Most people are aware of the hierarchy within many societies around the globe. At the very top are rich white heterosexual cis-gender men, followed closely by white women with the same characteristics. In the middle you get everyone from poor white people, rich people of colour, black men, East Asians, Middle Eastern people and so on. At the very bottom, you get black women, a group that I am very much a part, and we receive the shots from both racism and sexism. Thankfully in the last few years I have had my eyes opened to the awesomeness and necessity of intersectionality and intersectional feminism. We do not all experience oppression and discrimination in the same way.
The experiences of a white woman who is being discriminated because she is a woman, is not the same as a black woman. She will have to deal with the sexism because she is a woman, and the racism that comes as a package deal because she is black. The messy bun of a white woman would not be called into question at work, but the locs of a black woman would.
It is only recently that people have started to take note that it is not just black men that are affected by racism. The murder of Sandra Bland at the hands of law enforcement brought about the hashtag #SayHerName. which unfortunately has needed to be used with more frequency. Names were also added to this hashtag as transgender women of colour are being brutally killed in the US, with the latest being Keisha Jenkins in Philadelphia.
Reading all of that and being exposed to such news stories is enough to make you tire of the skin you’re in, as it is not doing you any favours. However, I have had the immense opportunity of seeing women of colour slaying the game. I have had the pleasure of knowing some incredible women who are reaching great heights, being a brain box PhD student in the sciences. And others who are the head of their departments, to working their way up to change the fashion industry. Even online, I have been reading the amazing tales of black women doing exactly what it is they want to do, how they want to do it.
There are groups and websites that are dedicated to, and celebrate the experiences of, black women within the LGBTQ community. Others that focus on the intersection of race and religion, such the Twitter hashtags #BlackEid and #BlackAndMuslim that sought to show how black Muslims celebrated Eid and other Islamic traditions and holidays. As I am absolutely obsessed with travelling and all things travel related, it has been especially great for me to live vicariously through different women around the globe that are getting out there and seeing the world. And more importantly, letting the world see them. Yes, we travel too, even if we do have to pay an extra thought to haircare around different climates.
While black women are at the bottom of the pecking order, black Muslim women face a different battle. Black lesbian women go through issues that don’t affect other black women, and black transgender women are often killed. These are all marginalised groups, but there are dialogues open about them and the struggles are more well known. The conversations are not as mainstream as they should be, but the conversations are being had, and their stories are being told.
However, one thing that I have regularly found missing within the conversations of the different experiences of black women, is that of disabled black women. A quick Google search for “disabled black woman” only bring up a few relevant websites or articles. They usually focus on one or two of the words “disabled woman”, “black woman” and not all three. There appears to be a lack of voices out there for black women that have a disability. Even in conversations of discrimination, we are rarely brought up, if ever. It’s as though we are invisible and thus our problems and concerns are put on the back burner.
Thinking off the top of my head, the well known disabled women I can come up with are all white. Marlee Matlin who is a deaf Oscar award winning actress, Stella Young who was a comedian, journalist and disability activist who spent most of her life in a wheelchair, and British Paralympians Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ellie Simmonds. But try as I might, no famous disabled black women come to mind, we’re not in the media. None that are well known enough to pop up on the first page of a Google search, unless you knew of them already. It is a case of, out of sight, out of mind.
I would not be able to speak on the experiences of black women within the LGTBQ community as I have no idea what they go through, as I am heterosexual and cis-gender. There are other black women at different intersections that I would not be able to fully understand their experiences and the things that they have been through. And it is because of this that everyone needs to be included in discussions of feminism and society as a whole. While our voices may be all the way at the back and in very hushed tones, there are a few disabled black women online that I do admire. I will be adding a new post soon celebrating the disabled black women that inspire me to do better and reach for greater heights.
If you are a disabled black woman or a disabled woman of colour, or know any please do get in contact with me via Twitter, Facebook or email. We need to spread the word out, we’re here and we’re awesome!