Solange Knowles, dance on!

— Wait. What? No way.

A black woman attending a Kraftwerk concert with her husband and 11-year-old son was dancing — as most do at music shows — and four white women behind her thought it was OK to pelt her with trash.

Screaming at her was not enough. Simply asking “will you please sit down” would have been too decent, said Solange Knowles, singer and younger sister of Beyonce, who instead of calling security or engaging the offensive women, took to Twitter to call out the foul acts she experienced last week. Smart move, Solange. Keep right on dancing. Some people just aren’t worth our time.

“…you understand that many of your followers will understand and have been through this same type of thing many a times, and if it means them hearing you say it’s ok, you will rise again throughout these moments, then it means something bigger to you,” she wrote this week in a compelling essay questioning whether black people should feel safe in “white spaces.”

“This is why many black people are uncomfortable being in predominantly white spaces,” she wrote of the incident.

She detailed a list of slights, every one of which I, and most other black women, have experienced many times: from having your hair touched by total strangers and being approached as a servant or even a prostitute, to being called the N-word.

But trash thrown? No, can’t claim that one. Although, there was the time I was working a summer job as a cashier while in college and an angry white man spat on me. I stared at him, shook my head, sprayed my arm with Clorox, and kept right on working my way through college. Ignorant trash, I thought then. Let me just get through school, make my money and get as far away from these low-class fools as possible. (I learned later that those fools are not so easily avoided).

For me, the question is not whether I feel safe or comfortable in predominantly white spaces. I do — whether you want me there or not. You see, permission is not required for me to feel justified. History is on my side.

According to the US Census Bureau, by 1860, there were at least close to 4 million slaves in the country. Across the entire New World, there were about 10.5 million. Historians estimate an additional 2 million slaves died on the voyage. For more than 300 years, free African labor and ingenuity built nations across the globe, pulled failed dynasties out of ruin, lifted up countries into becoming superpowers and made cultural contributions that define America.

After slavery, black and brown people continued to be America’s backbone and protect her with their lives as we do to this very day, while simultaneously demanding the full benefits of the democracy we’ve built with our blood.

Standing on this knowledge always makes me hold my head high and step proudly — forever in defiance of any notion that I don’t belong wherever I may choose to be. That is the debt I owe to my ancestors.

It is impossible for me not to smile and be inspired when I see the glorious footprints my people have made across America and around the world: the Moorish kings and conquerors who left their cultural, religious, architectural and academic gifts throughout Europe; the Egyptians who gave the world pyramids, mathematics, medicine; or the early Mayan and native civilizations who grasped the complexities of astronomy, agriculture and the first languages. Certainly, we have earned the right to be in whatever spaces we choose.

The bigger question is, do we want to spend our time in these majority white spaces? I certainly do not. Not because I hate white people. I do not, cannot. My life has been enriched and blessed by too many white people along the way to ever feel that way. Despite that, I do consciously choose not to spend the majority of my life in predominantly white spaces. I choose to live, work, play and worship in environments that are not majority white.

After being the only black person in newsrooms, lecture classes at Penn State, way too many corporate and social settings, I learned that these white spaces, while often filled with interesting, mostly kind people, would nevertheless not challenge my intellect fully or help me grow and understand the world around me. Looking at the world through the narrow lens of white privilege is suffocating and spiritually and intellectually inferior. It’s exhausting trying to pretend otherwise.

The goal is not to live a staid life surrounded only by the familiar. No matter who you are, there is no growth in that, no fun, no true happiness. Sharing our ideas and cultures, respecting one another even in dissent, and learning from one another are the only ways our nation moves forward.

Solange was by all accounts feeling good, joyful in her space — a beautiful black woman, comfortable in her skin, dancing with her family. Life’s complicated. Dancing is easy. Rather than trashing her and making ugly noises, can’t we just stand up and enjoy special moments together?

Dance on sisters, dance on.

Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events, is a co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete,” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Leslie Jones, black women have your back

— We were in second grade. And I can still feel the dirt in my hair, falling down my face. Still hear the bullies screeching like monkeys, calling me “Rocky,” after the old African gorilla at the local zoo. Nearly every week for a time, the kids in my neighborhood would chase me home with their monkey taunts.

That gorilla chant found me again nearly 30 years later on the cobblestone streets of Spain, where I was vacationing at a mountain villa. A group of white men decided to chase my son and me down the street making monkey noises. At first, I laughed, stunned by their ignorance and because they looked so ridiculous curling up their arms making money sounds, but then I saw they were serious and meant to do us harm. Then we ran — fast.

So you see, little black girls are taught at a tender age how to defend ourselves against racist, woman-hating thugs, against those who would do us harm. We learn to sniff out bigotry before it can crush us. And we understand that we are all Leslie Jones. We will not let you destroy her. Not this time.

Leslie Jones, you are not alone.

Leslie Jones is an actor. On Wednesday, her website was deactivated after hackers posted personal information, including her home address and passport number along with explicit photos that appeared to be of the comedian.

Jones had just completed a hugely successful and entertaining stint as a guest commentator at the Olympics in Rio, where she breathed life into a boorish NBC broadcast. But it seems Jones’ celebrity and her refusal to cower to cyberbullies has made her a target once again online. Since starring in the “Ghostbusters” remake earlier this summer, the actress has become a favorite of social media trolls.

Jones rightfully challenged Twitter’s abuse monitoring system months back after she was the target of a flood of hateful, racist, misogynistic tweets. Twitter’s response was to ban Milo Yiannopoulos, a columnist and alt-right agitator who encouraged Jones’s Twitter harassment.

“If I hadn’t said anything [about the abuse], nobody would have known about this. All those people would still have an account. … Hate speech and freedom of speech are two different things,” Jones told Seth Meyers in an interview after the first cyberattack.

And today, fans are rallying around Jones to help her remain strong in the face of these new assaults. Yesterday, immediately after the latest cyberattacks became public, fans and celebrities began offering support using the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ. But clearly, tweets are not enough.

At this moment, more than at any other — in my lifetime at least — we have to stand up, act up and speak out against racist, sexist behavior whenever we see it, whether at work, at home, in our government, or now more often on our social media feeds.

Because this is personal.

When these vile cowards attack Leslie Jones, they attack all black women — every woman — who has ever been told she doesn’t fit into Western society’s made-up definition of woman’s beauty. No one has the right to define us, or our bodies.

For centuries, black women’s magnificent, strong bodies have been coveted, used and then abused at will. We have been stripped down to our souls — though never losing our spirit — robbed of our humanity, our families, our dignity. But still we rise to unimaginable heights generation after generation, whether it be to the White House, the big screen or the boardroom. And though we have shed many tears, we will not be broken.

According to reports by the National Center for Education Statistics, black women are among the most educated group in America. Accounting for both race and gender, there is a higher percentage of black women (9.7%) enrolled in college than any other group, including Asian woman (8.7%), white women (7.1%) and lastly, white men (6.1%), according to the 2011 US Census Bureau.

So yes, the hateful words may sting us. And often leave unseen scars. But they also make us stronger, more resilient. As a girl, I plotted ways to get back at my haters. I found my revenge in the classroom — where I discovered I could be smarter, work harder than most — and in sports, where my oversized body was stronger than most. And more than once, my sweet revenge came at the end of my fist, when I got tired of running and decided to stand and fight.

Leslie’s revenge is her success. Bursting onto the big screen at 48 years old to star in “Ghostbusters” was the culmination of years of hard work that took Jones, the daughter of an Army vet who dreamed of being a comedian, from a college hoops scholarship to finally a big break with “Saturday Night Live.”

She is a living example of the American dream. Working hard, succeeding on her own terms where no one imagined she could, or should. Jones’ story is one to be celebrated and even emulated.

So no, haters, you cannot have Leslie Jones, or Gabby or Serena. Or any of the long list of trailblazing black women you too often try to destroy. We know this game well and you will not win.

“Our noses are broad, our lips are thick, our hair is nappy — we are black and beautiful,” said Stokely Carmichael .

And we’re here to stay. Deal with it.

Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events, is a co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete,” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

How Bill Cosby betrayed black community

Bill Cosby once famously told a well-heeled crowd at a 2004 NAACP awards ceremony that the biggest problem in the black community was: “The lower economic and lower middle economic people are not holding their end in this deal.”

That is why our communities are failing, the comedian said over much applause. He went on to blast uneducated, promiscuous black women, lazy single mothers and irresponsible black fathers. “These people are not funny anymore. And that’s not brother. And that’s not my sister. They’re faking and they’re dragging me way down,” Cosby said.

Turns out that it was Cosby, the millionaire, self-appointed moralist for black America, who wasn’t holding up his end of this deal. He has dragged us all down. While preaching from his pedestal about the ills among the black lower and middle class, he was using his money and power, his accusers say, to sexually exploit women who were less powerful and had less money.

The saddest part is that Cosby may be the biggest faker of all. And he is definitely not funny anymore.

In 2005 court documents that were made public Monday after The Associated Press went to court to compel their release, Cosby admitted to getting prescription quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

The testimony was given during a civil suit filed by Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball coach. Constand is one of the dozens of women who accused Cosby of sexual assault. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount before the 13 other “Jane Does” were called to testify on Constand’s behalf.

More than 25 women have publicly accused Cosby of raping or assaulting them over the past 40 years. The comedian has never been criminally charged and has vehemently denied wrongdoing.

Predators — and all those people who turn a blind eye or rush to defend heinous behavior — are doing the real damage in our communities. And our silence and failure to call out abusers is literally killing black women.

The statistics are shocking. According to a 2000 U.S. Department of Justice report, black women have a 35% higher rate of violent abuse by intimate partners than white women.

A Tufts University study found that 40% of black women reported forced sexual contact by the age of 18.

But most alarming for black women is that the No. 1 killer of black women ages 15 to 34 is homicide by a current or former intimate partner.

And while these numbers clearly point to a crisis in the black community, the problem is rarely discussed publicly. We rally around police brutality and call for much needed law enforcement reforms, and decry the high imprisonment rates for black men. We tell the world “Black Lives Matter.”

Yet we remain silent about the No. 1 killer of young black women. It’s obscene. A paltry 17% of black women who survive sexual assault end up filing a police report. Most of us remain invisible. And our abusers are too often left unchecked and free to abuse other women.

Whether the alleged abuser is a celebrity such as Cosby, or a friend or family member, we have to break the code of silence and endless victim shaming that has become the knee-jerk reaction in too many corners of black culture.

For me, Cosby is the most dangerous type of misogynist, lurking with his G-rated, Jell-O smile, preaching personal responsibility all the while allegedly using his fame and power to abuse and degrade women. All too often we black women are expected to be silent about the rampant sexual abuse in our community.

And when a situation like that of Bill Cosby or even Ray Rice, the football star caught on video decking his then-fianceé, plays out in the media, our first reaction is to fault the victim or suspect a media conspiracy.

Cosby, a consummate pro, played the black community like a fiddle — protesting his innocence, alluding to a mainstream media conspiracy and then pleading with black media for fairness, telling a New York Post reporter last year: “… I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind.”

He even got big name celebs to vouch for his honor. Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Ben Vereen and Jill Scott all publicly supported Cosby and suggested the victims were suspect.

Since the release of the court documents, Scott has admitted she was wrong about Cosby, whom she has called a mentor.

Almost unconsciously, black women betray our womanhood to “defend the race” because we know painful the history of racism and injustice in this country. And we understand that our fight for equality is not finished.

But sometime we seem to shield our sons while sacrificing ourselves and our daughters. Our silence teaches women and girls that they matter less than boys and are not worthy of respect from men. We may be unintentionally setting them up to be victims.

No woman, regardless of race or economic status, should have to choose whether she is entitled to respect and dignity less than she deserves racial equality. I demand both.

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Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events. Jones is a co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Raven-Symone, we are black Americans

— I get it. Raven-Symone doesn’t like labels. But she is wrong to run away from her blackness, seemingly hoping that no one acknowledges her beautiful brown skin and the history written all over her face.

“I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American. I’m an American.” The former star of “The Cosby Show” and “That’s so Raven” told Oprah Winfrey. “I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know how far back they go. … I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person, because we’re all people. I have lots of things running through my veins.”

Many of us have been exactly where she is, struggling to fit in. Trying to be “colorless” when there’s no way to look at someone without noticing appearance. And that includes color.

But Raven’s dilemma is part of the black experience in America. Our identity is not really a matter of choice. Black people were forefathers of this nation: slaves, soldiers, scholars and dedicated women and men who helped create these United States of America. For me, rejecting your blackness is downright un-American. The two words are inseparable. Being black equals being American.

So no matter how she tries to deny us, Raven is still ours, still black in the eyes of her community. And we remain proud of her. Proud and patient because we understand how the heavy burden of labels can crush your spirit and get in the way of your dreams.

I’ve struggled all my life with the weight of labels. They pop up at the most awkward times: introductions at work meetings, compliments over dinner, amongst friends and foes. Sometimes it feels like society is at once confused, intrigued and resentful of my blackness. And I’m certain that black woman are described with more adjectives than anyone on the planet: Black woman, African-American, bossy, strong black woman, articulate black woman, working mother, black entrepreneur, black single mother, straight ally, LGBT-friendly, divorcee, feminist, liberal and now even black-ish woman. When I was younger it was a latchkey kid, project kid, kid from a broken home.

One of my favorite is La Negrita. The first time I visited Central America and heard a local call me that name, I immediately went into my Angry Black Woman mode. It took a few minutes to calm down and understand that in Latin America, La Negrita is a term of endearment, a compliment meaning something closer to beautiful black woman. Who knew? There’s even a national holiday in Costa Rica called “Día de la Negrita.”

“I bet your country would never have a holiday honoring black women,” a friend in Costa Rica joked one day, when I asked her why everyone was celebrating. No, I had to agree. We are a long way from that day.

I’m not sure when this notion first clicked for me, that you cannot be black in this nation without also claiming your American-ness.

Maybe it was years ago after my great-aunt Rosie showed me a photo in our family album of one of my ancestors gallantly posed in his Civil War uniform.

That soldier was a black American.

Or, when my aunt talked with pride about her father who couldn’t read or write in any language but was a successful French chef in the South.

That chef was a black American.

Or, perhaps things became clear when my grandfather stood tall and told me about how proud he was to fight for his country, despite segregation. Now, Grandpop wasn’t a fancy, highly educated man. He never could imagine the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle of Raven-Symone.

Truth be told, he was in slightly in awe of my career in “this journalism stuff.” Unfortunately, he died before seeing a black family in the White House. Now that would have really tickled him. But Grandpop always believed hard work and education could get you places in this world.

He spent his life toiling in the bowels of our nation’s first Trident submarines, fitting those vessels with nuclear missiles. It was backbreaking work. He would take me to tour those subs and boast about America’s global power. He retired after nearly 50 years with a broken body but a proud heart for doing his part to keep America strong.

My grandfather was a black American.

No matter what label the world may choose to describe me, one thing I never doubt is that I am a strong black American woman, whose heart beats with the African and Caribbean blood of my ancestors. Knowing this gives me strength, courage and joy every day of my life.

I cannot imagine ever separating myself from all of the courageous people who came before me to break down barriers, share their wisdom and pave the way so my journey is just a little bit smoother in this life. And in spite of her protests when Raven looks back just a bit, she’ll understand: She is also, among other things, a black American.

Roxanne Jones is a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and a former vice president at ESPN. She is a national lecturer on sports, entertainment and women’s topics and a recipient of the 2010 Woman of the Year award from Women in Sports and Events. She is the co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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