#BlackLivesMatter is a Feminist Issue

The past few weeks have been a very trying time in terms of American race relations.  I find myself, along with others, holding a myriad of emotions (fear, anger, confusion, dismay, apathy), as well as hope and love when seeing the efforts of protesters and minority communities coming together in solidarity to speak out against injustice.  Sadly, I find that as a Black feminist, it is too easy to become disheartened with the current state of racial injustice; too easy to relate current events to historical depictions of the treatment of minorities in America; too easy to just want to ignore or become apathetic about such real and present reminders of privilege, power and inequality.  It’s too easy to pretend that if it doesn’t directly affect you, then it’s not going to affect you at all. 
After reading numerous news articles and Facebook posts about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, a friend of mine stated “Everyone expects me to be sad about this, I don’t understand because it’s not directly affecting me.  I didn’t personally know the Black men involved”.  In that moment, I became well aware of just how easy it is to allow yourself to become so removed from the situation that you believe it doesn’t affect you at all.  No, I did not personally know Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice or Renisha McBride, but I speak their names to affirm and validate their lives and experiences.  I do, however, know my brothers, my father, my uncles, my cousins, and myself.  As much as I imagine that their loved ones worried for their safety, I worry for the safety of my loved ones as well.  I worry for my 3 brothers, because I know that it doesn't matter that they are educated, humble, respectful & caring individuals, having black skin has been/is seen as a crime in and of itself.   I worry for myself, as a perpetual student and resident of the Ivory Tower.  How will my passion and pride in my communities; my outrage with “the system”; and my anger as a Black woman be viewed amongst friends, advisors, colleagues?  I worry for my friends who may not understand fully the historical implications of abuses of power and privilege directed towards racial and ethnic minorities.  I worry about how this will impact views and interactions with and of them.  Most of all I worry that my anger will be invalidated and cast among the innumerable stereotypes attached to a body that identifies as Black, feminist, activist, scholar, PhD student.  I worry the same worries that have stressed those who have paved the way for my existence in this space, place and time in my life.
When talking about race and cultural competence (as I somehow always find myself doing amongst friends), I was once asked “So how is this a feminist issue?”  Shocked, confused, and embarrassed, I found myself struggling to find an answer on the spot.  Sometimes the words that you are looking for have already been spoken and connecting to those words and the lips from which they emerged brings the most meaning to your experience.  So how is #BlackLivesMatter a feminist issue?  I believe that Audre Lorde spoke it best in saying: “I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions comes as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.” – Audre Lorde

- Written by Tangela Roberts, M.S. 

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