10 Ways Black Women Have Been Oppressed Throughout History

BY LA JUANA CHAMBERS

“Being oppressed means the absence of choices” — Bell Hooks

  1. Black women are simultaneously oppressed by the constructs of race, class and gender. Altogether, this triple jeopardy results in a unique form of PTSD that produces a multivariate and paradoxical consciousness that is resilient, functional and inherently debilitating.

 

  1. Black women are expected to surrender control over most things, to include their own bodies. Her body is stolen for medical advancement; her daughters are sold without her knowledge or consent; her sons are murdered for organ harvesting; her husband is castrated and bewitched by eurocentric trickery.

 

  1. Black women will fight for all but themselves. Black women are birthers of the planet Earth; she is highly regarded for her majesty but moreso for her back-breaking labor and dedication. She fights for what she believes in; all but herself. She gets nowhere and keeps the world spinning on the axis of phallocentric sadism.

 

  1. Black women are (still) legally and categorically invisible. She is known as the Black matriarch and was the catalyst in the infamous Moynihan Report for the denigration of the Black family because of her keen drive to survive and make a way for her family, whether her male counterpart is absent or present. Though, she remains at-large in the legal categories of both racism and sexism in all facets of law because she is both woman and Black. She is neither emancipated nor free where ever she is labeled ‘Black woman’.

 

  1. Black women can’t be women. The questions raised during Sojourner Truth’s famous “Ain’t I A Woman” speech delivered to the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio resonate more than 160 years later. Generations after generations, Black women have had to forfeit their womanhood, and many times their personhood. She is more than her parts; she is a part of a collective that does more than performs femininity and womanliness. Womanhood is a state of mind that can be compromised. Black women have had their womanhood compromised when they were robbed of the choice to reproduce, marry or be the self-less matriarch that she has long accepted to be without knowledge or consent.

 

  1. Black women are silenced; their knowledge cast aside and their standpoints monotonized. Hidden Figures, the movie, revealed a great deal to non-Black and non-women individuals about the cloak that is placed over Black women’s contributions to great feats. Despite exceeding the demands of a rigorous course of study, laborious workload and daily societal pressures and obstructions, Black women are expected to do and be great invisibly. In this way, the diverse perspectives and walks of Black women are monotonized; her airless voice lumped into a dense breath of choked silence.

 

  1. Black women are strong; black women are dying victimized. The Myth of the Strong Black Woman and Black women’s natural tendency to play along with the endangering emotional and mental toil that non-Black women and men burden them with perpetuates their victimhood and cyclical soul death. Just how much should, not can, she endure? The strong Black woman is not your slave to command when you are in need. The strong Black woman simply is without deed; no more should she perform upon command.

 

  1. Black women are hated but their bodies are everyone’s desire. From JLo to Kim Kardashian, non-Black women are adulated for exhibiting attributes and characteristics of Black women like Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, a stolen South African woman nicknamed “Hottentot Venus” and paraded around freak shows throughout Europe because of her posterior. Black women’s bodies are commodified and subjected to sexual exploitation as a means of colonization.

 

  1. Black women die forgotten. Do you remember Cecile Fatiman? Do you remember Ida B. Wells? Do you remember Phillis Wheatley? Do you remember Amy Garvey? Do you remember Queen Nanny? Great Man Theory and hero-worship blur our collective memory of Black women’s contributions to nation building, academia, medicine and technology.

 

  1. Black women are so oppressed that they reproduce their own oppression. From the fry flipper to the business mogul, Black women are stratified and forced to be complicit in the colonization of their bodies, minds and souls. Black women have been bound to their conditions; breaking free of that bondage requires a whole lot more than consciousness.

 

Photo: A Dahomean Amazon Mother or “Fon” in the Kingdom of Dahomey’s all-woman military regime. Dahomey is present-day Benin.

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