A Letter To White People Addressing The "All" Syndrome From Black Women
Updated: Mar 9
I recently saw a post on LinkedIn by Lakrisha Davis that said, “Respectfully, when I mention something about supporting “Black women,” please do not comment under my post talking about what “all women” need. This is condescending. I love all people, but I didn’t think I needed to make an announcement simply because I uplift my sisters.” I felt angry, sad, and unseen after reading her post.
When we see hashtags on social media such as #blacklivesmatter, #blackboyjoy, #blackgirlmagic, or #blackmentalhealthmatters, white people get so defensive, but for the sake of this example, let’s focus on white women’s tears, aka all the Karen’s, and #blackgirlmagic. Many white women fail to realize is that black women are the least valued and most disrespected in America. Our culture is often appropriated, such as twerking becoming a thing after Miley Cyrus performed at the VMA’s in 2013. At the same time, it was not called Twerking decades or even centuries ago; the dance dates to women in Africa doing the same movements. In 1820, spelled twirk refers to a twisting or jerking movement or twitch. According to BBC News, the verb is believed to have emerged later in 1848, and the twerk spelling was used by 1901. Twerking is a part of the bounce culture of New Orleans which started in the 1990s. Here is another example of why black women lift each other because white women often get credit for things we’ve invented. You get to shed your tears, lies, and privilege to get what you want and have been for decades, just like the white woman who confirmed lying about Emmett Till offending her in a grocery store. He was killed at the tender age of 14.
When I started my podcast, Fireflies Unite with Kea, and I set the mission to share the stories of black people with mental health disorders, I was constantly questioned. Many white women undermining, dismissing, and making condescending statements didn’t know that I grew up hearing statements such as “Only white people kill themselves.” or “Only white people go to therapy.” This is the story for many black people. I eventually attempted suicide for many reasons, but one of those reasons was feeling like I did not have the space to discuss my mental health in the black community or in general. So yes, that is why I say #blackmentalheathmatters. Black people’s experiences in America are different than someone who is not black. Does it mean white people’s mental health doesn’t matter? No, but we focus on spaces where black people are excluded and marginalized. This is why we celebrate black mental health professionals such as Joy Harden Bradford, creator of Therapy For Black Girls.
August 18, 1920, The 19th Amendment is celebrated for women receiving the right to vote? Guess what? Black women could not vote almost five decades later, according to Time. Are white women having their hair touched or asked if their hair is natural? No. But black women experience this every day and other microaggressions in the workplace, which makes us feel like animals at the petting zoo and can’t be ourselves a work. Our natural hair is considered unprofessional, so we are forced to straighten our hair to get a job. California voted unanimously to approve the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair). This bill bans natural hair discrimination and prohibits employers and schools from enforcing discriminatory grooming policies. So, when we write posts uplifting other black women, it is not to say white women do not matter. We encourage and celebrate each other in a culture that does not care about us. If we don’t lift each other, then who will?
Do you understand? No. Here is another example. The Miss. America pageant started in 1921. However, black women were not allowed to compete until the 1940s by a rule said contestants must be of "the white race." It was not until 1984 that Vanessa Williams gained recognition as the first black woman to receive the Miss America title. This frustration led to the creation of Miss Black America. As a child, I participated in pageants for black girls such as The New Generation Scholarship, Christian Teen Fellowship pageant, and the popular Hal Jackson Talented Teens International® scholarship pageant competition. Hal Jackson was a radio pioneer and civil rights activist who took a stand and created this pageant for black girls ages 13 to 17 with performing talents in response to parents' pleas to use his expertise and contacts to create a contest that would allow minority young women an opportunity to display their skills before the world, an opportunity denied them at the time. This was when I realized my voice and talents mattered because I was a plus-size black girl who won two pageants before I was 16 years old.
Let me try one more time to help you understand. Enslaved blacks were not allowed to learn how to read or write. They were forced to hide to educate themselves. If they were caught, they were beaten and killed. Please don’t say things like, “Slavery was so long ago.” But don’t you say, “Never Forget” to honor September 11th.” We are not being told to forget and honor heroes who lost their lives on 9/11, so no, black people can’t and will not forget what many of our ancestors went through because we are still dealing with generational trauma and living in a country that does not value us. Generational trauma? Yes, but that is another article for another day. Have you heard of Ruby Bridges? Bridges were chosen to take a test to determine if she could attend an all-white school. This was due to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education, which ordered all schools to desegregate. Ruby was one of six students to pass the test, and her parents decided to send her to an all-white elementary school to receive a better education. Therefore, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded because we could not receive an education. I am a proud graduate of one of the top HBCUs, Howard University. Many colleges and universities such as Georgetown, Rutgers, Columbia, Harvard, and Brown are among the universities that published reports on their connections to slavery. The Princeton and Slavery Project is a research endeavor investigating the Ivy League university’s involvement in slavery. The project uncovered records of slave ownership by university leaders and details about a slave auction on campus. Georgetown University admitted to profiting from the sale of 272 slaves in 1838. The slaves were sold by Jesuit priests, who used the money to pay off debts incurred by the university. Georgetown announced it would offer descendants of those 272 enslaved people an advantage in admissions. Guess what? I also received a master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2015, but that would most likely not have happened if it was not for black people who advocated and died so I could have access to education.
The “all syndrome” shows your white privilege because you feel the need to be included in everything, which is why we create spaces for ourselves. So white people, the next time you feel the need to have yourself in areas for black people, please remember rooms were made for you to succeed and designed for me to fail. Instead of starting arguments and being entitled, please take the time to educate yourself by asking questions. To restate what black people have been saying, we are not telling you that you do not matter, but your reactions to these kinds of posts further prove why we need our own spaces. While we have come a long way, there is still work to be done. I hope this piece helps you understand why black women honor each other, and there is no reason for you to get offended. If I sound angry writing this, I will confirm that I am. I may be viewed as the “Angry Black Woman,” but that is okay. I am allowed to feel anger just like you.