The term “Oppression Olympics” was first introduced to me in passing during my junior year of high school when two friends of mine had gotten into a heated argument. The quarrel was about the injustices they face as a result of them being a member of their respective marginalized group. As I attempted to calm both of them down, I began to wonder why some members of marginalized groups feel the need to diminish the residual effects of painful history other groups outside of theirs faced?
The post-colonial mindset is real, and colorism exists in places where one may never imagine, at least I didn’t imagine it to be so. I was walking with my group, and multiple times I was called “Obroni” which is an Akan word that means “foreigner” or truer, “white man”. I was called this not because my skin was more brown than black, but because of my curly hair, which stood out to the local people and the typical coarse, kinkier hair which they were used to seeing. They saw the injecting of white man’s genetics into my being from generations past, and associated me with the like, fully.
The last I checked there were more than two races of people in this world, so this not just about black and white, but yet the most abundant people are considered the minority and the complex of the inferiority when in fact we are the majority and the template of creation for all that is considered human existence on this planet. This planet, not this plantation, so when is enough, enough?
As much as I find myself choosing to see myself in other black women, I can truthfully say that I do the same for black men. In fact, the whole black community is expected to see its needs and interests reflected in those issues and needs most relevant to straight black men. Furthermore, as a black woman, I see my survival as entangled with that of black men despite how strained our personal interactions may be. We fight for black men and it’s often unclear or minimal what we, as black women, get in return. This isn’t even meant to be a shady critique but a discussion about choice. With every choice we make to center straight, cis black men in our community politics, we choose to overlook the issues most impacting every other black identity, including black trans women and girls, as well as cis and non-binary black people.
I graduated with determination and resilience, two critical characteristics that surfaced out of my experience in our current society and my Africana study courses. As I looked at the workforce for guidance I knew that my focus would be working with a community that represents me. In reality that was not the case. I was seeking jobs in environments that disconnected me from my experiences at home and my community. Although the pay was greatly livable, it was not nourishing my spirit.
We, Ethiopians, stereotypically perceive ourselves as a different sect altogether. It is true that we are a longstanding sovereign country, who do not hail colonization in our history, and our great-grand and grandparents have given their lives to make it remain so. But that does not give us an exemption from our Blackness.
It is possible to build an Africa that resembles Wakanda and those of us in the diaspora who felt a great deal of pride after watching the Black Panther movie do have a very important role to play in making this a reality. In order to do so we not only have to become more engaged with Africa, but we also have to directly assist in the struggle to liberate Africa from neo-colonialism. Killmonger may be the antagonist of the film, but his vision for the collective liberation of all African people is a vision that we should be striving to turn into a reality.
The war against Black people is global and as Dr. King once said, “None of us are free until all of us are free.” Let’s make sure our sister Marielle Franco’s life and death isn’t in vain. Let’s make sure the voice and the strength of our diaspora is felt beyond Black Panther’s box office numbers. Share her story. Demand justice. End the war on black people everywhere. Say Her Name!