November has been off to a rough start with the tragic loss of Takeoff due to senseless gun violence. As someone who went to college in Atlanta during the rise of the Migos, his voice was a part of the soundtrack of my undergraduate experience. His death is a devastating loss for the culture. It’s the same story we continue to hear over and over again, but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. Nipsey Hussle, Pop Smoke, Young Dolph, and PnB Rock are just a few of the names that come to mind when I think of the rappers’ lives cut short just within the past three years. Each time it occurs, there is an outcry to stop the violence, conversations about how hip-hop and rap lyrics condone a lifestyle that’s harming us, and Black women rallying into action to protect and defend Black men. Hence the creation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as #BlackMenDeserveToGrowOld.
So in 2020, when details were released that Megan the Stallion had been shot by Tory Lanez, I expected another public outcry and more accountability since the shooter this time wasn’t an unknown civilian, but someone also in the spotlight and well-known. Instead, Megan has faced intense backlash and numerous allegations of lying about the incident. An incident she didn’t even want to speak on to begin with due to wanting to protect everyone in the car from the police, given the climate we were in during the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. Why people believe she would lie about such a traumatic experience when she has nothing to gain from doing so is beyond me. Especially since video evidence of her that night had been obtained, and there are medical reports that stated bullet fragments were found in her foot. Yet there are plenty of male rappers and celebrities who were not at the scene, but continue to use her for punchlines and clout even two years later. It seems easier for these men to believe she is lying, than to hold their peer accountable for the violence he inflicted on a woman. Drake’s decision to accuse her of lying in a verse on his recent song “Circo Loco” was such disappointing and disgusting behavior to me. All I could think about is how Megan is having to relive the experience and defend herself, yet again and how much I wish these men would leave her alone. So my spirit felt moved to write her a letter to express my deepest empathy and compassion. Not just to her, but to all of the other countless Black women who have been bullied, ridiculed, torn down, and harassed, when all they were asking for was to be believed.
To Megan and the many others,
First things first, I just want to say how proud I am of you. Despite everything that you have been through, you refuse to allow anyone to dim your light. And as you continue to shine, you give others permission to do the same. Now just to be clear, I am not praising you solely for your strength. I’m tired of Black women always having to be so strong. The more our strength is praised, it seems like the more we feel like our identity has to be wrapped up in how much we can endure. What I am praising is your resilience and your commitment to being so much more than just your trauma. Even before the shooting, you had undergone the unbearable loss of not only a mother, but a grandmother shortly after as well. Yet, you continued to work and attain your bachelors’ degree, while being on tour and having a sky-rocketing career. You’ve been the epitome of allowing your losses to propel you forward and make your ancestors proud. In addition to advancing in your personal life, you’ve been sure to take care of your community as well. Partnering with Popeyes to make a six-figure donation to Houston Random Acts of Kindness is just one example of your generosity. My favorite project of yours has been your launch of www.badbitcheshavebaddaystoo.com, a detailed and super helpful website that provides resources, therapist directories, helplines, podcasts and more for the Black community. Just the title of the website alone normalizes mental health and aims to make it less taboo, which is such a need. My purpose of highlighting your contributions is not just to fangirl over you, but to provide context to the common pattern I continue to see: Black women repeatedly trying to help and use their voice for the greater good. Yet when we use this same voice to advocate for ourselves and speak our truths, we are ignored, blamed, or dismissed. If you, a prominent, successful, Grammy award winning celebrity can’t even get the respect and support you deserve, it can feel hopeless for us as Black women in general to feel like our words and experiences will ever be taken seriously. So to you and every other Black woman who has experienced or witnessed abuse, violence, or pain and were not believed or regarded with care, I see you. You are not alone.
Black women not being heard has been our reality in this country for eons. Not listening to Black women has cost lives. It is an alarming problem that continues to be ignored. We see it often, especially when it comes to domestic violence, and the Black maternal mortality rate. According to the Violence Policy Center, in 2020 Black women were murdered by males at a rate nearly three times as high as white women. Firearms were the most common weapons used by males to murder Black women. Oftentimes Black women who are in abusive relationships are afraid to seek help or report to the police. They are typically afraid that if they do,they or their partners could end up killed at the hands of the police. Or they will be seen as the aggressor and arrested, or not believed in the first place. Which are all very real concerns given the systems in place in this country. In addition to the justice system, the healthcare system has a track record of not believing Black women as well. A 2016 study found that a substantial number of white medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites and demonstrates that these beliefs predict racial bias in pain perception and treatment recommendation accuracy. It is believed that Black people have thicker skin and experience less pain than white people. So even when Black women are telling their doctors something is wrong or they are in pain, they still aren’t taken seriously. It’s almost as if we are seen as not qualified to speak on these issues despite these being our lived experiences.
Not being listened to when you are crying out for help can be maddening. As a therapist, I see first hand how detrimental it is to be on the receiving end of gaslighting. When you know you are being harmed in some way, but someone else is telling you that you’re not. When you’re expressing emotions and constantly being told that it’s not a big deal. When you are often told that you’re being dramatic or over-exaggerating. If the response to your experiences is rarely ever validation or understanding, it can plant seeds of self-doubt and seep into your ability to believe in yourself. Which can ultimately result in internal conflicts down the line, such as second guessing your instincts, questioning if what you experienced really happened or wondering whether or not you’re good enough. Not to mention, heightened anxiety, being unsure of who you can trust, and keeping your guard up at all times. If this sounds like you or what you have experienced, then I’m truly sorry you didn’t receive the listening ear or shoulder to cry on that you needed in that moment. I hope you find a space that feels safe and affirming for you. And if that feels unimaginable at this time, given all that you have been through, then I pray that at least reading this allows you to feel seen and heard.
With love and light,