What MeToo and Black Lives Matter Have in Common

Black history and women’s history are intersectional

In 2006, Tarana Burke, founded the #metoo movement with the goal to empower young women of color who have been sexually abused, assaulted, or exploited, women from marginalized communities.  While the hashtag did not take off on social media until 2017 when many white women came forward to acuse many white men of sexual harassment.  

Tarana Burke’s Story

Tarana shows how intersectional the #metoo movement is with #blacklivesmatter, “some people said to me: ‘This is not your moment. This isn’t about Me Too. This is about Black people.’” But excessive police force and sexual violence are “inextricably linked”, she insists. “Sexual violence is an issue in the country that is so deeply pervasive that it is actually enacted by law enforcement people. They’re not just inept at investigating and dealing with it, they’re also perpetrators.”

Separating Black LIves Matter from Me Too keeps our allies separated.  To say you have separate conversations about gender and race is a divide and conquer strategy long used to support white supremacy and male dominance.  In fact, keeping our histories separate is also a divide and conquer strategy.  By having February dedicated to Black history and March dedicated to women’s history, we’re keeping the conversation on different channels.  We’re limiting the impact that we could have collectively by not addressing the issues of race and gender together. 

The Perspective of Women of Color

To demonstrate how complex and tethered the issues of race and gender identity are, imagine how women of color must feel to separate their Blackness from their gender identity.  It’s impossible. Those are dual identities that can’t be unpacked in different months, in different conversations, in different history stories. 

Women of color experience the adverse effects of racism and sexism simultaneously.  Some of the examples of microaggressions in the workplace women of color face are people touching their hair, being over-sexualized, being called aggressive when confident, or being mis-identified as another women of color because there are so few women of color. 

How to Help

This may be a lot to hear.  By not acting, we are complicit with the systems of racism and sexism that are keeping us separated as allies.  Choosing not to act is a sign of privilege.  If you don’t have to act or address these issues, you have privilege.  

What can you do to help? 

Be curious to learn from people that are different from you. Seek out the perspectives on race and gender in the workplace and ask what you can do to be supportive.

Keep your ally radar up.  Be on the lookout for unique microaggressions that women of color uniquely face.  See something, say something.

Celebrate intersectionality. Rather than keeping Black history and women’s History months and conversations separate, consider bringing them together and celebrating intersectionality with other dimensions of diversity. 

Get other allies involved. We need white males involved in the conversation and they are very unlikely to understand the lived experiences of people of color and women in the workplace.  Spread the word. Help them understand.  Model the behavior that you would like to see more from them.

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