First the ever-present backlash against Hillary Clinton. I’ve been watching from behind my hand as she maintains a slippery grip on what seemed a surefire nomination–again. Then there is trying to make sense of the dialogue and anger directed at Beyoncé in response to her latest music video–a (frankly, gorgeous) four-minute homage to black.
And the more those things gnawed, the angrier I got. But why? I mean, I’m not black. I’m not really even a Beyoncé fan. Just because I like to sing and dance around the house to Single Ladies in my underwear doesn’t make me Beyoncé. I am a Hillary Clinton fan. But I’d be more than happy with a Sanders presidency if it came to pass, especially considering the alternatives. So why are all these things making me so very, very angry?
Because I feel like once again I’m watching Grandpa Establishment lean down and pat the head of the marginalized. I feel like once again I’m listening to Old Man Establishment shush them and tell them there’s nothing to worry about, that it’s all in their pretty little heads.
Pick a group that traditionally has been or still is marginalized or oppressed. Oh, go on. Take your pick. Women? Blacks? Gay and transsexuals? Doesn’t matter which. Whenever a group or individual from one of those groups gets elbowed to the floor and dares to stand up and cry “Foul”, they are systematically and thoroughly shut-up and shut-down.
They’re shushed and told they’re imagining things; that the objects in their experience are better than they appear. Then they’re told to be patient, that change takes time. They’re scolded and called uppity or ungrateful. Then, my personal favorite, they’re told to take the high road. And if they don’t? They’re blamed for their own oppression.
It’s such a brilliantly convoluted tangle of reasoning no wonder most people find it easier to swallow than spit it onto the ground where it belongs.
To verbalize Ms. Knowles’ two rigid middle fingers at attention: fuck that.
The fact that you still hear, in 2016, that the United States isn’t ready for a woman president? What the hell does that even mean? Are there people who believe a woman would drop out of the G8 due to menstrual cramps? That she would gossip away nuclear codes and go shopping at Bergdorf’s during security council meetings?
When I hear people bandy that phrase about: The US isn’t ready for a (fill in the blank), I can’t even wrap my head around it because I don’t even know what it means. It’s nothing more than lip service and frankly, it’s not even good lip service. It’s like Kylie Jenner lip service. You’ll get better lip service on the street corner.
Are they ready for a video like Beyonce’s Formation? It won’t be understood, liked, or championed by a whole lot of white people. That’s OK. You don’t have to understand the experiences of others in order to accept them as equal, as legitimate. It is not up me or you to validate someone else’s experience in order to make them real, to make them valuable, to make them worthy of notice and change.
Part of institutionalized oppression like racism or sexism is denying the people who suffer a voice. It is about continually telling them they are wrong, they’re impatient, they’re ungrateful and they themselves are to blame. Over and over and over again until they believe it themselves.
And so folks will scream “Not everything has to be about race!”
But they are wrong, because of course it does. If your whole life is defined by the color of your skin, and those definitions are written and defined by someone other, than everything does need to be about race.
You can’t co-opt or minimize a movement like the #blacklivesmatter movement by clamoring all lives matter. By supporting that movement, you are not denying that other lives matter. You are not, by default, assuming that all law enforcement officials are corrupt and hell-bent on shooting the first black kid in a hoodie they come across on a Tuesday. If you think only that, you are missing the whole point. Voicing your support and championing a cause, as Beyonce is doing, is not cause and effect. It’s not black and white, even when it’s about black and white. It’s instead extending a middle finger to whoever is watching and saying, I am not afraid. You can’t keep me down anymore. I will rise.
And so folks will scream “Now that a woman can be president, it doesn’t have to be her…” And if you believe that, Donald Trump has a bridge for you. It’s right next to the wall he’s going to build to keep the immigrants out. I need Hillary Clinton to take a cue from Beyoncé and offer a middle finger of her own. I need her to stand up and say, I am not afraid. You can’t keep me down anymore. I will rise.
There will be plenty of time for women down the road. Plenty of time for black Americans down the road. Plenty of time for gay and transsexual and transponders down that long and winding road.
How long have women been led down that long and winding road? How long have black Americans been led down that same road? How long do you let yourself be lead down that damn yellow brick road before you stand up and say: No More. I will rise.