Performative Praise and the Exploitation of Black People

Now that Roy Moore’s ass has rightfully lost the Senate election in Alabama, there has been an influx of praise for black people, black women specifically, who were present at the polls and straight up showed out, the way that only black people can. I have thoughts about this, from a general and specific standpoint. First and foremost, if you haven’t noticed this ever-present trend throughout my blog, allow me to reiterate one more time for the culture: LISTEN TO BLACK WOMEN!

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One thing I have known all my life is that when black women talk you better shut the hell up and listen, because you might learn something. (Shoutout to my Mama & my Granny)

This special election in Alabama has proved that whenever there is a discussion of social unrest or oppressive systems there should always be a race, gender, and class analysis to see who will feel the affect the most, and it will almost always be black women.

As I stated in my blog post about my black womanhood, black women are positioned at the intersection of two of the most prevalent oppressive systems in this country, racism and sexism. Therefore, every other oppressive system adversely affects us the MOST. Capitalism, classism, ageism, ableism, etc., this is not hard to understand, unless you are hell bent on ignoring the plight of the black woman, in which case I can almost guarantee that your analysis on any broken system in America is intellectually dishonest. This country in all its racist, sexist glory is only 241 years old, and throughout that time the one group of people in this country who have been adversely affected the most is black women.

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As time moved on, and the wave of the country began to shift, black women were still, and are still, disproportionately affected by institutionalized sexism and racism, among a host of other institutional oppressive systems. With that being said, in order to fix the broken systems and have effective social movements you gotta listen to black women. If not, it will fail. White people have ran this country for years (yes even with Obama in office) and they have come up short every time. One could argue that you could never appease everybody or that you could never suit everybody’s needs, I won’t argue whether or not that is true, but there’s one thing I know for sure, a cis-gender white man will fall short of glory every time. Why?

Because even though they are invested in fighting the good fight, they understand nothing and have learned nothing. Fundamentally, they have learned nothing.

Throughout history they have made compromises that fucked over non-whites time and time again. Historically speaking cis-white men have not done anything to ensure an economic revolution that did not further subjugate the marginalized, and nobody understands that more than black women. We do the best with what we have, (re: Doug Jones) but you can’t fix a broken system without centering us. This isn’t my bias as a black woman speaking, this is an undisputed fact. You cannot fundamentally change a system without centering those who suffer the most under the existing system. That’s why cis-white men will never be effective on their own, they have the most to lose from these systems, and their approach will always be self-serving. If you’ve ever wondered why I always apply a race, gender, and class analysis on any broken system, social justice issue, or state of oppression, this is why! Because as black women, (no matter the demographic) it adversely affects us the MOST, and we know that. So yea, black people in Alabama showed up and showed out at the polls despite the attempt to malign their voting rights. Black people showed out, and now everybody is praising black women, which brings me to my next point: y’all can shut the fuck up.

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At the end of the day, Doug Jones won the Alabama special election because of the black vote, and that has always been the biggest fear of American politics: the black vote. But somehow, someway, people STILL found a way to incorporate their blatant misogynoir, which further proves my point that black women are still not respected as people, but as mules to do the brunt of the work. 

This hyper visibility that social media has given black women is not endearing it is white supremacy doing what it does best: mammy-fiying black women. It’s a hard pass for me, because nobody listens to black women, nobody centers black women, we’re told that we’re loud, hung up on bullshit, have nothing to complain about, and have bad attitudes. When in reality, black women have been trying to get people to wise up to the bullshit for years, decades, centuries, and nobody listened. Now all of a sudden black women are being praised? Ha! You can keep it. I’ve never subscribed to the idea that black women will save the world because of one thing my Granny told me before I joined the Army: “Don’t belong to nobody” I didn’t understand, but I knew better than to ask her for clarification, I just tucked it away in my mind and as I got older it made sense.  Granny always had the gems ❤

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My Granny 🙂

Black women don’t belong to you, we don’t have to save anybody, and thinking that we do is misogynoir at it’s finest. We are not your fucking saviors.

The performative plague that is now rampant on social media consists of listening to black women, supporting black women, and centering black women, but if that shit isn’t being translated into resources, power, and/or liberation, please shut the fuck up. Yelling about black women being right and saving Alabama from itself, while erasing the presence of black men further proves how American society believes that black women solely exist to parent a nation that doesn’t give a fuck about us. Not in my wildest dream would I ever allow myself to be flattered by that. It is transparent and racist as fuck.

The idea of black people saving white people -the way everybody is saying black women saved Alabama- is anchored in good ole American racism. Celebrating black people, as the “magical negro” or “mammy” is not a compliment, it is a stereotype. The principle of this degrading stereotype is centered on the idea that black people must sacrifice and struggle to save white people (re: exploited physical, intellectual, emotional labor). Being praised for our nobility and morality is a far cry from acknowledging the systemic oppressive state that we have been subjected to for centuries.

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Saying that black people in Alabama saved the state implies that the whites in Alabama wanted to be saved, they did not. It also implies that black people did this for the greater good of the state, they did not. Black people did it for themselves, because they had the most to lose if Moore would have won. I am not from Alabama, but I am from Tennessee, and I can say without a doubt that had that special election happened in Tennessee the outcry from black people would have been the SAME. Black people know what we’re up against, especially in the South, we are aware of the political climate and how that adversely affects us, black people in Alabama did not show up at the polls with the intent on saving that racist state from itself, they were saving themselves from yet another blatant white supremacist.

The conversation has shifted. The media and social media are now basing the morality of an inherently racist nation on the backs of black people, yet again. I’m over it.

If Moore would’ve won, the same people who are praising black people, especially black women, would be blaming black people for not voting and overthrowing the white vote. The onus would be on us either way, and that my dear, dear friends is how white supremacy works. There’s no acknowledgment of the oppressive state of the marginalized. There’s no acknowledgment of how black people’s voting rights are STILL infringed upon. There’s no translation of fake ass praise into resources, power, and leadership. There’s only “Thanks for saving the day, blacks!”

Performative praise for our nobility being rooted in how we as black people solely exist to be exploited by white people for the greater good of this country. Shut up.

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I hate to be a killjoy to the black people, especially the black women, who found solace in the performative appreciation of the black vote. But I want y’all to know that white people thanking black people for our struggle and sacrifice is a far cry from liberation. If anything it is bottom of the barrel recognition and a way to effectively ignore white supremacists like Moore. Because the truth is, his ass should have never been in the running for the senate seat, his ass should have never been in a public office AT ALL. He should be in jail. Don’t be swindled by the fake thanks, the way they are comparing black women to God, or the way they think black people saved white people.

It is a racist trope used to reinforce the idea that black people, especially black women, exist solely to be exploited by white people.

Reject it my beloved companions of African American descent.