Black Women live in a crossroads of oppression where racism and sexism meet, and that is without even mentioning those of us that a queer, experiencing poverty, disabled, new to this nation, elderly, or adolescent. We face a unique struggle because we are constantly told that we are not good enough and we have to ask ourselves if the hate is because of our race, our gender, or both this time.
Our bodies are consistently, historically, and unapologetically policed. Our hair, noses, butts, hips, thighs, skin tone, everything about us is scrutinized. If we dare to speak up about this; if we dare to get upset, we are passed off as just another angry Black Woman.
A quick google image search of the phrase, “Beautiful Women” will turn up with overwhelmingly White results. A casual flip through the glossy pages of a magazine, or through your T.V. channels will show you who is considered desirable and who is not.
For anyone who is still skeptical about the kind of hate Black women get, please go look at how the media treats Serena Williams, and Michelle Obama. After that, please look into the response that people had when Amandla Stenberg was cast as Rue in The Hunger Games. Then, go see what people had to say about Quvenzhane Wallis who played Annie. Finish up by looking into how people reacted to the idea of a Black woman playing Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. If you still aren’t convinced, try having a conversation with a Black woman about what she has been told about her body, her worth, or her desirability. Ask a Black woman how many times she has been told, “I just don’t like Black women.”
When I was growing up in my majority White hometown with all of my beautifully pale and blue-eyed friends, I could not see my own beauty or worth. When I was five years old, my ballet teacher asked me and my family if they really thought I should continue with the class. She wanted to be clear that there was not much future in ballet for an overweight Black girl.
When I was ten, after a lesson about the Civil Rights Movement, some kids thought that it would be funny to tell me that I couldn’t use the water fountain because it wasn’t for “Colored” people.
When I was thirteen, I was called a nigger for the first time. The only person who came to my defense was suspended for slapping the boy that was yelling it at me in a hallway filled with our fellow students, faculty, staff, and administration.When I was fifteen, I was sexually harassed for the first time by a boy that I really liked. He had a crush on my best friend, and told me that I would do for awhile until he could get her attention. I accepted any attention I could get from him. No one had ever shown any interest in me before.
When I was twenty, the first real boyfriend that I ever had broke up with me. He went home to tell his parents about me, and when they found out that I was Black they told him that he needed to break up with me. His mother said she didn’t want the relationship to go anywhere because she didn’t want bi-racial grandchildren.
Now, I am happily married to a wonderful man. He is White, and so is the rest of his family. They are wonderful, loving and welcoming people. I hate taking family pictures with them. Everyone one of his four sisters is a perfect picture of beauty. Looking at us all together in a picture makes me feel terribly out of place. It makes me think about how very different I am from them, and how I will never be their kind of beautiful.
But I am trying something new.
I’m vowing this Valentine’s Day to love myself. I’m starting here, with this Poem by Joshua Bennett. It reminds me of what I read in Psalm 139. I am fearfully, and wonderfully made in the image of God. There is something of the divine in me, and in every Black Woman.
The next time that you consider getting angry about a social media Black-out day, or the existence of Black History Month, or all Black beauty pageants, or B.E.T (looking at you Stacey Dash), please remember what Black women are up against.
Don’t get upset when we praise each other and take pride in our uniqueness. Don’t get upset when we dress up as Black Panthers, fists raised in the air. Don’t get upset when we call each other Queens and speak up for ourselves.
No one else is going to lift us up, so we lift ourselves up. We are radically, subversively, defiantly loving ourselves.
We love our dark skin
We love our thick thighs
We love our kinky curls
We love our wide noses
We love our large butts
We love our full lips
We love ourselves
We love ourselves if you like it or not
We revel in our melanin
We are made in God’s image
and we slay.