The value of black men and boys in the United States has been at the forefront of national conversation in the days following the George Zimmerman verdict. Sadness and anger among activists and celebrities alike has moved them to speak out about inequality in the justice system.
Last Friday, in a surprise press conference, President Obama relayed his personal experiences as a black man in America. Social media also sparked online efforts—such as Essence magazine’s #HeIsNotASuspect hashtag, where women were asked to post photos of the black men in their lives on Twitter.
In the middle of this national conversation, host Melissa Harris-Perry asked Saturday about another group that seems to have been forgotten.
“What about our black girls and those who mother them?” Harris-Perry asked author and spiritual life coach Iyanla Vanzant, host of Oprah Winfrey Network’s Iyanla: Fix My Life, in Saturday’s “One on One” interview on Melissa Harris-Perry. “What about the struggles and public safety questions faced by young black women?”
Vanzant commented on the relationship between black girls and their mothers using the newest episode of her show as an example. In a clip, Vanzant confronts Brenda Thompson, mother to R&B singer Syleena Johnson, about her behavior towards her daughter. In the end, Thompson opens up about her own emotions, admitting that she thinks “sadness is weak.”
“If I show my weakness, if I’m vulnerable, I’m going to be hurt. People will take advantage of me,” Vanzant said about black women’s internal dialogue. “But in the meantime, we shut off a piece of our heart that our children need.”
“We’re talking about the problems with black boys, the problems with black girls, the problem with brown children,” Vanzant added later. “We can’t keep looking at what’s wrong with the children. They are the fruit. We have to say, what’s going on with the tree?”
Harris-Perry and Vanzant then discussed the switch in national conversations from ten years ago—when more in the media focused on pregnant black teenagers—to the current concern for the safety of black boys. In the end, Vanzant made it known that the conversation should be bigger than just one or the other, asking, “what about our children?”
“We have to stop acting like it doesn’t matter, the hate crimes against our children,” she added.
Later in the show, Harris-Perry and Vanzant discussed the Zimmerman verdict and last week’s ABC interview given by “Maddy,” Juror B29 at the trial. Watch the rest of the conversation below.