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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Black women deserve better

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Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black woman.”

From my purview, I needn’t go any further than the last week or so to say what Brother Malcolm shared in the early 1960s is as true today as it’s ever been.

For all the glorification (and subsequent commodification) of Black Girl Magic, Black women, specifically the outspoken ones, are still catching hell all over the world.

This past weekend, I watched comedian and actress Mo’Nique’s now infamous interview on The Breakfast Club with radio hosts Angela Yee, DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God or as Mo referred to him, Lenard, which is the host’s given name.

During the conversation, Mo’Nique shared the details surrounding her widely publicized failed deal with Netflix. The Academy Award winner was offered $500,000 to do a comedy special for the streaming service with the caveat that she not perform stand-up for two years afterward to ensure the exclusivity of the content created for them. She took to social media asking people to boycott the service on the premise that she’d been discriminated against for her race and gender, citing that comedians Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer had been paid significantly higher amounts ($20 million for both Rock and Chappelle and $13 million for Schumer. Schumer was originally contracted to make $11 million but renegotiated after learning what Rock and Chappelle had earned) compared to what she’d been offered. Many people have pointed out Mo’Nique isn’t as popular or as big of a draw so she isn’t worth the same amount as the aforementioned stars.

That may be true, depending of course on what you’re measuring — movie ticket and concert sales, awards earned, etc. to come up with that number. Beyond that, and this is not to take anything away from these people who are all talented and deserving of the paydays they received, it is insane to think that Mo’Nique, a woman, who has been in the industry for decades with numerous honors, sold-out shows and profitable films under her belt would be paid 1/26 of what Schumer received.

Several people, including fellow comedian Wanda Sykes, came out in her defense. Sykes even disclosed that she’d been offered half of what Mo’Nique was by Netflix. The unjust practice of wage discrimination doesn’t begin and end with Mo’Nique and Sykes at all. Statistics show that compared to every dollar a white man makes, Black women make only 65 cents. During the talk with the Breakfast Club hosts, Mo’Nique asked why the boycott had resulted in Charlamagne dubbing her Donkey of the Day and shared that she felt the his words toward her were poisonous.

Throughout their talk, I felt as if Mo’Nique answered the numerous questions sent her way about why the deal failed, the validity of her argument and her own shortcomings in an articulate manner yet despite that she was still dealt with in a manner that was excessively accusatory. Ultimately, I feel that a lot of folks’ issue with Mo’Nique isn’t about the obviously terrible business opportunity she passed on but more about her approach which has in some folks opinion been rough, raw and unapologetic. A lot of the critiques I’ve seen have centered on this point with people saying they disagree based totally on how she said what she said and not necessarily what she said. This is where I have a problem. It is clear to me based on both personal experiences as well as dialogue I’ve had with people about the Mo’Nique situation that Black women who are courageous enough to speak out about how they’ve been wronged using whatever language they feel necessary are disregarded, dismissed and disrespected — more often by our own than anyone else. I am not saying that Black people should believe Mo’Nique or side with her because she’s also Black but the amount of vitriol from people like Charlamagne and others feels to me unnecessary. Black women, even the rough, raw and unapologetic ones deserve to have their thoughts and feelings heard and validated, they deserve to be paid their worth and they deserve a hell of a lot better than what has been the status quo.

On another, somewhat related, note I would like to encourage each of you to do what you can in your own sphere of influence to listen to, encourage and support Black women. One opportunity, in time for Women’s History Month, is Saving Our Sisters: Honoring the Lioness Within a weekend of events (March 9-11) presented by DON’T SLEEP. I have no doubt that the weekend will be an amazingly impactful experience. For more information, visit DON’T SLEEP on Facebook.

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