Mammy 2.0: Black Women Won’t Save You, So Stop Asking

Black women don’t owe you shit.

Let me state that plainly and clearly so that my readers clearly understand where this is going.

The year was 2016. Two rich, older White people were running to be leader of one of the most dangerous terrorist nations in the world. The people had to choose a side and decide which one would be the best to lead the populace.

On one side, you had the first woman to come that close to actually being elected into the position. A career politician and advocate for women and girls, she had a career marred by White privilege, a philandering husband, and imperialist intentions.

On the other side, you had a fucking fool.

94% of voting Black women backed the woman. While she may have been flawed, she was a politician, and the day you meet a truly honest politician is the day I’ll sell you three bridges to Brooklyn for $Free.99. We get it, we got it, and we made the choice we felt was the best of the two.

87% of voting Black men backed her, too. Along with two-thirds of Latinx and Asian voters.

The fool won.

Fast-forward to 2017 and everyone is a nigger.

In the extended clip, Katt Williams describes how everyone will begin to feel what “niggers” have experienced for centuries. White people will get scared because they’ll feel their safety is being threatened because of whatever political tide has turned. They’ll feel like their rights are being limited and their access to resources being stripped away and denied. “We all niggers now. Oh, you didn’t hear about the 99%? It ain’t about race. It ain’t about White vs. Black. It’s about them versus us.”

And where do White people go when they’re scared? Mammy.

“Mammy” is an archetype, a historical figure with unique characteristics and attributes. Simply, a Mammy is a Black woman who takes care of White people’s needs from household domestic work to child-rearing and family nurturing. She is always there, willing to cater to the needs of White households, often sacrificing her own health and well-being to be present for struggling White people.

To add a bit, Mammy is often depicted as asexual/ aromantic; she isn’t afforded the humanity of wanting or desiring love, affection, or partnership. Mammy loves her work and is always depicted as smiling and joyful, happy to be serving White people in their big, beautiful homes. Mammy is often depicted as a larger, older woman with ample bosom that comforts sad White people as her comforting fried chicken awaits in the background. Mammy is wise– she has sage wisdom for every situation that she doles out with a pinch of tough love and a little bit of sass. Mammy is who White people turn to when they can’t figure out which way to go in life or when life simply gets too complicated and they need saving assistance.

Mammy was born during enslavement, when enslaved women had a life expectancy of 33-34 years old. Hardly the sweet, less threatening elderly woman portrayed in Antebellum and Jim Crow mythology. Mammy was often raped due to her proximity to disgusting White men who felt entitled to everything Mammy had to “offer”. Mammy was often disrespected by her own people, especially men, who saw her as a willing accomplice to White supremacy because of her intimate connection to White people because she worked and often lived inside of their homes. Mammy had tattered fingers, run down clothing, physical and emotional scars, and never got enough sleep. Mammy smiled through her pain because the laws long-dictated that enslaved people were not allowed to express their displeasure with their lot, so she smiled to survive and convinced everyone she was happy with her life.

In 2017, we’ve experienced a re-emergence of reliance upon Mammy, except this time, it manifests on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. A few years ago, Black women took hold of social media platforms and used them to be acknowledged. We began writing, tweeting, making videos, podcasting, and blogging to express our thoughts about any and everything. Much of this content centered our experiences as Black women, the good and the bad, the awesome and terrible. As most social media platforms are set up to mimic the African conversational style of call-and-response, it makes sense that Black women would begin to dominate these spaces and utilize them in trendsetting and revolutionary ways.

We shared our “sage wisdom”. We organized. We created movements. We made global connections. We built and strengthened digital communities. We produced and expanded upon theoretical frameworks related to race, gender, economics, and politics. We gave you new language to use to sound smart to your liberal friends and to take on your bigoted coworkers. We challenged the way you think, speak, and act. We called you out for your wrong and demanded you better yourselves or else you would be the catalyst for your own demise.

Now you wanna listen?

No, you don’t just want to “shut up and listen”, as you so often claim with White guilt-laden exasperation. You don’t just want to learn from us. You don’t just want to be good “allies” and support us in our centuries-old liberation fight. That’s not good enough because it doesn’t serve your immediate needs or ease your new fears.

You want us to save you.

You see us as Mammy 2.0, the perpetual supplier of digital comfort and salvation. You regard us as wise (we are), you acknowledge our strength (we can be), and you try to position us as wells from which you can drink and be filled with refreshingly new points of view that make you feel better about being White (you can’t).

You don’t want us to be who we are, not really. You fear our humanity and our ability to say “No”, which may eventually deny you access to whatever comfort you’re seeking in these trying times. You think you’re complimenting us by saying “Black women will save us” and “Black women have been right all along” and “We need to follow the lead of Black women”, but you’re not. Not really. What you’re doing is demanding more work against our consent and masking it as praise, admiration, and support.

You’re projecting your fears onto us and looking to us to ease those fears. You’re asking us to come work for you, perhaps be your maids…?

Heyull. Nawl.

Case in point: “Auntie” Maxine.

Maxine Waters has been a representative in the U.S. congress, representing the 43rd district of California. She is currently in her 14th term. Before her first election in 1990, she worked in California politics for 14 years. Maxine Waters does this. This is what she does and who she is yet so many are only now starting to SEE her. She’s remained largely invisible to so many because of her race and gender, yet she has courageously fought and challenged rich old White men for years!

Now, she is more readily recognized as an internet meme used to add sass to your hot takes. People are flocking to her for guidance and leadership, suddenly putting their trust in her and saying “We should have listened to Black women” in reference to her years of work.

Oh. Ok.

Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve watched the increasing “mammification” of hyper-visible, prominent Black women “thought leaders”. I’ve seen people project their fears, needs, insecurities, and pain onto women who never asked or agreed to provide any type of engagement along those lines. I’ve witnessed brilliant women share their thoughts for free or less than what White men get paid to be mediocre and have people demand they do even more. I’ve watched people beg and plead for help without so much as a respectful “Good morning, how are you?” or a basic introduction and exchange of pleasantries. People have, rather easily, reverted back to ignoring our humanity and relegating us to servants of their needs.

And it isn’t just White people who do it. Black women can expect that anyone of any race or gender identity will turn to them to be saved, to be fixed, to be “made better”. The sociopolitical climate is such that people are frazzled and frustrated and don’t know their ups from their downs but they do know one thing– society taught them that Black women can fix it!

From Black single mothers who sacrificed everything and struggled
…to the Black women who cleaned their homes
…to the Black women who comforted their babies
…to the Black women who loved them when they weren’t shit
…to the Black women who never called the police when they were beaten
…to the Black women who voted them into office
…to the Black women who owned and operated 1.3M businesses in 2013
…to the Black women deemed the most educated demographic in America
…to the Black women leading hashtag movements to pavement-pounding demonstrations
…to the Black women who breathe

Everyone feels entitled to us in one way or another and social media platforms merely facilitate this abusive relationship in ways we probably didn’t imagine would happen. Perhaps our naïveté is partially our fault when history has clearly shown that society deems us unworthy of humanity and dignity. Why we expected better in the digital age, I don’t know.

So here we are, being used again. Worn down and battered with every keystroke aimed in our directions. We do what we can to hold onto each other and lift each other up; we practice “self-care“.

And maybe, one day soon, we’ll learn to be more like Miss Sophia and “reclaim our time” when Miss Millie comes begging to be saved.

XOXO,