The woke black woman’s rebuttial

The woke black woman’s rebuttial

So this post is in response to something that my friend’s family said (not to my face) a while back. So my friend and I often talk about issues regarding race, gender, and just topics that are relevant in our not so great society today. As college students who are socially conscious people, we find it important to have these conversations and to continue educating ourselves about everything. One thing I talk about frequently is race and my experiences as a black woman. When you live at the intersection of two forms of oppression (sexism and racism), it’s hard to not be aware of the effects it has on my day to day life.

When I walk into a store, I am often followed. I am given weird looks on the street when I wear my natural hair. Sometimes people question my intelligence and my merit. I deal with shit now and I know that the future will only bring more shit my way. So it’s hurtful to hear when my friend’s family, who I consider to be a second family to me, say that I focus too much on race and black and white and that focusing on race is not going to help me get money so I should just focus on my studies (paraphrased here but you get the idea). I, as a black woman, cannot just ignore my identities. I cannot ignore the tiny one bedroom apartment my family of five lived in Brooklyn for 9 years because my parents couldn’t afford much. I cannot ignore the fact that I had to learn how to love and care for the hair that actually grows from my scalp because I was taught to assimilate to “whiteness” and suffer hair damage and scalp burns to obtain the ideal image of beauty. I cannot ignore that I was often called “ghetto” because of the way I spoke and dressed. I can go on and on but I won’t because I think you get the idea. When you are in a marginalized group, you have no option but to focus on your marginalization. You can try to ignore it and pretend you’re not pigeonholed but the truth is always there that you are. Their white privilege allows my friend’s family not to worry about race.

Their whiteness allows them to be blindsided by the oppression of others. And their anti-intellectualism due to their conservative Christian faith allows them to stay in their ignorance and never seek the truth. It’s funny how it took me almost 10 years to realize how racist and sexist they are. I’ve known this family since I moved to PA at the age of 9 and they’ve always been nice people. Just because they are nice though, doesn’t mean they have great values and ideologies. Many of the “nice” people during the civil rights era were also racists as well. Niceness does not cover the hateful language and bigotry that one may hold. It just doesn’t. So as I tried to release my emotions and vent from their hurtful comments, this is what I wrote:

THE WOKE BLACK WOMAN’S REBUTTIAL

She should be focusing on her studies

And not on black and white.

That is not going to help her get any money.

She’s too racially aware…..

I’m standing still

But mentally I’m on the ground.

Feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

Hurt by the ones who I onced called family

I am too racially aware.

Because I was taught at a young age

That I am different

And considered “the other”.

That the color of my skin

Ultimately defines who I am in this society.

My identities are a threat to the people.

My race is the gun

My gender is the trigger

A double menace to society is what I be

As a black woman in America

I am hit with a double whammy.

The intersections of my oppression are more than unique.

A constant struggle that I must deal with but accept as “normalcy”.

Because when I am told I am pretty for a black girl

Or that it’s amazing that I have all that knowledge in this big beautiful head of mine

It’s supposed to be a “normal” complement.

So I smile..and accept these back handed compliments

As “normal”.

I trudge through life

And wear my thick armor to protect myself

It becomes routine

I become a soldier

A strong independent black woman

Facing this world that doesn’t want me

In a society that wasn’t made for me

I must be strong

Always…strong

Never weak

But constantly worried about whether an action that happens to me

Is a result of my race

My gender

Or both.

Having to navigate a PWI

Where professors encourage me to drop out of the sciences

Or are surprised by my stellar gpa

As if I am a golden egg in an Easter egg hunt

A rare commodity

Because I can’t be brilliant

I can’t be beautiful

I can’t be me

I can’t speak up for me

Because being socially aware is a crime

Policed by the ones I cared about the most

I can’t be educated

Because I become dangerous

I shouldn’t be racially aware

Because It’s not like I’m oppressed

It’s not like I have things to worry about

It’s not like that will help me get a job

I have to focus on my studies

Priorities, Sam

It’s pointless

But…

How can I focus and turn a blind eye to these microaggressions and oppressions

That me and my people face?

We should not focus on black and white, yes

But we cannot  fall into this colorblind mess

Because when you don’t see color

You don’t see me

You erase my experiences

My identities

You fail to acknowledge that our differences matter

As much as our similarities do

Because as Audre Lorde said

“There is no such thing as as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”

So please check your privilege before you police me

Because you don’t go through what I do

 

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I Am Not My Hair

I Am Not My Hair

Another one of my posts from the blog 6 months ago.

A collage of the hairstyles that I have rocked throughout the years, from weaves to braids to my current afro.

Hair.

Any of the numerous fine, usually cylindrical, keratinous filaments that grows from follicles found in the dermis, or skin.

Such a simple definition for a commodity that we give so much value. You can see this by the booming multi-billion dollar hair industry in the U.S. We see commercials advertising shampoos that promote luscious, shiny hair, and commercials that advertise products that promote hair growth and prevent hair loss (Rogaine here). We also see advertisements dealing with altering one’s hair through dyes, perms, relaxers or heat. No one can deny that hair plays an important role in our lives, considering how beauty focused our society is.

Appearance matters. The way our hair looks matters.

Which is why I believe that hair is political, especially when it comes to black hair.

The politics of hair is something I’ve been interesting in ever since I started going “natural”. So for those of you that do not know, the term “natural” in the black community refers to wearing one’s hair in its natural state without any chemical process performed on it that would permanently alter the structure of the hair. So wearing it in its coiled/curly state or straightened is considered natural but adding a relaxer to make the hair permanently bone straight is not. I decided to “go natural” after years of processing my hair with chemical relaxers only to have my hair damaged and not retain any length. It was also during the beginnings of the natural hair movement and I was inspired by people like Solange and Viola Davis who dared to wear their beautiful hair in its natural state. I can proudly say I’ve been two years relaxer free but it wasn’t an easy journey. Choosing to wear my hair in its natural state was a personal choice and I was met with backlash from my family, mostly the women of my family. Comments ranged from, “Why would you want to do that?” to “You will look ugly and less professional.” Hearing those comments and reactions only made me think how I would be perceived in society with my hair in its natural state. It didn’t take long for me to learn that answer. As Nigerian feminist Cimamanda Ngozie Adiche said, black women’s hair is a political statement and the statement is often imposed on it. We are judged and perceived a certain way by the way we wear our hair.

In a society that focuses heavily on Eurocentric beauty, she is spot on. If this wasn’t the case then 12 year old Vanessa VanDyke would not risk expulsion for not cutting her afro, the military and many big corporations would not place restrictions on how people should wear their hair, Zendaya would not have received those comments made by Giuliana Rancic at the Oscars, and Viola Davis would not have broken the internet when her character pulled her wig off on the hit TV show, How to Get Away With Murder. So you can see where I’m getting at, right?

I have heard black hair (includes locs, twists, and afros) be described unprofessional, unruly, dirty, unattractive, and etc. I believe black hair is so versatile and beautiful. I find the comments about my hair so funny because they way hair grows out of my scalp cannot be controlled. But it is stigmatized because I choose to wear my hair the way God made it. Now is that fair? No, but that is our reality and it lies in institutional racism.


The fact that we don’t value black hair just shows how racist and discriminatory our society can be. Even the media perpetuates the idea. When I read a Seventeen magazine and go to the section about hair, I only see straight, wavy, and curly. There is no kinky or any section on natural African American hair. To me, that just shows how unimportant my hair is. Growing up as a little girl, I always wanted my hair to look like a “white girl”. Now I didn’t know what the implications of that meant but all I knew what that I did not want unruly, poofy, “nappy” hair. I wanted silky, straight hair like I saw on TV. So at the tender age of 11, I got my first relaxer. I remember the horrible chemical smell and the discomfort I felt from having it burn my scalp a little but that didn’t matter to me. In my head, all I knew what that I would actually be “beautiful”, whatever that meant. Now, I am not trying to perpetuate the idea that relaxers are bad and every black woman should rock their natural hair (even though that would be cool!), but I am trying to make a point that the reason for doing so matters. There is a difference between changing the texture of one’s hair because of personal preference and changing it to satisfy beauty ideals. It doesn’t help when there aren’t many representations of our hair type in the media. Long, straight hair is the beauty ideal that is forced upon us and that is problematic, especially for young girls.

For the longest time after I decided to wear my hair natural, I felt ugly. I did not like my hair, especially during the transition state where it was half curly and half straight because of the leftover relaxer. I didn’t think anyone would find me attractive with my hair in a short afro. So I lacked the love that I needed for my hair. I was ashamed of it and went into protective hairstyles (weaves and braids) to hide my hair. I think it took me a whole year and a half to finally wear the hair the way I wore it since I was 11. And when I did…

It felt fucking great!

I was free from the burden to appease anyone. It gave me a confident boost and a better appreciation of myself, and of my culture. It was also a fuck you to the beauty standards opposed on me by society. It just felt great to not give a damn and to just love myself just the way I am. I gained respect from my family for my decision to wear my hair naturally which got me thinking. How weird is it that I am getting respect for leaving my hair in its natural state? 

That’s why I believe that women of color should be proud of their hair and just wear it the way they feel most comfortable with. Our hair is versatile, beautiful, and awesome. I proudly rock my afro and own my hair texture the way it is. It wasn’t an easy journey accepting my hair but I’ve learned to love it and love me. My hair is a part of my identity but it doesn’t define me. As my favorite India Arie song says, “I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am a soul that lives within.”

So I ask you: What is your hair story? This post reflects on my experience of a woman of color but of course everyone has different experiences so share them in the comments! 😀

 

I Am Who I AM…A W-O-M-A-N!

I Am Who I AM…A W-O-M-A-N!

This was one of my first posts from my old blog.

I am expected to know how to cook or else a man will not want to marry me.
If I have sex before marriage or have multiple sex partners, I am deemed impure and/or a slut.
The only sports I should play are “girl” sports; I am crazy to think I could ever play football.
I am supposed to be submissive to my boyfriend or husband.
I should not wear “skimpy” clothing because I will be labeled a slut and I am at risk of getting raped.
On the other hand, if I am conservative with my clothing, then I will be labeled a prude.
My “unattractiveness” does not prevent me from getting raped, though.
If I am raped, it is my fault no matter the circumstances and I am to blame for my own “faults”.
My sexual history is put into question when I am in court.
I am supposed to be sexy and not sexy at the same time.
I am supposed to focus on looks before my intelligence because that is what people will judge me for.
The only way I am attractive is if I am skinny, light skinned, and have “good” straight hair.
I am subjected to catcalling and am expected to like it because they are merely “compliments”.
I am only made for one thing: to produce babies and take care of my man.
I cannot have it all because I am told that either my career or family will suffer from my decision to become a mom and a career woman.
I need to make sure I do not walk alone at night or I make sure I walk with protection to be fully safe.
And the list goes on and on…
As a woman, I am told many things, from what I am supposed to wear to how I am supposed to think and act. It was not until my women’s studies class last spring that I began to truly question and analyze what I have been absorbing. I started reflecting from within and questioning myself. It also made me think of when I became aware of my gender identity. It was obvious to me that I am a girl but why did I identify that way. What does it mean to be a girl, a woman? From my personal standpoint and from the standpoint of others, they are two different things.
I guess I became aware of my gender identity at a young age when I think about it.  I learned early on that girls played with dolls and toys of that sort because my cousin would get reprimanded when he played with my dolls. I did not quite understand why because it was fun playing dolls with him. My mom would say, “Girls are supposed to play with dolls not boys.” I was unable to wrap my head around why it was such a big deal but I just accepted it as fact. Other things would throw me off as well. I remember my family getting ready to go to church one time and as my dad was buttoning his shirt, my mom said, “It takes a real man to wear pink”. I never got that until I was older. How does wearing a certain color make my dad a “real” man? I learned later on that it is because the color pink is considered a “girly” color and my dad was “brave enough” to wear a color not deemed “manly.” Instances like this quickly made me learn what being a girl entailed and I also learned that a lot of injustice came with it as well. My parents were very protective of my sisters and me. I know that if I had a brother, he would have never had the same constraints as I would. When my cousin moved in with us, he was treated very differently than my sisters and me. He did not have to wash dishes as much, he was allowed to joke around about having girlfriends without being reprimanded, and they were not as protective of him.
As a child, I was very sheltered. It was not until I moved to Upper Darby from Brooklyn that I became more exposed to many aspects of society. I certainly did not know what it really meant to be a woman at the age of 9. I just knew that, according to my parents, that once I get my period, I can have children which makes me a woman. Now this really confused me because I got my first period at the age of 11 and I was still treated like a child! So I knew that having your period did not automatically make you a woman, unless you look at it from a biological standpoint. But being a woman is more than just biology! However, that is not what I received from the media and music. A woman is recognized and valued for her assets. We see it in magazines, music videos, and in television. I guess my parents wanted to shelter me from that aspect because I never learned what sex was from them, only that it is bad before marriage. In Christianity, purity is a great virtue. Women are supposed to be pure and to abstain from sex. Women should not be too sexual and must dress conservatively. Then, there are different schools of Christianity which say that women and men should not even masturbate. This troubled me a lot because I wasn’t able to explore my sexuality. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I became sexually active and I felt bad about it. All the time! I felt ashamed for masturbating, for performing sexual acts with my then boyfriend, because of this idea of “purity”. There is nothing wrong with being a virgin, but there is a problem with being restricted as far as sexuality.
When it comes to image, I had a tough time accepting the way I looked growing up. I still struggle with it sometimes today. I was always skinny and lacked in the boob department. It also did not help that most of the women in my family had thick bodies and big bosoms. I was the subject of teasing from my mom and sister when it came to that. And although I knew they were just joking, I did take it to heart. I believed that I was not beautiful because of my lack of breasts and I equated having big breasts and having curves with beauty. I decided that I had to look a certain way all the time, especially to attract the attention of the opposite sex. Now, I have realized that all types of bodies are beautiful but I did not at that time. When I entered middle school, I was still going through puberty. I got my period during the summer but I was as flat as a washboard. All my other friends were rapidly developing, more than I was, and I became jealous and insecure. I could not talk to my mom about it and my friends would not understand because they had what I wanted. So I took matters into my own hands. Now, you can probably guess what I did. Yes, I stuffed my bra. You would think I would have used tissues but I was afraid that they would fall out so I used socks. I walked into school proudly until my friend pointed out how fake it looked. That only embarrassed me and made me feel even worse than before. My friend told me to just wait until they developed and that I was more than just my boobs. Hearing her say that comforted me and made me think: Why was I doing this? When I look back to that event, it makes me laugh.
A lot of what I learned of womanhood came from my mother. As much as I love my mother, I accepted that I did not want to be completely like her. After all, she is a product of her culture. In the Haitian culture, women are to be submissive and expected to follow the “typical” gender roles. I have been told time and time again by both my grandma and my mother that no one will want to marry me if I do not know how to cook. Now I always thought that who I am as a person would be the reason a man would want to marry me and not for my cooking skills. I also did not want to be dependent or submissive to anyone. I wanted to be independent and not rely on anyone else. My mother is a stay at home mom and although there is nothing wrong with it, she only did it because my dad told her to. She told me that he said that someone needed to stay at home to watch the kids so she did. Now, when my sisters and I were young I can understand that but we are all older now and I know she wants to work but won’t because of him.
In my Intro to Women’s Studies, we explored many topics relating to women. I learned a lot and it also taught me to do some self-reflection and to question everything that I am told. So I continue questioning everything I have been told relating to my gender, race, and sexuality. My rant in the beginning of this post is just an example of things that I was taught that I began to question. Although those things are not right or fair, I realized that, as a woman, I will always have to deal with them in society. I will continue to walk alone at night alert, with the fear that I may be sexually assaulted. I will continue to be judged for my looks, sexual history, or other things that are irrelevant. I will continue to have certain abilities questioned because I am a woman. That’s just the unfortunate truth of the matter.
Blogging…I Have No Idea What the Fuck I’m Doing

Blogging…I Have No Idea What the Fuck I’m Doing

Hey everyone or anyone who happens to stumble and find this blog. This is my first time having my own blog. I started one on blogspot six months ago for my Gender and Media class (I’m a Women’s and Gender Studies Major) and I had a few posts on there but I never continued with the blog after the semester was over. I’ve been itching to get back to it but this fall semester was my busiest yet. With free time on my hands because of winter break, I decided to work on my blog and make it my thing. I am not perfect and neither will this blog…and I don’t want it to be. Like my url says, Miss Unapologetically Flawed is who I am. I am far from perfect. I’m weird and awkward and introverted and laugh at corny jokes. The point I’m trying to make is that I hope y’all enjoy my blog as I figure out the blogsphere and it’s awesomenss as well as it’s flaws. I want to be able to share my thoughts on life, social issues, religion and etc. as well share my personal experiences. So here’s to the start of my blog…and to the journey ahead!

Peace and love always,

Miss Unapologetically Flawed