Stand and salute the sisters

4/13/2017, 9:12 p.m.
Word origins can “shed light” on the experiences of a people and explain much of what they’ve endured. Many older ...

Dr. E. Faye Williams

Word origins can “shed light” on the experiences of a people and explain much of what they’ve endured. 

Many older African-Americans explain the origin of the term “honkie” as it relates to the activity of white men driving through African-American communities “honking” the horns of their automobiles in an attempt to solicit sex from “willing” African-American women. 

In targeting any woman who appealed to them, these “honkies” demonstrated their beliefs about their right to victimize and denigrate any black woman because of their perception that black women were inferior and of inherently low moral character.

In truth, this behavior was/is merely an extension of the “roaming the slave quarter” and slave master mentality. Whether subliminally or consciously, these same attitudes fuel the actions of white people today who, without cause or for some specious reason, choose to denigrate African-American women.

Most recently, we have seen this behavior in the attempted public humiliation of Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, American Urban Radio correspondent April Ryan and, once again, Dr. Susan Rice, former national security adviser to former President Obama.

In this context, we must stand against FOX News host Bill O’Reilly for his recent on-air comment about Rep. Waters. He said: “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it’s the same wig.”

We saw and must stand against the president’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, who erroneously admonished Ms. Ryan to “Stop shaking your head!” as though she were a child. 

We must stand against — and reject — the Trump administration’s feeble attempt to justify President Trump’s now infamous “wiretap” tweet by falsely accusing Dr. Rice of being the source of the “leaks.”

Saying we stand against the abusive and oppressive nature of our society is not enough. As black women, we must resolve to throw down the gauntlet in support of each other. This is especially true when we see a sister unfairly targeted for abuse because her politics do not comport with those who do not act in the best interest of our community and issues of importance to us. We must not be distracted by the irrelevant, superfluous comments of those who oppose us. Our unified, 94 percent vote in the most recent presidential election demonstrates our understanding of this principle.

We must commit to tell our stories and continue our unity. We’re the successors of fearless, strong and effective black women like Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Dr. C. Delores Tucker, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, Ella Baker, Amelia Boynton, Septima Clark, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman and so many more who stood up for us despite their own personal peril. If you do not know these women and their efforts, I encourage you to learn.

We also must stand with black women of all ages who may not be in the news on a daily basis, but who march in the footsteps of other great black women leaders. We must learn about and commit to supporting the efforts of women like Washington NAACP President Akousa Ali; Ophelia Averitt, the wonder woman whose name is connected with anything of value occurring in Ohio; Dr. Lezli Baskerville, who spearheads better funding for HBCUs; Amy Billingsley and Dr. Julienne Richardson, who record and create an accurate account of our history through The HistoryMakers; and Oprah Winfrey, the largest donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

History has shown that those who actively oppress are only concerned with identifying, discrediting and retarding the efforts of those who achieve progressive results. Without past and current accomplishments of many courageous black women, our community would most certainly have floundered.

The sisters I have mentioned, and others like them, are the ones with whom we must stand and salute.

The writer is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.