Yesterday, between stressing about my Spanish midterm and rushing to classes, I was faced with a crowd of loud, angry college students gathered in the quad. The cause of their congregating was a group of religious extremists, stood upon the seating area, screaming their beliefs at the masses. Usually I try to avoid blatant and aggressive bigotry and ignorance, especially when the premise is entirely irrational and the surroundings are loud (hostility and prejudice don’t mix); however, the mob’s cries of protest and the extremists’ cries of fire and brimstone brought me to the mass.
The extremists had been there the day before, and garnered a lot of attention— they were plastered all over social media and were the talk of group messages and lunch tables across campus— but they didn’t draw near as much of a crowd as they did yesterday. Perhaps it was because of the people who were preaching, a difference in volume, a difference in content. Either way the magnetism of the environment created quite a crowd pulled me in as well.
As expected, the man (who looked no older than 23) was screaming about how every single one of us listening was going to go to hell, about how yoga pants are a sin, how women are only valuable if they are virginal or wives, about how homosexuality is an abomination, and the ever popular topic of abortion. The crowd shouted back, held up their own signs, and recorded the ordeal. Then one of the spectators asked him what he felt about race.
Red faced, spit flying, and white button down stuck to his back he screamed about how the “black race is disgusting and dangerous”, how the “races should remain separate”, how “mixed people are going to hell”, how “black babies are disgusting”. In the middle of that crowd was the first time that I had to come directly face to face with the reality of existing in an environment where your existence is demonized and hated. Passive racial comments, slight prejudices, microaggressions, and the never ending stream of white people trying to touch my hair has always bothered me, but never have I been faced with being directly and non-passively told that my entire existence is less than, worthless, or disgusting. I truly felt unsafe in my environment: threatened by a mid-sized white boy, made to feel worthless by irrational and unjustified hatred.
And while his beliefs and the beliefs of those affiliated with him are not the majority’s beliefs, they still exist in this world, in the world that I am trying to exist in. And not only does it scare me, it angers me.
Additionally, race is not the only minority that was condemned to hell by these extremists. All women, especially those that are perceived to be immodest or impure, members of the LGBTQ+ community, college students (because we’re all inherently hedonistic and improperly indoctrinated), and any person who holds or has held any kind of liberal viewpoint were condemned to hell, as if raw and vulnerable human existence not fitting into their radical interpretation a holy book makes them unredeemable and damned in the eyes of a forgiving God.
But despite the folly that is bearing false (and radical) witness and testimony, no matter your beliefs, the things that they were preaching about brought a new issue to the forefront of my mind. In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about sexism in terms of its progressive counter-movement: feminism. Specifically, examining how non-intersectional feminism is not real feminism and often times feminism brings up the topic of abortion. The combination of sexist remarks and condemnation of abortion along with his hatred of racial minorities presented an interesting issue and conflict: despite his obvious distaste with blacks and black babies, he still spoke of trying to prevent genocide facilitated by excessive abortion through the specific condemnation of black women having abortions.
Regardless of whether or not you support abortion, the paradox of being anti-black while simultaneously being anti black baby genocide presents an interesting instance of racism as it pertains to sexism. Even the mere proposition of a black genocide as the result of abortion (as opposed to the black genocide that’s taking place at the hands of police, and, historically, white people) implies that black women are at fault for their unequal access to sex education, unequal access to protection, and unequal access to a non stigmatized existence that the lack thereof results in a larger presence of STDs, more instances of pregnancy, and quintupled rates of abortion (in relation to white women) as opposed to addressing the root of the problems. The root of the problems facing minorities exist within the scope of systems of oppression and disadvantage, institutional racism and economic inequality, in addition to racial targeting, be it through racial profiling or eugenics. And while it is obvious that the system is flawed and prejudiced with a negative bias towards the minority, which in turn has an obvious negative effect upon the perceptions of minorities in relation to hot button issues, such as abortion, it is unfair and irrational to blame the very real human beings who are simply being affected by the system itself.
As this pertains to anti-black sexism, even in terms of abortion the red-faced man devalued black women more so than white women. Not only in his demonization of the race in general but because, to him, black women are inherently already more likely to be “impure” given the rates of abortion, which in turn makes them [black women] useless; to him, black women are more unfit or unwilling to be mothers because of higher rates of abortion. To him, the womb of the black woman is dangerous, not only for the baby, but because of the baby itself.
My encounter in the quad inspired thought about the effectiveness and power of protest, the power of religion and interpretive religion, the importance of education and the difference between indoctrination, and the importance of sexual education as well as the differences between the good of the person versus the good of the whole and how the two are intertwined. But after having a very direct and slightly triggering encounter with anti-black sexism, I realized my power as a black woman. My power in persisting and overcoming.
Remember that our oppressors fear us in one way or another, so endure through the hatred and persist through the fear and remember that the power you have simply from existing. They know the enduring strength and awareness that we have. Use that, speak out, speak for yourself, and be educated. Informed solidarity is the first step in overcoming many of the problems minorities face in the modern age. And remember, your black life matters.
Cover photo: Some signs that were featured by the demonstrators.
“No Breast Belly Butt!” – Promoting modesty
“Guard Your Balls” – Promoting the distrust of women
“Yoga Pants! Sin” – Demonizing freedom of expression and promoting modesty