In the season six finale of Scandal, Olivia Pope’s mother Maya Lewis (played by Khandi Alexander) is sitting in a jail cell being detained because she was accused of conspiring to kill the president-elect. Assuring Olivia’s father (played by Joe Morton) that she came back to Washington D.C. only to help save Olivia, she comes to the realization that he doesn’t want her help.
Once the realization hits her like a ton of bricks, she opens with a monologue that was so powerful that after being placed on Scandal’s Facebook page it had been viewed 2.4 million times within 24 hours.
“Damn shame. I tell you… being a black woman. Be strong, they say. Support your man, raise your man, think like a man. Well damn, I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me, carrying my burden, building me up when I get down? Nobody. Black women out here trying to save everybody and what do we get? Swagger jacked by white girls wearing cornrows and bamboo earrings. Ain’t that a bitch? But we still try. Try to help all y’all. Even when we get nothing. Is that admirable or ridiculous? I don’t know.”
African women came to America enslaved, our role in America has been to serve, please, and reproduce, all while wearing a huge smile. We have endured the caricature of mammy, Jezebel, and the Sapphire stereotypes. In America, white women can openly cry, be loved, protected and showcase their hurt and frustrations. To be a black woman in America is the total opposite.
At a young age, I was told that I had to be strong and watch over my younger sisters. What I didn’t realize then, that I realize now, was the advice my mother gave me was not regular older sibling advice. It was an order to protect, love, and cherish my younger sisters because nobody else would. America has shown us time and time again why black women are the most undervalued and disrespected group in America.
And while black women have plenty of reasons to turn their backs on America, we pledge our allegiance to a country that innocently kills our black boys. A country where 500 black girls went missing from Washington D.C. and no official in office cared until it became a hashtag on social media. A country that will pull you over for driving without a traffic signal, arrest you and days later announce your death as a suicide and close the case.
“The most disrespected person in America is a black woman.The most unprotected person in America is a black woman. The most neglected person in America is a black woman.” –Malcolm X
In order for black women to merely survive we have to watch over each other, playing mother, sister, and favorite aunt to other black women and black girls that under normal conditions would be nothing more than strangers.
And despite being a huge asset to the country financially, black women until recently (thanks, Rihanna) couldn’t even find our shade of foundation at a local drugstore. Let’s not even talk about the wage gap that is so huge that in order for black women to be paid the same as white men in 2016 they would have had to work seven months into 2017.
We work, pay taxes, and when asked to come out to vote for Hillary Clinton we did only to have white women slap us in the face and vote for Donald Trump. And to add insult to injury turn back around and ask for our help after he was elected.
We are Harriet Tubman, Sarah Baartman, Hattie McDaniel, Sandra Bland, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Beyoncé, and Michelle Obama. We are black women deserving of love, protection, honor, and respect. We are fighting for our voices to be heard, justice to be served, and our stories to be told.
We are screaming value us to the top of our lungs to a country that has proven that our loyalty to this great nation will be met with Donald Trump, unnecessary funerals for our black boys, and empty promises to find our black girls.
“But we still try. Try to help all y’all. Even when we get nothing. Is that admirable or ridiculous? I don’t know.” –Maya Lewis a.k.a Mama Pope