Why we should cite Black women

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How many Black women were featured on your syllabus this semester? What attention did your professor give their work? Do you remember the names of these women? Unless you’re taking an African American studies class or the one token Black course in another department, your course syllabus is likely centered on white men. 

The words of white men are constantly cited in different works, and they can be exhausting and overrated. I’m tired of reading the work of the same handful of men that I can’t relate to and half the time cannot even understand. Luckily, I’m not the only person who feels this way. Some Black women, such as Brittany Williams and Joan Collier who launched the monthly Twitter chat #CiteASista are working to change this with the question, “Did you cite a Black woman today?”

Expanding on this question, Christen Smith, associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote these five resolutions for her project “Cite Black Women”: 

#1 – Read Black women’s work.

#2 – Integrate Black women into the core of your syllabus (in life and in the classroom).

#3 – Acknowledge Black women’s intellectual production. 

#4 – Make space for Black women to speak. 

​#5 – Give Black women the space and time to breathe.

Following Dr. Smith’s resolutions is a great idea for a professor, but the rest of us can still learn from her suggestions. Here is a revision of these resolutions for the average UC Berkeley student. 

Read Black women’s work 

Do some research, ask your professor or google it. Whatever it takes, buy their books, subscribe to their newsletters and spend time thinking about what Black women are saying. When you do, share it, talk about it and cite it. Do your part to make historically marginalized voices heard! In this way, deep and often unheard perspective can be gained.

Include Black women in your research or other projects

Many of us will do research before we graduate. Whether it’s in the classroom or with a mentor, make an effort to consider the work of Black women. Maybe you’ll inspire your reader to do the same. Or, incorporate the words, perspectives and opinions of Black women in the projects you do. When you do, just be sure to cite them properly. 

Acknowledge Black women

Trust me, whatever you do in life, there’s probably a Black woman that you can thank. Take the time to thank a Black woman when they help you. Or, when a thank you isn’t possible, credit their work. Tell others about their work and why it’s significant. This is what I think Smith means by “acknowledge Black women’s intellectual production”.  

Consider muting your mic, and let a Black woman speak     

This one is my favorite. If you like leaving yourself unmuted at all points in a discussion, I’m nudging at you. Take a moment and self-reflect the next time you’re in space. Are you taking up a lot of the speaking time? Don’t take this opportunity to call on a Black woman, but just take a step back and let others share their intellect and knowledge. 

Respect Black women with space and time 

This one is an important resolution that we at the Clog appreciate Smith for including. Living in an anti-Black, patriarchal society as a Black woman is difficult as it is; don’t increase the burden. Practice consent culture and ask before piling your comments or ideas. Sometimes, the answer will be no or maybe later. Respect that and come back when the time comes. 

These are acts of well-deserved accreditation to Black women. Thoughts, words and ideas mean something in a society obsessed with capital. We are here, we are thinking and speaking, theorizing, and postulating. Next time you think about quoting someone, consider citing a Black woman. 

Contact Sera Smith at [email protected].