That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?— Sojourner Truth
It seems that by her 1854 speech to the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Sojourner Truth, evangelist, abolitionist and suffragist, was tired—tired of the indignities of being black and female in a time when African Americans were chattel and women second class citizens. More than 150 years later, I’m sorry to say, sister Sojourner, I understand.
I see the parade of Sapphires, stereotypes and shakin’ asses on Viacom’s unholy trinity: BET, MTV and VH1. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”
I hear rappers whose lyrics drip with violence and misogyny called “poets” by black intelligentsia. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”I see wall-to-wall national media coverage for tragically missing Madeleine McCann and Natalee Holloway, but none for young, black Diamond Bradley, Angelica Livingston, Crystal Gaines and Whitney Harden. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”
I watch the NAACP nominate R. Kelly for an Image Award. R. Kelly—at best a mediocre performer with a catalog of vulgar songs that objectify and demean women, at worst a predator facing 21 counts of child pornography, including an obscene videotaping of an assault on a 16-year-old black girl. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”
I hear the deafening silence of the black church over the recent arrest of an African-American celebrity preacher for beating his wife in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”I watch friends—smart, accomplished, beautiful—build their lives alone, because they are black women, and according to statistics the least likely to marry in our society. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”
I read that 44 percent of black households are headed by women, and those households are four times more impoverished than white households. And I wonder, “Ain’t I a woman?”
I am a woman. And if I may, for a moment, speak directly to my fellow female African Americans: We are women. We deserve better, must expect better, must demand better, must fight for better. We must respect ourselves and refuse to be objectified and marginalized. We must say no to media exploitation and neglect. We must stop popping our fingers to hate spit over a funky beat, and call to task so-called artists who make millions at our expense. We must demand love, commitment, support and responsibility from lovers and husbands, and choose only those who give those things to father our children. We must call out religious leaders who twist God’s words to make us count for less.
Sojourner said, If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
After all, we are women. Ain’t we?