Who Protects Black Women?

Mar 20, 2019 at 10:17 am
Travis Nagdy

Why you want to fly Blackbird You ain’t ever gonna fly Why you want to fly Blackbird You ain’t ever gonna fly No place big enough for holding all the tears you’re gonna cry *

“I know what it like to wanna sing…and have it beat outch’ya.” This line was spoken in “The Color Purple” by the character Miss Sofia played brilliantly by Oprah Winfrey. Miss Sofia was asked by a white woman named Miss Millie if she wanted to be her maid and Miss Sofia replied, “Hell no.” That reply was enough for a white man to step in and assault Miss Sofia. What resulted afterward was a vicious attack that not only broke Miss Sofia’s body but also broke her spirit. What was once a robust, outspoken woman returned home from spending years in jail, subjected to being Miss Millie’s maid, quiet and shattered. It was not until the lead character Ms. Celie stands up against her abusive husband that we catch a glimpse of the former Miss Sofia.

This scene is one that came to my mind after witnessing a white man named Daniel Taylor** assault Yasmine James, a black woman who was taking his order at McDonald’s. Taylor can be seen in the video lunging at Yasmine in what appears to be an attempt to drag her over the counter. In what I assume was, fearing for her safety, James defends herself, hitting Taylor until he releases her, while many of her coworkers simply look on. You would think after watching this man assault Yasmine, he would immediately be put out of the store. However, that did not happen. From the video, it appears the manager is still trying to serve Taylor. And in fact, Taylor goes on to say, “I want her ass fired right now,” as if he has done nothing wrong.

Yasmine yells back to him, “No, you’re gonna go to jail. You put your hands on me first!”

Taylor responded, “I couldn’t control you. I was just asking you a question, bitch!”

And there we have it. “I couldn’t control you.”

How dare this black woman deny him what many have said was a simple issue over a straw. And because he couldn’t “control her” — to him that warranted assaulting her. And still, even that was not enough. It was not until Taylor kicked another female employee in the stomach that he was asked to leave the McDonald’s. Why wasn’t he asked to leave when he [allegedly] assaulted Yasmine? Was she not enough? How many times would he have to hit Yasmine for it to be enough?

‘Cause your mama’s name was lonely And your daddy’s name was pain And they call you little sorrow ‘Cause you’ll never love again So why you want to fly Blackbird You ain’t ever gonna fly

Who defends the black woman? Who speaks out for the black woman? Who shouts for the black woman? Who cares about the black woman? Who says Me Too for the black woman? Who protects the black woman?

Over and over again we have watched countless videos of black women and girls being assaulted. We have watched black girls on the ground with the knee of a white man in their backs. We have watched a black girl thrown across the classroom like a rag doll. We have watched a black woman assaulted on the floor of Waffle House. We have watched our little black girls murdered with no regard. We have watched a black woman punched over and over again on the side of a highway. We have witnessed black women murdered by their lovers. The hashtags of black women murdered by the police are endless. The names and numbers of black women and girls who have been raped are astronomical. And this world keeps turning.  It never pauses to understand when a black woman screams for help the earth is trembling.

Who hears us? Who is weeping for us? Who is standing with us? Who shares our stories? When will our issues be front page news? When will we stop being props for your election campaigns and marches? You ain’t got no one to hold you You ain’t got no one to care If you’d only understand dear Nobody wants you anywhere So why you want to fly Blackbird You ain’t ever gonna fly

This world demands everything from black women and offers black women nothing in return. And we are tired. We have given everything we can and then some. We have paid debts that we didn’t incur with our very lives. We have upheld our end of a bargain that was never for us. We keep waiting and wondering when this world will defend us? When will this world see our value? Are black women not included in your agenda? Does our plight not sell enough T-shirts and pins and tote bags? Does this incident not fit in with how you define intersectionality? Is the victim not sophisticated enough? Is the victim too black to fit your agenda? Will she not look good in a pink pussycat hat? When will you stand up for her and black women just like her? When will the marches take place for black women who have been assaulted? When will you shed a tear for Jazmine Barnes, a little black girl who was murdered? When will this world see us? Not just physically see us in an attempt to emulate everything that we are outwardly, but when will this nation show us true sawubona — meaning I see you, recognize you, and I connect with your humanity. I understand that I cannot be all that I can be until you are all that you can be. When will that happen? To be honest, I am no longer holding my breath for anyone besides black women to see me. If you haven’t seen us by now, you never will.

But, I see you, black women. I see you in all your glory, wonder and splendor. I see you in your beauty and your gentleness. I see you in your love and your passion and even your pain and sorrow. I see you in your intelligence and wisdom. I see you, and I will protect you. Because I want you to sing, blackbird. I want you to fly, blackbird.  Because you deserve to soar. •

* “Blackbird” by Nina Simone. ** Daniel Taylor pleaded no contest to two counts of battery and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.