Black Girls Rock!
The title of Beverly Bond’s celebration of Black women and girls is confirmation. It’s a declaration that gives us permission to be confident, to love ourselves and to do both unapologetically. It reminds us Black girls that we mean something to this world, but more importantly, it strengthens our kinship and familial pride.
Tuesday night, BET aired the annual show honoring Black women and girls who’ve rocked in business, community activism and entertainment. Each moment one of my sisters was celebrated was bittersweet, though, as I anxiously awaited the moment Hillary Clinton would take the stage, reminding all the Black women and girls in that room, and all the others of us watching and reading about it, that even when we are the focus and the purpose, space can be requested and made for our exploitation.
The 2016 Black Girls Rock! celebration was the sixth time the event was televised. Hillary Clinton had already been a prominent political figure for decades before the program’s inaugural airing in 2010. With the kind of prestige and power she wields, certainly she could have made a request to appear on the show years ago. Before she hit the Presidential campaign trail, however, we “rocking Black girls” must not have been nearly as valuable to her. So to call her convenient show of admiration and support of all the Black women whose lives are devalued, whose purpose is always in question, and who fight daily just to exist disingenuous is putting it mildly.
Clinton’s appearance last night was a typical, yet no less distasteful demonstration of her willingness to invade spaces constructed exclusively for Black people, spaces painstakingly carved out because we are silenced, ignored and exploited when we try to co-exist socially with White people not unlike the former First Lady, whenever those spaces provide an opportunity for her to win favor and votes.
If Hillary Clinton’s decades of public visibility displayed even arguably that she indeed believes that Black women, despite our systemic and systematic disenfranchisement, are worth uplifting and protecting, her intrusion may have been an easier pill to swallow. But contrarily, her record confirms her endorsement of and active participation in the oppression of Black women. Further, her presence in our spaces represents not only a duplicitous effort to feign solidarity while her policies and voting history say the opposite, but that she subscribes to the belief that Black people — Black women particularly – lack the skill and interest to interrogate political candidates motive, comparing what they say with what they do.
Hillary Clinton entered to a standing ovation from all the Black women who were there to be celebrated and elevated. The symbolism of a White woman, who lobbied for and supported her husband’s policies which saw many Black women incarcerated for years for non-violent first time drug offenses, being cheered as she took center stage at an event lauded as an exclusive celebration of the power and wondrous spirit of Black women and girls is gut-wrenchingly ironic. It communicates to Black women that no matter how fantastic we are, no matter the feats we accomplish, no matter the tragedy we overcome to achieve greatness, we should always humble ourselves at the feet of White women. It tells us that for all we do and have done to survive and prosper against all odds, we must always grant reverence to Whiteness. We learned for the millionth time last night that our magnificence is only solidified through White validation. And we saw once again that if nothing else, this world gives White women the permission to always be brazen.
It takes Herculean arrogance to stand before Black women and issue the audacious affirmation that, “…the entire world knows what you know, and that is Black girls rock,” just five weeks after you all but dismissed a Black woman who demanded you stand accountable for your coded language that covertly labeled Black children “super predators.” That the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination so nonchalantly stood on the same stage in the same spot that the women who founded Black Lives Matter stood speaking the names of Black women and men murdered by the state not 15 minutes earlier, when her campaign strategy has seemingly been to evade, downplay and trivialize demands to detail what she plans to do about the routine, state-sanctioned and often unpunished extrajudicial killings of unarmed Black people from those in the movement roars that the world does not in fact know that Black girls rock. When one of the most powerful women in the world, who just so happens to be White, comfortably stands telling Black women how the world recognizes our value after Black woman after Black woman took the microphone to explain that the reason Black Girls Rock is even necessary is because society beats us down from birth, it’s safe to say that her words are no more than the empty rhetoric she’s perfected.
After the former Senator introduced Beverly Bond, I nearly turned off the program. I was almost robbed of fully enjoying and embracing my sisters. I kept watching though, because I owed it to myself, and all the other Black women there to hear them out and stick with them, something Hillary Clinton has never learned to do. It was par for the course. Every rocking Black girl learns sooner or later to graciously suffer through the invasive egotism bred in White women. I just hope for day when we selfishly hoard the spotlight.
La Sha is a writer and blogger passionate about black people. Find her on Twitter @knflkkollective.com.