Appropriating Our Pain:
Women argue with men about talking to men and to women about patriarchy, gender-based violence, abuse, and sexism. Black women especially are tired of men from all races talking to us about us. Our voices have been silenced by this very act of men not handing the microphone over to women to talk about the problems women encounter. We don’t need interpreters if we are speaking in a language that most people understand; whether that language is English or body language.
Why is it then so easy for black and brown people to allow and actively encourage white people to speak about the privilege they have over us to other white people and be handsomely rewarded for it?
Why do black and brown people allow white people to further silence them, and amplify their own voices by recommending books written by white people about white privilege, including books they themselves have written, and fail to mention great books, and videos that are done by black and brown people?
Are we then not guilty of jeopardizing our own pain and the understanding or depth of our pain by letting someone else speak on our behalf? As black and brown people why are we so eager to hand over the microphone to people who can ultimately only empathize but never fully feel the generational anguish that comes with racism and lack of privilege? Worse, why is it ok for white people to profit from our pain?
I have often heard the “but white people only listen to white people” narrative, and this narrative we, as humanity comply with, with the utmost ease. Is this not racist by meekly complying with their “demands” and is it not infantilizing black and brown people and further pushing our voices away from the microphone where it needs to be amplified? In fact, often black and brown people aren’t even on the stage but are relegated to the back of the room. Listening to stories about how oppressed they are from people that have done the oppressing; or their families. It is being further compounded by making money off of our pain, and sometimes the money is all that matters; much like what is termed as the “ATM Pastors,” who preach the Word of God because it’s a lucrative business to be in, not because they believe in God. Their belief is tied to the remuneration first. How easy would it then be for a white person who is “woke” to simply amplify their own voices, talk over black and brown people, while making loads of money?
There is a white woman, I am friends with who spoke to a circle of white friends, and they paid her for doing so. Her sense of “wokeness” is so on point that she immediately donated the money. This is extreme of course, though very generous, but how many white people are making millions of dollars from speaking and writing about white privilege without having a black or brown person included in the conversation and thereby also be remunerated. What is the difference between cultural appropriation of black and brown people’s clothes and hairstyles to appropriating of black and brown people’s pain and their lived experiences if they aren’t benefitting from that?
Black and brown people are outraged when the movie, “The Lion King,” rakes in millions but are silent about white people talking or writing about their pain and earning a living from it.
It is time black and brown people challenge the status quo as they did with systemic racism, and insist upon the microphone being handed over to a black and brown person, who has experienced and lives through racism, not merely someone that can articulate their pain in a manner that is palatable.
Talking to us about us can only be done when white people have been given permission from black and brown people, and when that happens, white people need to conscious of the message that is being carried across.