The Righteous Wrongs of Patriarchal Activism
A few weeks ago, the world of activism was taken by storm after DeRay Mckesson released a piece addressing his concerns with fellow activists, Shaun King. The article titled "On Shaun King", published in Medium, built an argument speaking to DeRay’s accusations surrounding King’s alleged lack of integrity.
Two days later, Shaun King responded with a post exhaustively titled “DeRay, attention, fame, fundraising, integrity, deflection, projection and the desperate need for us to focus on doing the work in front of us”. His response highlighted the favorable statements from many of the families he has raised funds over the past years. He also told readers to review a 72-page finance report that outlined a financial review on his fundraising efforts by various professionals.
The purpose of this post is not to re-visit or analyze the back-and-forth between the two activists. After a few weeks of contemplation, I feel a more critical issue needs to be recognized.
When I first heard about the public feud between McKesson and King, I was a bit disappointed. Some were disappointed because they felt that two "leaders" in the black community should not publicly dispute. Many believed that this disagreement could consequently lead to a 'divide-and-conquer' situation within the ranks of black activists and the community at large.
Although the sentiments expressed above were a valid concern, that was not what I found problematic. Historically, the black community has witnessed numerous occasions where our male leaders have publicly disagreed. Some of the more notable intellectual conflicts include W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Cornel West, Jay-Z and Nas, Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, T-Challa and Kilmonger, (ok, let me stop, but you get the point).
As I thought about past and present public disputes, the issue became rapidly clear – men. As a black man, I must admit, I am exhausted by the constant visibility and public recognition of black men at the expense of black women. In the case of DeRay and Shaun, both activists were propelled to grassroots stardom on the backs of the Blacks Lives Matter Movement – founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi – three black women. This has been the case throughout black history. Black women have consistently held down the movement and the community, but receive far less visibility.
Now, this observation is not meant to denounce the commitment and contribution of our brothas, but it is time to recognize and discuss how we contribute to the system of patriarchy and suppress our Black Queens. I would like to see black men who have the privilege of speaking for the community, begin to step aside, and promote the platforms of black women, especially if your brand was built off of their backs.
I do not care for the public disputes of black men as much anymore. It is exhausting, time-consuming, and I’d rather hear and see the work of black women who are fighting the good fight. For example, a name like Tarana Burke should be more recognizable than Shaun King and DeRay McKesson, as the black woman who founded the #MeToo movement. Or maybe, CaShawn Thompson, the originator of #BlackGirlMagic.
So, as a call to action, I want anyone who reads this post to contact me on Twitter or Instagram @TConnorBhD, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and send a name or names of black women who are fighting the good fight. Please provide a link or short description of the individual. This is not solely about grassroots activists, but any black woman who is pushing the agenda forward for the community. This can be academics, professionals, etc.
Send in the names, and I will update this post in one week with a list of the people that were shared.
Share this post, submit names, and let’s use this as an opportunity to create a resource that recognizes the contributions of black women!