Prior to this latest season, I’d almost given up on Scandal. The plot lines had jumped the shark; Shonda’s pen had lost some of its luster and there was simply a plethora of superior-written shows on my radar. However, a few gems kept me from completely abandoning the show: Eli’s and Mama Pope’s monologues. They were sermons, if you had collection plates handy. So, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Mama Pope would be making an appearance for the season finale. In true return-to-Gladiator form, I was front and center last Thursday night with an Olivia Pope-sized glass of Pinot Noir. Not only was I rewarded with perhaps the best scene I’d ever viewed on Scandal, the world was lectured on Black feminism.
In the span of one minute and fifty seconds, Mama Pope summarized the plight of Black women, while masterfully weaving in the impact of toxic masculinity. “Being a Black woman. ‘Be strong’, they say. ‘Think like a man.’ ‘Support your man.’ ‘Raise a man.’ Well, damn. I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me? Carrying my burden? Building me up when I get down?”, she asked Eli. A question that has become urgent as I see more Black women on the front lines of social justice movements, leading households, teaching our youth and solely uplifting each other. We are our Sisters’ Keepers, but who are our remaining allies when Sisters are emotionally and physically spent? Who do I overwhelmingly prefer as those allies? While I expect reciprocity from anyone I’ve shown solidarity for, I primarily seek out Black men as additional allies. Why? Shared history, familiarity and kinship.
“When people share a common oppression, certain kinds of skills and joint defenses are developed. And if you survive, you survive because those skills and defenses have worked. When you come into conflict over other existing differences, there is a vulnerability to each other which is desperate and very deep.” – Audre Lorde
Other existing differences? Gender inequality to be exact, which stems from patriarchy and misogyny; tools of oppression that have been used to misdirect rage and resentment towards Black women when the intended target is the system of white supremacy. Ultimately, if there’s a larger oppressor out to destroy the both of us, it’s imperative that Black men and women don’t destroy each other. Otherwise, who’s left to fight? As I scroll my social media feeds on any given day, I encounter degrading memes or posts of Black women. Yet, when Black women attempt to address the issue, the responses I’ve witnessed from Black men have often been defensive or dismissive. Instead, Black men, I implore you to lower your guards and simply listen. Don’t abruptly invalidate our experiences and feelings. Don’t assume that our individual accomplishments shield us from oppression or that your support isn’t needed. Mutual empowerment and protection are essential to our continued survival. Gender wars don’t begin to resolve the issue. Awareness does. Therefore, I salute Shonda Rhimes for using her platform to convey my sentiments to the masses. The echo chamber has become momentarily quieter. Even if her messages don’t fully penetrate, placed on the world’s stage, they at least become harder to ignore.