Law in Contemporary Society

Black Tongues Can Lick (Wounds), Too


Through words and expression, Black women can carve a space for coalition-building in the face of exclusion and ultimately go where we are loved and desired, knowing we cherish, love, and value one another. Ideologies within the Black community, argued by some to be mere words, directly tie into the lives of Black women. Words call out deeper truths. We see this when Black is called the n-word. It escapes to the psyche, even implicitly. As Black women, we must use our words to engage in radical sisterhood by sharing our experiences, create conscious-raising spaces, and educate ourselves in the global struggle against misogynoir.

Looking at my experiences in education (Columbia and Connecticut College), Black women make up most of the boards of leadership and exert most of the work for community engagement. Without them, there would not be organizations for our community members. Furthermore, note which voices are heard in the Black community. Which historians do we keep note of? Who do we call leaders? The common idea of unity in our community works to support the men and burden the women. One may tell themself: "Well, I know of these Black women and it is important to not let that stop you," but the issues Black women face are not one to look past. Often, Black men get praise for their thoughts of community while Black women constantly labor for others with little benefit to themselves. We must labor for ourselves and turn words, meant to oppress us and lower our worth, into a mode of radical change. Black women must organize groups and craft a community that deconstructs notions of internalized white supremacy. Coalition spaces will lead to funding grants for Black women in need, releasing our incarcerated sisters and mothers, storytelling, applying for leadership, assisting others in community activism, creating food banks, and sharing what resources we may have for the collective, as our foremothers did for us.

While it is important to address how we can use words towards radical sisterhood, what can we do concretely to avoid internalizing misogynoir with constant beratement through words? Examining the Black Panther Party's issues with sexual violence, Kathleen Cleaver said that "the Black men would let it be known that they thought white women was beautiful and they say they didn't want any ugly black woman with short hair." An old problem of self-hatred lives within the Black community through these words, but how can we dismantle deeper issues of patriarchy? Of sexual violence?

One way is for Black women to use artistic expression as activism to center their experiences. Internalized values of white supremacy, such as colorism and texturism, have tangible real-world manifestations and communicate the exclusion of Black women in a global society. The color hierarchy says, and this rang true in the book 'Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston, Black women are valued by their proximity to whiteness. It tells Black women whoever is lighter will get the job; that they must apologize if their hair is short from forcing perms and straighteners or for not having a loose 2c curl, an issue voiced with the Crown Act, and to be wary of community because if something happens in the community, be it sexual violence or aggression, you will not be the ones supported. In my year traveling with the Watson Fellowship, I spoke with a variety of Black femme artists who defied misogynoir ideology: pole dancers, drag queens, aerialists, clowns, dominatrices, rappers, seamstresses, poets, painters, and more. I found that Black women, in expressing themselves through art, communicated ideas of liberation that centered themselves. Sharing lived experiences are a common theme in Black feminist literature. Patricia Hill Collins, a Black feminist theorist, voiced so many of my lived experiences in "Black Feminist Thought." Collins told me that Black women would need to eventually re-evaluate our muling and share our voices, to which I agree.

As art has also been a method of oppression, Black women sharing their art will allow their psyche respite, providing images and feelings of affirmation through feminist artwork. This should not be difficult, as Black women are already artists; constantly imagining ways of centering themselves in the world. Organizing book clubs, funding women-based art programs, and supporting Black female artists will be the communal goal of Black feminist expression. Black women are told to be invisible, as Black women's lives are not valued unless they are an object of desirability. This isn't a value demanded by mere words, but supported by toxic community action. Even at the behest of others, we must take time to express ourselves as we can further learn how to navigate this world by understanding our common hardships and finding ways to move forward.


"You so pretty"


"Aint nothing as fine as chocolate wine"


"We trendsetters for real"

"If it ain't us then who?"

"I aint doing a thing but staying fine and Black"

"Miss ma'am"

"Being free feels nice as fuck."

"Ask for help if you need it"

"Chin up, we got work to do"

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r11 - 01 Jun 2023 - 02:49:28 - TashaylaBorden
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