Before hashtags reshaped the internet, becoming a tool of entertainment, politics, and war, civil rights activist Taranka Burke began using the phrase “me too” to empower women of color who experience sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.
The unifying phrase was popularized in Oct. 2017 by actress Alyssa Milano, who, days after the New York Times’ investigation into sexual harassment claims against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, shared the term in a massively viral tweet.
With its focus largely on crimes against powerful white women, the #MeToo movement has been accused—fairly—of ignoring the needs of the women it was started to help.
Erasing Women of Color
First, a few statistics:
- Women of color and women with disabilities face significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than white women.
- Black girls who experience sexual violence are often funneled into the criminal justice system via the school-to-prison pipeline, according to a report by the Institute for women’s Research.
- Native women face the highest rates of sexual assault, mostly by non-native men, according to a report by the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s National Institute of Justice.
Violence against girls and women of color is minimized or erased by the news media, which suffers from Missing White Woman Syndrome thanks, in part, to a stunning lack of diversity.
In U.S. newsrooms, 83 percent of journalists are white.
How to Support Black Women
1. Check Your Privilege
Whether you’re tall, pretty, able-bodied, or born into a wealthy family, we’re all privileged in some way. Having privilege can blind you to the challenges faced by people without that privilege. Understand your advantages.
2. Follow Black Feminists
The internet is a big place. Step outside your social media bubble by following black women on Instagram, Twitter, and etc. You’ll learn a lot.
When women talk about rape culture, there’s always that one guy who gets offended because “not all men.” Annoying, right? If every time people of color get angry about racism you pop in to say you’re not like that, you’re that guy.
4. Amplify Black Voices
Historically, black women’s work has been devalued. Share content by black women, and make sure to give credit to the individual or organization.
5. Use Your Privilege
Black women’s lives are devalued in the media and throughout society. Use your privilege to raise awareness of issues that impact black women, like police brutality, intimate partner violence, and the school-to-prison pipeline.