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My thoughts on Symone Sanders vs. Protester

Written by Penelope Farthing

Last year, Karine Jean-Pierre put herself in between a male protester and then-presidential hopeful Kamala Harris. History has now repeated itself, with Symone Sanders as the latest black woman acting as a bodyguard, instead of her appointed role as senior advisor to presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Vegan protesters rushed the stage and Symone sprang into action, dragging her off stage. Mrs. Biden was there too, but we’ll touch on that later.

Video 1:

Video 2 (a different angle):

What can even be said anymore? Society at large views us as Wakandan warriors and treats us as such. We internalize this, and we go out in the world as perpetual protester and pugilist. Adopting these roles masculinizes us on a collective level, which in turn makes the world see fit to treat us any kind of way. So, in a way, I’m not surprised that Symone did this. It has almost come to be expected that the role of bodyguard will default to black women. But this does not serve us. After all, when I searched for the video on YouTube, all I typed in was “Symone” and the first suggestion was “Symone Sander tackle”.

 

I appreciate that in the heat of the moment, your body will often react before your brain can say otherwise. But how come, when given the option between fight and flight, is it almost always fight with us? Obviously, there are a plethora of reasons for this. It could be genetic memory, and our predisposition to bravely face potential danger has been passed on through our ancestors who were warriors of a bygone era. It could just be habit, as we are so commonly wronged by society at large, that we jump to be the protector role at all costs. Or, more insidiously, we have become indoctrinated by the belief that we are not women first, but race-first, or cause-first, and that we can take a licking and keep on ticking.

 

And no, not everyone wants to be the opposite, the damsel in distress, either. Being a wilting, whimpering mess doesn’t always benefit you. But being that way does serve a purpose sometimes. For many men, a woman in distress triggers a protection instinct in them. Biologically they are built to fight, so if that’s an option, let them do the labor. I’m not saying that we should defer to men either. I believe all women, especially black women, should be well versed in self defense techniques. Sometimes the only person you will have in your corner is you, so upskilling yourself in safe ways to protect you and yours should definitely be a tool in your arsenal. However, we sometimes forget to leverage the unique benefits of being a woman to our advantage. Why is it that we are so frequently in the defending, combatant archetype? This extends beyond the incident – too often we see footage of black women flying in the face of males and often taking the hits for it. We are seen as the warriors facing battle, rather than the princesses and queens for whom those battles were waged. In fact, sometimes we are expected to be on the frontlines, even for causes that have little to nothing to do with us. We are so frequently the attack dogs, even when what we are defending does not deserve being defended (case in point – the Snoop debacle last month). We have all this vim and vigor for everyone else’s plights, whereas the suffering we go through for being blessed enough to be black and female falls to the wayside. Newsflash – righting everyone else’s wrongs before our own will never yield us a positive outcome.

 

This incident has gone somewhat viral, with Symone getting likened to a linebacker, and hopes that she would be nearby if a bar fight was to break out.

 

 

Because of displays like this, and the commonness of them occurring, it doesn’t come as a surprise when we are expected to “handle our own”. That’s why in the heat of a moment, spectators have their phones out to record, rather than to step in, or even just call law enforcement. And that reaction to black womanhood trickles its way down to the rest of us, even if we have never embraced that sister soldier stance. This affects us in other ways too. For example, the belief that black women feel less pain, a carryover from the horrors of slavery, still persists today. This belief carries over into medicine, and can look like ineffective management of pain, or higher maternal mortality rates.

 

What if these protestors posed a real threat, and were more vicious than rushing the stage with a poster and a slogan? Jumping to the defense of people may have noble intentions, but could have adverse effects to your personal safety.

 

Jill Biden kind of helped too, but her display is a little different. She is Joe’s wife, so her motivations to mount a defense is not the same – she married the guy. Furthermore, she didn’t physically drag the woman off the stage. Honestly, white and nonblack women being warriors is a nonfactor to me. For every Xena Warrior Princess, there is a plethora of images put forth to counteract that. Plus, for the most part, their men step in to help. Conversely, our men record and shout “World Star” as we get our asses beat. Not to mention, black women’s media representation isn’t the best, so we have little to counteract when we are put forth as the perpetual prizefighter.

And another thing, where is security? Symone or Jill or any of the other women should not have had to be the ones corralling protestors shouting “Let Dairy Die!”. Surely presidential candidates in an election year are entitled to some form of well-trained security detail? Where were they? Why did this even happen at all?

In the grand scheme of things, what Symone did isn’t a huge deal. I really like her and I love seeing black women in politics. Hopefully we see some big things from her as she makes her mark on this presidential campaign. In any case, there are other problems at hand, between the mounting threat of coronavirus, continued restriction of women’s reproductive rights, and who knows what else. However, it is incredibly important to realize that always being the defender, especially for people who are capable of defending themselves, may not always be a good look. I’m not saying you have to be a constant crybaby, but tapping into the flight reflex, or adopting a more hands-off approach to potentially physical problems, can often do a lot more good than the alternative.

What are your thoughts on Symone’s display? Is it helpful or hurtful? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Penelope, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.

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