Black Girls Demanding Respect: On Racism, Sexism and Double Standards

“Girls of color (Asian, Native American, African American, Latino) have forever been caretakers.  That is what we are taught, from baby-sitting our siblings to cooking for our families.  Part of being a caretaker means defending men of color—our fathers, uncles, brothers…We have been trained to stand by them…We as females of color have been told that sexism does not exist for us or is not important…Yet I cannot even begin to count all the disrespectful and derogatory things I have heard from the mouths of men of color…I know there are many wonderful, respectful men of color, so I have no reason to be angry.  Yet still I am.  Our men should be outraged…They should not tolerate having their mothers, sisters and daughters subject to such oppression.”  Iris Jacobs, My Sisters’ Voices: Teenage Girls of Color Speak Out

By Raziya Estes, 9th grade

Growing up as a Black girl, I couldn’t relate to Iris Jacobs’ quote more.  I’ve always felt the need to sacrifice my wellbeing without the expectation of receiving the same treatment back.  While I 100% agree that men of color face racism and systematic oppression, women of color not only have to deal with racism, but also the hardships of sexism and misogyny.  Not to mention a lot of the sexism comes from the men within these marginalized communities.

As a Black girl, I’ve never been held to the same standard as my brother. Even though we share oppressive hardships, our experiences due to our gender will be different. My brother never had to worry if his hair or style was going to be seen as “ghetto”. He never had to worry that if he expressed being upset he would be called an “angry Black woman.”  The perception of my existence isn’t of me as a person, it’s of me as a Black girl—as though Black girls are not people and whiteness is the invisible standard for being human.  It’s not fair to only be recognized as your race and sex, when you as an individual are so much more.

The 2007 Eddie Murphy film “Norbit ” is a great example of how Black women’s bodies are portrayed with negative stereotypes.  Women of color don’t get to be seen as just “women”, like white women are.  They are always reduced to their race and are pressured by society to reach a Westernized expectation of beauty.  Most men of color and white women are never held to that standard.  Racialized sexism is used to mock and stereotype women of color, to ultimately devalue and depreciate us.  If men of color could recognize some of the privilege they possess simply for being male, It could shine a light on the justification of the oppression that women of color face.

These stereotypes and double standards influence Black women’s experiences in childbirth.  According to a CDC study, “Gendered racism that affects the health of women of color has implications for their children as well. Studies have shown differences in pregnancy stress for Black and Latina women due to race and gender stereotypes.” The medical system does not prioritize women of color enough, and especially not through childbirth. As a mother, you shouldn’t have to deal with the stress of discrimination and inequality while giving birth. Serena Williams’ journey of childbirth was overwhelming to say the least.  In an article in Elle magazine, she writes: “I told [the nurse that] ‘I need to have a CAT scan of my lungs bilaterally, and then I need to be on my heparin drip.  The nurse said, ‘I think all this medicine is making you talk crazy.’ I said, ‘No, I’m telling you what I need: I need the scan immediately. And I need it to be done with dye.’ I guess I said the name of the dye wrong, and she told me I just needed to rest. But I persisted: ‘I’m telling you, this is what I need.’ Finally, the nurse called my doctor, and she listened to me and insisted we check. I fought hard, and I ended up getting the CAT scan.  I’m so grateful to her.  Lo and behold, I had a blood clot in my lungs, and they needed to insert a filter into my veins to break up the clot before it reached my heart.” No one should have to deal with so many birth complications and struggles, due to carelessness.  Women of color should get the same treatment and empathy as anyone else.

Together, as people of color–of all genders–we need to stand against the sexist gospels society burdens us with. The act of simply recognizing an issue for what it is has a lot of value.

Raziya Estes is a ninth grader at Palisades HS. She likes philosophy and fashion, and aspires to be psychologist.