…Black women are upset, we are incredibly sad, we are begging to be cared for, and we have a right to feel this way. We are completely correct in our steadfast refusal to simply disappear into the ether when we are violated, when our lives are snuffed out. We are justified in our anguish and in our anger. We are righteous in this, and I am not here to take away from it. I am here standing with my sisters and speaking out too. We are the most spotless of lambs, sinless in our desire to simply be seen as just as important as anyone else. But, what I am also here to say is this: in the midst of the tangible and thickening silence from what could arguably be called one of the most vocal corners of twitter, Black Feminist Twitter, and even Feminist Twitter as a whole; in the midst of the silence from virtually everyone and everywhere: where is the outrage for two teenage girls who were brutally murdered? Is the outrage lacking because of their race? Definitely. Is it non-existent because of their reported interactions with law enforcement? Absolutely. But it is also lacking because they were reported as working as exotic dancers. This cannot be denied. It is unfair and unethical to say anything different.
…We cannot, while decrying violence against Black women and confessing our desire to be seen, heard, and cared for; deny both the intersection of Black womanhood and sex work as a blind spot and the incredible violence Black sex workers face. There comes a point where we must be willing, if we are able, to speak out against the erasure and shame that is so often laid on Black women who also work in the sex trades. We must be willing to consistently speak out about the casual shaming and stigma that is so often attached to our existence.
In the midst of writings that throw away the reality of our lives by saying, “It is difficult to determine [why there is no outrage regarding Tjhisha and Angelia],” this task can seem overwhelming. It can be too much to, once again, find yourself erased, consciously ignored, and pushed aside. It can be more than you ever thought you’d be able to take, dealing with the violence levied on sex workers—Black women who are sex workers in particular—by media, bloggers, celebrities, and the public alike. Because it is violence, in a way. It is a violent choice to casually exact things like erasure, stigma, and shaming on people who are already erased, shamed, and stigmatized every day of their lives for something as mundane as simply going to work. It is a form of violence to yell out, “Pay attention to these girls,” while simultaneously harshly erasing them from the conversation. It is violence to use the deaths of Tjhisha Ball and Angelia Mangum as a way to insert oneself into the forefront of a conversation while refusing to acknowledge the young women at all.
Because here is the truth: Ball and Mangum hadn’t reached their 20th birthdays. They came from poorer families. They obviously, judging only from the photos of them that have popped up online, enjoyed their lives–to some extent, at least. They were beautiful Black girls. They were beautiful young girls. They had entire worlds and lifetimes ahead of them. Tjhisha and Angelia were brutally murdered and still, over a week later, not many even know about it. Tjhisha Ball and Angelia Mangum were important, lovely human beings who also worked as strippers.
Acknowledging their work and the violence many full service sex workers and exotic dancers face is not inappropriate. Realizing and admitting the facts is not untoward: Whatever labels we use, strippers; dancers; escorts; street workers; and many other sex workers are required to accept and deal with the high probability of being victimized both during and because of their work. This is life and they live with it every day. They must watch over their shoulders, carry weapons of self defense, and even create plan upon plan upon contingency plan just to arrive home safely at the end of a work day. Beyond that, many working in the sex trades, regardless of job description, must accept that this—the erasure that has happened to Tjhisha and Angelia—may also happen to them if they are the victims of violent crime. For Black women, that acceptance and the weight of it is doubly hard."
— peechingtonmariejust in her magnificent ”More Than Silence: Tjisha Ball, Angelia Mangum, and the Erasure of Black Sex Workers” on Tits and Sass today
I’m gonna do this jobhaver style and ask the internet to remind me to dye my hair in the next 24 hours.
With my unearned platform, I have an opportunity to carry the message of sex worker rights to policymakers. I am duty-bound to do my best to get up to speed with the voices of the most marginalized among us, while not using my privilege to insist that others educate me. As I prepare to write a big article about the sex worker rights movement, aimed at those who have heard little of it, I’m frightened of making a mistake, of making things worse for us. When I’m speaking to an audience of non-sex workers, my choice of message and the way I deliver it must avoid reinforcing the assumptions and stereotypes that marginalize us, and my politics must not pander to the social forces that criminalize us. If I can’t do that reliably, I might as well say nothing."
— Margaret Corvid in “Still Learning: On Writing As A Privileged Sex Worker" at Tits and Sass today