I started to write about how I don’t feel safe in Trump’s America but the truth is this election has made me say out loud I have never felt safe in America. The truth is there is no safe space for black people and there never has been. For me growing up in a majority white community and when I said majority white I mean being the one little spot of brown, my so-called safe space was the illusion of post-racialness. That bubble didn’t last for long. People were sure to put me in my place the first time that somebody’s white child had a crush on me or l on them. When one dares to be a little too smart, too pretty or to good at anything someone lets you know, “you’re smart-for a black girl” “you’re pretty-for a black girl”or my favorite “l didn’t know black people could do that”.
White supremacy is insidious and long before I knew the name for it there it was. Ever present always there lurking. Just waiting to make your day worse. Waiting to block your sunshine. Waiting to knock you off your ladder to success. Waiting to tell you your beauty isn’t the standard. Waiting just to make sure you know you are not welcome. Pretty soon you’re not a child and it’s housing you don’t get or assumptions about your parenting. Oh don’t get me wrong my life is full of so-called good white people you know the ones the ones who love me but made sure to tell me how they really felt about interracial dating. The ones who like me but seem to never hire black people. The ones who make sure to tell me but you’re not like those other black people it’s almost like you’re not really black. We have never been able to out run racism or the violence that comes because of it. The bullying, the fights, the police harassment and the systemic oppression.
For years folks have said if you just reach out and talk to people who don’t agree with you things will change I call bullshit. Just integrate schools and sing kumbaya and teach that all MLK stood for was “l have a Dream” everything will be fine. I grew up with nothing but white people until I was 14 and mostly white people after that and guess what many of those white people who love me and my children so much voted for Donald Trump. They could do so telling themselves their conscience was clear because they had a “black friend”. They had a black friend that they stood by when she was a single mom who they took pity on who even though they were better than in their own mind they were good enough to hang out with because they were “good white people” who look past color. They didn’t see color they didn’t see it so much that they make sure to talk about it all the time about how they have a black friend.
Folks it’s not enough to get white kids diverse friends if you won’t talk about whiteness. It’s not enough for you to say you don’t see color. I need you to see me all of me black me, queer me, woman me poor me. All. Of. Me. l need you to hear my pain and actually listen when l speak. You need to teach your children, friends, family and yourselves about anti blackness. You need to fight for anti-racism (not colorblindness) that’s what we need you to do. That’s what I need you to do. Don’t ask me to do it for you. You do it. You save white people. Stop asking us to do it.
Racism didn’t just suddenly find us in this election. lt has always been with us. It is the cornerstone of our country. It is who we are it has always defined us. The only difference is that in the last 50 years it became impolite to speak it and illegal to discriminate in many ways (on paper at least). Yet when a black man became president white people really felt like they were losing their power because Latinos are growing in numbers and black people, Native Americans and even WOMEN were protesting for their rights again. Suddenly they felt they needed to say all the things that they’d only been saying in private or when they thought we weren’t listening.
No America this is not a new problem. This is not new anger. This is not new white hatred. This is old unsolved unspoken undealt with leftover racist bigotry ethnocentric white supremacist trash thinking that we need to do away with. So folks now is the time to figure out who you are. Do we work to confront these beliefs in real ways? Do we engage real truth and racial conciliation or once again ignore the truth in favor a fake politeness and fake equality? Equality on paper, equality in law books but not in function. That is a decision only we can collectively decide before it’s too late.
I wrote this when Phil Bryant made these comments in 2013 now in 2015 as he is adamantly refusing to fully fund education in Mississippi the video that prompted this letter is making the rounds on social media again. Thus I have polished it up and posted it her on FeministUppityandBlack.com just for y’all. Enjoy!
(This open letter is in response to comments Governor Phil Bryant made on June 4, 2013 saying that the decline in education is due to women working outside the home)
Dear Governor Bryant,
I have a request for you and others like you-please stop mythologizing the 1950s housewife. I know, I know like many white middle/upper class males you may have warm fuzzy feelings of home and hearth when you think of the “Leave it to Beaver” like existences of days past. However, many families never had those existences in fact most families that thought they did-did not. The veneer of 1950s perfection is part of white supremacy culture. It was only meant for white families and the maintenance of it’s existence rested on the backs of others.
Those cookies everyday after school and perfect laundry came at a cost. Not every 50s housewife was happy. Some women enjoy staying home many do not. Even those who feel joy in staying home need support and outlets outside of home and hearth. Women do indeed like to have options and choices beyond being baby factories who are tethered to the kitchen. We have identities beyond wife and mother. We are individual people. In fact that’s a big reason why second wave feminism happened Governor. I don’t know maybe you skipped that part of history.
Perhaps you also skipped the part of history where some mothers never had the option to stay at home or not to work. The legacy of Mississippi’s agricultural and slave holding past is that whether in the fields or as domestic help poor women-especially poor women of color have always worked. Many white 50s housewives you so adore Governor, and let’s be real white women are the women allowed to stay home in your reality, couldn’t have had it all together without the assistance of their black housekeepers and nannies. Black woman washed their clothes, cooked their meals, and helped raised their kids so they could attend to things like improving public schools and playing bridge. At the same time black women then and now are seen as incapable to care for our own children and blamed for being gone “too much” when working. Yet when low income black women stay home with our children we are labeled as “lazy” and teaching children “bad values”. (Then again we know how much you know about race relations in this state which is nothing)
Yes once upon a time some women stayed at home-mostly middle class white women. Now those days are gone and do you know what studies show? Children are fine. Children of working mothers are not worse off Governor. Children benefit from having mothers who are happy. Do you know what does harm children greatly though? Poverty! Poverty really harms children. Having two parents both working two jobs to get by and STILL needing SNAP that hurts families sir. As the Governor of one of the poorest states in the country I would think you would take some responsibility for that rather than blaming mothers for attempting to better their children’s lives by working to provide for them. If parents staying home is your concern what about your failure to provide better government supports for families that would make it possible for parent to be home more? What about YOUR failures to support working families so they can do more for their children? YOU could support things like a living wage, paid family leave, medicaid expansion, LGBT worker protections, FULLY FUND SCHOOLS and many other family friendly policies to make lives for Mississippi families better.
Lastly I must say I am confused because our state wants women to work,right? Poor women women that is. Mississippi believes poor women should always work. The state can’t seem to force poor women back to work fast enough after giving birth . In fact women on TANF have 6 to 12 weeks to go back to work. So much for that needing to be with your child thing. So which is it? Do you want women to work or not? If you want to stick to the myth of the 1950s housewife then you should go back to the old rationale of aid to single women with children, which was to ensure she could care for her child’s basic needs and stay home if needed.
See Governor it’s not easy to stick to outdated sexist ideals is it. So I am asking you to please stop. Stop scapegoating women for the failures of the state of Mississippi. More than that stop promoting an America that never was.
A Black Mom Who Doesn’t Wish To Be In The 50s