Women of Color and the #MeToo Movement – Why They Need to Be Heard

Women of Color and the #MeToo Movement

Why They Need to Be Heard

It is a fact that women of color are the most violently targeted people in the world.
Does the #MeToo movement apply to women of color?

So, what about the #MeToo movement and what does it mean to women who have, since the beginning of time, lacked representation, lacked inclusion and had no voice? Women of color, especially black women, have been reporting harassment, rape and more since the beginning of time, and have always been silenced. The message #MeToo sent to a woman of color is, if you are wealthy (influential) and white, people will listen because you matter.

When you are white and aggrieved, people will hear you. They will hear your outcries, they will hear your protest, they will share on their social media platforms by the millions and yes – it will go viral. People will shout it from the tallest mountains and untorn every stone because you are white, and you are important enough. The world has no choice but to pay attention, and now get angry, because you are Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Fowler, Ashley Judd, McKayla Maroney, Jennifer Lawrence, or Uma Thurman, and how dare these men treat you that way.

When actress Ashley Judd stood up against Harvey Weinstein, the cry of #MeToo caught fire.

Wasn’t it an African-American woman by the name of Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, who founded the #MeToo movement over a decade ago in 2006? She used it for the same exact reason: to raise awareness of sexual abuse, rape and assault on women. Could Tarana have been louder? Possibly, but non-white women are told to be quiet when we feel wronged.

Women of color, especially black women, have been reporting harassment, rape and more since the beginning of time, and have always been silenced.

When actress Ashley Judd stood up against Harvey Weinstein, the cry of #MeToo caught fire. It was a breaking story and in all the headlines. Not to mention the shock, when we hear that good ole Matt Lauer was fired and must go. What was new about this story this time? Most women I’ve talked to have experienced some level of sexual harassment in the workplace and in society. Time Magazine even went as far as doing a cover called the “Silence Breakers,” naming the #MeToo movement as Person of the Year. So now, in 2017, it’s okay to be a silence breaker and say to the world, that sexual harassment and rape is not okay… what took so long?!  It is a fact that movements are highly successful when combined with power and influence, and the world has always told women of color that they have none. What happens to a culture that has been victimized, shut out, shunned, and silenced? They lose their voice, they feel weak, and they fear speaking up when marginalized, discriminated against, and told to be quiet. The mindset is because you don’t look like us, your voice doesn’t matter and how dare you question it. For a fact, non-white women do not have a platform and black voices are discredited.

Being an African-American woman, you are made aware of the challenges and oppositions early. As a child, I traveled four hours a day (two hours each way) for 8 years, just to get a quality education. It was evident to me that education, access, opportunities, support, and resources for African Americans are disparate.

Racism is real, still alive today, and institutionalized, which contributes to why no one was paying attention to a hashtag or a slogan from a young black woman named Tarana from the Bronx. Combine that with the lack of African-American women in decision making roles, power, and access. Awareness and empathy must go hand and hand for change.

Being an African-American woman, you are made aware of the challenges and oppositions early. As a child, I traveled two hours a day (a total of 4 hours daily) – for 8 years- just to get a quality education. It was evident to me that education, access, opportunities, support and resources for African Americans are disparate. Racism is real, still alive today and institutionalized, so, whose paying attention to a hashtag or a slogan from a young black woman named Tarana from the Bronx. Combine that with the lack of African American women in decision making roles, power and access. Awareness and empathy must go hand and hand.

This #MeToo movement is no different than most historical feminist movements, which contain active racism, and have typically ignored the needs of non-white women even though women of color are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment. Let’s change the benchmark and correct actions of wrong, from not just hearing the voices of privileged white women, but to hearing the voices of black women. It is by doing this that we will make a mark and the world will win.

Of course, women of color care about the #MeToo movement (we’ve always cared) BUT we’ve never been heard. When there is no power and influence behind the message, who’s listening? One thing for sure is that black women have always advocated for human rights, injustice, and social justice – before it was popular to do so. There would be no #MeToo movement without black women. Let’s hope that society be willing to listen the next time non-white women speak up the first time.

Anna Foster

Anna Foster is the Founder/CEO of A Maven’s World. She is a connector, influencer, radio host, event host, and speaker. She’s known by her clients as the “Maven of Business,” because of her entrepreneurial savvy and strategies of brand development and enhancement. Anna’s work has earned her various awards and recognitions; most recently including the Ignatius Foundation Sapphire Award.

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