe the battles of the African Americans and black Americans in the hopes that I might reach someone who lacked an understanding of this reality. After countless discussions and edits, I felt that my piece was ready to be published. Once published, I received a large amount of praise. Despite the praises I received for the article, I began to feel that there was something missing.
Through my explanation of the trials and tribulations of the black community in America, I seemed to have left out one vital group: black women. As I came to this realization, I became angry with myself. I could not believe that as a young black woman, I forgot to acknowledge our role in the very case I was presenting. What struck me even more was that despite every edit, praise, or suggestion; no one acknowledged the lack of representation of black women in my article.
I began to realize that throughout society, the role of the black woman in many scenarios has consistently been placed last, even in our own regards. Many times, black women aim to save everyone and everything before themselves, ultimately causing me to question “Who saves black women?” Who allows us to be vulnerable in times where society places the “strong black woman” label upon us?
The concept of the “strong black woman” goes all the way back to the middle passage, when women threw themselves and their children overboard to escape bondage and rape inflicted upon them by the ship’s crew. Women in the slavery era in America were raped by their masters then sent back into the field and expected to take care of their families despite experiencing severe trauma.
Black women rallied for the ratification of the 19th amendment and yet were the last women in America to receive their right to vote. Terror lynchings and countless acts of police brutality have been inflicted upon black women and still we hardly recognize them when these topics are discussed. As Americans, we forget that black women have been at the forefront creating, supporting, and pushing for many of America’s greatest advancements, and yet we still place them at the back of the line.
Malcolm X once said “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the black woman, the most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
As we close out black history month and begin women’s history month, I encourage all readers to take in consideration the role that black women play in their life. Ask yourself, if you have sought to support them as they support you? If the answer is no, then a reevaluation of the situation is needed.
It has been exactly 400 years since the first Africans stepped foot on American soil and 400 years of black women being placed last. So, I find myself asking again, “Who saves black women, America?” And this question in turn begs new questions: do black women want to be saved? If so, how?