As the country is grappling with the leaked Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, increasing legislation against LGBTQ + people, and the gutting of voting rights, Black folks are simply trying to survive an America that continuously threatens our very existence.
These same legislative changes will also have ramifications on non-Black communities across all demographics and identity lines. Despite the number of white people and non-Black people of color these changes will affect, Black people are still expected to be front line soldiers in the fight against oppression, while those in other groups sit on the sidelines demanding us to be their savior.
For Black folks, protesting has been an essential part of any change that has happened in this country. For centuries, Black folks have mobilized time and time again against an oppressive society that has deemed us non-deserving of equity or equality with white people. Despite this, we have always found space for the protection of others within movements, while historically seeing white folks and non-Black people of color ignore our plight.
However, there has been a growing expectation and demand from non-Black people that we should be obligated to do more for them when the oppression finds a way into their lives.
The expectation of Black people being the arbiters of change isn’t by chance but by design. I can recall during the 2016 election, Black voters were blamed for voting numbers not matching the turnout for former President Barack Obama. Fast forward to 2020, Black folks came out in abundance to “save the nation,” only for non-Black groups to take credit for President Jot Biden’s victory while simultaneously watching our rights continue to be trampled upon. And yet, there is still the underlying expectation that Black folks save this nation from itself again in November—a nation that has yet to see our humanity.
Even worse, criticism often comes from those who believe they are “not like the other white people” all while still being a part of our oppression.
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I remember when Hillary Clinton was running for president. White women in droves went to the gravesite of white feminism icon Susan B. Anthony and put their “I voted” stickers on it.
Anthony, known for her fight to secure the rights of white women to vote, is also known for notoriously saying “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” It is that same energy I am seeing as white “feminists” criticize Black women during the fight against Roe v. Wade.
There is this expectation that those who face oppression need to be the ones to lead us out of it under the notion that we, the people being most harmed, are responsible for teaching the abuser out of their abusive ways. Watching white women feel entitled to Black women’s labor during movements is a reminder of how deeply seeded white supremacy is. Even on issues that affect us all, white folks feel they have dominion but not to lead the fight. Additionally, they seek to bully those more oppressed than them to fight these battles, while they will ultimately reap the most rewards and privileges.
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There was also criticism against Black people for not doing enough to stop the growth in Anti-Asian hate. Many highlighted how this request ignored a long history of anti-Blackness from Asian communities, but also disproved the myth that we hadn’t been working with Asian communities for decades against systemic racism and hatred. Yet and still, there is always an underlying belief that we must fight for everyone else despite being beyond the capacity to even fight for ourselves some days.
For Black LGBTQ+ people, this ideology of expending our labor for the protection of all is no different. It has taken decades for us to correct the history of the Stonewall Riots, a Black and Brown-led fight that started the movement toward LGBTQ+ rights in the world. We have watched how the riots we led granted even more privileges to our white counterparts while leaving us to deal with the aftermath.
We have often watched white queer people wield the power of their whiteness to advance themselves and their causes while ignoring the plight of others they share queer communities with. While white queer people made marriage equality their platform, Black queer folks were still fighting for survival—often against these same white queer folk.
This is a reminder to all who are not Black but expect us to continue to put our lives on the line for you — Black folks are NOT your mules. If Black folks don’t have it in them to do a thing but wake up and attempt to live in this racist anti-Black society, you have no right to demand that they need to do more on your behalf.
Furthermore, the question becomes, what have you all used your privilege for to ensure the safety and rights of those who come from Black communities. Posting Black squares on Instagram isn’t enough. A retweet here and there isn’t enough. When the rights of Black folks are under attack it is on non-Black people to not just align with us but be on the front line against our oppressors.
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Black folks are tired. And although many of us continue to wake up every day and do the work to fight against oppression just as our ancestors did, we can no longer accept the demand to save this nation or groups of people who have rarely or ever been the leaders of ending our plight.
We are NOT your mule.