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.
Black women at risk
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 and is merely an extension of the “roaming the slave quarter” and slavemaster mentality. Whether subliminally or consciously, these same attitudes fuel the actions of Whites 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 Representative Maxine Waters, American Urban Radio correspondent April Ryan, and once again Dr. Susan Rice, former national security advisor to President Obama.
Stand against them
In this context, we must stand against Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly for his comment about Representative Waters: “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 presidential press secretary Sean Spicer, who erroneously, as though she were a child, admonished April to “stop shaking your head!” We must stand against, and reject, the Trump administration’s feeble attempt to justify 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.
Tell our stories
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 about them.
We must also 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 Akousa Ali, president of the NAACP in the District of Columbia; 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 African-American Museum.
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.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.