Updated: Apr 20, 2021
From guest blogger, Tekita Bankhead
It’s a late Sunday night, and I’m mindlessly flipping through channels on my television to distract myself from the fact that my winter vacation is officially over. I landed on the 2020 Golden Globes broadcast and since I’m a sucker for red carpet fashion looks, I decided to indulge a bit. It only took a few minutes for me to see the glaringly monochromatic audience (ok, I tried to soften it, but it was really…really White). I spotted a few of my favorite Black women entertainers such as Yara Shahidi and Ava Duvernay before landing on one of my all-time faves — Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. What struck me immediately was her facial expression that had a subtle mix of annoyance, disappointment, and frustration. Her demeanor felt slightly forced, and overall, she seemed uncharacteristically uncomfortable. Surely, I could be projecting my interpretation from a few short frames, but I like to think that me and my Queen Bey are usually on the same wavelength.
As the legendary Elton John accepted the award for the category in which Beyoncé was nominated, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Beyoncé’s déjà vu moment with Adele at the 2017 Grammy awards when she was infamously snubbed for her groundbreaking Lemonade album. Thankfully, Adele used a portion of her speech to graciously acknowledge the massive cultural impact of Lemonade, but that moment still serves as a reminder of how rarely Black women are acknowledged in the aftermath of mistreatment. Beyoncé is merely one example of how often the efforts and talents of Black women are disregarded and invalidated in nearly every professional arena. And to be brutally real, if Beyoncé, one of the greatest entertainers ever, can’t get her just due, what hope is there for the rest of us?
One of the things that makes me most proud is being a Black woman. Black women are synonymous with strength, intellect, and a myriad of positive attributes. We take pride in our ambition and are fiercely loyal to our families and communities. We advocate for others in classrooms, boardrooms, and courtrooms. We are some of the first to speak up and some of the most difficult to silence. We lead statistics in educational achievements, entrepreneurship, and spiritual stability. What makes us beautiful shapes billion-dollar hair and cosmetic empires, and our fashion trends dominate popular culture. We are essentially a central thread in the fabric of this country.
One of the things that exhausts me the most is being a Black woman in America. To loosely paraphrase Malcolm X, the Black woman is one of the most neglected, disrespected, and least protected in our country. We sit at the crux of systemic gendered and racialized discrimination so that we are doubly burdened in several areas of our lives. Black trans women are continuously murdered at an alarming rate with an average life expectancy of 35 years. More than 150,000 Black children are missing, and minimal media coverage forcing their families to do their searches. Black girls have been targeted for decades by high-profile sexual predators who are only held accountable after viral documentaries. And on top of those parental nightmares, we are the most likely to die during childbirth.
What would happen if Black women decided that we had reached our breaking point? That we had suffered enough at the hands of a nation that doesn’t appreciate our contributions. Where would that leave you? Where would that leave our country? Though I’m no psychic, I could guarantee that our absence (and the absence of women of color) would be immensely impactful on the economy, the beauty industry, education, political reform, and every inch of our life. I can’t imagine a world without Black women, because it simply wouldn’t exist. We are certain of the value we bring to this nation, and we do everything in our power to defend it, even when we’re fighting alone. It’s time to be honest that this country needs us. We matter. I just hope that the rest of you realize it too before we run out of gas.
In the meantime, give Beyoncé her things.
Tekita Bankhead is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of the Pedestal Project, LLC., an organization and online platform dedicated to uplifting Black women through restoration, validation, and affirmation. She is a Registered Nurse (RN) and serves as the Specialist in Education in the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside of her university role, Tekita facilitates workshops around the country on mental health, inclusion, and race-related trauma as a speaker and consultant. In her spare time, Tekita loves reading, writing, traveling, cooking, concerts, sharing doggie cuddles with Roxie, and spending time with loved ones. Connect with Tekita and her writing team on Instagram and Facebook @pedestalproject.