Just Leave My Name Out Your Mouth

Lakitha Tolbert
9 min readNov 14, 2023

Can We Please Just Leave Black Women Alone

“Leave my name out your mouth” means to not talk about someone or bring them up in conversation when you have no relationship with them, or they have no relationship to the topic you’re discussing. The topic should ( if at all possible) be discussed on its own terms, and not whether another group of marginalized people (that you have no direct knowledge of or relationship to) are associated with it.

Like a lot of Black women I have business of my own which I carefully mind. However, social media has allowed a lot of people, who do not know how or when to do that, to stir up trouble and be petty for fun and/or clicks, and then run and hide, or play the victim when called out for doing so. Social media being the way it is, no matter how well I curate my handful of social media feeds, I will be subjected to someone’s bold, wrong opinion about women who look like me.

Too many people use bashing Black women, (for the same kind of behavior everyone engages in or just making stuff up), to drive engagement to their online spaces. For some people, talking smack about those groups of people (and yes, Black transwomen fit this criteria), who aren’t bothering anyone, or have the least amount of social power, has become a highly lucrative business, especially on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

And this isnt just happening on social media, because plenty of politicians and other wealthy white men have historically used Black women (and other women of color) as their punching bags, especially when fundraising, or conning white Americans into voting against their own self interest.

For example, Shay Moss and Ruby Freeman were simply minding their own business, and living their lives, when Rudy Giuliani thought he would simply choose two random Black poll workers to accuse of voting fraud, and even associate with criminal activity, by making poorly veiled insinuations that they were drug dealers. Why? Because he knew from decades of observation how easy it is to throw Black women under a bus, and that no one would care if he ruined their lives to achieve his goals.

From Black women’s expertise and competence in their chosen fields being questioned and disregarded, to being flat out told where we do and do not belong, to having our physical and medical complaints ignored by the medical community, this country has a long history of open disrespect and disregard of Black women and our opinions. Plenty of people have gotten the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what is said about, or happens to, Black women. The situation is so common that even other Black women can get their terrible opinions about other Black women monetized.

It is an interesting facet of being Black and a woman that you sit at the top of every online agitator’s shit list, (with the exception, these days, of transgender women of every race, and that’s if their existence is regarded at all), because a lot of pale bodies, and a few too many Black and PoC , feel some type of way about us, and almost all of those ways are exploitative, cruel,

and petty swipes about our looks, manner of dress, and/or our supposedly bad attitudes. After all, negativity drives a lot of online engagement, and as we have all observed, it is far easier for the mentally inert and unimaginative to punch down rather than up. Do you need a quick topic to liven up your social media feed? Well then, why not criticize Black women’s hairstyles, what to wear while out of doors, how We need to stop being angry and bitter, or critique or makeup skills.

There is a network of channels on Youtube dedicated to pushing back against the online narrative of Black women as the heart of this country’s problems, the foundation of all that is wrong in the US, or sometimes just in the life of the person who is espousing those ideas, and this is another of the things people don’t consider when discussing Blackness. How you can never just be left alone to mind your own business and get on with living your life, without being randomly broadsided by a stranger’s online “misogynoir”, or in some cases, real world hatred.

The sheer amount of time spent rebutting poisonous narratives, from the mentally weak (and those who are not busy enough) that come out of no and where, could better be spent taking care of the business to which we generally devote ourselves. But we must speak out and defend ourselves lest such opinions become entrenched stereotypes, and because nobody else (especially those ready and willing to make money from degrading us) would ever open their mouths to do it.

A couple of weeks ago I was recommended a video from an Asian American woman that was being rebutted by Black women. This woman decided, for reasons known only to herself, and the lord of unwise opinions, that she should make the argument that the current style of how Black women wear lipstick is inelegant, and is only done to over-exaggerate the size of our lips and draw attention. That this is any woman’s point in wearing lipstick, and that we don’t need to make our lips look bigger (but are merely accentuating a feature we’re proud of), are facts which seemed to have escaped this woman, in her zeal to drag Black women for activities most women engage in.

After having gotten all the extra traffic she was aiming for, from hundreds of Black women, (in the form of pushback and her own dragging), she felt the need to close comments on her account and run and hide. That just proves to me she didn’t have the strength of her convictions, and decided that Black women would be the easiest target to increase traffic to her videos. She learned the same thing from mainstream media that Rudy Giuliani did, it seems.

That no one gives a hot damn when they attack Black women. (Except the women in question.)

*Sigh*

Black people have a saying (I think several cultures have this saying), “throwing stones and then hiding your hands behind your back”, which is applied to people lobbing insults at others, and then afterwards don’t take responsibility for having done so, or in the case of this woman lobbing a softball at Black women’s lips, and then running and hiding by shutting down her social media.

This happens, oh about…once a week, where someone, usually someone who is not a Black woman, mind you, has the bright idea that they can increase their social media engagement by saying something or anything, outrageous about Black American women.

And that works, because having been smacked simply for existing, Black women then have no choice but to holler. Having just heard our name called, Black women then have to go to that space to pushback against whatever slander was just engaged in.

Don’t get me wrong, we would like to be able to ignore it, and arguments have been made for doing so, but my argument against letting the insults slide is that we don’t live in the kind of world where we can let that type of thing sit there, lest it become entrenched, and then twenty/thirty years later it’s become a stereotype we need to fight. Again. No, we need to nip shit like this in its budding stage, as it occurs. Perhaps if we waste the time doing that today, we won’t need to waste even more time trying to convince everyone that whatever it is isn’t true in twenty years. Perhaps in twenty or thirty years we won’t have to spend time and energy arguing against a stereotype, that was started by some long forgotten woman on Instagram, that we are inelegant attention whores.

The other day a random white woman made a TikTok video asserting that racism against Black women was the foundation of fatphobia. She had no receipts for this commentary, didn’t think the subject all the way through, seemingly did no research on fat acceptance in European history, or understood how white male patriarchy has used fatphobia to keep white women busy, tired, and in line. This nonsense required several Black women to take time out of their busy schedule of minding their own business to let her know she was both loud and wrong about her assertions.

Fatphobia towards white women does not exist because Black women are fat. It exists as a way to manipulate white women into being what white men desire them to be. If white women spend all their energy worrying about their weight, (working hard to be twenty pounds underweight), and what they’re putting on their plates, then they don’t have time or energy to speak on more important issues like violence, sexual assault, and inequality.

And let’s not get into the sordid history of Black men, expressing white men’s worst possible character traits (in an effort to cozy up to white male dominance), by bitterly attacking and demonizing Black women on social media. That’s a whole new article to write and I’m too tired. (But I would also like to point out to the Black women who don’t know this: It is not true that Black men are the only ones demeaning women who share their racial background. White men regularly attack and demean white women online all day, and have seemingly devoted entire coalitions and organizations to doing nothing but talking shit about white women.)

But:

There is one good thing I’ve seen rise out of all this, and that is the absolutely surprising sight of a few white people who have been listening and paying attention. Of white people who recognize racism when they see it, and will call it out no matter who expresses it, and women (and other people of color) responding to, and coming to collect, their own people, while knowing their facts, carrying receipts, and letting these people know that it’s just not okay to come for a group of people who have not affected their lives in any meaningful way, exploit white resentment of us for clicks and attention, or just use our perfectly ordinary mistakes as an opportunity to express their bigotry.

There is often no reason for these people to have an opinion about us or put our names in conversations we didn’t start. They could simply ignore our existence (after all, plenty of people manage to do just that) and their lives will not have been upheaved in the slightest.

Malcolm X said: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

It would be better for all of us if they simply kept our name out their mouth, but social media allows people to make a profit off of disrespecting Black women and I don’t feel that ignoring them is an option we have. As we have all seen, lies have the ability to become the truth if said loudly and often enough, and we’re still fighting today over the lies that have been already told about us for centuries.

So here is one solution: Just leave Black women alone. It will save time for everybody. You won’t get your edges snatched by exhausted Black women protecting their honor, and we won’t need to take time out of our busy schedule to do all that snatching, (especially when that messes up our elegant and well-manicured nails).

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