In Defense of Black Womanhood
In less than a week we witnessed two influential, esteemed and in some spaces, revered black men defend black women — one United States Senator Cory Booker responding to the treatment of Supreme Court Justice Nominee Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and the other actor and rapper Will Smith responding to a joke made my fellow star Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards.
Senator Booker responded with a speech while Will Smith responded with physical violence and a few choice words to underscore his displeasure at a joke which made light of his wife’s hairstyle. Jada Pinkett Smith has publicly disclosed her haircut was a choice she made as a result of the autoimmune condition, alopecia. Will has since apologized and expressed embarrassment for his emotional and violent response. Although I don’t condone Will Smith’s actions, the experiences offer an invitation to consider what it means to defend black womanhood.
I can only imagine how Judge Brown Jackson felt receiving affirmation from Senator Booker that she was his harbinger of hope. He compared her to the guiding star that Harriet Tubman relied on to navigate the underground railroad — a reminder of light in the midst of darkness. And for many black women this week, these expressions offered in defense of black womanhood served as our harbingers of hope.
Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
In the face of a tyranny of attempts to discredit, ridicule, humiliate, devalue, objectify and belittle black women, we have been reminded that there are still men, black men, willing to respond differently — black men who are willing to defend black womanhood. This defense need not be violent, but should always be intentional. And we want men, black men, to be whole and healed in their defense of us and that their defense inspires greater hope rather than violence or division. If 2022 has more of that in store for us, I’m here for it.