LaKeith Stanfield, who stars in Atlanta, is making headlines for defending and praising Black women in a since-deleted Instagram post. In the video, he says that “[Black women] really have been through the most sh*t, and that’s a beautiful thing. That’s something that should empower you to be a better version than what the f*** you are.”
In a society that is constantly engaging in and rewarding misogynoir, it’s refreshing to see a Black man actually go out and publicly praise Black women. As thankful and appreciative I was of LaKeith’s message, it rubbed me the wrong way that he was getting all this praise for simply acknowledging Black women’s humanity.
Although I’m not a cisgender man, I do have the privilege of passing as such and occupy those spaces. So when acknowledging the dynamics of gender, I do have to include myself in the grouping of Black men. As a Black man who actively defends Black women when people are being misogynoiristic, I’m praised for doing the absolute least– just like LaKeith in his own situation. It’s not LaKeith’s or my fault, and it’s certainly not Black women’s fault for being appreciative of us. The problem is the Black men who choose to side with their privilege rather than coming out in defense of the women who share their struggle.
The expectation should be that we love Black women and treat them with respect, but instead we’ve made our standard so low that we’re praised for not being horrible people.
We should see more Black men actually defend Black women when other people partake in misogynoir, then, occurrences like Lakeith’s wouldn’t be newsworthy. There’s such a small amount of Black men actively putting themselves out there in support of Black women that it only makes sense to be thankful of the few that do. If more of us did what we should be doing, there would be less attention given to non-misogynoiristic people because the empowerment of Black women would be the norm. The expectation should be that we love Black women and treat them with respect, but instead, we’ve made our standard so low that we’re praised for not being horrible people.
When we do defend or praise Black women we tend to do it by objectifying them. We often rave about how useful Black women are to us and how they’re always out fighting for our lives. Rarely do we appreciate Black women for their work and strength when it doesn’t directly relate to us. While on the surface it may seem like we’re being compassionate it’s actually narcissism disguised as pro-Blackness. Praising someone for constantly helping you doesn’t say anything about their own accomplishments, but rather centers yourself. Our defense of Black women should never have ourselves as the focus because the conversation isn’t about us; it’s about them.
Many Black men have mothers, sisters, wives, co-workers, and friends who are Black women we think we see as equals. But even in these relationships, we may be perpetuating misogynoir or not doing enough to stop it. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing consciously as long as we’re actively participating in harmful rhetoric and actions unconsciously.
On top of that, this isn’t the first time someone has said all of this; Black women have been telling us all of these things for years. It’s not their responsibility to tell us to respect them as Black women; it’s our responsibility to simply respect them. As the people who should be their greatest allies, we, as Black men, have failed Black women. It’s long past time that we right our wrongs.