This opinion piece was originally published in the Friday March 31, 2017 issue of the Indianapolis Recorder
Her haughtiness (and roller set) was offensive, and he took it awfully hard that she spoke like there were gold mines diggin’ in her backyard. I’m talking about Bill O’Reilly and Congresswoman Maxine “Auntie” Waters.
This week, the oft-controversial television host remarked on “Fox and Friends” that he couldn’t take the outspoken Democrat from California seriously because her hair looked like “a James Brown wig.”
Hours later, O’Reilly “apologized” for his remarks, but there was no stopping the wrath of Black Twitter, Hillary Clinton and women all over the world who weren’t having any of it.
Tuesday night, Auntie Maxine appeared on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” and gave us this very timely gem: “Let me just say this: I’m a strong Black woman, and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O’Reilly or anybody. … And I’d like to say to women out there everywhere: Don’t allow these right-wing talking heads, these dishonorable people, intimidate you or scare you. Be who you are. Do what you do. And let us get on with discussing the real issues of this country.”
Following the Fox fiasco and Sean Spicer’s rude remarks to veteran journalist April D. Ryan, a Twitter hashtag — #BlackWomenAtWork — was born. If you haven’t yet perused any of the threads, I encourage you to do so. Many of the stories, though carrying a thread of victory and determination, will piss you off. One woman, an accomplished film director, was identified as some man’s date while on the red carpet for the movie she directed and produced. Another woman recounted how as a young receptionist, she had a boss who forbade her from learning to operate a computer. On her lunch hour, with the help of a coworker, she not only learned how to operate a computer, but also worked her way up to become the manager of the entire IT network.
These stories go on and on. Last week, I had the honor and privilege of attending the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Black Press Week in our nation’s capital. While there, I had an opportunity to attend the enshrinement ceremony for a legendary strong Black woman, Lenora “Doll” Carter, the late publisher of the Houston Forward Times. Doll, as she was affectionately known, inherited the business when her husband passed away in 1971. Doll, who was just 29 at the time, found herself on her own with a family to raise and a paper to keep in print. She kept her promise to Julius, her late husband, and never missed a week of print. She expanded the business and took it to heights no one would have dared imagine. She died suddenly in 2010, just a few years shy of the paper’s 50th anniversary.
Today, her daughter Karen Carter-Richards is at the helm, and they continue to maintain excellence. I thought about all the foolishness she undoubtedly had to encounter along the way. She came of age and prominence in a time when it was hard enough being of color (still is!) but add woman to that? I am sure that she had many, many tales to tell.
Later on that afternoon, that spirit was lifted even higher as the NNPA was visited by leaders like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
Jackson Lee expressed to us that she was outraged at the direction in which this country and its government is going. She added that she was “on the road to impeachment,” a sentiment that has been shared by Waters on numerous occasions.
In my deduction, what we’re experiencing when it comes to the outspokenness of Black women in politics is no different than any other segment of our society.
I may ruffle some feathers with this statement, but no one on this planet gives a damn the way Black women give a damn.
Each day, when I look online, in print and on television, it feels like the people who are speaking out the most and receiving the most backlash are Black women. I don’t say that for pity or out of a false sense of superiority, either.
One, take a look at past and modern history and show me a time when anyone has taken pity on Black women and their plight. Two, if superiority looks like disproportionate wages, disparities in health care and a rise in unfair treatment with regards to school discipline, then something is wrong.
My unashamed opinion is that the world needs more strong Black women.
No, we are not sub-human beings, as stereotype and folklore would suggest, that are incapable of feeling pain, loss and hurt. We are human and flawed, but no doubt resilient.
We, Black women, are vital to the future of this nation. Our strength, voice and seemingly fearless stance when it comes to speaking out in opposition to injustices (of all humankind!) and setting things straight is serving and will continue to serve as the balm needed to heal this afflicted land.
Even though, truth be told, we are oftentimes unappreciated, and much of what and who we lend ourselves to is undeserving of what we have to offer. Forging ahead as our majestic selves, speaking truth to power and maintaining dignity is no doubt a tall order, but nothing I feel is out of our reach.