Black Women's Empowerment

Toni: Black Women Losing in the ‘Fairness Game’

Yep, it’s Toni! You know something is important when I decide to break my “I’m too busy to write or BBW” to write something for BBW. I have seen this behavior too many times not to speak on it, and I hope it helps to black women who are the topic of this discussion. Some of you are so indoctrinated that you don’t even realize that ugly baggage is still within you until certain conversations make you feel compelled to bring out the army boots (no offense to actual service members meant btw).


Without further ado, I bring you….




Ladies, have you ever been asked to play the “fairness game”? Well, not overtly. That’s never how it works. But certain conversations in BW-centric spaces often lead to the appearance of a devil’s advocate, soapbox, or the inevitable need of someone to bring “balance to the Force” by throwing black women under the bus for the sake of another person or group.


The perpetrators of the fairness game are almost always black women. They throw the dice out in the middle of the conversation and before you know it, the fairness game has started.


Here is how it tends to be played in BW-centric spaces:


1.) Interrupt a discussion about black women’s concerns or experiences to suggest that the women are exaggerating, lying, or being unfair to other persons or groups. Make sure emphasize one’s own experience as a black woman as proof enough of the alleged offense.


Bonus points for trotting out friends and lovers that are part of the group in question.


2.) In answer to negative statistics that reflect badly on another group such as fatherless-ness, domestic violence, or micro aggression, be certain  to introduce or demand negative characteristics or statistics about black women.


Do this with the justification that it’s unfair for black women to discuss negative attributes of other groups (even if those attributes are harmful to black women) without reminding everyone of the negative things that are supposed to be true about black women.

beauty black woman making shhh! on the violet background

beauty black woman making shhh! on the violet background

3.) Insist that the specific concerns brought up by black women are not unique and are actually part of the “big picture”. For example, black women concerns and experienced are often shouted down by cries of “white people do it, too”. By making the black woman experience about the general human experience, you get to paint black women as being unfair to a specific group by pretending they don’t have specific problems.


4.) Demand that black women spend time defending or praising privileged groups, either through separate posts or disclaimers as “proof of fairness”. BW who come into IRR spaces and demand that BW talk about the attractiveness of BM or that they make room for BM/WW couples falls under this.


The fairness game demands that black women work to stifle, belittle, and undermine other black women. As such, they either unwittingly or purposefully become foot soldiers for groups who have a vested interest in the silence and complacency of black women.


Who plays the fairness game?


As I said, black women are the main perpetrators of the fairness game. However, I find that some black women are more likely to roll the dice out than others.


Black Women Who Suffer From “Black Woman’s Guilt”


What in the blue-red-yellow Hell do black women have to feel guilty about?


Oh, it’s one of those situations where if a black woman is living well or finds herself on the path to living well, she may feel guilty about it. This guilt manifests itself in different ways; often it comes out as counterintuitive advice directed at black women attempting to flee harmful black constructs and situations.


For instance, a black woman in a well-to-do neighborhood married to a successful man (especially if that man is white), who has no part of the “struggle” that is now synonymous with African-American life. To alleviate that guilt, she’ll encourage other black women to march in her stead. She may not say “in her stead”, but she will a sense of relief in knowing that she did her part to encourage other black women put themselves in the line of fire. Yes, that is every bit as messed up as it sounds.


When black women feel guilt, they may make comments that are concern trolling in nature, but are actually an exercise in trying to make themselves feel better about not being part of the struggle or not being the typical black person. Funny how keeping black women silent and in their place is one of the go-to methods of alleviating guilty…


The Black Snowflake


This black woman is the opposite of the guilty black woman in that she feels no guilt about anything. Her purpose is self-preservation or at least protection of her cherished position as the “special” kind of black woman.


She knows that the playing field is anything but level, but in order to protect the advantage she enjoys in this lopsided world, she needs most black women to continue to lose out on opportunities of every kind.


This woman will concern troll you under the table about all the harmful things that a sane woman would run away from because she wants you to stay right where you are.


A black woman who acknowledges problems that are killing (I repeat again, black women have left this Earth behind the relevant dysfunction) black women and yet tells black women they can’t save their own lives is not a woman to be trusted. I don’t care how nice she seems, how well she dresses, or if she’s “on point” about other topics you discuss. She’s just waiting for the right position to ease that knife into your back.


The Sister Soldier


Big surprise, huh?


The sister soldier does not know how to function if she isn’t constantly looking to attack black women on behalf of black men, white women, or whoever else. She is comfortable playing the role of pawn because she’s deluded herself into thinking that she’s fighting for a cause and there will be a reward for her at the end of the game.


These women never stand up for themselves as black women or black womanhood because they just don’t consider it relevant unless it’s being used to serve a privileged group. I suspect these women see black womanhood as lacking so little value that it only gains purpose when it can be put to work for other groups that are seen as better like white women or black men.


These women are content to stand up for other groups at the expense of black womanhood because they experience happiness and success by proxy or through the group they are defending.


That they are worth defending and that happiness can be experienced directly are both foreign concepts.


Now, even though these type of black women concern trolls are the most likely, recognize that practically any black woman may find herself attempting to play the “fairness” game. She may feel compelled for reasons she cannot explain, but it almost always comes down to a combination of fear and shame. What drives that fear and shame depends on the black woman in question.

If it’s YOU, stop and ask yourself what it is you are either afraid or ashamed of and whether these feelings have any basis in reality.


The Difference Between The Fairness Game And An Unpopular Opinion

How can you tell the difference between the “fairness game” and a dissenting opinion? Often, the fairness game is someone’s attempt to defend a privileged group as if they were there or as if they were part of the conversation. It may feel like the black woman in question is speaking up “nobly” on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves.
Someone with a dissenting opinion will simply disagree because they personally don’t like what they’re reading. A dissenting opinion comes from within and is all about one’s own convictions; the fairness game is a knee-jerk response to a discussion which occurs “on behalf” of others. A dissenter talks about themselves and their concerns where as a fairness gamer will bring up statistics and stories that cast black women in a negative light their purpose is to defend and build up non-black women/black men at the expense of black women.
You don’t have to agree with a dissenting opinion but it’s important to distinguish one thing from the other. Remember a “safe space” allows you to speak your truth without fear of being silenced. It doesn’t mean people are never going to say something you personally disagree with. Remember, a safe space is not an echo chamber or Internet hive-mind; don’t be afraid to disagree with someone or tell them that you disagree.
But when discussion turns to working to tear down black women or black womanhood on behalf of a privileged group, you need to be on your guard.


How To Win The Fairness Game


The only way that black women can win the fairness game is to do something that may upset one’s delicate sensibilities. Some of you may need to stop reading this and go get some smelling salts. Don’t faint on me, please…stay with me.




This means no disclaimers, no getting out the soapbox to defend other groups during a discussion, no feeling that it’s your obligation to raise negative points about black women to “balance things out”. Stop thinking it’s your responsibility to go up for to bat for everyone else all the time.


Don’t tell yourself you will suffer negative consequences like people thinking badly about you as a black woman. You will often find that this scenario plays out with NO EFFORT from you whatsoever. So why get caught up in the first place? People who want to think badly of you are going to do so because they can and no amount of “fairness” on your part is going to change that.


It is AMAZING how freeing it is (and I’m speaking from experience) when you stop looking at every conversation with fear of how others will perceive you or that they’ll mistake you for a “bitter black woman”.


Instead of working on silencing other black women, work on putting yourself in a position where you’re not obligated to give a flying **** what these people think. Whether it’s changes to your social and economic situation, that’s where your energy needs to be.

When you feel more in control of your own destiny as a black woman and feel good about yourself (unapologetically), then the dice doesn’t come out. Instead you may actually find yourself closer to winning the most important game of all…the game of life!

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