by Chanelle Adams
There is a gross misconception in the world that Black women are supposed to be everything for everyone. We are expected to be rocks that hold it down, powerful voices of truth, and patient educators even in the face of endless adversity. While #BlackGirlMagic is real and Black women are incredible, some people seem to think Black women are here on Earth to endlessly do work for other people.
When we do anything to uplift ourselves, we get attacked from all angles. This was the case with April Reign, the Black woman who created #OscarsSoWhite last year. She started the hashtag to call attention to the lack of representation of people of color and marginalized communities in film. This year, #OscarsSoWhite gained even more attention and some consider it the cause of why Oscar viewership decreased by 6% this year.
Chris Rock, the host of this year’s Oscars, made a few slippery comments that mentioned the hashtag. There are layers here. Not only did Chris fail to mention that #OscarsSoWhite was started by a Black woman but he also reduced April’s commentary on Hollywood to a Black/white issue, which was not the original intention of April’s tweets.
To be exceedingly clear, Chris Rock doesn't speak for #OscarsSoWhite. I do, as its creator. Don't assume he does because he's Black. Savvy?
— ☔️ April ☔️ (@ReignOfApril) February 29, 2016
At this point, non-Black PoC, many of whom were originally against #OscarsSoWhite, noticed the attention it was getting and then began to blame Black people for not including non-Black PoC in the movement for representation. In addition to that misunderstanding, it became clear that people also expected that Black women do the labor for representation for all PoC.
In response to the non-Black PoC who came for April after Chris Rock’s comments, Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) kicked #NotYourMule back into action for the first time since 2014.
This goes back to what I was saying in #NotYourMule, you don't get to ask black women for our labor & then insist on our silence.
— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) February 27, 2014
Someone tell me not to a do a #NotYourMule tag about the expectation that Black people take all the risk to advance representation in media.
— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) February 29, 2016
Mikki created the hashtag #NotYourMule but Black women have been talking and writing about how Black women’s labor has been expected and exploited for decades.
The idea that Black women are the mules of the world was written about almost a century ago by Zora Neale Hurston, specifically about Black women’s labor. Alice Walker, the author and poet, reiterated this point 50 years later. Hurston and Walker recognized that Black women are overworked, under-valued, and still expected to carry the burdens of everybody else. As #NotYourMule has shown, little has changed since then.
Some people really have the nerve to demand a Black woman's labor as if they have the right to it. #NotYourMule https://t.co/y4CESSHnvc
— Neptune (@merisqin) February 29, 2016
There are plenty who play in the erasure of black women including Black men yet we still find our voice #notyourmule https://t.co/NLP84MeddV
— AL (@AIL24) February 29, 2016
When changes kick in, anti-black PoC who complained #onhere tonight will benefit from a black woman's creation. #NotYourMule #OscarsSoWhite
— Lauren Bouvier (@_Elle_Spencer_) February 29, 2016
nonblack ppl be like 'black women cant be comfy like bey, be exiled&abused like assata to be real. but ima sit on my ass.' #NotYourMule
— Planet Thickness (@bad_dominicana) May 19, 2015
Chanelle Adams is Managing Editor at BGD. When Chanelle is not talking about the core issues at inappropriate times, you can find Chanelle sleeping or on Twitter @nellienooks.
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