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?

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Why I Will Always Love Whitney Houston

Before Beyoncé there was Whitney. A pop icon, with the face and voice of an angel, Whitney Houston was and is an American icon. Perhaps more resonating, Whitney Houston is a pillar of black femininity. As the first face of color for Seventeen Magazine, and the most awarded female artist of all time, Houston emerged from the absence of black women in designated white spaces marking a presence that would come to be unforgettable.

As a child, I remember pretending to be Whitney as I screamed “Queen of the Night.” I played “I Will Always Love You”so many times before I turned ten that sixteen years later I can still sing every word by memory. “The Preacher’s Wife” remains my all time favorite Christmas movie, as it featured the acting, singing and remarkable beauty of Whitney Houston. Houston sings the soundtrack to my childhood, and remains an obvious influence to contemporary artists that have been crafted in her image. 

What I admired about Houston was that her talent and beauty stood for themselves. Houston never reduced herself to hyper sexual lyrics, clothing or behavior. She was enough, and as a representative of black femininity she proved that we, as black women were also enough.

I write this piece amidst the seemingly non ending discussion of Houston’s drug use. It seems that a discussion of her troubles, makes it way to each and every conversation surrounding Houston. So my question in response to such negativity is:

Does the crack in a diamond make it any less beautiful?

While the responses may vary, a chipped diamond is still very much a diamond.

In the case of Whitney Houston, the “chip in her diamond” is a testament to her humility. A flaw doesn’t stop a diamond from shining bright, and Houston’s light illuminated the path for me as a young lady trying to herself in the darkness of self-discovery.

The scrutiny that Houston was forced to endure reflects society’s need to dim the light of black celebrities.

To be fair, Hollywood challenges all who cross her path, issuing enough slander to make the subject question their own validity. However, the price of fame for black celebrities comes at a much higher cost than their white counterparts.

As a member of a subjugated group, this misfortune of black celebrities are seen as a token of truth rather than “a mistake” or a “troubled period.” Now white Hollywood certainly has its bad apples, but in most cases, white conflict doesn’t overcome white achievement.

So as a result, a dark cloud is cast over the halo of Houston’s talent. However, it is up to us as members of the black diaspora to decide how we will remember our heroes. For we can not allow those who have distorted our history to destroy the legacy of our stars.

Bearing the burden of blackness, femininity, and celebrity, Houston was subject to irreversible scrutiny. Most who cast such criticism will never feel the heat of stage lights on and off the stage. These critics only know how to cast, not bear the gaze of a million eyes.

But any gaze solely capturing the flaws within the purity of beauty and talent amidst the venom of stardom is reflective of he/she who cast the gaze, not the subject.

So to the world Whitney may be a fallen star. To the world she may be a disappointment. But to me she is representative of the flaws within black femininity– present, but not compromising of the rarity and beauty that the construct beholds.

I can only hope that regardless of where Whitney Houston is in the universe, that she is granted the peace robbed of her in life. I hope that Whitney rests in the same peace that she has given me as a fan, and as a black woman.

I will always love you, Whitney. 

The Othered Woman as the Other Woman: Addicted to the Hyper Sexual Black Female

On the latest episode of How to Get Away with Murder, the audience learns that protagonist Annalise Keating, was once the mistress of her now husband. While this detail may be casually regarded as exhibiting the necessary drama for prime time, it aligns Keating with a blossoming caricature of black women in contemporary media. Despite Keating being among contemporary heroines Olivia Pope of Scandal, Mary Jane of Being Mary Jane and now Zoe Reynard of the Addicted movie, these protagonists exude hyper-sexuality as their flaw. This Achilles heel or heroine’s harmatia, drive these women them from their own marriages, or prevents them from reaching the church steps entirely. Keating’s revelation reveals what appears to be a blossoming caricature of black women in contemporary media.

The othered women as the other woman, veils the the integral compromise faced by black bodies that dominate prime time media. While characters should certainly be as flawed as its audience, hyper sexuality as a black heroine’s harmartia  is no accident, and no minuscule attribute. The othered woman, or female who treds the intersectionslity of race and gender, as a victim to her untamable sexuality, weighs down an otherwise progressive image of a black woman, with problematic projections of her past.

Shonda Rhimes’ Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington opened the door for the contemporary black heroine, Scandal introduced the world to Olivia Pope, the law school graduate turned high-profile fixer. The doors that Miss Pope should have opened for the sophisticated, and sexy black leading lady, has become a platform for the hyper sexual black female protagonist.
This new phenomena poses this seemingly impertinent question to its black female viewers: are we addicted to the hyper sexual black female as our representative, or simply addicted to being seen?

The influx of black female presence in contemporary film and television is undeniable. Despite whether you watch these television shows or movies, or if you enjoy them, the black female protagonist has established her place in contemporary prime time television. This contemporary black protagonist is educated, successful, beautiful or well dressed, emerging as a heroine for black women. This heroine’s presence seems constructed to challenge the way society has come to think about black women. Olivia Pope of Scandal, Mary Jane of Being Mary Jane, Annalise Keating of How to Get Away With Murder, and now Zoe Reynard from the Zane book turned movie Addicted, surface as a breath of fresh air among the boisterous black women of reality shows and sitcoms who have made a pretty penny donning long false locks while speaking and behaving badly.

These women embody the sexy yet sophisticated black woman, who wears a Chanel cape to save black women from the negative images that have dominated their perception since their forced arrival centuries ago. While every heroine must have her Achilles heel, it is interesting to note that all these leading ladies have an unsettling similarity their seemingly untamable sexuality.

Despite being a remarkable woman, Scandal’s Olivia Pope, engages in a secret yet steamy relationship with the president. Annalise, Mary Jane and Zoe, the leading ladies who follow in Miss Pope’s footsteps, are also philandering women. Olivia and Mary Jane are both unwed black women who engage in relationships with married men. Zane’s protagonist Zoe, like Annalise Keating of How to Get Away With Murder, are married women who seek sexual gratification outside of their marriage. Zoe, is the only one of these characters to receive a formal diagnosis of a sexual disorder. However, these protagonists mirror Zoe’s insatiable sexual appetite. Zane labeled her protagonist, in the form of a diagnosis, with the hyper-sexual caricature that has cemented itself to the flesh of black women since forced from Africa. The labeling or diagnosing of black women as hyper sexual, places all black women in a labyrinth of self-identity, where she finds her contemporary self conceptualized by the limitations of past projections.

Despite being treated as a “something new” of contemporary society, the hyper-sexual black female is not a new image. The assumed hyper-sexuality of black women excludes black women from victims of sexual abuse in both traditional and contemporary society. Depicted as oozing sexuality, the black women is seen as more likely to rape than to be raped. The myth of black women as sexual aggressors has latched itself onto the black female body, making this fallacy seem true to the casual onlooker. The perpetuation of this image in traditional and contemporary film and television, extends far beyond the four corners of the television or movie screen. The burden of these images are endured by the black women of society, who are inevitably connected to these controlling images because of our cultural connection.

With enviable beauty, success, and apparition Pope, Keating, Paul and Reynard emerge as a likely weapon to combat the subjugation of the cultural appropiation of black females. All of the modern black protagonists encompass a level of physical appeal traditionally reserved for non black women, intertwined with the education and monetary success typical for white males. Her presence proves somewhat revolutionary, embodying the promise of the black woman as the “every” woman.

Although all the protagonists deliver a different look, their general aesthetics are very similar. The protagonists all have beautiful and seductive faces, that despite producing vastly different appearances, consist of big, expressive eyes, pronounced cheekbones and full lips. However, with the exception of Annalise Keating, none of their bodies are voluptuous, or shapely. Interestingly, Keating who is more shapely, is sexualized by her status not her appearance. The bodies of her slender counterparts, however, capture the gaze of their onlookers because of their draping in expensive and eye-catching fabrics. The hyper-sexuality sexualizes an otherwise desexualized body, or a body that induces a sexual gaze in a way similar to that of a white man. While the male sexual organ may generate sexual enthusiasm, men are generally sexualized by their ability to acquire education and material goods. As seen in contemporary romance/erotica novels, the ideal man embodied in contemporary culture by Christian Grey and Gideon Cross is draped in expensive suiting, an aseptically appealing image that acts a token to his wealth and power. The contemporary black female protagonist is conceptualized in a similar way, as her body is veiled by the fruits of labor. Like white men, the black female sexuality is intensified by behavior, not body.

What intensifies the prevalence of these portrayals is that these images are constructed and distributed to the masses by black women. This appropriation of black female sexuality by black women, intensifies this menacing depiction. The deed of appropriation is veiled in the celebration of black writers like Shonda Rhimes and Zane. Their protagonists are often oversimplified as “beautifully flawed” black women. My ambitions are not to condemn Rhimes and Zane for accepting the daunting task of depicting the complicated dynamic of the raced woman. However, it is significant to note that the images believed to be constructed by Rhimes and Zane (among others), are actually not products of their creativity. These images are in direct result to the nurture of Western society. It seems the depiction of the black female protagonist is similar to fashion, existing in patterns that are regarded as cutting-edge, despite their repetitive nature. The repetition of patterns in the raced woman’s representation are of course much more severe than fashion. The repetition of traditional characteristics in depicting the contemporary black protagonist compromise the integrity of the black female body, and make her representation stationary in the faults of past projections.

The perpetuation of such images by black women suggests that the way in which they’ve been taught to conceptualize black women, including themselves, is one of few ways. Hyper sexuality was the binary opposite of asexuality- another controlling  image cast into the bodies of black women. Although experiencing a variety of forms in the evolution of this controlling image, the depiction of the asexual black woman began with the mammy figure. Typically overweight, of a darker complexion and completely devoted to her white employers, Mammy was completely desexualized. The most iconized mammy figure is Hattie McDaniels in her Academy Award winning role in Gone With the Wind. 

The asexual black women evolved somewhat in the decades following Gone With The Wind, birthing Juanita Moore’s character in the remake of “ An Imitation of Life.” Juanita Moore’s character had a daughter of her own, whom she raised along with Lana Turner’s daughter. Then Claire Huxtable emerged as the beautiful, successful, highly educated wife and mother who managed a career, a household, relationships with her children and a successful marriage. Claire, portrayed by Phylicia Rashad is certainly one of the most beautiful women to grace the small screen. Nevertheless, Rashad as Claire Huxtable exuded asexuality in the rendering of an integral and maternal image. In an effort to evolve from the conservative, and purity of Claire, and the restrictions of mammy, Rhimes and Zane revert to the hyper sexual.

It is perhaps of importance to acknowledge that the revisiting of hyper-sexual black female is a probable result of attempting to tread the line of asexual and overtly sexual. Images of black women traditionally stripped them of their sexuality or made them sexual beings entirely. While sex has always been profitable, the success of a drama in contemporary society is largely reliant on the presence of females as ‘eye candy.’ The myth of the hyper sexual black woman began on the plantation and was later projected onto early black actresses such as Nina Mae McKinney and Dorothy Dandridge.

Desirable women often tread the line of objectification, a concept that is especially sensitive when pertaining to black women. When pitching a show or movie with a black female lead, the task of sexualizing a woman conceptualized to be a sexual beast and not a sexual female is daunting, to say the least. However resorting back to the image of the hyper-sexual black female, seems to substantiate the internalized belief there are no sexy black women, only hyper-sexual.

Seemingly only existing in extremes, the remarkable yet sexually aggressive black woman, suggests that the hardware of an African American woman is inevitably flawed. The hyper sexual black female is seen as a worthy cultural compromise, due to the implied profit and promise of black female presence.

As black women we must contemplate ways to aid our navigation through society, rather than circumvent issues of our constructed identity by settling for depictions already decided for us. Thus, while Shonda Rhimes, and Zane have succeeded in bringing black women to the forefront, they have failed to detach her from problematic past images.

My fear is that in an effort to be seen, the raced woman will settle. Yes, our portrayals should be as scarred and flawed as we are, but it should perpetuate us in truth, not in the imagination of our oppressors. Thus what appears to be an addiction to the hyper-sexual black female, is truthfully an addiction to the visibility of black female bodies. Perhaps more significant than curbing what seems to be an addiction to the hyper sexual black female, is curbing our own addiction to being seen.

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.

The Fault in Feminism: Why Every Black Woman is a Womanist

Perhaps it wasn’t until I stared into the brown and black faces that looked into mine and attempted to teach them feminism, that I truly realized the error in its ways. Feminism emerges as a combative force against sexism, a weapon for women against a male dominated society. My issue with feminism lies in its fallacy of being all-encompassing. Feminism fallaciously operates on the belief that its goal is equality of all women. This presumption is entirely false, as feminism operates under the traditional definition of womanhood that was exclusive to white women.

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With her foot in both gender and race, the run of the black woman faces an impossibility of definition by either faction. While race asserts the most dominant of affiliations, blackness has been constructed in a way that is largely masculine. Thus, the qualities that define femininity exclude black woman, as her ability to be “feminine” has been restricted due to the demands of her blackness. Like Barbie and baby dolls that had to be altered and made available in darker hues- feminism is representative of yet another aspect of society that has yet to be tailored to include those outside whiteness.

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Feminism seemingly arose a means to assert feminine capability over male chauvinism. Traditional definitions of what it means to be a woman, confine women to their virtue, piety and submissiveness. As the binary opposite of masculinity, women were confined to vanity, and immune from the burdens of strength. Black women were traditionally excluded from access to vanity, as their worth was solely based on their ability to produce, not to be pretty.

The intentions of feminism are evident in the selectivity of feminist As white women continue to be the face of sexual assault, and the face of abduction-their bodily integrity continue to be the sole interest of feminists. The purpose of feminism seems less motivated to combat sexism, as it is in maintaining the traditional ideologies of femininity.

Feminism operates under the premise that white female bodies are the only bodies worthy of integrity. Until white women are alleviated as the sole victims of sexual assault, mental illness and bodily integrity: feminism will continue to exclude the raced woman.

Where were feminists when the billboard that read “ The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb” was plastered on the side of a Soho billboard? Those eleven words exhibited the slain unterus of African American women all over New York city, only to be silently snubbed by feminists who most likely labeled said occurrence as a “race” issue.

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A similar dynamic is seen in the recent nude photograph scandal, in which intimate photos of female celebrities where stolen and placed into cyberspace. Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton received nationwide coverage, painting each women as victims of privacy evasion. While I certainly agree that what happened to Lawrence and Upton does categorize them as victims and is an invasion of privacy, I find it more unsettling that singer turned actress Jill Scott was left out of the equation. As a full figured black women, Jill Scott’s exclusion speaks volumes. Her exclusion implies that her bodily integrity is less significant than Lawrence and Upton.

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The exclusion of Miss Scott from the assertion of bodily, correlates to a difference in how black and white bodies are defined. Both traditional and contemporary white bodies are regarded with a sense of superiority, as they are generally presumed to be chaste and therefore more beautiful. White women are generally believed to be the victims of sexual assault or sexual coercion, as a means to maintain the depiction of white bodies as unsullied. White women as sexual victims began as a means to dismiss interracial attraction, as white female attraction to black men threatened the conjugal sanity of white males. The contemporary white women as a sexual victim, is often used to veil white female promiscuity, and eliminate the possibility of sexual assertion by the white female.

Unlike white women, black women were and are conceptualized to be sexual aggressors. Despite being the victims of sexual violence at the hands of white males, black women were believed to induce such acts through their hypersexuality. The conceptualizing of the black woman as hypersexual is an unwavering depiction foundational in establishing the black woman as the antithesis and binary opposite of white women. The reality of black women as the binary opposite of white women, making it impossible for the interests of both groups to be defined by the same label or faction.

Due to the unique duality of race and gender, black women are innately womanists. Womanism* is perhaps the sole concept that captures the inability of the black woman to be completely defined by her gender or race. Womanism encompasses the dynamics of race and gender, and speaks were feminism is silent. Womanism is highly underdiscussed, as feminism is falsely placed in the hands of black women as a tool in battling white male supremacy, much like the white barbie doll was placed in the hands of young black children as an inadvertent initiation into their adolescence. Just as black girls do not have to play with white dolls, the encouragement of black female inclusion isn’t fostered through complacency, it is fostered through the courage in defining the uniqueness of our existence. Thus, black women do not have to entertain ideologies that exclude them. Be black, be female, be heard- be a womanist.

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*Scholar and writer Alice Walker is credited as the creator of the term “womanism” as a means to encompass the dynamic of the raced woman.

Color Cryptonite: A Brown Girl’s Beauty Testimony

Perhaps the biggest burden of the black woman is to endure the shame cast upon her body. While there are countless sources of shame thrust upon the black female body during a lifetime, perhaps this first stone is cast by color. tumblr_lxy5tlFeHk1qf8mfdo1_400 Color is typically seen as the key signifier to blackness. While unique, diverse and beautiful this signifier is often used to disqualify black women from beauty. “Dark” is hurled around like a beauty repellant, making black women invisible and irrelevant in discussions and depictions of beauty. Aside from commentary regarding my mother’s “lighter” hue, color never came up in my childhood. Growing up in a predominately black middle class neighborhood, my schools were diverse as minorities were the majority throughout most of my schooling. My high school was largely Latino, so this brought some racial tension, but my surrounding of blacks that were beautiful and proud spoke more loudly than the occasional ignorant comment or question. I do recall being in a high school gym class where a friend of mine called me pretty in front of a male classmate. He then replied “ there we have it a pretty light girl (referring to my latina friend), and a pretty dark girl.” This division of beauty by color implies an anxiety around beauty being placed in the black diaspora without proper labeling. Beauty isn’t beauty in the black diaspora, its black beauty. The use of black as an adjective to beauty as a noun, implies an exclusion of black female bodies from the unmodified noun.   As an adult, my color has randomly made its way into countless scenarios. As I’ve grown older, I know that discussions of my color were anything but random. I recall being at work when a coworker comes up to me out of nowhere and pulls out his pale arm and places it next to mine and remarked that he was “ trying to get as dark as me.” I can’t count the amount of times, I have just been talking about day to day things when I’ve heard the comment, “Yes, and they’re almost as dark as you,” or an unwarranted suggestion about my skin tone matching a clearly more sun kissed counterpart. I can vividly recall my former roommate’s labeling of my color as “black, black.” Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this encounter was my roommate’s disappointment in my response of “Thank you.”

It was at that moment that I realized that the intent of all previous commentary about my color where not random at all but rendered to counter my beauty.Thus, discussions or actions taken to intensify my blackness, were to make me feel less beautiful- color being the cryptonite to my beauty. However, my taking an intended insult as a compliment was the cryptonite to an act intended to make me hate the skin I was in. I showed a picture of my cousin to a male friend, who’s response was “ she looks a little light to be your cousin.” Being the son of an African father and a white mother, this individual had clutched to his skin color as a form of privilege that distanced himself from his African peers, who did not possess his fairer skin. As someone who had clutched onto their “lighter” skin as a form of privilege, his comment was an attempt to knock me down into my blackness, making himself feel superior enough to veil is self esteem issues.

While lighter skin is largely attributed to superior aesthetics, this belief is hardly all-encompassing. There are many cases like the one just described, where an individual clutches their light skin when they feel they have nothing else going for them. The case of my roommate, who is also a black woman was a little different. Unlike the male individual I described, my roommate was a very deeply sun kissed young woman. While her attempt, like the young man was to exile me into blackness, she wished to make me feel as badly about my blackness and she does about her own. To be honest, there have been moments in my past, where the actions and comments of others have caused me to question my own beauty. There have been moments where I would hopelessly search the sea of the brown skin that covers my face and body, for a trace of beauty. While lighter skin may result in more people aligning my looks with beauty, it would not make me more beautiful. The beauty of a black woman is the best kept secret of the western world, because it is the antithesis of western beauty, not because it is not beautiful.

Beautiful-black-women-everywhere While the perception of my own beauty could have been dismantled by comments of my color, I have used said comments as an aide in how I have come to conceptualize my beauty. As I have gotten older, I see that the need to minimize my beauty wouldn’t be necessary if I wasn’t beautiful. So while I, like countless other millennials across the United States and beyond , may play with Instagram filters – I know that I need no enhancement for the golden brown skin I was given. The personal and political components of my body are a token of the beautiful spirits that compile my incomparable legacy as a black woman in America, making me brown, proud, beautiful and perhaps most importantly, resilient. Feeling beautiful and feeling ugly are so much bigger than the individual. The perception of beauty is a reflection of politics placed into the black body, where those who mirror western attributes are praised, and those who don’t, are rendered aesthetically inferior.

These hurtful scenarios that a brown girl encounters, while they seem personal, aren’t, they are political. The necessity to differentiate and rank blackness and whiteness is essential to maintain the binary opposition of which this country functions and was founded on. Imagine a world where every black women knew her beauty. Imagine a black woman who sees through through every belittling remark and is unapologetic in the assertion of her beauty. This Black woman would refuse to be the back on which westernized culture stands on, and would use her back as the pillar that connects the beauty of her face and body. This unapologetic assertion of said black woman, issues the cryptonite to a color complex through her confidence.

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.

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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.

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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.

For Colored Girls Who Fear the Sun During Summertime

To my sun kissed sisters
who fear the further
browning of their
already brown skin,
I hear your silent cries
as you evade “the
kryptonite of your beauty” otherwise known as
the summer sun.
However the complexities of
your color are nothing but
lies
lies to get you to run from the sun
as our majority counterparts run towards it
rejoice brown girl
in the gold embedded in your skin
in the majesty of your color
for others see the sun as a goldmine
a conduit to a fortune you already have.

For brown girls who fear the sun during summer time, listen to this tale as a remedy for all you have been conditioned to believe.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful baby who lived in the sky. Her skin was colorless. The transparency of her skin made it easy for onlookers to see the blood circulating through her full lips, and the air flowing through her strong nose. Her spirit was gentle yet unwaveringly strong. Her features and body as full as her heart and mind. Her inner beauty exuded outward, a rarity that no one had ever seen before.

Overwhelmed with affection for this remarkable being, the creator, Neron kisses her with such love and admiration that her skin becomes brown. The others watch in amazement as this round faced and round bodied being turns a golden brown, much like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. To capture her beauty, Neron calls her Ebony.

Kindred to the essence of Ebony, the other transparents were kissed by Neron as well. Neron kissed them with varying intensity, making them turn diverse shades of brown. From the darkest chocolate to the milkiest beige, the other “ebonies” were varying in shades but consistent in beauty. The sun kissed sweethearts of the sky were placed in the warm climate of Africa, designed to maintain the beauty of their complexion.

As Neron worked to populate the remainder of the earth, the Ebonies of African remained unique in the color of their skin. Neron got a mirage of complaints from inhabitants of colder climates about their inability to achieve that golden tone. The creator searched every cloud in the sky for a silver lining. Neron then decided to invent a source that would mirror the intensity of the kiss he gave to Ebony. Neron called this source “the sun.” The sun would be most intense during the summer, which provided the ability for others to get access to the gold of Ebony through increased exposure.

So brown girls do not fear the sun, rather let it be a reminder of how much you were loved in the sky. Let the yearning of others to get the gold you were born with, make you smile and appreciate the gift of a lifetime.

Any statement of your inferiority is untrue,
by those who anticipate the summer to look more like you.Black young girl

#forcoloredgirls #blackfeministthought #summertime #funfables #blackfemaleempowerment