After Doug Jones’ Win: We are Activists, Not White America’s Mammy-Savior or Ignoble Savage

My thoughts on the recent “realization” (by the status quo) that Black women [have to] save the USA from white supremacy.  Should we be ‘honored’ of this recognition or not? I have mixed-strong feelings about the recent *news* (since the win of Doug Jones via Black women); how we supposedly have saved white America from themselves for decades and will have to continue to do so…usually without enough to thrive, struggling to make it on many fronts (materially, financially, etc).

Tarana Burke started the grassroots movement behind #metoo and doesn’t even make the cover of Time.

Remember it took Bree Newsome to literally climb up a poll and bring down that confederate flag?

Who founded Black Lives Matter after the murder of Trayvon Martin?: Black women.

I’m thinking of the plethora of Black women consistently fighting against ‘the system’– (not just FOR Black people, knowing full well that ‘the system’ isn’t there to support MOST people, so our work-activism-dedication end up benefiting the majority).

Simultaneously, what we do is [kind of] valued once it becomes trendy because the foundations we have built suddenly become the ‘ hip’ thing to do— especially if it makes certain neoliberal whites not [look] ‘racist’.

And one can’t forget the hundreds of Black women of the Black Panther party who laid the groundwork/blueprint for health and food activism that hundreds of organizations throughout the USA were inspired by (and continue to be).

Despite material realities of struggle, collectively, it has never been an excuse for us to feel powerless or do nothing– because that ‘excuse’ would be a privilege, wouldn’t it? 

And yet, at the end of so many of these Black women’s days, we don’t have the support we need to THRIVE. I could not believe it was acceptable for Rosa Parks to have died destitute, yet her struggle has been co-opted and exploited for years by the status quo while she remained  financially and materially insecure.

Dear white America: You may be into the whole ‘savior complex’ or seek to be ‘saved’ but this is an unfair burden put on the shoulders of Black women (as well as other non-white women, girls, and gender non-conforming non-white people in the USA).

Dear White America: You are dangerously walking on the fine line between [un]consciously expecting us to perform  Black mammy activism to save you from yourselves and expecting us to shut the f*ck up and ‘know our place’ when it doesn’t benefit you or your unacknowledged possessive investment in [neoliberal] whiteness.

Dear White America: Be careful not to narrate us through a new white imagination of ‘ignoble’ savage.

Do the work. Stop pretending you are helpless or don’t have the ‘natural’ courage and strength to do what is right [like Black women somehow ‘naturally’ can do]. Stop idolizing us only when it suits you and start dismantling this white supremacist system 24/7/365. 


Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

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