Resisting the political Mammy narrative

Quit making everything we do about yourself for once and uplift Black women for Black women’s sake

Briana L. Urena-Ravelo
6 min readDec 13, 2017

In the aftermath of last night’s Alabama Senate Race results, Black women are yet again being put last in line as beneficiaries to their own act of self-preservation and are instead being seen as everyone else’s salvation.

It’s horrific that the situation ever got to the point of requiring an endlessly beleaguered, hated, ignored, attacked, and marginalized population to come yet again to help those who created this mess and refuse to help themselves, much less Black women, because they know they can depend on those very Black women to get shit done for them. And yet the seemingly overwhelming and positive acknowledgement of Black woman’s role in the outcome narrative is muddled by something more nefarious that requires naming.

It’s true that inevitably, because unlike white women, Black women are infinitely less selfish and cruel, we do tend move & act with everyone else in mind, with our community in mind, before we think of ourselves, if we ever do. There’s a reason why when Black women are free we’ll all be free, our feminism has been rooted in this inherently radical intersectional resistance that is often the spine for all resistance since 1492.

But that is a dynamic established during slavery that sees and socialized us as the help, that objectifies us and makes us secondary characters even in our own superhero movie, that burdens us with everything under white patriarchal supremacy but doesn’t see our pain or hurt under the violence and pressure, thus making everyone believe we are immune to it. We internalize it ourselves & play the role without blinking, especially in politically empowering moments like this where our capacity and strength through suffering shines though.

But the “strong Black woman” narrative is inextricable from that historic & current dehumanizing objectification and burdening of Black womanhood wherein we are relegated to subservient supportive roles and encouraged to forget ourselves and our bleeding, exploited for our work and labor but left with no support or salvation in return.

We must reject the painting of the Black Alabama women’s vote as this completely charitable & selfless act of caring and benevolence graciously bestowed upon everyone else by them, like they exist to act for everyone else and this vote was for others & not themselves.

It must be said loudly and clearly you’re welcome, but Black women aren’t your mammies who exist solely to suckle you, raise you, save America itself when America shows again and again how much it does not regard or care for Black women. We move and act with ourselves and their needs in mind, more so each day, and that’s a powerful thing.

In calling out the framing of this political act as one of Black motherly benevolence, we must instead see it as one of Black woman need, and address Black women’s needs. Black women have issues that concern and impact them more deeply than any other demographic in Alabama. Black Alabama women have unique economical, medical, political, emotional, social, etc needs. Doug Jones was the candidate who isn’t a pro-slavery pedophile so he was inevitably the better choice, but it’s likely he won’t actually do anything to address and support the Black women who got him his win. What are we doing to address this and meet their needs? What accountability are we demanding? What pressure are we putting on those who hurt Black women and go against their interests in Alabama outside of merely praising Black women for saving everyone else from themselves?

This inevitably leads us to discussing the framing of the other womanhood being named at this time, as the perpetual and inexhaustible agency & strength of Black womanhood does not exist outside of the perpetual victimhood narrative of white womanhood.

We cannot look at what happened in Alabama last night, Trump’s presidency win or any other bullshit white women have pulled throughout the centuries and continue to say white women “vote and act against their best interests”.

First off, that assumes their interest is a righteous allegiance to gender that is neutral and in the end also helps other women. Even if that was true, that they vote either for or against their gender, in truth, their gender isn’t neutral or inextricable from whiteness, so even when they do rely on their gender to lead them, it yet doesn’t achieve much for women living in other gender realities, especially racialized ones.

However, the bottom line is that white women’s true investment is in whiteness, and has been the whole time, and it does benefit them to do so. White women don’t vote with their white gender, they vote with their white race. And they do so to their net gain.

Too often we allow cis white women to hide behind their gender marginalization both forgetting that they’re still privileged for having the only other manifestation of gender outside of white manhood recognized by white supremacy in the first place and the fact that their whiteness rides so hard it obscures all else more often than not, even when they’re also marginalized in other ways aside from gender.

If anything, what they consistently communicate in their politic is that gender marginalization occasionally gets in the way of them fully accessing whiteness & that irritates them. Their struggles, historically and now, very specifically revolved around them striving for full access to whiteness and their willingness to oppress others to get it. White women hedge their bets on whiteness every single time so ultimately, when they pull nonsense like this, they do vote in their best interests. Always have, always will. To assume they’re engaging in their own victimhood is to erase how they participate and enact violence. It is to erase how more often than not they make themselves Black women’s enemies, willingly.

This in tandem with the mammy trope encourages a narrative wherein White women are women but Black women are mules. Where white women, even as they loudly, repetitively, actively make white supremacist decisions & choose their white supremacist allegiances, are yet the victims, and Black women are their saviors. And we still get treated horribly.

The performative “Trust Black women, Black women did that” bullshit doesn’t help anything if you don’t actually do it, if you don’t actually challenge misogynoir and cultural norms that see us as untrustworthy even as we’re supposed to wipe everyone’s asses. These statements don’t mean anything if it isn’t backed by a real, intentional moving of money, space resources and power towards Black women so we can dismantle the violent, predatory, sexually and racially antagonistic realities we exist in every day, both from outside our communities and within them as well.

I would love if for once Black womanhood was respected and loved for its beauty and power as related to itself, its experiences or other Black women as opposed to what benefit it has to others and how others perceive, demand or understand it achieved for them. I would love it if for once we saw Black womanhood for how it is violated and strive to protect it, to uplift our own efforts to protect ourselves.

Continuing to talk about Black womanhood in relation to everyone else and not actually center and uplift it is still perpetuating the misogynoir and white self-centeredness that got us here in the first place.

Please know, I don’t want to be your help or your salvation. I’m not trying to lead or guide you. I’m not trying to be your light, your spice, your flavor. I’m trying to do and be me in relation to my own self and experiences and extract that womanhood and my life from all your greedy, racist, patriarchal, institutionally violent nonsense.



Briana L. Urena-Ravelo

Writer. Community organizer. Errant punk. Ne’er do well. Fire starter. Email: