I’ve always admired Blackness. I guess I would have to attribute much of that to my Harlem roots (more on that in another post to come!) It’s the little things about us that have always felt like home to me. I like the way we two-step, I like the way we bop our heads to a beat, I like how we laugh, and that clap we do while we’re laughing, I like the distinct pitch in our voices, I love our flair for language, I like how we argue, I like our humor, and I like how we get a little slick at the mouth sometimes. I love our hair, and I love the way our skin responds to the sun. I like how beauty salons and barber shops would buzz like a mini-church. I mean, it’s the seemingly little things that I liked. Poet Nikki Giovanni has this great quote that says:
Style has a profound meaning to Black Americans. If we can’t drive, we will invent walks and the world will envy the dexterity of our feet. If we can’t have ham, we will boil chitterlings; if we are given rotten peaches, we will make cobblers; if given scraps, we will make quilts; take away our drums, we will clap our hands. We prove the human spirit will prevail. We will take what we have to make what we need. We need confidence in our knowledge of who we are
I’d like to think I’ve taken that advice to heart. I have confidence in the knowledge of who we are.
But whenever I see or hear of Black women being dismissed or disrespected by Black people my feelings are much less fuzzy and I suffer a severe disconnect and split within my spirit. Every meme or joke a Black person shares laughing their little hearts out at a Black woman’s expense-making fun of her skin color, the way she speaks, or how she dresses, etc;- every rap lyric some Black male decided he just had to share with the world during his studio time, probably with his boys around cosigning his stupidity as he trashes another Black woman (and freaking profits from it !); every time I see some folks go so hard criticizing Scandal, or Being Mary Jane asking us to boycott the show out of faux concern for the way Black women are depicted in these shows but these same people never suggested boycotting the NFL after Ray Rice abused his then fiancé; every Black male rapper who turned their back on Azealia Banks – a Black woman who doesn’t make a mockery of hip hop but actually takes her craft seriously – to cape for Iggy instead like some kind of loyal ass hound dogs; (and some of these men are rappers who have always spoken out against the “system” yet they then turned right around and kissed the system’s ass. I guess when it doesn’t come with a penis, it’s not as much of a threat to them. I’m sure the butt & lip injections didn’t hurt, either. #fickle. And chew on this: Not even White musicians- those who have been in Icky’s shoes and been called out for cultural appropriation- not even they felt compelled the way Black men did to put themselves out there to cape for her. Paging: Macklemore? Eminem? Robin Thicke? Justin Timberlake? *Crickets. Pathetic. Embarrassing. But I digress); Or when I read and hear about sexism rearing its ugly head in the Black Lives Matter movement http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-ferguson-women-protests-20141122-story.html#page=1 just like it did in the Civil Rights Movement (have we learned nothing?); And let’s not even start with the men’s shameful jokes and commentary in the Light Girls documentary that aired on OWN earlier this week. A hot asinine mess.
When this kind of crap goes down, it’s like a little part of me dies. There’s really no simpler way to put it. Do they not know of what they do? Do they even care? If not, why not? Can they be this dense? Are they that emotionally handicapped that the only way they can relate to Black women-when they’re not sleeping with her- is to either play her out every second or silence her? It’s clear to me that our community needs to stop telling Black women to work on their “daddy issues” and start telling people to work on their mommy issues. I’m over it. How can I, how can Black women, possibly enjoy Blackness when half of the community seems to continuously shit on or silence us? Where is the pride in that?
Being a Black woman is magical. Hence, this t-shirt, http://teespring.com/blackgirlmagic3 (hehe!). Unfortunately, not all Black people see it that way. And the worse part is they don’t want to. For whatever reason, they like it when Black women are scared, quiet, mousey, subservient, abused, lonely, embarrassed, and sad. Or they only like it when we’re entertaining, amusing, or serving them every other second. For them, we have no intrinsic value. It’s a painful reality that I am slowly coming to terms with and it’s not easy. Sometimes I am unbothered by it but other times it feels extremely isolating, confusing and paralyzing.
But I realize that I cannot stay in that space. I have to remedy it somehow. So, I’m making a commitment to studying Black/African women’s history and reading works written by and from a Black woman’s perspective more exclusively; more intimately. I hope that will help me to redefine Blackness in a way that is much more inclusive of Black womanhood and Black femininity. I am going to focus more of my energies on learning how to deepen my appreciation for the Black women in my life. Being a better friend. A better sister. A better daughter and granddaughter. Because no one has our backs but us. I am going to work on surrounding myself with people who see value in putting us first, but I will also cut off or limit contact with those who don’t-even if they’re other Black women.
Soul splitting as a Black woman is extremely uncomfortable. And I hope I am on my way to forever mending the rupture.