Editorial Staff

Reciprocity: What does that word mean to you?

What does the word ‘reciprocity’ mean to those of you who call yourselves BWE?

This is not a trick question, but a chance for open dialogue and explication because, sometimes, I am not quite sure what some of you mean when you use the term reciprocity.

On several different posts that I have written there have been commenters who asked, “What does this have to do with black women?” or made statements asking “Why should I care about this issue? I’ve never seen these people doing anything on behalf of black women.”

To those who ask those kinds of questions I would say this: You should care about these issues and these people because if you are looking to be a member of the global community then you should know something about the global community and the non-black people who inhabit that community.

Why should you care about the lack of legal protections against rape that left thousands of Native women living on reservations unable to see their rapists prosecuted in court? Because if you want to see yourself as a woman, and not just a black woman, then you should be able to understand the torment that other women are going through when they have to see their rapist gallivanting freely about town, two steps from the police station but still untouchable by the law.

Why should you care about the gun violence that has killed so many black men (and people other than black men)? Because one day you or someone you love might be the victim of gun violence. Because even though you moved out of the hood there are plenty of good people who can’t afford to move out of the hood and those people don’t deserve to be forgotten by the same government that forces them to pay taxes. Because it is embarrassing that the United States is one of the richest nations on Earth but we tolerate so much hand gun violence because a large proportion of the victims of gun violence are not white people.

I’m not arguing that black women have to make everyone else’s issue their own.

I’m saying that if everyone else asks what have black women done for me lately, and used their response to that question to gauge whether or not black women were worthy of respect and legal protections then black women would be receiving little consideration by other people. Because, honestly, black women are a minority in America and the powers that be don’t have much need to be concerned with what black women are doing. The rest of America should care about the well-being of black women because they are citizens of this country who deserve the same consideration of other citizens. And if black women want that much consideration then I think black women would do well to extend that same consideration to other groups of people.

I’m saying that if black women want to join the global community and have the right to demand reciprocity then black women should be good citizens of the global community by choosing to educate and concern themselves about a wide variety of issues, even issues that don’t directly affect a specific black woman.

Think about it this way. If you are someone who has said, “I only care about the black men in my family, whatever happens to those other black men is no concern of mine” then it should be understandable why it is so hard to get anyone other than non-black women to care about the issue of rampant violence against black women–after all, why should members of law enforcement or the legislatures care about what happens to any black women that they are not directly related to? The measuring rod that you use to measure others shall be used to measure you.

This is about being an informed and concerned citizen, something I think we all should be try to be because I think it would make us all better off in the long run.

What are your specific thoughts on what ‘reciprocity’ means? How do you you reconcile your idea of reciprocity with the idea that a black woman should be a good citizen of any community–including the national community–which she inhabits? Do you even believe that black women should choose to be good citizens of their local, national, and global communities?

All are welcome to comment on this post.
Jamila Akil is a Senior Writer at Beyond Black and White. Follow her on Twitter @jamilaakil

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