By Cheryl Mattox Berry
Throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, I’ve been struggling with how to tell black women that they need to join the #MeToo movement to protest violence against black girls and women. I was tired of preaching and couldn’t think of a fresh way to deliver the message.
My answer came Saturday in the voice of 11-year-old Naomi Wadler of Alexandria, Va., who addressed the subject at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. This beautiful, brown child stood bravely before 800,000 people and told them that she was there to represent African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of newspapers or the evening news.
Make them Hear You
Poised and passionate, she said black girls and women are disproportionately affected by gun violence. And let me add that they are being sexually abused by relatives, family friends and neighbors, but few want to confront this dirty secret.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010-2012 State Report published last year found that 35.5 percent of non-Hispanic black women have experienced some form of contact sexual violence, which includes rape, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact, in their lifetime. For Hispanic women, it was 26.9 percent; and for Asian Pacific Islander women, 22.9 percent
Many black women have turned a blind eye and become deaf to stories about black sexual predators, especially entertainers. They buy into the street chatter that the allegations are an attempt to bring down successful black men.
Exhibit A: Singer R. Kelly, who struts around adoring black female fans like he’s a god. Although he hasn’t been convicted of a crime, his abuse of black teenage girls in Chicago and young black women in the Atlanta area is legendary.
Attempts to get his songs off the radio haven’t been as successful as getting rid of powerful white men who’ve abused white women. Sistahs, that’s what the #MeToo movement has accomplished. Why don’t you want that, too?
Black women have so much distrust of white women that we’ve been mostly silent, standing on the sidelines of #MeToo. I understand. I know the history of what white women did during the suffragette movement; how they were unsympathetic to our issues during the feminist movement of the 1960s; and how the face of the movement is white actress Rose McGowan instead of the black founder Tarana Burke.
The #MeToo movement is different because the times are different. There are enough black women in powerful positions and at the grassroots level to keep us from getting lost in the narrative. We are a part of story and need to spread our message.
If Naomi is courageous enough to tell the world to stop the violence against us, what can we do to make that happen?
Apathy is not an option. Join the #MeToo movement. Make them hear you!