I am a black woman.
That means a few things, but above all in this here America, it means I advocate for myself. It means I protect the sanctity of being a woman of color and my unique experiences alienate me from all else. It means that, without question, I stand with the rest of my black sisters in trying to make a space for ourselves in this world, having to prove that our struggle was and is presently real, while white privilege and black power deny our validity.
But most importantly, it means I’m responsible for protecting our history and making sure our stories are told truthfully and respectfully, as we can’t depend on outside parties to effectively convey our isolation.
And so, like the rest of you, when I learned of the “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” that was created by All Def Digital, I was sick to my stomach. And not figuratively. I cramped, I ached, I hurt and I imagined all the work I’ve done to lend myself as an ally to black women, to sexually assaulted women, to abused women, to all women.
I thought of the women I respect (dream hampton, you were a woman after my own heart last night), who are also fighting in those same realms, and what they must have felt as they watched the devaluation, dehumanization and overall inaccurate account of one of our revered ancestors.
And with black women bearing the brunt of the pervasive rape culture that allows us to be unapologetically assaulted in this country, the fictional depiction of Harriet Tubman bartering her vagina as a means to gain freedom completely decimates the legacy of a woman who led the freedom exodus of hundreds of black women who were brutally raped, sodomized, and stripped of their dignity.
[Enter here a lesson on the historical implications of slave rape and the evolution (or lack of) the perceived hyper-sexuality of the black woman]
For a lack of space and time on this forum, I’ll just say this: There are levels to this shit.
The complexity of which I’m just beginning to realize as the dust settles, and years of my own understanding of African American history and what it means to be a black woman in this country haven’t quite prepared me for this.
Because in the end, I never imagined we’d get here.
And how fitting – on the heels of two public discussions that both succeeded in ruffling some feathers and establishing black women feminists and our issues “legitimate” (though it pains me to believe that it took a couple of hashtags for people to realize we existed) that this tape comes about.
The irony of writer Mikka Kendall’s #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen (a response to white feminists and their exclusivity) and Ebony editor Jamilah Lemieux’s #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen (a conversation on intra-racism sexism) is more of a depressing told-you-so rather than a satisfying win, but if anything, it teaches us that we have a long way to go before the ideas both of the hashtags produced are fully realized by all.
But if we can all agree on a few things, let’s start with the novel idea that rape, slave brutality, and objectifying women is never funny.
Brought to you by the unfortunate embarrassment that is the assault of Harriet Tubman.
As if she didn’t do or risk enough to lead us to the promised land.