Amandla Stenberg is trying to figure out why Black women do not matter and so am I. By now you know that on Sunday, Stenberg commented on a picture of Kylie Jenner wearing cornrows, saying, “When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter.” On the show Watch What Happens Live Andy Cohen declared the feud between Stenberg and Jenner “The Jackhole of the Day.” Andre Leon Tally and Laverne Cox co-signed the sentiment.
Corn rows, locs, afros are styles that allow Black women to maintain the texture of their hair whilst affirming their identity within a society that incessantly tells Black women that they are not beautiful. I am reminded of my struggle to allow my perm to grow out and sport my natural hair. I am reminded that I was told I would not be able to get a job wearing my natural hair. I am reminded of all the sanctions against Black hair within and across organizations. I am reminded of why my mother printed out a large banner when I was 7 years old with the saying “Sheena Is A Beautiful Princess.” I grew up with this banner over my bed until I moved away for college. Nothing about America tells a little Black girl that she is beautiful, she is worthy and that she is valued.
Bubbling under the surface of the Black Lives Matter movement is the persecution of Black women whilst Black men and often times Black women remain complicit. As members of the Black community, Andre Leon Tally and Laverne Cox represent a microcosm of the ways in which we allow Black women and girls to be slaughtered both physically and mentally without pushback.
Amandla Stenberg’s assessment of Black culture being mimicked, but Black people not being valued is accurate yet, Stenberg finds herself being humiliated on national television by a panel of public figures in which not one Black woman is even represented – forget the fact that she is a child. This happens at the same time Serena Williams continues to be disrespected because of her physique, at the same time a Black female model publicizes the fact that she has to bring her own make-up to photo shoots, at the same time the economic recovery has left Black women behind, at the same time Black women cannot educate themselves to fair pay, at the same time a Black female high school graduate fails to earn as much as a White male drop-out with a 9th grade education or less, at the same time … this could go on for pages but I will stop there.
Let’s not forget the ways in which several people supported the cultural appropriation employed by Rachel Dolezal and embraced her self-prescribed authority to speak for and as a Black female, despite how immensely disrespectful her actions were to Black women but the complicity of the Black communities response was (including Melissa Harris Perry’s interview with her) disheartening. Who fights for Black women, when Black women are not afforded a space to fight for themselves?
All measures tell Black women that their lives do not matter. Most people cannot even recall the name of one of the women who were killed in Charleston, South Carolina at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, even though 6 of those victims were Black women.
On an episode of Being Mary Jane, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (as himself) comments on an article that makes the argument that Black women are less attractive. Mark Anthony Neal emphasized the need for Black men to stand in solidarity with Black women, and how their silence “is complicit in these attacks.” Yet, we are reminded time and time again that we are not worth fighting for whilst simultaneously we fight unapologetically for those around us.
Amandla Stenberg is the same child that played Rue in Hunger Games in which she received public scrutiny because upset fans wanted her role to be played by a W\white actress. Amandla Stenberg has seen and lived through her fair share of racism before even making it to adulthood and will continue to do so, just like every other Black person in the United States. As a young adult, coming of age, Amanda Stenberg is standing up for principles she believes in and has been doing so for some time. We, especially Black people, should be supporting her and applauding her for advocating for issues that she cares about and advocating for the fight against, not only Black male oppression but Black female oppression. So, I ask, why don’t Black women matter?