This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with writer, activist and documentarian dream hampton for MadameNoire. I got an email from Color of Change asking me if I wanted to talk to a spokesperson about the dangers in the prevalence and romanticization of cop shows. My yes was certain but it would have been far more enthusiastic if I’d known hampton was that spokesperson. dream hampton is somebody to Black women.
After we talked about the cops for about 40 minutes, I realized there was something else, I needed to pick her brain about.
I asked hampton if she had any thoughts about Black women always being on the frontlines of movements, protests, activism, discourse, and dialogue for the injustices perpetuated against Black people but rarely—if ever--receiving that same type of support from Black men.
My heart dropped just a little bit when the first words out of hampton’s mouth were “Yea…that’s too big a question for the last question.”
I offered a nervous chuckle cuz I knew she was right.
Thankfully though, she continued. “But I will say.” Then she hit me with what turned out to be the most haunting and most memorable piece from the entire interview.
"When I look at injustice and when I think of injustices, I’m thinking about the big ones: White supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. But my deepest fear is that capitalism will collapse, White supremacy is making its last dangerous stance but I don’t see patriarchy going anywhere. That’s my biggest fear… it’s still here and it’s painful. It’s never going to not be painful."
hampton’s fear is not one she carries alone.
For weeks, I’ve been doing a double dutch entrance wondering if now was the right time to share the thoughts I’ve been having about this current moment. For the first time ever, the entire world is paying attention the mistreatment of Black people, through systemic, anti-Black racism. The phrase #BlackLivesMatter has become mainstream, corporations are releasing statements of solidarity for our struggle, and White people, all over the world, are publicly and privately atoning for their sins. It’s a moment within the movement that leaves me encouraged.
But since it was spawned by the murder of George Floyd, Black men have been centered in it. There’s no question that Black men are disproportionately seen as a threat and the target of police violence. They both need and deserve to have someone fighting for them.
Those someones are Black women. The chant protestors cry out in the street, #BlackLivesMatter, was created by three queer Black women. It’s been Black women in the street, speaking truth to the media. Black women have started Go Fund Me pages for affected families, Black women have started campaigns to raise awareness, have written entire books exposing the evils of our criminal justice system and provided solutions on how to end it. The mothers of Black boys and men who have been slain have healed themselves enough to run for political office. And the prayers of millions of Black mothers everywhere have covered Black men for centuries.
Our track record in the fight for the liberation of our people is impeccable. But for all of our efforts, we still don’t get the same collective support from Black men.
And I’ll admit it’s left me resentful.
I cringed scrolling down my timeline looking at the scads of Black women who outwardly expressed their love, support and uplift for the Black kings of this world in the days after George Floyd was killed. I knew that two months earlier, Breonna Taylor had also been murdered at the hands of police and I didn’t see similar messages from Black men to us.
It was only after seeing all of the attention Floyd’s murder received did Black women take it upon ourselves to raise awareness about the lack of justice in her case.
And it’s not just Breonna Taylor. Never at the death or mistreatment of any Black woman have I seen more than a handful of Black men express their collective appreciation, send out a call to action, or even raise awareness about a Black woman who was beaten, raped or killed whether by the police or any other man, especially a Black one.
Unfortunately, calling out such heinous acts would mean admitting that the violence Black women face often comes from the very people Black women fight to protect.
So much of what we know of police resistance comes from Black women, cis and trans alike. Angela Davis sacrificed her freedom to the cause of dismantling racism and continued the work by developing strategies on Abolition Democracy. Marsha P. Johnson smashed a police car with a brick during the Stonewall riots, a movement that changed the way disenfranchised groups engaged in protest in this country.
Still, in the midst of the uprising in Minnesota, dozens of cis Black men and women found time to severely beat Black trans woman Iyanna Dior in a convenience story in St. Paul.
Why is it that as people all over the world are attempting to tear down oppressive structures against the Black community, Black men are acting as agents of violence against Black women?
T.S. Madison encapsulated my feelings in her reaction the gruesome video of Dior being beaten.
I am soooooooo sick of this kinda shit! Yes i am BLACK FIRST! But i am Also Trans! A Black Trans-Women‼ It’s sooooooooo hard for me battling for my black brothers and they beat us down like this...... SICK OF IT! Siiiiiiiiiiik of it‼‼‼‼
Billy Porter tried to raise some awareness about the lack of care and concern cisgender, straight Black people have about Black LGBTQ+ lives. Instead of heeding the warning, people claimed Porter was attempting to co-opt the movement. Again, the Black Lives Matter movement was started by Black gay people. If anyone co-opted it, it’s the Black men who don’t want to recognize the humanity in their brothers and sisters.
But you don’t have to be a woman of gay or trans experience to be unprotected by Black men.
The women featured in HBO Max’s On The Record documentary are among twenty women who have accused media mogul Russell Simmons of rape or sexual assault. HBO is not promoting the documentary very well. It’s virtually hidden on their website. Their stories have not been amplified in Black media. Yet, The Breakfast Club, the leading radio show for Black community chose to give an hour to Simmons to defend himself, yet again, from the accusations, without questioning,critique, or even research into the nature and number of allegations brought against him.
And instead of prominent Black men in the community taking these accusations seriously, they’d rather blame Oprah and other Black women for attempting to "tear a Black man down."
When has tearing a prominent Black man down worked for a Black woman? Yet the narrative is touted as if we’re the enemy when Black women are the strongest and often only ally Black men have in this world.
I’ve been critical of Black men before. Sadly, I don’t see myself changing that narrative any time soon because so frequently they not only disappoint but deeply hurt me and other Black women in ways that mirror the oppressiveness of White folk. And as we all know, the pain from your own cuts deeper.
I’ll never argue or advise that Black women stop loving Black men or even stop fighting for them. But I also don’t believe that love and loyalty should supersede self-preservation. And after all we've done, we have the right to demand reciprocity.
During our conversation, hampton speaking about self-care said that a Black woman advocating for herself by saying no is often seen as a violence.
But Black women do need to become warrior-like in protecting ourselves because we’re the only ones fighting.
I know for some of us, the reason we don’t speak about the enemy we know is because we’re concerned about the White gaze. We know that to criticize Black men for being violent or sexually deviant will play into the very stereotypes that the White man has used to dehumanize and justify killing Black men, specifically.
But in the midst of this movement to end racism, we need to also have a family meeting to address the dangers in own homes as well.