The Power Of Life And Death Are In The Tongue: How Black Women Are Silenced And Cancelled.

I have admittedly been absent for a while. I’ve had a lot of things happening in my personal life that have made me take a step back and re-evaluate everything. I’m in a very weird and frustrating place where absolutely nothing seems to be working out the way I had wanted or hoped it would. I’ve summed it up to a number of things I think could possibly be the root of that, but at the end of the day, it is irrelevant. My life is being directed into a direction I absolutely do not want and am completely resistant to. Unfortunately, it is one I have zero real choice or control over, which is causing me severe anxiety, anger and frustration.

As I’ve been trying to work through my stuff and accept the reality of my situation, I’ve been attempting to articulate how I feel. One of my theories on being cancelled and silenced has to do with several articles I’ve written that I’m not sure have gone over well with certain people in positions of power. As I’ve seen sorting through the murkiness of my emotions, I watched the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Reunion Show on HBO Max and then followed up with the Will Smith takeover of the Red Table Talk, one of my favourite modern pseudo-psychology shows. As most people who follow the show and have watched the reunion show or read any of the media headlines that were generated after it know, Will Smith and Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv(ian) had a 27-year bitter feud that stemmed from multiple issues that occurred during her time on the show. Will Smith admittedly said several publicly damning comments that completely and utterly destroyed Janet’s carrier. On the show, Will comes face to face with Janet after all these years and has a much needed conversation about what the impact of his words were on the trajectory of her life. There was a line that stood out to me so vividly from the conversation, when Janet was speaking directly to Will telling him exactly the irrevocable harm his words caused her. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, that when he went around the industry calling her “difficult” and “unprofessional” on the set, it was the “kiss of death” on her career. As a dark skinned Black woman, this was literally the worst thing you could call us at the time in Hollywood. She lost everything. Not only was she dealing with an abusive marriage and familial pressures, but she then lost everything financially after she refused the shitty contract she was offered by the studio executives and was then completely shut out of the entertainment industry as a whole. All because Will Smith called her “difficult.” And why did he do it? Because he admittedly saw her as a threat to him and his show. Because of fear.

Janet’s story completely broke my heart because, like most people, I hadn’t known the extent of what was going on or her side of the story. I had just seen a few random angry social media videos every once in a while, where she would completely tear into Will. I never understood the anger, hurt, humiliation and frustration she was experiencing and had been for years because of Will’s thoughtless, careless and insensitive words at the time. It made me reflect on my current situation. One of the things I’ve really been struggling with over the last little while is how Black women are attacked for speaking our truth or telling our stories. It seems like when I’m honest about the experiences I’ve had with white and other POC, it seems to be a problem for some people. And it seems where someone has the power to attempt to indirectly silence my voice, they are choosing to do so. Instead of speaking to me or having a conversation to understand my perspective, they’d rather stop promoting my work, stop publishing my articles or not moving forward with me in business dealings. I’m not surprised by this, but I am disappointed. I truly felt like in this current age, there was an earnest and real willingness to listen to some hard truths about experiences by Black people. But it seems, as per the usual norm, whenever someone reads or hears something they don’t like, instead of them challenging themselves to sit in the discomfort of it and have tough conversations with people they may not agree with and who’s perspectives they may not understand or even like; but because we are all human, we can agree to disagree, they instead choose to silence, cancel or worse, ignore those individuals. In some cases, they may even prevent them from moving further in their careers.

I’ve seen this play out over and over in the corporate world. When someone doesn’t play by the rules, they are shut out of promotions and raises and strung along until they naturally give up and quit. Rarely have I seen leaders develop and mentor their direct reports at senior levels of leadership. Unfortunately, there seems to be this unspoken rule or expectation rather that senior managers and leaders will just “figure it out,” although how that train of thought and logic makes any sense is beyond me. Because if they knew to do better, I’m sure they would. People cannot fix a problem they do not know exists. If we are going to become a society where instead of correcting people and having conversations about betters ways that we can communicate with each other and see others’ perspectives, we just cancel, ignore and in some cases full out destroy people’s careers, I’m not sure how we are going to continue to evolve in a healthy way as countries and as a broader world in general. I have no issue being wrong. I’ve been wrong plenty of times in my life to know everyone goes though that. However, what I can never abide by is when someone refuses to have a conversation with me about something they feel I’ve done that is incorrect, and instead chooses to go directly for their brand of punishment, which can come in various forms.

Confrontation is a tough thing to do. Healthy confrontation even more so. I was watching an episode of Red Table Talk a few weeks ago with Jamila Jameel and she was sharing about times where she has said things that weren’t cool and was held accountable for it. She welcomed the healthy but uncomfortable confrontation as it made her a better person. By people pointing out and showing her the errors in her manner of speaking or communicating, she was able to fix them. While some people did attempt to cancel her, she decided that she was not going to be cancelled because we are all human and we all make mistakes that we can bounce back from. At the end of the day, no one has the right to cancel or silence anyone else, no matter how much you may not like what they are saying.

I understand how tricky, complicated, messy, sometimes ugly, painful and down right dreadful talking about race and race relations is these days. I’ve been becoming more aware that many people who I thought really got it and understood the issues being faced by Black people really actually don’t and in some cases, many people I personally know don’t truly give a shit. You cannot know how disappointing it feels to be a marginalized person living in a world where the majority of people don’t truly care about you, your community or your struggles. People who would rather shut you up or down and cancel you or ignore you than try to understand where you are coming from. I will always believe that as a writer, I am accountable and responsible for the things I put out there, whether they be in articles, or social media posts. But what I am never willing to do is alter my version of truth or reality to make anyone else feel comfortable. I’m over that shit. This world can be very cruel and harsh and quite frankly does not care about any individual persons emotions or feelings. So I need to care about mine. Because I’m the only one who ever truly will completely. And as such, I can never allow anyone, no platform, no company and no person, to shut my voice down or up. Whether my work ever gets published again on any platform or picked up is truly irrelevant to me now. I know my worth and the power of my voice. No one has the right to tell me I cannot share my stories, feelings, opinions and expressions as I see fit. While I understand that there is a consequence for this and it may cost me many things as it already seems to have, I have decided I will not care any longer about the validation or approval of entities or people. I honour and respect everyone but I do not need to follow their lead or accept their validation or lack thereof. No one validates me but me. No one can shut my voice down but me. No one can cancel me but me.

I have decided to be fearless in my voice and my written word. I will not cower or run away from controversial topics. I will not stop talking about the absolute fuckery that happens on a daily basis to people within my community. And if this doesn’t jive with organizations and certain people, then so be it. I guess I am not your cup of tea. And I’m really okay with that. I only want to work with people who are willing to judge me based on the content of my character and getting to actually know me; and not the projection of others’ fears. Rejection sucks and never feels good. But there is a certain kind of freedom in it as well. Know your worth and never settle for anything less than you deserve. This world will chew you up and spit you out if it can. If you don’t have a strong sense of self; self-worth, self-knowledge and self-love, this world will make you think you don’t deserve to be here and that your voice doesn’t count. No one gets to tell you the value of your voice and whether it counts or not. We are all worthy of basic decency and respect. We all deserve to be heard.

I am a Certified Life Coach, blogger, podcaster and entrepreneur currently residing in the Toronto, Canada area. I am a proud member of the CBCC.

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