“I Call Bulls*%t!!”: Rhetoric, Racism, and the Reality of Living Black and Woman in America

“I Call Bulls*%t!!”: Rhetoric, Racism, and the Reality of Living Black and Woman in America June 5, 2015
depression (1)
I’m s’posed to be sleep cuz my head is doing its migraine thing and laryngitis is in full effect, but I had to take this phone call tonight…we still doin the same ol’ BULLSHIT! (you gotta problem with the preacha cussin, don’t read on…). So, I talked to someone about a little girl who is suffering from depression because she’s being bullied at school AND by her family about her weight and dark skin. Really y’all??!! The kid isn’t even the size I was at her age (I’m a BBW Queen honey), but that’s neither here nor there…this is INSANE!! We STILL teaching our kids to hate themselves? We still teaching our kids that beauty is determined by some cray-cray standard even the dominant society that created it can’t even achieve??!! REALLY!! When will we get ENOUGH of teaching our kids to kill themselves through a slow death of low self worth and high psychological self flagellation??? I know, I’m not using standardized English in my diatribe. It might be bad grammar, but it sho is good sense!

Internalized racism is a beast! It’s insidious in nature, but breeds the rhetoric of invidious comparisons that render one continuously seduced by the distraction of psychological slavery’s hold on the mind and rape of the soul. Let me unpack this thick description. Racism says that a person is inherently inferior due to that person’s membership in a particular group (told y’all it’s insidious in nature). That group’s skin color or cultural identity places them in that group. That person’s birth inextricably binds them to this status. Even Wikipedia (by way of a couple of brilliant scholars) excavates the simplicity of this colonizing tool by stating:

Internalized racism is loosely defined as the internalization by people of racist attitudes towards members of their own ethnic group, including themselves. This can include the belief in ethnic stereotypes relating to their own group. In her study, The Psychology of Racism, Robin Nicole Johnson writes that this definition does ‘not provide a sense of the complexities or dynamics of racism’, and proposes the definition be ‘an individual’s conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which whites are consistently ranked above People of Color‘. This definition is notable in that it does not take a ‘colorblind’ approach to racism, and articulates an uneven power dynamic between white and non-white (people of color) people.

Simply, when you learn to hate yourself, the cycle of self recrimination is activated in your soul (told y’all, it creates the rhetoric of invidious comparisons). You are abnormal because the contrived norm does not demonstrate your perception of your identity. You don’t look like the “normal” people, therefore, you are not normal; you are ranked outside of the “norm” with no opportunity for entrance into the “normal group.” No one has to hate you anymore. You do the work for future, potential haters by hating yourself before you even meet them. No one has to influence your perception of yourself.

Internalized oppression works in tandem with internalized racism such that your standard of beauty renders you incapable of viewing yourself as beautiful. That’s what has happened to this precious, Black baby girl. She is depressed, not because she’s ugly and fat. She’s depressed because she believes she is ugly and fat. She tells herself she’s ugly and fat! She holds this belief because her African American family members were taught to engage the same vicious cycle of hatred produced by racism’s venomous influence and oppression’s gargantuan weight. That venom, that weight, that rhetoric, has infected/pressed down upon/emanated from the mouths of the little people she attends school with and collectively creates a world in which she has no choice but to turn her vicious anger inward, causing her to be and stay and live depressed.

Depression is seductive! It creates a comfort zone because it becomes a familiar frenemy. When everyone and everything around you tells you that you are worthless, depression becomes your dance partner. It leads you across the dance floor of life, twirling you around into the mental confusion of vacillating between what you’ve been told about yourself and what your Divinely created spirit knows is the truth about you. It’s confusing. It hurts. It’s evil! It grips you, dipping you down into despair, only to bring you up on your feet to face more castigation from others that affirm your feelings of inferiority. This little girl knows this dance all too well. The salve she uses to numb the pain is food, as the person I was talking to says she’s always snacking. She’s not binge eating…yet. But, her dance partner will probably make that introduction shortly. If the cycle of victimization is not interrupted, as she grows into a young woman, food will join the party and create a fierce tango. Oh, she’s slow draggin’ with depression now…but just wait….ain’t gone be no “step in the name of love” on her dance floor called life! (you can tune up R. Kelly now)

This sweet baby has suffered a vicious rape! Her soul has been violated. Her psyche has suffered violence. Her little life has been disrupted by the slavery of oppression, and she hasn’t even had her first crush on an object of her affection. When she should be skipping rope and playing hop scotch, she’s spending emotional currency at the cash register of Whiteness and the price is just too high. I can only pray someone intervenes before she is psychologically bankrupt. Only time will tell….

My heart bleeds because her story is my story. Her story is the story of many independent, successful, educated Black women. They are lauded for their accomplishments, but languish in the abyss of Strong Black Womaness due to the fact they must wear the mask of strength while simultaneously holding up the world. They are loved when they give their lives in service to others. They are punished for doing the same for themselves. When will we stop the madness? When will this precious African princess feel the joy of just being her little girl self? When will Black women realize we can’t encourage our girls to achieve professionally and educationally, but rip their hearts out by critiquing their hair, skin color, body, eyes, hips, lips…..and by default, their suitability for marriage??? When will we stop doing this to ourselves??? When will our African American community realize we are the salvation we’ve been waiting for??? Martin, Malcolm, Harriet, Sojourner nor Al Sharpton are coming to our rescue! Ain’t gonna be no March on Washington nor Die-In in Ferguson. We either dare to love ourselves together or die trying to live for everybody else! When everybody else don’t include me, I got a friggin’ problem with that foolishness!

Every human being is valuable because they were born…point blank and the period! When I think of this beautiful, Black baby girl, I want to go to war! But for now, I gotta unplug from this current, tragic reality before I get REALLY violent with my pen and paper!

Dr. Kimberly Chandler currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Communication and Women Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans. Her research focuses on gender and communication in relation to the performance of gender. 

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