#RespectHerName: Start giving a damn about black women immediately

By Ernest Owens


Can all of my sexist brothers with the double standards, condescending remarks and pseudo deep messages for our black sisters, please report to aisle realness where several seats will be awaiting for you in the back?

This has been a long time coming, but I have gotten socially agitated with it. I can’t image how fed up women of color might feel about this, so I will just apologize on our behalf.

On behalf of the black men in our community who still don’t recognize their role in disregarding your life, body and dignity — I apologize.

First off, an apology is the least I can do. As a feminist, I recognize my privilege as a man in this situation and will not request a badge of honor for doing something that should have been done decades ago.

And as a black gay man, I also come with no suspicious ulterior motive for offering you my sincere solidarity as well. This is not to say that there are no straight men that will ally for your cause without getting your number, but this is a disclaimer for those who are looking to be skeptical.

Furthermore, I have no sisters, nieces or daughters of my own, so my allegiance and empathy for you don’t come with the “see it to believe it” model that many backwards anti-sexism ideology tries to preach.

I am just a black man who believes that all black lives matter — those male, female and transgender. And right now, I am also ready to admit that within our own community, we have been too irresponsible in making mostly men receive the call to action, while black women dial for the cause and pick up the check.

See, for too long, we have culturally proliferated the “down chick,” the “ride-or-die,” and now the “Trap Queen.” But where has the reverse support been for women?

Instead, we have found ourselves judging every aspect of a black woman’s anatomy — whether she is a “thot” or “loyal” and when she is neither, she is too uptight.

Objectification is an understatement when it comes to how black women are treated within our own community. It’s not just the trashy music videos; it’s how we discuss their hair on television shows and how we defame their sex life in comparison to men.

Amber Rose can be disregarded all over social media by young black boys who have never met her, while A$AP Rocky can get publicity for having drug-induced orgies and slut-shaming women. We will spend more time questioning what provoked Ray Rice to domestically abuse his then-fiancee, rather than why we have yet to get to the bottom of the hundreds of missing Nigerian schoolgirls.

It’s time we take partial responsibility for how we have let down a generation of young black women, and have culturally put them in a nasty cycle of conspicuous consumption and horrific standards of beauty and patriarchal expectation.

As much as I admire President Barack Obama, when will our young sisters have their keeper?

Black women have fueled our movements from the very beginning, yet get discarded at every turning point. The fact that we are now discussing giving a black woman a shot at being on a national treasure, such as the $20 bill, upsets me. It is long overdue, and many will still act as though it’s timely.

At this point, if you are a black man reading this, I want you to do several things.

First, I want you to check your privilege and recognize that even though our lives are endangered in this current political system of injustice and racial disparity, that doesn’t give you the right to ignore black women’s hurdles and obstacles.

Second, every black woman’s life matters, whether you agree with her personal lifestyle choices or not. We must not be too quick to throw bricks, when culturally we have been living in glass houses. Stop adding to a culture that prohibits black women from expressing themselves sexually, financially and professionally. Whether she is a stripper, your daughter, a lawyer or anything outside of that — how you go about treating her will set the standard.

Third, women can no longer be alone in this fight. Why is it that we feel we cannot take a public stand when one of our brothers disrespects a sister in our community? We must acknowledge that when one of us steps out of line, whether it’s Chris Brown or — allegedly — Bill Cosby, we are hypocrites to leave women victims and expect them to have our backs when law enforcement drops the ball.

Overall, our conscious cannot be only geared to excelling the black man and only seeing black women as the launching pad. For hundreds of years, women of color have not only paid their dues, but partially paid ours. It’s not enough to just defend them when times get rough, but to empower them even when our own victories are close.

Let’s stop acting like their fathers and act like their partners. Let’s stop trying to exploit them to be your ideal subservient pleasure, but accept them for the queens and revolutionaries they already are. For their legacy is too rich and deep to just oversimplify and reduce.

As a black man, a feminist and advocate for equal rights — I will take a stand to no longer just expect black women to flip the bill and I not pay it forward. Will you?

In a time where we are not just begging the world to #SayHerName, I am demanding that black men everywhere learn to #RespectHerName as well.

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