White women have always been complicit in the oppression of black folks. This protestor made it explicitly clear.
Trigger Warning: Racism, Slavery, Violence Against Black Women
As our economy crumbles in the face of the ongoing pandemic, entitled Americans - who are typically white - have been taking to the streets in order to demand that their local government officials open the country back up. "Open America" protestors claim that they have simply been exercising their freedom of speech - but at what cost? Not only are they putting public health at stake, but their messaging also invokes the country's deeply problematic history of racism and violence against black folks. No image better summarizes that than one of a white woman holding a protest sign that reads, "Muzzles are for dogs and slaves. I am a free human being." Next to the statement is an image of Anastácia, an enslaved black woman who went on to become a goddess in many cultures.
The white woman in the image was "fighting" against regulations that mandate masks in all public spaces. She equated, through her poster, masks to "muzzles." In a Twitter thread, one user explained why this was a terrible comparison, with particular focus on the use of Anastácia's portrait. Twitter user Uju Anya wrote, "The image this woman chose to illustrate her oppression is Anastácia, an enslaved African in 1700s Brazil. Her mistress ordered that iron spike torture device put to deform her face and squeeze her neck out of rage and jealousy that her husband wouldn't stop raping Anastácia."
Yhuri Cruz fez um trabalho lindo de releitura dessa imagem: pic.twitter.com/IzH62GAcZ9— Qmra (@qmraqmra) May 19, 2020
"Story also says Anastácia knew medicinal cures and healing practices and was painfully muzzled to curtail her influence. In time, she became a revered saint among Brazilian Catholics and Umbanda practitioners. More popularly, she's a symbol of black women's power and resistance," she continued in follow-up tweets. "You rarely see images of Anastácia outside her story of a resilient head held high above depraved criminals who enslaved and tortured her. Mouth silenced, but her face still screaming testimony against their evil. But when you do, it's always interesting what they do with it."
Literally. This Black woman is certainly worshiped like God. Altars everywhere in Brazil dedicated to Anastácia. People calling her name praying for her protection and blessing when being tested in crisis. And here comes Karen with the Google looking for a “slave mask” picture.— Uju Anya (@UjuAnya) May 19, 2020
Evidently, the protestor's use of Anastácia's image was nothing short of racist. There are only two backstories here: first, either she was unaware of the icon's background, or second, she was and simply did not care. Which form of ignorance would have been worse? Ultimately, it does not matter. Whether it be by their decision to gather in large crowds or their racist and bigoted messaging, "Open America" protestors have proven that their demonstrations are not forms of dissent at all. Rather, they are privileged, entitled white folks seeing how far they can toe the line. We all know what would happen if hordes black and brown folks gathered carrying guns, inflammatory posters, and breaking stay-at-home orders - they would be killed by law enforcement.
I don’t know. It was such a horrific crime on an unimaginably massive scale.— Uju Anya (@UjuAnya) May 19, 2020
In response to Anya's tweets, several people highlighted how white women have always been complicit in the oppression of black folks, especially black women. One user replied, "Remember white women have always been complicit with racism and human rights abuse against black people. It does not matter if they are liberal progressive or conservative. They do not give a damn about the pains of black American women or African women." When white women choose to bastardize the image of a slave who was forced to undergo terrible experiences, how could we not vehemently agree?