A Sign of Black Solidarity


Bilal Butt | Correspondent


Nov. 4, 2013, BET ‘s annual award show, Black Girls Rock! was met with backlash from social media users.

Black Girls Rock, a non-profit organization started in 2006, is dedicated to the empowerment of young Black women, giving them the tools to overcome the myriad of obstacles they face in our misogynistic society.

The award show works as a night to highlight the outstanding accomplishments and contributions made by women of color to American society, communicating the message of Black solidarity.

On the night of the show’s airing, the BET Twitter account started the hashtag #BlackGirlsRock. As a result, many Black men and white women accused the show of promoting a double standard in racism. Comments were made to the effect that if #WhiteGirlsRock had been the trending hashtag, it would not have been well received and considered essentially racist.Although I do not disagree that often cultural solidarity promotes a racial divide, when minorities are categorically underrepresented in media, these components are necessary due to the lack of color shown in today’s mainstream society.

Tommie Shelby, Professor of African American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard University defines “Black solidarity” as, “the joint efforts of the African-American community to promote a positive collective identity and to recognize a shared oppression and its impacts.” Black solidarity is necessary to gain perspective. Without Black unity, African Americans would by and largely still be left out of much of our national political discourse. Only through banding together were African Americans truly able to fight racism and overcome discontempt. It seems that many skeptics today argue that Black solidarity is outdated in a so called “post-racial” society.

Although society today is viewed as fairly progressive, there is always room for change. Systematic barriers still exist within our government that prevent the success of minorities, especially African Americans. This oppressive cycle sustains a society with huge racial disparities in social, economic, and political issues. Thus today, there are still many things that negatively impact the lives of Black people at disproportionately higher rates than for those of other ethnicities.

Though these users felt personally victimized by the show’s existence saying it encourages a racial divide, they are no where to be found in the conversation of true instances of racial discrimination within our society.  Clutch, an online magazine, asks “where are the hashtags when Black women are systematically shut out of every other avenue of popular culture from the fashion industry to Awards season?”

The comments made by Black men and white women in response to Black Girls Rock! expose the necessity of such shows and organizations. Black Girls Rock! condones a positive self image for women of color and the award show specifically helps to recognize and emphasize the talents of extraordinary women of color that would otherwise be shadowed by American media. It is crucial for young minority women to have role models to look up to that also look like them. This type of mutual identification resonates with young women and encourages solidarity. We need Black Girls Rock! because Black girls and women are almost invisible in American media.