*Written in response to White women demanding solidarity with this abortion issue (the Heartbeat Bill) in Texas in September 2021. This is dedicated to all the Black women whom keep saving the world from people determined to not have us (Black women) move in it. -JBH
I, like most adults, am on social media. I have been in Facebook about a decade, Twitter for about 5 years, Instagram for a few years (I forget out about it often), and at the urging of my best friend, am on TikTok. In October, I will be on TikTok for a calendar year.
And what a year!
In the last 90 days, I have been banned on TikTok four to five times. With this last ban, I was banned for about a week (6 days). When I actually got access to my main account (I’ll explain that shortly), it took 2 hours after the allotted time to get access to it. When I did, I was greeted with this:
Oh, yes! Your eyes are not deceiving you!
When I saw this, I laughed. I cackled, actually! As I sat and posted content on my main account, I thought about this. In this digital age, in the age of Black people and people of color being targets of oppression, hate speech, public murder and other social abuses, what do most minority people do in order to bring light to these things? They take to social media! What do most people do whom dislike this type of activism do? They block or mass report a particular account to the powers that be.
Which brings me to the tool of main accounts, backup account, and this practice of social media lynching.
Main account. Lots of people on social media have these, it’s not new. This is the account you most frequent, that you use most often, and where people are most likely to find your content. My main account on TikTok is @whatjayesaid.
Backup account. These are the accounts that people have due to careers, family or hobbies. These aren’t often used, but they are used in case you don’t have access to your main account. My backup account on TikTok is @jayesaidwhat. I made my backup account in preparation that I might need it.
Now, let me define what this idea of Social Media Lynching is (this is seen on TikTok alot!):
Social Media Lynching is the practice of suppressing the content/voices of minority people (especially African-American people) whom actively use their voices, or position, to fight racism, discrimination, erasure on a social platform only to be banned (silenced) or have their content suppressed, accounts taken, or platform sanctioned.”
Jennifer Bush-Harris, 9.3.2021
This lead me to this iconic quote from Ida B. Wells Barnett:
If they cannot get us with nooses, they mass report creators whom are ‘problematic’ or ‘violate community guidelines.’ We are punished in this public way, on a public forum, on a free app, because we as Black/African-American people, dare to speak about the issues that effect us individually or a whole!
In putting this warning label on my main account (which as of this posting is over 30,000 followers), is indicative of why most African-American people on TikTok have multiple accounts. Much like those of the Civil Rights Movement had code names, and why in activism circles the rule of thumb is ‘trust, but verify’.
In keeping us quiet, the goal is to punish us, shame us, or scare us into not speaking out anymore!
The strange fruit isn’t just in Southern breezes and trees! It is attached to phone plans and homescreens; updated and integrated into daily life! There are those such as myself with multiple accounts that they use for professional reasons, and the fear of the ‘permanent ban’ is always looming because this happens most often to Black content creators! The fear of having what you worked for, what you built, taken from you because there are White people that don’t like what you say, what you fight against, disliked the information revealed to empower—having that power being taken from you is present!
The lynch mobs have hoods and smart phones!
Through mass reporting, the catalyst of the process of silencing you begins! And once you have been reported on an app (in this case TikTok), even old content being reviewed can to reported, and the bans become more frequent!
Again, my last ban before the one which ended on 9/4/21 (after 6 days), was 6-weeks before, and that was for 3-4 days! And we won’t talk about shadowbanning!
This is not by accident, though. It never is! Silencing African-American people in public ways, threatening space, livelihood, bodily harm (can’t forget the death threats via Direct Messaging!), is not new–social media is new! Like our ancestors before us, grandparents after them, we aren’t going to be stopped by who didn’t like what we have to say. We won’t be stopped by whom trolls, reports, cries or comments because they are emboldened by their racism–thinking it is equivalent to/better than any lived experience they have not lived, or education they cannot hope or desire!
I have a great many opinions–and even write some of them down. Besides, they wouldn’t try to silence me, if I didn’t have something to say.
This series is for every woman, and for every girl that still doesn’t see herself represented enough in mainstream media and film. This piece is for every Black girl, whom is now a Black woman, whom still doesn’t see enough of herself to be full. This piece is for my Best Friend, Marissa–the founder of The Awakenings Project.
I am a dedicated Blerd.
I was reading by 4, drawing by 6, writing by 8 and writing poetry by 10. I had a father that could quote Star Wars, loved science fiction, and taught me the world was bigger than Missouri. I had parents who never hid the fact that I was Black, whom never taught me that being Black was a bad thing.
I am also a Black woman, whom was once a Black girl, born in 1981. I remember what Disney was like before Princess Jasmine and Princess Tiana! I remember what it was like to not see anyone that looked like me–Black and girl–on television. I remember what it was like before the MCU was a thing, before the cultural event of Black Panther, and before the only goddess a Black girl saw was Ororo Monroe! I remember, and that wasn’t so long ago. With that said, and I say this with love–and the boldness that love gives: Marvel, especially the MCU, has an issue with powerful women. On, and off screen.
It is no secret that most of the female led movies Marvel has produced (before Black Widow) have not done that well. On of them in recent history is Dark Phoenix. In the comic, Jean Grey is an Omega level mutant (Google that), with rich backstory! And they took all that power and hallowed her out–in X-Men 3 and in her standalone movie! Do you know how frustrating it is to be a female Marvel fan and see this? And see it happen continually?! Yet, this plays into the other theme that is apparent in this movie as well–the world will continually try to assert itself among women and girls, telling them–us!–whom we should be.
Through the lens of Natasha Romanov we see exactly what it means to be under estimated, overlooked and ignored. When a girl becomes a woman and does not see herself in the world, how can she know what to become? Even in conversations with other male comic fans, I have heard them say this movie was ‘a throw away movie’ or ‘they should have told this story sooner’. Yeah. About that: PANDEMIC.
Nevermind the fact that Black Widow fits in right after/during Avengers: Civil War. Nevermind the fact that she is one of the more well known Avengers (even though Wasp is integral in forming of this group)! Nevermind there are little girls all over the world that made Nat at part of their girlhoods! You cannot take that from them! In the fallout of the inevitable greed that surrounds these superhero movies and their demand for ROI, we see that Scarlett Johannson is being seen as the villian for wanting her fair share of money from the Avengers franchise? Barring COVID-19, why can’t they pay Scarlett, but you take a WHOLE risk on Robert Downey, Jr? Oh, okay. Separate issue.
Yet, the MCU is now in Phase 4. And the people that should be sticking up for her aren’t–shocker there! However, to me this one of the reason why Marvel will not create/produce more female-lead movies! As diverse as the Marvel Universe (from Marvel Comics, the true source material for all of this!)is, it can be seen and assumed that misogyny is still in the room–right along with racism. These two things are always the enemy of representation!
There is no need to put forward what they do not believe will be profitable!
What can be done? Well, the writing rooms need to be more diverse. There need to be more female directors, producers, storyboard artists, and female characters cannot be ornamental until they are functional for the appeasing for the male plot! We are ornamental with out bodies being the focus, and not the talent (check the evolution of Nat’s outfits).
I want more back story about the Red Room; I want to know where the Black Widow came from. Whom was the first? These are things that I need to know, and are reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the show was so much better than that halfway good movie with Luke Perry)! Again, another conversation. Should this be a show? Maybe. But people need to remember the words of Queen B: “Who run the world? Girls.”
So, what do we need to do to run it? Write ourselves in it!
Also, this series is dedicated to my best friend, Marissa–who’s nickname is Romanov.
I finally was able to watch Black Widow this week. I am glad of this, though. I was able to watch it alone, with all my girlhood, womanhood and writer self all in the same room. In watching Infinity War: Endgame, I (like every other MCU fan) was horrified at the loss of Natasha, rather than Clint, to get the Soul Stone.
Yes, I still feel away about this. But, let’s go on.
I have daughters whom are dedicated Marvel fans, and they were born during Phase 3! So, seeing–knowing!–that Natasha ‘Nat’ Romanov was getting her own movie–and Scarlett Johanssen was going to have Executive Producer credit? With a female director? For a Marvel movie? Oh, yes! Game changing! There is definitely a distinct difference when a woman directs a movie and when a man does. But, this? Oh, but this. Here are some of my take aways–and things that you might not have paid attention to.
1.) The rampant nature of the abuse of women and girls. All through the movie, we see just how easy it is to hurt women and girls. When Nat and Yelena run from the small force of Widows who come for them, one falls off the roof and breaks her tibia. She is told by the Red Room to terminate (kill herself). Though Nat tries to help, her free will has been hijacked. This also speaks to how suicide is till a problem among women, and how we can somehow feel as if no one can help us.
2.) Black women and girls are often the victims of human trafficking. Although the African-American/Widows whom are Black don’t have dominant screen time, but it points to just how easy it is to erase Black women and girls–and how no one looks for us, if they don’t look for us. There is also the creepy and telling line that Drestov says regarding how the world has too many girls, inferring they (read: we) are a wasted resource. Throwaways. Natasha hints to this as well as she confronts him before destroying the Red Room.
3.) Sexualizing of young women and girls. If you have watched the evolution of Black Widow’s outfits through the Avengers movies, you will notice just how her costume changed. How cleavage, and her figure were emphasized. I This movie, the uniforms at it were, are form-fitting, yes–but they are not overtly sexual.
4.) How we (the world) expects girls be self-sacrificing. From the first time Natasha kicks the gun out of the soldier’s hand to protect Yelena, Yelena blowing up the engine on the plane, we see that girls are ornamental, only being functional for a common goal or end. The theme of personhood, freedom, free will and the ownership of self are woven throughout the movie.
5.) We teach girls that pain is what strengthens them. Melina tells Natasha, “Don’t let them take your heart.” This is one of those sayings that I believe encourages girls to stay in tune with their emotions–they make you human. In the run of Black Widow through Phase 3, we do not see Natasha breakdown. We do not see her unravel! The last tears (or first tears) we see of Natasha was when she was crying in this mix of fear, rage and disbelief if was around her sister, Yelena. In becoming a woman, there are outrageous things that will happen to girls and in order to cope–we shut off.
We detach. We stuff down. We shift. We lie. We hide. We run. We self-destruct!
Melina’s reminder, even from this staged motherhood, is a reminder that shutting off never works–and should never been the long-term solution.
6.) Trauma bonding. “I cycled through the Red Room four times before you were born. Those walls are all I know.” When Alexei, Yelena, and Natasha find Melina we see just how trauma is two-fold, yet the same: how we hold together and what holds us together! From Yelena and Natasha fighting in Budapest, Melina alerting the Red Room where they are, Red Guardian bonding all his identity to Captain America (Steve Rogers), and the freed Widows not knowing what to do after being given said freedom. Trauma is unavoidable, unsustainable…but unavoidable.
7.) When women work together, they can do anything. What I loved about this movie–yes, loved!–is the relationship between Yelena and Natasha. I loved how Melina gave Natasha the rundown of the Red Room while prepping her what she’s about to face, and even how Taskmaster–Antonia, Drekov’s daughter–had to be freed from her own father and his desire to dominate women. The takeaway–when women of all walks of life work together–we can topple the toxic patriarchy.
Natasha Romanov deserved, and still deserves, so much more.
Note: I am a single mother of biracial children. I have to teach my daughters how to move in the world is Black, as woman, and not die myself while doing it.
I had The Talk with my daughters, 12 and 13 1/2, while doing 70 mph going down I-70 going to my best friend’s house to see their best friends. I had done all I could to bury the nastiness of the world from them. I tried to keep just how mean the world could be from them, why it can be to them, and what they could do about it.
My daughters are in middle school. And really? Honestly? It was almost too late…I should have had it earlier. This is what it is like to be Black and a parent in a nation that is decidedly anti-Black. You are constantly playing Chess–never checkers. White families can do that, not us.
When I made the decisions to get my daughters cell phones, my mother protested and I screamed internally. I have been her child almost 40 years, and when I was 13–my father suggested I get a pager. My mother said no. Now, 27 years later, her granddaughter have cellphones. And she protested. The only thing that I could manage to tell her was, “The world is crazy, Mama.”
The world is crazy, Mama.
I had already had told my daughters not touch things in the store (“People may think you’re stealing!”), what to do if you get lost in the store (“Don’t go to store security/police, go to someone that works at the store and give them your Mom’s name.), and the emergency contact list (“What is your grandmother’s name/number? What is your aunt’s name/number?”). But when I had to tell them what to do when stopped by the police? I screamed. I howled. When I realized that my youngest daughter is the same as Tamir Rice. When I realized that in September my oldest will be as old as Emmitt Till will ever be, and one year younger than Jordan Edwards–I fought the air!
I felt helpless–for all I did, am doing, to raise my daughters to be ‘respectable Black girls’—a police officer with a God complex can take that way. And never be accounted for. As I sped to my best friend’s house, the safety of her house, husband, and daughters who are best friends with my daughters, I fought tears.
I had to tell them: “Even though your father is White, your mother is Black. And because your mother is Black you will always be seen as little, Black girls.” And then I thought of the 4 little girls, the young women in Birmingham–whom would be the same age as their maternal grandmother, 71.
Again we went over what to do if they were stopped: Don’t go to the car. Make sure they see your hands. Do what you are asked. Ask if you can call you mother. “If you can’t get me, what do you do?” “Call grandma.” My heart, my heart in two places, shattered. All I can do, all I do, is give them what they need to survive. What more could I do? Being Black in this nation comes with the Unwritten: in order to survive, you have to know exactly what can kill you, and who may try to.
We got to their best friends’ house, safe and sound. I collapsed on her table and almost scream-cried. The world I had constructed for my daughters, the last peace that I tried to give them, was gone. The world was in my house…again. But this time, I was Mama. Like my mothers before me, I had to learn how to put down a wolf or a dog–and know the difference. The only thing I found that works, if make my daughters into the wolves…and give them a pack that will protect them above all else.
I am old enough to remember Florence “FloJo” Griffith Joyner. I remember how beautiful and how FAST she was. I remember being so sad when she died (in her sleep, not from steroids or any other illicit drug!). When I see Sha’Carri? I see that same beauty and talent. I am solidly #TeamShaCarri.Full stop.
With that said, my heart is breaking for what is happening to her at present–and how the Black community seems to be split as far as just how (or if!) to support her. I am fully persuaded that at this point, respectability politics is internalized racism! Let me elaborate further.
Sha’Carri Richardson is a talented athlete. Just as FloJo was, and Serena Williams is. With that talent, she has been denigrated for being “too masculine”. I am still trying to figure out what is ‘too masculine’ when it comes to female athletes! What does that really mean? What does it mean to have your femininity stripped from you because happen to be athletically gifted?
But that is another conversation.
What I want to focus on is this idea of being the right type of Black girl. This is the caveat when you begin to become the type of woman that you have decided to be! In this life, we have to under the world we navigate loves to do three things with Black women: erase, minimize or destroy. That’s it!
If you are the type of Black woman that is problematic, then the world around you will see and declare you as problematic! It starts with something as simple as our names! Then from there, we are taught what it means to be respectable–hair, speaking voice, how she dressed, interests, physical representation, etc. Sha’Carri Richardson is problematic for the same reason most Black women are seen as problematic! She is not able to be controlled or defined by other people!
This nation sees Black women as the naughty children whose parents keep leaving alone! We are seen the perpetual problem children of this nation who are constantly in need of raising.
We aren’t! We are in need of re-raising by a nation whose fame and infamy has come from the stealing and murdering of our sons. No, she is not the respectable Black girl. Sha’Carri is a Black woman who is confident in herself, knows when she has messed up, and should not be discounted because she made a mistake! The nation voted for an internet troll, so we can get over the fact Sha’Carri smoked weed to handle a tragedy–and she still dusted her competition!
First: Billy Porter is everything! Now, with that said, let me get to a proper reflection.
I loved POSE from the first episode of Season 1, Episode 1 when the Mary Jane Girls were singing IN MY HOUSE. I got into the show after Funky Dineva’s review of the show on his YouTube Channel. I loved it! I loved it! I don’t know what I am going to do on my Sundays with this being gone! But, perhaps, I am getting ahead of myself.
One of the things that I loved about POSE was the unapologetic nature of the show! How good the storytelling is! And how bomb Elektra is! I am fan of this show and a fan of Ryan Murphy because POSE is the continuation of what PARIS IS BURNING truly was! There are no caricatures in this show! There is nothing forced in this show, a cis-het woman, it has forced me to confront any biases I have, see exactly the world that transwomen have been going through since FOREVER, and realize that the way I felt when Candy was murdered by a trick when she was only trying to take care of her House? The way I cried with that? This is how transwomen feel when another transwoman they know is murdered for just being themselves!
Shows like POSE are needed because representation matter! Ryan Murphy with the help of Janet Mock and Jennie Livingston, and the other excellent staff kicked in the door of FX! They were just what the world needed right now, and for three seasons, he GAVE all of that to us–every ounce!
I cannot wait to see what he does next! I cannot CANNOT wait!
Stanning Moments (in no particular order):
Besides, nothing will be as good as Damon reading Pray at the table when he found out him and Ricky were smashing! Whew, chile!
When Stan got Angel that condo and put him out of it when she was mad!
When Elektra and her House broke into that museum and took all the clothes!
When Papi and Angel first got together.
When Elektra and all the girls went to the rich man’s house for a weekend and he just wanted to be in latex in a garage.
WHEN ELEKTRA READ THAT BECKY SUE JANE DOE LIKE A DR. SUESS BOOK!
When Damon got into Dance school and joined Bianca’s House.
When Candy was haunting people, and the moment when her Dad and Mom.
When Elektra killed that man on accident at her job and went to get Candy at her job to help her.
For more, watch the show yourself. You won’t regret it.