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Social Justice Leader Tamika Mallory Sheds Light On “The Invisible Black Women”

Real women share accounts where their credibility or mere presence was ignored as a Black woman.

Culture & Entertainment

As always, the most recent episode of Red Table Talk did not disappoint. The topic struck a nerve with the team here xoNecole in particular because we understand that Black women are beautifully capable beings that deserve the same respect that other demographics are handed, sometimes even undeservingly. Social justice leader Tameka Mallory joined the RTT hosts along with several Black women who have been ignored and mistreated—"The Invisible Black Women."


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Accounts varied but the core of all their stories was the same. One woman was on a Delta flight when a man had a medical emergency and she told the crew she was a doctor but was asked if she had her medical diploma with her. However, when a white male came forward and said he was a doctor, they didn't question his credentials at all.

Another woman went to the emergency room as she was four months pregnant and was bleeding. Doctors were dismissive of her in the emergency room and when they finally admitted her hours later the doctor said some pretty terrible things to her. The staff was dismissive of the pain she was experiencing and she ultimately had a miscarriage.

Whether on a scale this big or not, these experiences make us feel small and are sometimes life-threatening. Because sharing stories like these make us feel seen, we asked Black women in our circles for accounts where their intuition, credibility, or mere presence was ignored.

Below two xoNecole readers open up on what happened to them and how they handled this type of racism rarely talked about.

There Was a Very Clear Aura of ‘She's Being Dramatic’

"Similar to the Black women who have experienced neglect in hospital and medical settings, I've also felt ignored and disregarded in that way. Last year, I experienced a miscarriage. I had what doctors called a blighted ovum, which is essentially when a fertilized egg never develops into an embryo. It causes somewhat of a delayed miscarriage, and the day I arrived at the hospital, there was a very clear aura of 'she's being dramatic' when I first came through the emergency room doors doubled over in pain and being escorted via a wheelchair.

"The doctor assigned to me had to internally inspect me to check for hemorrhaging (severe bleeding), and I was in so much pain that she wasn't able to stick the tool where she needed to. It was traumatizing and agonizing, and she just kept rolling her eyes and sighing in frustration despite my pleas that I was in pain and that I wasn't purposefully tensing up, which prevented her from being able to do the inspection.

"Thankfully, a nurse was there (who appeared to be a Latina woman), and she held my hand and spoke to me with much more grace (this was at the peak of COVID, so no family was allowed into the hospital rooms with me). The doctor returned later a little more empathetic, but still very neglectful of the pain and general discomfort I was feeling. It was disappointing, hurtful, and honestly made me never want to go back to a hospital again." Diamond Alexis, 27, Journalist and Social Media Manager

She Was Dismissive, She Judged Me, and She Was Cold

"Unfortunately, I had a similar experience as the woman who had the miscarriage. I went into an emergency room because I was eight weeks pregnant and at 4 a.m. on a Thursday morning I started bleeding. I knew what was happening and went to the nearest hospital. I told them my situation but there was no sense of urgency. I was sitting in the waiting room bleeding, crying and thinking the worst.

"My mother had to ask why we were waiting so long to come to find out this hospital had no OBGYN department and the ultrasound tech wouldn't be in for another hour. I got up to leave and some security guard, a black man, told me I might as well stay because they're going to charge me. I was disgusted, needless to say, they called me right after he made that comment.

"I went to the room to get an ultrasound and waited on results. The doctor, who was a white woman, asked questions as if it was impossible for a black woman in her thirties to only have been pregnant once or to have never had an abortion. She was dismissive, she judged me, and she was cold delivering the news."

"I did have a miscarriage and that experience made everything I was going through worse. Not to mention, I was waiting for my mom to get the car and the security guard told me I couldn't sit in the waiting room. I'm losing my first child, in pain physically and emotionally, and from beginning to end during this hospital visit I felt ignored and unseen." —Amiyah Deziire, Radio Personality/Motivator/Writer

Featured image by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for REVOLT

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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