My good friend Dick Gregory often talked about the power of the Black woman. In a joking manner, but a serious meaning, he said, “A Black woman is the only woman in the world who can cut a man’s tires to the rim with a butter knife!” He also said the two strongest forces in the nation are the Black church and the Black woman.
Despite all of our hardships, discrimination, disrespect by gangsta rappers and others, Black women have shown the strength and the know how to overcome whatever gets in our way. We jump through the hoops and accomplish what we set out to accomplish.
When white women received the right to vote with the support of Black women, some were OK leaving us out. It took another 40-plus years through dangerous conditions, and numerous efforts for us to vote. We’ve pushed our way to victory for not only Black women, but for those who offered to support our issues when Black women were not in the race. Sometimes we had to vote for the lesser of two evils. We always did what we had to do. Our efforts are beginning to pay off, but some are trying to diminish our strength.
In this last election, we played an important role in electing Black women in a larger number than ever, and played an important role in the victories of others. A Black woman is now facing threats on her life for saying far less damaging things than #45 says daily and he goes unpunished. I’ve faced my share of threats for speaking truth, but I’ve never backed down from saying what I believed to be right.
Now, we’re faced with threats against one of our sisters, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. A Trump supporter boldly threatened to “put a bullet” through her skull. We must not be afraid to stand up for her. We don’t have to agree with everything she says to defend her right to speak. If we don’t stand with her, and other Black women when they speak up on issues with which others agree, but are afraid to say so, when they come in the morning, it could be for any one of us. It’s tragic that so many for whom Black women have done so much, leave the words of others unchallenged, but make only luke warm statements in support of Ms. Omar or criticize her for what she says.
You don’t have to agree with everything she says, but, she is our sister and we must speak up for her rights. The system tries to crush her today, but it could be any one of us tomorrow. Those of us who understand that are not afraid. Those of us who’ve been through similar treatment, know how lonely it can be when even our friends are afraid to protect our rights.
What’s happening with Ms. Omar is one more effort to silence Black women. Critics see the power we have. Twenty Black women mayors in Louisiana — including the three largest cities — is an example of the power of Black women. We have Black women mayors in San Francisco, Washington, Baltimore, Rochester, Charlotte, Flint, Toledo, Atlanta and Chicago. There’re others, but you get the point. We have a Black woman running strongly for president of the United States. We have many new Black women in Congress, joining a strong group already there.
Think about what Sojourner, Harriet, Ida B., Fannie Lou, Shirley and others went through to bring us to where we are today. Let’s not lose the momentum by our silence that is interpreted as our consent when one of our sisters is attacked.
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.