by Mia McKenzie
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a holiday filled with emotional contrasts. Joy to be with loved ones. Sorrow and anger over the awful, twisted history that the day is supposed to commemorate. I love the sweet potato casserole, but I hate the legacy. To be clear, the Pilgrims were rapists and murderers who took. They didn’t give.
But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about giving thanks, completely unrelated to tomorrow but nevertheless timely (at least in my own life).
This post is a thank-you to Black Women.
Black women give a lot. We are expected to. Expected by ourselves and by everyone else. It is part of the legacy of thinking around us that we are capable of infinite giving. Because we have survived centuries upon centuries of brutality and humiliation, centuries upon centuries of degradation and murder, centuries upon centuries of rape and erasure and, well, pretty much every other fucked up thing you can imagine, we are thought to be able to surviveanything and keep on giving. We are called strong. We are called resilient. We are called all kinds of things.
We give. We give to our partners, to our children, to our parents, to our friends, to our churches, to our work. We give. All while carrying the immense burden of oppression—of black people and of women—on our shoulders. Despite almost never being fully respected anywhere, we give. Despite almost never seeing ourselves accurately represented outside of our own minds, we give. Despite having to defend and prove our intelligence on a daily basis, we give. Despite being thought of as less than human by a great deal of the population, we give. Despite being used for everyone’s gain but our own, we give. We give. And give.
We struggle. We fight. We stand up and shout, sometimes when no one else will. Even when we don’t shout, we are still fighting. Every day we fight. To get anything in this world as a black woman, fighting is mandatory. Even the small battles a black woman fights are enormous. And all the time we are fighting, we are still giving.
While everyone is taking.
The world takes from black women as if we are busted vending machines, our contents spilling out onto a cold linoleum floor, up for grabs. It takes our labor, our creativity, our children, our humanity. If we dare ask for anything back—any respect, any kindness, any consideration, any resources—we are called lazy, we are accused of asking for handouts, of wanting things. We are expected to give everything in return for nothing.
Who in the world sees a black woman stumbling and thinks, it’s no wonder with all the weight she has to carry? Who, instead of extending a criticism, extends a hand to her? Who thanks her, especially in the moments of stumbling, for all that she has given, for all the deaths she has died and kept on giving?
This post is a thank-you for all of that.
To my sisters: thank you for your love and your strength and all the ways that you give to me. Thank you for your nurturing and your dancing and your screaming. Thank you for the ways that you are silent and the ways that you are never silent. Thank you for enduring, for somehow carrying the weight of burdens too heavy to carry, burdens you should not have to bear, still, after all this time. Thank you for the battles you fight every day, the battles that keep us alive. Thank you for the ways you grow, even without food or water, in places where nothing could be expected to grow. Thank you for the ways you love me. Thank you for the ways you make me who I am.
Thank you for all that you give. Even when no one is looking, even when no one knows, when no one understands.
I see you.
With all my heart.
Mia McKenzie is a writer and a smart, scrappy Philadelphian with a deep love of vegan pomegranate ice cream and fake fur collars. She is a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings, which have won her some awards and grants, such as the Astraea Foundation’s Writers Fund Award and the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award. Her debut novel is out in December, and she has a short story forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. Her work has been recommended by The Root, Colorlines, Feministing, Angry Asian Man, and Crunk Feminist Collective. She is a nerd, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous, a revolutionary blog.
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