As the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicked off on the evening of August 17 and as former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama gave remarks, a tweet was posted by Mexican politician and diplomat, Jorge Guajardo and the world stood still.
The tweet quickly went viral as people, many of whom were Black women clapped back at Ambassador Guajardo for his incredibly tone deaf position.
While I “think” I get the point he was trying to make, it wasn’t expressed in the best way. It definitely made me cringe when I saw his tweet. I can only imagine how it made Black women feel.
Black women have been abused, overworked (while underpaid…or not paid at all) and saving the United States literally since they were forced to this country in 1619. In fact, these women cooked, cleaned, nursed, sewed, planted and picked crops and so on for the families of the white men credited with founding the United States.
Think about Black women who were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. Harriet Tubman created her own lane and literally started saving her people from bondage. It’s estimated that she single handedly led somewhere between 70 and 300 enslaved Black folks to “The Promised Land”.
Or think of Ida B. Wells who kept detailed records of the lynchings occurring throughout the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her documentation laid the groundwork for the popular “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday” campaign that the NAACP eventually picked up.
Think about Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates and Ella Baker, Black women who took the reigns and decided to champion the Civil Rights Movement in the mid 20th Century.
We can’t forget about Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were extracted without her consent and are today considered the most important cell lines in medical research, although she died in 1951. It’s worth noting that researchers have made billions as a result while her family has not been compensated.
Even if we look into the 21st Century, the originators of the “Black Lives Matter” movement are three Black women, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors.
So, with all this hard work that Black women have been busy doing for the last 401 years in the United States, you’d think that Black women were collectively getting big bank.
In fact, in 2020, Black women are paid only $0.61 for every dollar their white male counterparts earn. This means that a Black woman has to work almost 20 months to receive the same amount that a white man makes over the course of 12 months.
Damn, so we want Black women to save a country that they didn’t mess up and then still not pay them the same amount as the very people who messed things up in the first place? Make it make sense.
We all know what many of the problems plaguing the United States are. Most of them are systemic, dating back hundreds of years to a time when only white men had a seat at the table. Black women weren’t allowed a seat at this table but they were allowed to clean up the mess left behind, and they did so with grace and dignity. It’s unfair to once again place the burden of taking care of the mess on the shoulders of Black women. We all have to tap in and do our part to make sure that inequitable systems are critiqued, challenged and dismantled. We all have to vote. If the United States is to be saved, we all have to put that work in.
If I could have a conversation with Ambassador Guajardo, I’d say, “Black women are beautiful, strong, intelligent, capable, resilient and a whole bunch of other adjectives. Black women have been saving US since day one. As a Black man, I have full confidence that Black women CAN save the United States but it is not Black women’s responsibility to do so.”
In short, this ain’t it, my guy.
Mel Clayton is a native of Pine Bluff, AR and an alumnus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas-Clinton School of Public Service. He went to law school for a semester and a half at the University of Arkansas but he hated that shit.
Mel is an avid lover of music and has dedicated his life to sharing authentic Black stories and experiences through his research and writing. He hopes that everyone who reads his publications will be impacted on a spiritual level.
He lives his life according to the mantra, “Trust yourself and follow the energy.”