been thinking a lot about patriarchal lately—how, when and
where it raises its ugly head. Patriarchy is like a liquid that
changes shape, can be colorless but is always toxic. In 2019, those
who wear the ever- developing feminist lens have an advantage of
being able to identify the manifestations and create a force field to
limit its impact. Often, this is not enough.
recently came across an intriguing article from a year ago that
started from an inquiry to Twitterland. It involved the search to
find an unidentified, Black woman in a 1971 photo. She was among a
sea of men at a scientific conference and everyone was named in the
photo except her. This wasn’t ancient times. It was 1971 and
NOBODY thought it was out of place not to identify the only woman,
the only Black face in the crowd!
of color still fight the invisibility of Sheila Minor Huff, a
scientist who refused to accept a secretary job when she had worked
hard for her degree in biology. Huff went on to make unrecognized
accomplishments in STEM for the next 35 years.
of color, and especially Black women, are leaning in, stepping up and
growing into various leadership roles in our racial justice movement
and beyond. I bear witness to their brilliance and to their
resistance. I’ve seen their writings, their organizing, their
passion to fight the stereotypes, practices, laws and policies that
restrict or stop their professional and political growth.
they are mocked and criticized for their principled stands, for their
work to lift humanity. Their reputations and bodies endure regular
attacks by those consciously and unwittingly upholding racism and
slings and arrows are from all sides-Black folks, white folks, women
of all shades and everyone in between. The goal is to break their
feminist spirit, muddy their characters and destroy their
achievements. The message is you must bow down to capitalist
oppression—or face the consequences.
passion and skills of these phenomenal women take them into community
organizations, places of worship and of course, the electoral arena--
which brings me to the Four. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ayanna
Pressley. Rashida Tiaib. Lihan Omar. If our communities and movement
don’t protect them, we will be forced to watch the very public
beat-down of these sistahs who racist commentator Laura Ingraham
coined the “four horsewomen of the apocalypse.”
aka AOC is the youngest women ever elected to Congress. Pressley is
Massachusetts’ first Black congresswoman. Tiaib and Omar are
the first Muslim women elected to Congress. There’s a lot of
firsts in there but that’s not why these young women are viewed
issues they’re pushing are being called radical. Maybe they
are. These issues certainly aren’t new. They’ve been
written about and fought for over the years by people like me and
Green New Deal to build new infrastructure using an environmental
frame wasn’t the brainchild of AOC. Neither is calling out
Zionism and supporting the self-determination of the Palestinian
people. Ditto for the demand to abolish ICE. The same for the mandate
for free and accessible education and health care for all.
think what makes the Four the target of conservative rage is that
they stay on script, even when chastised by their own party. They do
their homework and stay connected to radical circles of thought and
action to continue informing their proposals. Our movements have not
had a force relentlessly pushing this kind of agenda inside the
Democrat Party, let along in the shallowed halls of Congress. This is
a refreshing departure from business as usual in the Old Boys’
Four are being attacked for being unprepared, reckless, anti-Semitic,
anti-male and on and on. Sure, they’ll have some missteps.
They’re learning. I hoping they find strength and refuge in one
another and other allies on the Hill. And in folks like us.
of us who are pushing a radical agenda need to ensure a safe
environment for the bodacious AOC, Pressley, Omar, Tiaib and other
allies to do their thing in the House and Senate. By showing our
unapologetic support for them publicly, we help to protect and
advance the brilliance of the women we know and love around us.
a postscript to the story of Sheila Minor Huff, she was finally
tracked down for an update on her story. Her response to not being
recognized in the photo as “no big deal.”
betting this generation of radicalized, empowered women, no matter
what domain we are operating in, believe their existence is a big
deal. We are the women Maya Angelou had in mind when she penned,
Still I Rise. We rise. Still.