More than 60 years since Malcolm X’s speech declaring that, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” No truer words have been spoken yet there’s been no real response…FROM ANYONE…EVER!
The culture is compromised and we, Black women, are being impacted in a major way. It has been acceptable for men–or those who identify as such–to blatantly disrespect and disregard Black women without consequences. We can look at national crises, the former US President, the Supreme Court nomination process and so many other accounts. But this is Westchester, this is Yonkers…I’m talking about right here at home.
My employment as an aide to the Yonkers City Council began on a Friday and was to commemorate the Pan African Flag Raising. As I exited City Hall, I witnessed the elderly Black female chairperson of the event and a white male employee of the administration in discussion. However, the manner in which she was being spoken to had me immediately report the incident. No matter the circumstances, the way this adult, white male spoke to this small, elderly Black woman was unacceptable!
At another event just a year or so later, two Ward Leaders of the Yonkers Democratic City Committee were in a passionate discussion about party politics. The conversation soon shifted and the tone the man was communicating in, despite what may have been a very valid point, forced me to address the manner in which he was speaking to an elderly, Black woman in my presence. I said “You can’t speak to her this way…not in front of me” and then continued “Don’t speak to her that way.” He was immediately apologetic and expressed that the intent was not to be harmful, but nevertheless, needed to be put on notice for his uncivil behavior. He may not even recall this incident, but the elderly Black woman and I certainly do as we’ve discussed it several times in the years since.
And I will certainly NEVER forget when a sitting Council Member called the police to falsely accused me of damaging City property WITHOUT consequence or even apology! I certainly still have the report and the information is public record. As a matter of fact, the late “Sully” amended that report to reflect the truth and I will forever be grateful to him for doing what was right!
More recently, both of my children have had a challenging start to this school year. I have made numerous attempts to reach the interim superintendent and sent countless correspondences, without a single response. Not even a confirmed receipt. I was advised by his office on October 17 that he was unable to speak with me because he was preparing for a presentation before the Yonkers City Council later that evening. From that day to this, I have not received even a phone call or email response.
I reached out to two of the YPS Trustees. One of whom returned calls and emails with only “he said he is responding,” but would not confirm how or to what extent. While photo opportunities are a priority and not a parent with two children in the district in crises situations. There’s no sense of urgency because there is no consequence for the blatant disregard and disrespect of Black Women.
Relatedly, some of the challenges with the school have empowered podcaster Freddy Vazquez to mention my name and that of my minor child on his show. He incorrectly alleged that I am encouraging my son to speak disparagingly about him. And that this falsehood led to an altercation between our 7 and 8 year-old sons.
I was in hospital, inundated with calls and emails that two little boys–who are friends–are not being nice on the bus. No one in the social media comments addressed the fact that this man is essentially attacking a Black woman and her child online while she’s hospitalized without defense.
I simply asked the school to separate the children. Unfortunately, there was a failure and the two children were involved in another incident. While the child’s mother and I civilly discussed the incident to find a solution, her podcaster husband was not as respectful. I received a voicemail from her husband that I was not expecting. In the voicemail, he has no problem “coming over there.” And therein lies the problem. I expect a parent to advocate for their children, but his threats crossed a line! If he wasn’t aware that “coming over there” (to my home) means that he is meeting a disabled Black woman and her minor children…is the response the same? Ultimately, I reported his threat to the police. Their response was, “block him” and we’ll tell him not to contact you again.
In Public Safety
One final example, for months a gentleman has been illegally operating an auto mechanic operation in front of my residence. This business often blocks the parking area. I’ve reported him to the authorities and often provide images and videos of the offenses that negatively impact my family. There are fumes and chemicals from car parts and other contaminants clouding my living space. As someone with lung diseases and disorders, this is intolerable.
Recently, three cars blocked the exit from my designated parking space due to this illegal business. When I took out my mobile device to record this violation, the individual confronted me and my children. I immediately responded in fight or flight mode. I didn’t realize there was another adult male with him who also began approaching my vehicle. This forced my teenage son to exit my vehicle and advise them not to come any closer. I realized that this incident could have caused harm to my family. So, I told my son to get back in the vehicle where we awaited the police.
The man challenged me with phrases like, “you don’t want this problem“, “you don’t know who I know“, “I know all these guys,” in suspected reference to the YPD.
The residential security arrived and forced him to move the vehicles. Later, the police arrived and true to what he said, they do know him. No laws were broken, no one was harmed. Later that night, someone else associated with this man came to my home in an attempt to intimidate me. The security and police were again called. But again, no laws were broken. No one was harmed. Just the disrespect of a Black Woman.
The very next evening, he was back! Playing music from one of the vehicles. I didn’t even bother to call. No one was harmed. Just the disrespect of a Black woman.
In Health Care
We see the inequities Black women face in healthcare. In reproductive health, maternal health, and the obvious impact on our mental and emotional health. When did this become acceptable?
Now, I am certain that if any of the men described here expected to be met with a prominent male energy, they would not be so bold!
If the lady in the first example had a male with her, would the conversation be more respectful? Would a senior party leader be subjected to such disrespect if these men knew that other men would defend? Would my appeals to the superintendent receive a response if anyone said not even returning a call or email is unacceptable. Or would the two men who attempted to intimidate me behave in such a way if they knew it would result in undesirable consequences.
What is it about the strength and power of Black women that men don’t seem to use respect, care, or compassion when engaging us? Is it antipathy for the angry, Black woman stereotype that incites this response even when it is not warranted or justified? WHICH IS NEVER! STOP THE DISRESPECT OF BLACK WOMEN! That’s the CALL! That’s the ACTION! STOP!