Black women have long protected the black man’s ego, worth and back. Still, society — and black men — continue to mistreat them.
“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.”
— Malcolm X, in a speech he gave May 22, 1962, in Los Angeles.
Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers, Betty Shabazz and Rachel Robinson — these are all women of color who supported their famous husbands during the Civil Rights movement. They also ensured their spouses were not the most disrespected, unprotected or neglected people in America.
These women are why the work of Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Jackie Robinson live on today. In trying times, these extraordinary men stood tall upon and gathered strength from the unyielding support of women.
Supporting the movement
Coretta Scott King was the standard bearer for making sure her husband’s legacy was kept intact and preserved.
Coretta worked with her husband throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She was a part of major events during the era such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, Ghana claiming independence and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The latter was an important event during the Civil Rights movement as it allowed King’s husband to be the face of the movement. Coretta, just a month removed from giving birth to their second child, stood by King’s side in boycotting the Montgomery bus system.
Had it not been for Coretta’s support, Martin Luther King Jr.’s colossal impact on history would not have been the same.
Much like Coretta backing her husband, black women have unceasingly supported black men in their struggle for equality. With the feminist movement at the forefront of today’s social issues, black women strive for representation in a world where they have been so long neglected.
When it comes to garnering respect from others, black women have by far the hardest battle to fight.
Black women are facing unfair pay gaps, are reminded of their shortcomings, especially compared to white women, and are held to the highest standards of attitude, behavior and beauty. Black women face high levels of discrimination daily, and they often do not find their support for black men appreciated.
The Undefeated, ESPN’s platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture, recently published an article describing how a black woman’s salary gap translates into a loss of more than $877,000 over a 40-year career. They also point out the pay disparagement between black and white women.
Women of color are chastised for their wide hips, hair texture and lip characteristics, but on white women these features are highlighted or extenuated. Kim Kardashian is praised for her wide hips and fuller figure, but black women, many of whom have the same body type, are demeaned.
Kylie Jenner recently acquired “fuller” lips, and many have followed her example with the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge. They act like black women who just wake up and apply lipstick for fuller lips, but its celebrated.
Skin color must have been a factor, because when it comes to beauty, black women are held to a different standard than white women.
Societal expectations may have formed this double standard. Black women continually get crucified for how they act in public or their methods of voicing opposition to things with which they might not agree.
It’s time to act now
Black women should be able to make their own decisions without being labeled or stereotyped because of their gender or skin color.
These issues can be resolved if black men speak up about the atrocities and double standards under which black women live. With the increasing presence of black men in boardrooms, an opportunity arises to begin the conversation on equal pay and rights for black women.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in supporting a black woman with bigger lips, wider hips and a fuller figure. Let them know they are as worthy as any white man or woman.
It is a critical time for black men to stand up for and empower black women. The fighters for civil rights could not have done it alone without the support of their strong black women.
Now, black men, it’s time to let the women know you will have their backs.
Odus Evbagharu can be reached at [email protected]