Why I Love Being a Black Woman

Dealt an impossible hand of gender and race intersectionality, black women, both traditionally and currently walk an unpaved path on bare feet. All the while, she emerges as the epitome of the rose that grew from concrete. Words fall short in defining my pride of being born both  black and female

So while I do not rejoice in the circumstances of which I am predisposed too, I enjoy being a bearer of an incomparable legacy.

Here are some reasons why:

Our ability to make something out of nothing

Stolen from our native land, we have built ourselves up from the nothing cast upon us by western conquerers. While we all may not be born into monetary wealth, as kings and queens of the motherland we are born into the royalty of our history.

Our Timeless Beauty

We age like fine wine, Call it karma’s form of reparations…

The Face, The Body and The Hairstock-footage-sexy-female-dancer-with-afro-white-v-ntsc

From our strong nose and our full lips and to our strong thighs, our beauty is as rich as the past that beholds us in its memory…

I also appreciate that as black women we come in a variety of skin tones, body types, hair textures and facial features. We are truly “every woman” just like Chaka Khan said.

The combination of these features enable black women to encompass and master the duality of beauty and sensuality- a hauntingly fascinating feat.

Our Style

Silhouette With Clipping Path of Business Woman with BriefcaseMaybe it is the confidence, may it is the walk. Nevertheless, no one works an outfit or a room quite like a black woman.

The Versatility of our Talent

From:

Madam CJ Walker to Lisa Price

Dorothy Dandridge to Kerry Washington

Dorothy West to Toni Morrison

Audre Lorde to bell hooks

 Beyonce to First Lady Michelle Obama

Black women have demonstrated the ability to  be beautiful, talented, intelligent, and classy leaders of our society.

From being millionaires to being great mothers. From being nationally acclaimed scholars to entertaining in arenas around the globe, we as black epitomize what it means to be multifaceted. We have never and will never be just one thing.

So as we celebrate Women’s History Month, I would like to take this moment to toast black femininity as our struggles represent the true dynamics of “woman,” a term that initially excluded us as females of African descent.

Cheers!

What do you love most about black women?

Advertisements

Shady Sisterhood: Ten “Friends” Every Black Woman Encounters

1. The friend that tests you and uses the “n” word

Sometimes it is to depict their superiority towards others of their race or ethnicity who use this term to speak of blacks. Sometimes its to capitalize on blacks who feel worthy if elevated from other blacks, so their non black comrade may use this term to refer to other blacks and declare their friend as exceptional. Regardless of the context, the use of this term is inexcusable and completely unnecessary.

I admit that I am still wading the tides of understanding this behavior. There must be some feeling of victory or power in non-blacks who “get away with” using the n word around blacks. If this is in fact the case, this person is willing to compromise the cultural legacy of their “friend” for their own feelings of conquest.

2. The friend that thinks they are “blacker” than you.

This “friend” went to a black history assembly, filled out the paperwork and is now a member of the race. He or she has read Toni Morrison, Langtson Hughes- even declared them their favorite authors. They love Audre Lorde and patronize black artists and movies. They think that their behavior aligns them more with blackness than a black person who is seemingly indifferent to these practices. Little do they know, that conceptualizing blackness as behavior and not culture is of the same prejudice of which they are trying to distance themselves.

3. The friend that assures you that you’re being oversensitive about racial issues.

I went to Sligo, Ireland for a writer’s retreat when I was twenty- two years old. The experience was very eye opening, my presence alerting many eyes towards my black body nearly everyplace I went. My presence was met with open eyes and mouths on numerous occasions, all of which were hushed by my (non black) colleagues anytime I tried to say something about it. There was even an incident where a pre-teen child walked up to me, stood there and stared while my collegeaues and her family looked away.

It does not matter how many books you’ve read, how many shows you’ve seen, whether your boyfriend, kid’s cousin’s mother’s best friend’s daughter is black- if you are not of African descent, you remain outside the black diaspora. There is no such thing as black by association, so you do not assume a position within the black dispora, just as blacks cannot capitalize on your position of privilege. Thus, you’re ability to selectively ignore issues that do not directly impact you, do not transcend to your black friend. If you don’t want to hear about it- that it certainly your right- but choosing not to acknowledge reality doesn’t it make it any less real.

4. The friend that brings up your color.

This is the “Friend” that will comment on their ambitions to go to the beach to get “your color” or “as black as you.”

Whether its meant to be funny or just a thoughtless comment, this remark, acts as a moment of difference to the black person on the receiving end. With this comment and others like it, a black individual is enabled to see themselves through the eyes of their “friend.” It is through comments like this, that it becomes obvious that you are not (insert your name here) to this “friend” of yours, but a black person. Ironically, this friend will often proclaim to “not see color.” I guess they only see color on beach day.

5. The friend that advises you on your hair

This is the friend that watched one of her (black) friends, or a youtube tutorial do a wrap or a braid out and feels its appropriate to tell this “secret” to any black woman during any hair conversation.

6. The friend that expects praise for standing up for black issues.

This is the friend that always makes it a point to mention how they held the door for an older black woman, stood up for their black significant other in a non black environment, or some other random act of social justice (sarcasm). The irony of this behavior is that they are actually behaving as they should. Expecting praise for standing up against the wrongdoings of blacks suggests that it is our problem, whereas the mistreatment of blacks is a societal problem.

7. The one that connects you on black vocabulary.

I had a peer tell me that she faced opposition in requesting that the class refer to enslaved Africans as African Americans and not African. When I attempted to inform her of her error, she firmly stood in her position of ignorance, refusing the input from someone whose ancestors were the very topic of discussion.

The term African America marks the assimilation of American blacks whose lineage began in Africa. Thus, Africans who had just been forcibly removed from their continent and displaced in America, were still knowledgeable of their language and culture. To refer to them as African Americans, prematurely strips them of the culture that history would distance them from in each day that would come to pass. Once again, no one from outside the black disapora should tell those within the diaspora how to feel, or how to refer to their own ancestors. To do so asserts an inappropriate sense of importance, disregarding significant cultural detachment.

8. The friend that is only your friend because they want to date black men.

Some non black women feel as though the best way to attract black men is to surround themselves with at least one black woman. This friend believes that her physical closeness to black people will alleviate any ideas of a racism or prejudice that have been attached to her race or ethnic group.

9. The friend that acts as a “Find Other Black People” App

This is the friend that always has a person they’d “ love for you to meet.” This individual that your friend mentions is ALWAYS black, because black people need the help of non black folk to find other black people.

10. The friend that inquires about the “nice” things you have.

This person may not actually be your friend, but is friendly with you. The friendliness is evoked as a means to break down your guard, so that they may inquire about your ability to acquire material goods assumed to be out of your pay grade. I once had a colleague befriend me when I was working retail. I initially really liked her, but soon noticed that all her questions were pertaining to my ability to buy the company clothes and still have money to attend school and have my hair done. The queries of course stem from prejudiced beliefs that blacks are impoverished, and only acquire material goods through dishonesty.

Closing Thoughts

Do these encounters suggest that blacks and non blacks can never truly be friends? Or perhaps that these anxieties are only present in  those who are not truly our friends or allies? Maybe these scenarios suggest that the unwavering ideology of black inferiority is so deeply embedded, that even those who really love us are susceptible to the impact of black politics in America.

How To Get Away With a Black Female Protagonist

Last night, ABC aired the much anticipated return of Scandal starring the lovely Kerry Washington, then debuted new series How to Get Away With Murder, starring the phenomenal Viola Davis. Despite the social media induced competition between the two protagonists, Pope and Keating are not mutually exclusive characters. Rather, both are exclusive mutually in the expansion of portrayal of the black female protagonist. While competition between the two leading protagonists is inappropriate, the comparison between the two series is inevitable, as both demonstrate identical structural components.

The Formula

I. Black Women in Law
Both shows feature black women as students of law turned law professionals who are the highly paid “clean up crew” for some high society’s crimes.

II. Lust versus Love (Love Triangle)
Believed to depict the love life dynamic of the strong and successful black woman, both shows feature steamy love triangles. However, this love versus lust depiction (and its implementation on VERY married pawns) maintains the traditional controlling image of black woman as victims to their sexuality.

III. The Sensation of the Swirl
It seems that black love or scenes between two black people without a white person present ( physically or through the bounds of marriage), is reserved for BET. The intertwining of black female protagonists with white men, implies that black intimacy is only sexy, or mainstream worthy when a white person is involved.

IV. Entourage
Both powerful women come with an entourage that supplements their skill and showcases their ability to delegate.

In contrast to the white wearing Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating wears dark colors, comparible to the suggested darkness of her deeds. Keating’s edge is perhaps hinted at through the glare that she wears throughout most of the show. While Pope and Keating both engage in extramarital affairs, Keating is married, whereas Pope has invaded another couple’s marriage. Where Olivia Pope is weak, Annalise Keating is strong, depicting Keating as only vulnerable when it comes to her job, specifically losing. Between Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating, black women have an ego and alter ego, a black and a white wearing heroine, who’s presence suggests that we can be our own binary opposites,with both sides consisting of a compelling degree of greatness.

Thus while there is certainly room for Pope and Keating, let us contemplate how society “gets away with”a black female protagonist. The presence of both protagonists appears revolutionary, yet the similarities between the character compositor of both black female protagonists appears rehearsed. Suggesting that to get away with a black female protagonist is proper execution of a perfected formula.

Pair a black woman with the law and a white man, and we have a hit show. Both women are lawyers, but are seen “bending” the law. They are both in love with white men, yet both relationships are laced with betrayal. Interestingly, both women are also the black faces for an otherwise white show. True Scandal has Guillermo Diaz(Huck), and Joe Morton(Rowan Pope) and How to Get Away With Murder has Alfred Enoch(Wes Gibbons) and Aja Naomi King (Michaela) but both shows still have a majority of white actors and actresses, despite being tied to a black screenwriter and marketed to a black audience.

To get away with a black female protagonists is to capitalize on the illusion, the illusion of leading a parade that we were merely invited to. Thus, getting away with a black female protagonist is to trick an audience (of predominately black women) into believing that it is in fact a black show. Whereas, in fact all the blacks kids are once again sitting together in the cafeteria, except we’re in our living rooms-apart yet together, in our defeat disguised as victory yet again.

Blacks As Accessories in Racial Terrorism

While our outward appearance showcases only a portion of our character, accessories work to showcase the concealed components of identity. Upon saying the word accessory most think of bracelets, watches, rings, scarves or some other tangible material goods. However, contemporary society has depicted a transition from accessories as inanimate object to living thing. This transition was initially debuted through the toting of small dogs, most notably seen by socialite Paris Hilton and Grammy award winning singer Mariah Carey in the early 2000s. Currently, this transition is most commonly seen in celebrity children, who are often toted like the latest designer bag.

With regard to the transition of accessories from inanimate to human, this post will evaluate the ways in which black bodies are used to accessorize intention and ideology. For the validation of black presence does not come in the form of action, but with an association. This association often veils racialized violence, and a conduit to urban appeal.

I. The Black Arm Candy

To have a black spouse is a political statement. Despite the reasoning behind the choice, the pairing of individual speaks volumes. A politician can claim to be an advocate to the poor or the disenfranchised, but this advocation achieves a new level of credibility if his significant other is from a disenfranchised faction.

The influx of black partnerships  within popular culture is particularly telling. This partnership is particular interesting with regard to black women. Despite full lips and round derrières being of contemporary intrigue, the attachment of these attributes to black woman has rarely been seen as beautiful. Thus the black woman as “arm candy” should work to assert the placement of blackness into the realm of beauty, but instead makes a statement about whom the black woman stands besides. As mentioned in a previous post, a black woman can never be arm candy, as her presence is plagued with politics. Thus, her presence is often a conduit for those who she stands beside to transcend the politics associated with her blackness.

R and B crooners Jon B and Robin Thicke appeal to the black female buyer through their smooth sound, but mostly because they both were in unions with black women. Would their “down” persona be as believable if their wives looked less like the women of their targeted demographic? The answer to this question is issued with two words : Justin Timberlake. Justin has been waiting by the mail for his “black card” since he wore cornrows on the red carpet over a decade ago. Every solo album has featured his endless collaborations with countless black artists and producers, and he has yet to shake the pop label. The closest JT has ever come to a black woman is in the Love Sex and Magic video that co starred singer/dancer Ciara. Because of his failure to possess a “black accessory” JT’s urban attempts lack authenticity, as his attempt at being soulful appears as faulty as it is.

vlcsnap-4393

The credibility of public figure personas is solely based on their image, which thoroughly relies on whom these artists surround themselves with, making the presence of these black bodies not only prevalent, but essential in this transition.

II. The Black Creator (black producer)

This concept is best illustrated by non black artists who consult black producers and choreographers to draw from the influence of the African diaspora. These producers and choreographers allow these acts to achieve an “urban” appeal, while still being mainstream. This is seen in former Disney star Miley Cyrus, who hired famed producers Pharrell and will.i.am to foster her transition from Disney to dancer. These associations mark an alleviation of past purity through presumed sullied black bodies. Due to the black influence being in the background, these acts still appeal to a mostly majority audience who craves an “urban” or even slightly soulful sound from someone who looks like them. This has also been seen in acts like Jennifer Lopez, who sought to capitalize on the profit of the black community, so she embarked on a number of collaborations with rappers from Ja Rule to Jadakiss. Also in the early 2000s we saw NSYNC try to expand from their majority adolescent fan base through their collaboration with rapper Nelly on the girlfriend song.

miley-cyrus-bare-midriff-at-pharrell-williams-birthday-party-in-miami-c0ccd247577751e0f3d32fcb14904ce2

III. The Black Surveyor

This is perhaps the only item on the list that is more vastly seen in everyday life and not in popular culture. This person is often employed by a non black to oversee the actions of black people. I suppose their black body is used as insight into what is presumed to be innate behavior. Because the person following you down the aisle shares the same skin color as the presumed offender, business owners attempt to alleviate themselves from the reality of their racist practices.

Although, it didn’t make sense until much later, I was a black surveyor myself . At the tender age of 19, I worked my first retail job. The retail position was slightly upscale as my paycheck was more money than I had ever earned at that point in my life, but with more money came more problems. One of the managers, a Kate Beckinsale look alike, always asked me to “help” the black and Afro Latina shoppers. As my senses grew more keen, I realized I was only asked to help or greet the clients believed to be black, as a means to shield the racist intentions of my employer. This manager was later fired for her actions.

1406131967230_wps_5_dmvidpics_2014_07_23_at_2

The black surveyor is a common sight in many black neighborhoods, and the commonality of this behavior has in many ways desensitized its significance. However, the act of mirroring the victim in an act of further disenfranchisement is an act of racial terrorism. The act of coercing an oppressed person to oppress those kindred to their struggle, harms the part and whole of a disenfranchised faction, simultaneously.

IV. The Black Friend
aka
But some of my best friends are black!

rent-a-black-friend-picture-new1

With regard to popular culture, the black friend surfaces in movies with a predominately white cast. In this case a black character is inserted to present minimal diversity, in an otherwise entirely white or non black movie/show. These “black friend” characters are typically one dimensional, as their presence lacks purpose outside of filling a quota.

In life outside the movies, these “black friends” are often mentioned as a means to substantiate and individual’s self proclaimed engagement with diversity. The term “friend” is often used very loosely, as it often references a classmate, mail man or service provider that the speaker treats cordially and uses as an example of his or her humanity despite not actually seeing these people as friends. The very idea that treating a black person cordially, or even categorizing friends by race, veils a racist ideology that would suggest that it is normative to ignore or treat said people poorly.

V. The Black Skin White Mask

blackskinwhitemask

This category is very similar to the previous section, as it pertains to black presence solicited for a particular purpose.  In order to fulfill a network or company’s “commitment to diversity” a black body is planted in said environment. This black body is solicited for commentary on any and all racial issues despite his or hers personal detachment from the politics of blackness

Perhaps it is easy for those outside the black diaspora to assume affiliation based on skin color. While these black faces initially draw in black viewers upon the belief that they will be represented,these black faces veil white ideologies which only help foster white superiority, and further alienate black audiences on news stations, talk shows and other outlets that commonly feature said blacks.

VI. The Occasional Black

This person is typically of “mixed” ancestry, possessing a racially ambiguous look. Due to the absence of what are seen as traditional race attributes, this individual is placed and displaced from blackness as deemed necessary.

1101931118_400

Despite their temperate affiliation with the black race, this actor or actresses will be cast a lead in a black movie as their presence will enable the feature to embody a mainstream appeal. This individual’s complexion and features are often altered depending on the targeted audience. This actor of actress can be placed in movies intended for black and non-black audiences as their blackness as their level of blackness is often deemed non threatening, and therefore not alienating to majority audiences. Specifically, skin tone may be darkened or lightened depending on the audience, nose and lips may also be contoured to look more or less full to establish phenotype allegiance to a designated audience.

While this occasional black may certainly have his or her own issues with identity, their presence in popular culture, and even the workplace represent an anxiety around truly diversifying a traditionally homogenous environment. Thus, having an individual that can be attributed to the black and non black diaspora as needed, prevents some from having to properly acknowledge and resolve their anxieties surrounding blackness.

Closing Thoughts

Social and Political Terrorism earned its prevalence thirteen years ago following the devastating yet humbling acts of 9/11. However, racial terrorism has been present since the first slave ships docked on the coasts of America. Blacks have been terrorized by race traditionally and continued to be impacted by the bounds of race, possibly more so in a society that feeds fallacies of racial resolution.

Being black in America, places a black individual in a constant state of looking for themselves. In the initial bliss of finding yourself in a seemingly positive or harmless place, many blacks are placed in a position to be racially terrorized by a strategically placed black body. So while the engagement with black bodies, be it for business or pleasure may appear to be a testament to the changing times, blackness is inevitably political. As demonstrated in this post, the politics of blackness has provided a means for some to shield ill intentions with a promising gesture.

When the First Lady is Black: What a Black Woman in the White House Means for Black Women

Upon selecting our first president of African descent, many pondered the impact President Obama would have on the black male youth. However, as a black woman, my question was how a black woman as the First Lady would impact black femininity? Lets first consider the traditional role of the First Lady.

The position of First Lady has always been a staple in American femininity. The First Lady was always extensively educated, a fashion icon, an advocate for social cause and maintaining the family unit. A black woman as the first lady asserts the black female as a contemporary token of womanhood. Traditionally excluded from the bounds of womanhood, a black First Lady not only showcases an alternative to being black, but shows a new way of being a lady.

o-MICHELLE-OBAMA-VOGUE-COVER-570

Despite this alternative perspective of womanhood, with great progress has come vast criticism. This post will consider both the compliments and criticisms endured by our first, black first lady

The Rise of the Angry Black Woman

Mrs. Obama as the First Lady has resulted in the rise of the Angry black woman stereotype. Every candid photo is seen as an opportunity for the media to portray Mrs. Obama as attitudinal, sour, and therefore undeserving of her position. This angry black woman stereotype has also been a means to create a false resentment between Mrs. Obama and women of the majority. For example, perhaps you remember the meme that went viral earlier this year that featured President Obama, the First Lady and a woman of the majority. The images on the meme features an image of president Obama seated with a woman of the majority and Michelle seated next to the woman as well. The second photograph features the first lady between the two with a stoic expression captioned: No matter who you are, when your wife tells you to switch seats you switch seats. The photos that went viral implied The first lady’s anxiety around a white woman, whereas the true photograph reveals that Mrs. Obama actually switched seats so that President Obama could take a photo with this woman.

doesnt-matter-who-you-are-when-your-wife-says-switch-seats-you-switch-seats

Thus, the media took this an opportunity to not only depict the first lady as stoic and angry, but as a threatened by a white woman. This reveals anxiety with a black woman in a high place, as seemingly implying that first lady is insecure in the face of white women. Inadvertently attempts to subjugate the confidence of the black woman by placing the white woman on a pedestal, whereas the actual photograph displays kindness and confidence on the part of the first lady.

Body Shaming

While black females bodies have always been present in the white house, Mrs. Obama marks the shift from the black woman as a servant to delegator. This shift has been of great influence, but also of great ignorance. The First Lady has been criticized for her weight and eating habits by men of the majority. While their efforts were designed to criticize Mrs. Obama, they have served as a source of shame for all black women. The comments reveal an uneasiness with black female presence in a position of power. Her body is described as “too big” encompassing the fragile male ego that is reduced by the eminence of her presence.

An Intellectual in Popular Culture

Mrs. Obama as the cover feature of Vogue Magazine was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life. A black woman on the cover is a feat of its own, but to see one of such caliber sets the bar of black femininity up where it should be.

Shift from Entertainer to Educated

Raising the bar of black femininity means a deviation from black women as entertainers. Black women have been entertaining long before they could even walk through the front door, or be seated in the front row. While I do not wish to denounce the impact, struggles and triumphs of the black entertainer, I will say that there is a degree of comfort with blacks as entertainers. Blacks as entertainers has mirrored a master/slave dynamic in which the labor of blacks is exploited for profit. But, perhaps more importantly blacks as entertainers have allowed for areas such as academia, law and politics to be largely dominated by the majority. The First lady defies the tradition of the black entertainers, soiling the comfort of blacks as entertainers by encompassing the irreversibility of education, and the influence of popular culture.

As a black woman, admirable role models are few and far between. While First Lady Michelle Obama has unveiled an anxiety surrounding the poised and professional black woman, she has also shown that there is a place for them. From healthy eating campaigns to Vogue, Mrs. Obama has combined achievement and humility to represent the contemporary black woman. As the epitome of class, Mrs. Obama has risen above all criticism by simply being above it.

How the Pending Aaliyah Biopic Reflects Black Femininity

SexyDesktop Wallpaper ImageAailiyah Dana Haughton was a rising starlet who died at the tender age of 22. She was known for her angelic yet strong vocals, acting and her mysterious beauty. Upon her death she and her fans were anxiously awaiting all of her hard work to pay off. The roles and times that had made her into a household name were now the basis of her awaiting stardom. Aaliyah’s dream would be cut short, but her influence on a generation would go on years after her death.

Following her death, there have been countless whispers of biopics to capture this beautiful spirit gone too soon. Despite years of speculation no serious moves have been made until this year. This part will evaluate what this pending Aaliyah biopic means for black women.

1. A talented and beautiful woman is reduced to her hair.

I played with potential elegant ways to say this, but perhaps blunt is best: None of the selected actresses, Zendaya or Alexandra Shipp capture the essence of Aaliyah. My statement casts no criticisms on these women as actresses or beauties. However, despite how beautiful those women are in their own right, they fail to capture the mystery, class and sensuality of Aaliyah. However, their ability to aesthetically capture Aaliyah seem to lie in the simplicity of dark locks swept over an eye. This reduction of a young woman who was inspiration to so many, to her hair, is an insult to Aaliyah, her family and her adoring fans. This reduction on a political level is perhaps even more unsettling. To think that a figure of influence can simply be replaced by a hairstyle belittles the influence of the black female body.

2. Black women are portrayed as hair/color obsessed

To add insult to injury, the media portrayal of the black female response to casting has reinforced the unwavering controllingalex_ship_aaliyah_a_pg image of the angry black woman. The black female community is often portrayed as bitter towards biracial women and color obsessed. Countless social media outlets have quoted black females referring to the chosen starts as “half-breeds,” “too light,” “not black enough,” for the role. I have two issues with this media portrayal:

 

A. Online Comments are not always accurate.

Personally, I am highly speculative of racially motivated comments on the internet. While the internet has produced many advantages, it has become a platform for constructed identities. I would argue that many of the racial comments that assert an affiliation with blackness are actually outside the black diaspora, often seeking validity through a fallacious black default photograph. Thus, I would argue that the entirety of these comments does not come from the black community but are created to deflect Western induced anxiety onto black bodies.

This perpetuated anxiety is of course a smokescreen yielding the casual viewer from the true problem. While I agree that color and biracial presence are issues within the black community, I also acknowledge that the perpetuation of these issues distracts from the alienation and disappointment felt by the black female demographic. It is disappointing to have an actress chosen to embody someone that they don’t resemble. This failure to resemble Aaliyah severs the initial connection that fans had with a young starlet who looked so much like themselves.

3. Our demographic is devalued
With that said, the casting choice of Aaliyah, Missy Elliot and Timbaland as fair-skinned devalue the black female demographic. My previous statement is not to suggest that blacks are not fair-skinned, but that the blacks being portrayed are not. By altering the hue of these black icons, Lifetime attempts to appeal to a wider audience. Aaliyah and Missy initially appealed to black women through their appearance, demeanor and style. Most importantly, Aaliyah and Missy embodied a striking alternative to the pop dynamic consisting of blonds and boy bands. Trading in these images for the racially ambiguous, reveals a motivation for the majority appeal, at the expense of an accurate portrayal.

timbalandandmissy

4. Wendy Williams as a Smokescreenwendy-williams-wig-line-h724

Following the removal of Zendaya for the project, Lifetime was in need of a black advocate. Lifetime, as a result employed a black face in Wendy Williams, seeming to have black interest at heart. This sentiment is of course false, a Wendy being a black woman doesn’t negate her appeal to those of the majority. As a talk show host, Wendy appeals to those who can afford to be home during the middle of the day. So while I do not knock her appeal to black women, I do acknowledge that her platform targets the same ambitions of this Lifetime biopic.

 

5. Our Familial Advocacy is Compromised

Interestingly, this need for advocacy was not explored in Aaliyah’s family dynamic. After all, isn’t the most sincere form of advocacy in the form of family? While the casting and motives of Lifetime’s project are certainly questionable, their failure to involve Aaliyah’s family raises a cause for concern.Aaliyah-with-family-aaliyah-18560060-689-550

Lifetime’s decision to move forward on a project supposedly intended to showcase one’s life, without properly consulting or considering those in it displays both a lack of credibility and lack of regard for accuracy and depth in Aaliyah’s portrayal.

Like many millennial women, I would love to see Aaliyah’s story be brought to the big or small screen. However, I do not wish for the existence of this movie at the cost of failing to capture her glow. I adored Aaliyah for her talent, and her aura but mostly because she showcased a place for women who looked like me at the top. Thus, I refuse to support a biopic that fails to capture this powerful dynamic, fostered by those likely oblivious to resonating factor of positive imaging of black women. Finally, may Aaliyah rest in the peace she’s provided me as a young black woman, and not in the pieces that Lifetime has put forth in her pending biopic.

aaliyahclose

The Sting Behind a Smile: The Malevolence of Micro Aggressions

Micro aggression:a passive act of abrasive intentions and undertones.

cropped-cropped-sketch-e1305593324179

Prejudice has not been eliminated from contemporary society, overt prejudice has. Long gone are the days of blunt statements denouncing  minorities or signs of exclusion. Present are invitations strategically placed and worded to include a small few and discard the potential of participation of others. Present are words of venom shielded with a smile, derogatory intentions masked with a laugh. Present is the same prejudice of the past in an aged, but still very racist society that has changed the demeanor but not the intent.

1.“ So I’ll be issuing you a class that begins at 8 am. I just want to make sure you’ll be able to make it on time.”

This is an actual statement from a former employer. This statement followed previous scheduling (by the same employer) of 8-3 on a Saturday, of which I was never late. 29234_PE116289_S5While some may say this is a general query, I find it hard to believe that my age and minority faction didn’t make my former employer question my ability to perform to an early schedule.

2. “Was going to college like an option for you? For me it was always known that I’d go to college, and then some form of graduate or professional school.”

Now,I initially felt that this remark was just sheer arrogance. However, the consistency of hearing this roll off the tongue of those outside the black diaspora (to me and others of my origin) revealed this statement to be of malicious intent. This statement is a micro aggression because it implies that blacks are less intellectually or educationally motivated than whites. This statement also conveniently overlooks the oppression and discrimination black face in the plight of obtaining an education, which is readily available for their white counterparts. This statement also displays an ignorance to the foundation of which higher education. Westernized higher education was established on the idea of exclusion, the included continue to further exclude those without privilege in micro aggressions like these.

3. “You know who really had it bad? The Native Americans”

This micro aggression is harmful for two reasons.

A. “Had it bad” is a large understatement for the theft and genocide faced by Native Americans. To downplay what European greed and entitlement did to the true Americans is inappropriate and a testament to ignorance and a lack of character.

B. This statement usually follows a discussion of the disenfranchisement of blacks, as if to counter the horror of American slavery with the feat of Native Americans. Perhaps a more appropriate engagement of these two minority factions would be an evaluation of the common cause of both tragedies…

4. “I’d really like you to meet my friend.”

One hundred percent of the time, this desire to meet your friend is not because we both like the color blue, or like indie books, but because we are both black. While you may think you’re being helpful, but you’re not. Black folks don’t need help meeting other black folks and certainly not from people outside the black diaspora who reduce the culture of blackness to a color.

This is a micro aggression because it operates under the premise that all lack people like one another or seek companionship based on this prospective companion being black.

5. “You’re/their spouse is white/Latino/Indian/Samoan/Asian? The baby will be SOO cute/have good hair.”

This is a micro aggression stated by those within and without the black diaspora.Like all micro aggression this comment appears to mean well, but has an insulting undertone. The innuendo, whether intentional or not, suggests that black genes aren’t beautiful on their own. This statement interestingly implies that blackness is at it’s best when watered down or paired with a race or ethnicity outside of the black diaspora. Interestingly, I’ve never heard this remark upon hearing two blacks with no western attributes (fair skin, light eyes, long hair) are expecting.

tumblr_maekxtETfN1r36jjoo1_400_large

5. Staring

Now perhaps is this is the most understated of all micro aggressions. I have seen and experienced the bodies of black women stared at like a misplaced piece of furniture in an otherwise perfect room.

While staring is an abrasive way to tell blacks that their presence and bodies are an imposition, it is also a way to cast scrutiny on material goods deemed out of the reach of blackness. eyes-260571_150

Upon going to get a pedicure one afternoon a woman stared at my purse for the duration of my services. Upon my departure she she asked where I have gotten my purse. After issuing my response she rendered an unmistakably condescending laugh and said “ I thought it was a $5000.”

6.(insert ambition here) is really competitive

This was another one that I never associated with being a micro aggression. My realization came as my ambitions became larger and this statement was inserted with the cruel intention of thwarting my dreams. This “it’s really competitive remark” became a consistent statement from those outside of the black diaspora, as if to really mean that blacks aren’t proper competition.

7.Being issued a check before you’ve finished your meal.

restaurant-check

This really says that we think you’re going to run out on the check, so before you can,I’m going to issue you your payment as a nudge to “do the right thing”

This is a micro aggression that also reflects poor etiquette with regard to proper treatment to those who patronize a business. This gesture simply suggests that you discriminate against those who foster your livihood, making anyone who displays this behavior undeserving of business. The dollars

8. Can I help you?

This micro aggression translates to: I think you might steal so I just want to let you know that you are seen. Thus, there is no true intention to service you, but a hope that you’ll see yourself out.

9. Can I start you a fitting room?

This micro aggression translates to: I’ve lost count of the items that you have in your hand and wish for self assurance that you haven’t stolen anything

I was blissfully unaware of this reality until I had the tumultuous experience of working retail. Here, we were asked plenty of times to “check up” on clients or “start a fitting room.”   In hindsight my manager used my blackness to shield her own prejudice, as all the clients I was asked to “check up on” or “start a fitting room for” were also black.

10. “Are you all the way black? You’re not that dark.”
“Your hair isn’t nappy, you don’t have black hair.”
“If I wasn’t looking at you, I wouldn’t think you were African American.”

The previous three quotes illustrate the micro aggressions through exceptionalism. Often, blacks are only regarded as beautiful, intelligent a remarkable if they are “less” black. The fallacy of exceptionalism appeals to black whose insecurity thrives on the approval or whites and others outside the black diaspora. This is a micro aggressions that often go without notice or confrontation because they appear to be a compliment. However, a true compliment of a part does not discredit the whole, thus praising blacks for their lack of blackness is a dig at blackness and therefore not a compliment.

So beware of the poison that lies behind the smile, or the seemingly kind delivery of a micro aggression. And if you read any of these, and see a description of your actions then remember that they key in micromanaging Micro aggressions is simple- know that you are making them.

What micro aggressions have you experienced?

Why I Don’t Care What Those Outside of Black Femininity Have to Say About It & Why You Shouldn’t Either

Kerry Washington, as Olivia Pope on Scandal,Gabrielle Union, as Mary Jane of Being Mary Jane, and now Halle Berry as Molly on Extant are the new faces of the black woman as a prime time protagonist. The presence of these women on the small screen have created an undeniable buzz and an increased presence of the educated, modern sophisticated woman of color in popular culture. This forty year dry spell was watered by Kerry Washington’s role on Scandal and has maintained its hydration by the other black female protagonists by which Scandal has paved the way. The appearance of these black women appeals to a demographic largely excluded by popular culture, the black female professional.

BqNrs8UCAAI49AK

With an increased presence of black females on television has come an increase of opinion. While the ability of these black females to generate conversation is confirmation of their influence, this conversation has produced a degree of conflict.It seems that general conversation is often deemed beneath those who would rather engage in criticism that is often highly inappropiate.

This post takes a stance against the aggressive opinions cast by those outside the black female experience, claiming the premise of black female relevance has flown over the heads of many, who rather cast a critical gaze onto the black female protagonists. Here are some reasons why I find this gaze highly inappropriate.

It is Largely Patronizing

For many, there is an unwritten list that divides interest, food and appearance on the color of an individual’s skin, or racial or ethnic faction. So, if you encounter one of these individuals, they will consult said list as a means of generating conversation. These individuals will refrain from from discussing colloquialisms such as the weather on what foods you like to eat. Instead, they will talk to you about any and everything that features a black person, or something believed to be associated with black people. So bearing a black face and a female body, those who conceptualize interest by race will feel confident bringing up Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance, Scandal or Extant because it will be impossible for them to fathom a black woman not being interested or fascinating in these things that feature black women. An individual who conceptualizes interest by race isn’t interested in your response, but will take any engagement in their conversation as an affirmations that their assumptions are correct.

The Reaction May Not be Genuine

Those outside the black female experience may not be as genuinely outraged by the portrayal of Olivia Pope on Scandal as they appear to be. Just as the music in movies is selected to evoke a particular emotion, those detached from a certain line of experience will often solicit external mediums to know how to feel. Those outside the black female dynamic experience may know that something is wrong with the adulterous relations between a black protagonist and a man or the majority, but not be privy to the historical context. Even if knowledge of the troubled historical dynamic between black women and white men, given that the knowledge is still within a source outside the experience of black femininity their is still a detachment. To be cognizant of the sexual abuse suffered by black women during slavery is one thing, for the one who endured such abuse to be your great grandmother places you at an entirely different perspective.

It May be an Attempt at Liberalism

Due to America having a black President amidst the influx of black female protagonists many feel inclined to at least appear to have adopted a stance of liberalism. While I would argue that many have yet to truthfully embrace black presence in white collar positioning, I would acknowledge that contemporary society places pressure to appear to be accepting of the slow revolutionizing of black politics. Thus, appearing to be interested in seeing Scandal, Being Mary Jane orExtant is sometimes an act of liberalism, by appearing to be willing to let these black women into their homes and families via prime time television.

Stance of Self-Righteousness

Others will cast a critical gaze on the black female portrayal, and use this gaze as a means to substantiate a stance of self-righteousness. I made the acquaintance of a woman outside the bounds of black womanhood that took a faulty stance of indignation against the role played by Kerry Washington on Scandal. I use the term “faulty” because in less self-righteous moments this same individual has revealed liking more problematic depictions of black womanhood. The rehashing of this self-righteous behavior brings up the idea of selectivity for those outside the bounds of black womanhood. Those outside the bounds of black womanhood are permitted to choose to be offended by some portrayals and be patronizing to others.

The opinions of those outside black female experience is of little significance to those who must endure the reality of an existence. Reading Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison or even watching shows like Scandal, Being Mary Jane or Extant who feature a black protagonist do not act as supplements to the black female experience. Even if these references did capture the essence of the black female experience, I would argue that you would still have to be a black woman to truly appreciate the reality of portrayal. Thus, I am indifferent to the commentary and criticisms of those outside of an identity in which Ive had my entire life. Only when you walk a mile in my shoes can you comment or critique how they fit, or how I walk.

pic_4666_1345026230