If you are a black woman, or any woman of color, reading this article, you already know what I am going to say. It’s that age old choice that I, as a black woman, have to make on so many occasions. According to some, I have to decide between my RACE and my SEX. And I am often not given the option to choose both. That’s because there is this idea that I CAN or have no desire to choose both. This dilemma applies to both law and politics, two industries that I am entrenched in at the moment. However, the discussion around diversity is ever present when deciding policy and laws. So, therein lies the challenge because the choice is ever present. But, as I am never one to back down from a challenge, I have decided to address some concerns that have plagued my legal and political (and now consulting) career for a while.
Case Study: “Why can’t you just focus on black people?”
Nothing brings home the point I am trying to make than a real life case study. So for example, I am planning a conference in July in Atlanta focused on capital raising solutions and growth strategies for minorities AND women. I can’t tell you the amount of strange looks and inquiries I have gotten because I have decided to not focus only on black people. [As a sidenote, I am planning a Blacks in Tech Policy conference in November at the Georgia State Capitol so their fears are unwarranted, whatever they may be.] Why exactly do people think that humans can extricate themselves from one identity? Can I not be BOTH black and a woman? What is the problem with identifying with both? Let me be blunt: There are experiences no black man will EVER experience as a woman. Just as there are experiences no white woman will EVER experience as a black person. Those experiences are not and cannot be exclusive of one another in the skin and sex that I have been given. And even if I could separate the experiences, I don’t want to–they make me who I am.
7 Points about My Black Woman Experience
1. It’s MY experience.
That’s right. I am unapologetic about experiencing being a black woman—the good, the bad and the ugly. No one has to second my experience. And no one has to approve of my experience. Therefore, no one has to validate my experience for me to feel what I feel. It’s my experience and mine alone to own and embrace. I do it fully and without regrets. And as long as there are ears to hear, I will share my experience for all to listen and learn.
2. In business, we [women] start with less.
Women start with less than HALF of the start up capital of men, on average. Additionally, women receive only about 2% of outside capital vs. men who receive about 18% (Source: National Women’s Business Council, 2012 Report, https://www.nwbc.gov/research/nwbc-2012-annual-report, last assessed 5/17/17) Not only is this a fact based on statistics, I see the differences all the time in my business dealings. There is a bond that comes from knowing most of us [women] are starting at a disadvantage from men. And with that bond comes the instinct to support other women, no matter the race, in this tough business world.
3. I am invested in the Civil Rights Movement.
Now obviously I wasn’t born during the Civil Rights Movement (CRA). My parents were barely born. But it doesn’t mean I am any less vested in the Civil Rights Movement. The challenges of being a woman in the civil rights movement are well documented from other black women. Examples include most of the focus of the movement being on the oppression of black men and men receiving most of the credit. (Source: The Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/collections/civil-rights-history-project/articles-and-essays/women-in-the-civil-rights-movement/, last assessed 5/17/17). I’m proud of the movement but let’s be serious—being a black woman in the CRA was a different experience and had a different outcome than that of a black man.
4. I am invested in the Women’s Rights Movement.
Again, I am not saying that I participated in the Women’s Rights Movement as I was not born yet. However, I am very much vested in what happened during this period of time, including the experiences of black women. It is undisputed that black women were heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement but often faced racial discrimination. (Source: Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders, https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/AfricanAmericanwomen.html, last assessed 5/17/17) But no matter how frustrated I could have been with this movement, I had an obligation to be involved. The outcome affected who I am as a black woman and so active participation was imperative to my well being.
5. We [black women] can help you.
Listen up black men and non-black women. This can and should be a partnership. Black men should be able to gain knowledge from black women to be better advocate for the whole black race. Conversely, white women should be able to use the wisdom of black women to relate to other non-white women. My proposition is that smart, forward thinking individuals should see us as an asset to gain insight and not as a liability. The black woman as much to say and contribute. Think about it.
6. You are not qualified to write my story.
This seems pretty self explanatory. But, to be clear, you cannot tell ME what it is to be a black woman. Therefore, you are unqualified to tell me why I have to choose sides and which side to choose. Period. End of story. No discussion to be had. Nope—this is not even remotely up for a discussion. I will not tell you what it means to be a man or a white woman and you will not try to educate me on the plight of black womanhood. Deal?
7. Being a black woman is not exclusive.
This is the most important point of this whole article. I cannot separate being black from being a woman. It’s who I am. Therefore God has given me the unique challenge of being both. I can both advocate for black issues AND women issues. I can empathize with being black AND a woman. And I can support my black AND women community. Imagine that! A black woman can actually do multiple things at the same time! In conclusion, being identified with one does not, will not and cannot exclude identifying with the other.
Call To Action
Let me be. It’s hard enough to do the work that I do without having separate factions nipping at my ankles telling me to “choose. choose. choose.” In fact, I implore you all to not only go passive—but be active. Find a way to reach out to women of color and intentionally support them and their efforts. We are all in “this” together—so uplifting one another in our unique positions is key to all of us rising. I hope you will answer the call.
My name is Dar’shun Kendrick and I am a business attorney and owner of Kendrick Law Practice, helping businesses raise capital the LEGAL way. I have 2 B.A.s from Oglethorpe University, a law degree from the University of Georgia and an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University. Additionally, I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives (East DeKalb/South Gwinnett counties) since 2011 where I serve as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation Committee as well as Co-Chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Economic Development committee. I am also a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development board, and featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Inclusive Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.
I am also the founder and Board Chair of a non-profit organization to EDUCATE and EMPOWER minorities called Minority Access to Capital, Inc. Furthermore, I am an Economic Justice Advocate and Owner of Kendrick Advisory and Advocacy Group L.L.C. providing consulting and advocacy services on policy and initiatives across the nation for those that want to reach minorities.