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Stronger Together | #BHMwithBWiS20 (Part 2)

Following last week's post on The Power of Togetherness, it's important that we address how significant division can be. When considering division, we have decided to look at it from two perspectives: division within the black community and division from the wider community. Within the black community, there are a lot of ongoing debates and differences. Whilst some may be in jest, there are some serious topics that have caused divisions in the black community. Low and behold, black women tend to bear the brunts of division within the black community.

The black community is vast so any attempts to define it as the ‘black community’ are dismissive of the diversity that exists within it. The black community is made up of individuals who are all extremely different from each other but the commonality of being black impacts a great number of things, particularly the way we are seen by the wider community. Often black people are grouped together and individuality is lost.

Image from Pintrest

How do divisions within the community disrupt our need for togetherness? Divisions within the community can take head and be the sole focus of everything sometimes. Last week's post highlighted some key points about the benefits of togetherness (read more here). Some of the discussions around issues such as colourism, texturism (which curl pattern is more beautiful), body ideals etc have caused segregation in the community. Distorted perceptions of what black is and isn’t fails to accept the nuance of black individuals. While most of these issues have historic bases in racism (eurocentric beauty standards) and continue to be perpetuated in the media in some format, they have equally become narratives reinforced among black homes, black friend groups, workspaces and beyond.

Should we put our differences aside for common causes? A short answer would be “absolutely not”. ‘Blackness’ is not a monolith and anything that perpetuates this agenda needs to be destroyed. Differences in opinion should not be cause for division. It is okay to disagree, and it is healthy to have differences. It is important that we begin to see our differences as strengths and testament to how important common causes are because, in spite of differences that may divide us, we still share a common cause. As a network, we do believe in a number of common causes i.e. being that black women in science should be given the same opportunities as others and have the right to be treated and supported equally to their peers. In the same breath, we celebrate and encourage the individuality of our members. We need to believe and support the fact that blackness is not a monolith, and address the inbuilt pressures that we have to fit into the preconceived idea of blackness to please others before we can spread this messaging.

Could divisions in our community be helpful? There is strength in numbers, but there is also strength in truth. Our truths are no reason to be divisive, segregation is massively damaging within communities. Being divided stunts the collective aim toward equality - agreeing and thriving in disagreement is a very possible and realistic way forward. Collective labels remove our individuality but collective aims testify to the strength of our need for equality. Despite our differences, we amplify the voices of our peers because we are stronger together.

N.B. Whilst we are a network for black women in science we do recognise, support and advocate for equality in the wider community. Stay tuned for next week’s post...

If we look for differences, we will absolutely find them. If we define ourselves on differences alone, we become islands. Our differences may be part of our definition but no singular quality can define any of us, we are all a culmination of our history and our talents. It is so important that we do not become so fixated on these differences that we facilitate division within the black community.

By Tulela Pea (Editor) and Tomi Akingbade (Founder)

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