By Alyssa Lorraine Link to the video: First and foremost, I need to acknowledge that the video (as tragic as it is) does not anger me. In fact, I believe there’s some slight truth to…
By Alyssa Lorraine
Link to the video: https://youtu.be/imY-vSn0b18
First and foremost, I need to acknowledge that the video (as tragic as it is) does not anger me. In fact, I believe there’s some slight truth to it, and there were things said that some black folks need to consider like the concept of colorism and the light skin vs. dark skin battle that still thrives within our race. And the question on why we don’t like to address our mental health issues– a valid question but with unreasonable consequential misunderstanding due to a system that expected black people (women especially) to repress their depression and be strong black women.
However, I want to take the time to unpack this video because even with the undertones of truth and seriousness, I found that it was created to generalize our race from within and in a few ways, oversee those of us who are trying our darnedest to eliminate these generalizations, micro-aggressions, and social stigmas that quite frankly boxed us up in the first place. Basically, the video was a slap in the face for the majority (just look at Twitter) who answer questions like these with rhetoric designed to uplift us and not appeal to those who see the black race as a joke or a monolith of failure, daddy issues, or “ratchet”ness. Many of the brethren believe these questions were all questions that we as a black race want to know and conclude. They think that these thoughts exist and procreate in our black minds because all together we are damaging ourselves. I’m analyzing this video because I want my people to know where we went downhill, and it starts with cosigning with stereotypes that exist to belittle us to the deepest extent.
The video starts off with a gentleman asking, “why is it so hard to be on time?” I pressed pause on the screen and wondered if it was worth it to continue watching. My second thought: what the hell does not being on time have to with being black? I supposed I knew what I was getting myself into, but how are we going to make a statement about how we generalize one another, all the while committing the same act? Food for thought…
When we descend into the Curiosity subsection, the most disappointing part of the video, it feels as if the questions asked by black people were not legitimate. It feels as if these folks were given a script for them to ask “funny” questions and mimic a part of our black youth that struggles or isn’t encouraged to engage in politics or start businesses. The fact of the matter is: people spend so much time judging those who don’t live up to our standards instead of understanding why they’re there in the first place. Yes, she asked WHY, but was she really trying to know why? I doubt it. I doubt it because it was subjected to a comical video and not to research that would have faithfully come through with a plethora of reasons why our little black girls and boys engage in latest dance trends more often than in politics. When videos like this are created, context is important. The context I received after watching it–say, three or four times, tells me that the black race disappoints these participants although they claim to love our race, and I know they do; however, on a personal note I believe this is a step back into the diaspora of blackness and subjects blackness to folks either hating our own race (which in part is true) or embodying a complex that separates the good black people from the bad black people. The winning black people and the losing black people.
“How did watermelon become our thing?” When I heard these words fall from the lips of the first commentator, I must admit that a ball of heat filled my chest. To answer his question: watermelon was never a black thing. Blacks never claimed watermelon as our own fruit, and we sure as hell don’t support the notion that it’s a part of our culture, because it’s not. For those of you who don’t know, the watermelon in regard to the history of our people was used in pro-slavery paintings and propaganda that depicted slaves and poor black folks as happy-go-lucky niggers who were rejoiced with watermelon for being obedient to white people. I agree with him; everyone should enjoy watermelon, but that isn’t a question for black people and the idea didn’t derive from our ancestors. NEXT.
Later, when one of the participants asked why her natural hair was seen as a political statement, my eyes widened with sadness. I wanted to inform her that her question was not for black people, but that it was for the system that decided black natural hair was not professional enough or beautiful enough. I wanted to explain to her that well-qualified black women were denied jobs for wearing their hair the same way she is: beautifully natural and vibrant, but to most companies– it was an atrocity and had to be tamed (hence hair relaxers). Black women who claim their natural hair is a “political statement” are saying that what we look like and how we decide to wear our hair should not be cohesive with who we are as people. For decades, the natural hair of black women resulted in the popular belief that we were too “wild” or “disobedient” and they absolutely could not allow it. It’s a statement because black women are TIRED of having our hair define who we are as people and what we’re capable of. We’re tired of our hair being a condition of if we’re pretty or sexy. They’re taking a stand against mainstream conformity and challenging oppressors one good riddance of the creamy crack at a time. Does that answer your question, baby girl?
You know what… The entire Dating and Beauty subsection was tricky for me, so I’m going to answer the rest of these questions separately:
Why do we think that light skin is better than dark skin? Because we’ve been conditioned by non-black advertisements, products, pop culture, and just plain history that dark skin is ugly. Whether it’s up close and personal or subliminal, we as a whole are taught to negate darkness because it’s unattractive, unappealing, and in some cases, animal-like. We praise light skin, because we are told to believe that it radiates calmness and goodness. Light= beautiful. Dark = scary and unappealing. To keep it short and sweet.
Do you really believe that black is beautiful or is that just something you say because it sounds cool? At this part of the video, I’m already annoyed and pissed off by what I expected to be decent conversation starters among black folks, but here we are. To answer this absurdity, yes. I think black is beautiful because for a long period of my life, I was made to believe that black wasn’t beautiful and that I wasn’t beautiful because of my dark skin. It makes me grateful to those who went through extreme measures to undo the damage posed on black people who abhorred their skin, and to ask this was to initiate the thought that nothing’s changed, and that being pro-black and pro-black beauty is a fad of 2016.
Why do some people say you’re pretty for a dark skin girl? Because boo, colorism and internalized racism are alive and well within our race. This is all ties into the light skin/ dark skin BOHSHIT that is going to take a lot of time to erase and dismantle. Luckily, nowadays we’re off to a start… And when the natural-haired beauty then explained how that still made her feel like the ugly black thing, it becomes even more apparent that we as a race still have miles to go until we accept and love all melanin. Blacks weren’t told to hate our skin until race became a construct that excludes us from beauty standards especially if we didn’t pass the paper bag test or weren’t born to interracial couples.
Why do some black men only date white women? I recommend watching Dark Girls. There are plenty of black men in that film who explain why they prefer light skin or white women over us dark skin gals. It’s unfortunate thinking, but a real life scope to the demon that is internalized racism.
….but not okay for a black woman to date outside of her race? I used to wonder the same thing, especially when I started dating my boyfriend. We received backlash for the fact that I’m black and he’s white; however, the vast majority of that backlash came from white folks, and the black folks who didn’t approve believed that no one should date outside of their race. Again, this ties into internalized racism and prejudices that presume black women as less than human. Often times when black women date white men (aside from looove), it’s because black men lacked interest in black women, but still expected us to adhere to them. It could also mean that they’re simply in love, and black women were viewed as unlovable especially by black men.There are many reasons and answers to this question that could not be identified so concisely. Again, I recommend watching Dark Girls.
The Community Support subsection undoubtedly has some truth to it, BUT I must defend the Black Lives Matter assumption that we “tear each other down in the next breath”. Too many people falsely link BLM to their ideals on black life. They are a legitimate organization with legitimate advocates and activists who live for the sole purpose of uplifting black people and remaining resilient. Why do we say black lives matter, then tear each other down in the next breath? How are you going to generalize a population of black folks who stand for the protection of black lives and box them with those who have yet to endure a social awakening?
When we skip over the to the question of homophobia in the black community, I agree with her to the full extent that I too, am over it. I’m over hotep twitter and their nauseating views. I’m over it too, girl. It needs to stop. As a race, we have a lot of work to do and that starts with accepting the LGBTQ folks of our race and letting them know that they are loved, they will be protected, they are our brother, sisters, lovers, friends, and so much more than their sexuality and gender identities. They are human beings. Thumbs up to that one.
Why is growing up without a father so common in our race? *rolls eyes*. As a black woman whose father was pretty much non existent for most of my life, even this question was irritating. To be honest, and like this entire post, it’s an opinion; I believe that “absent black father” narrative is a on-going myth. I also believe that those of us black folks who’ve had absent fathers are conditioned to believe this narrative due to media influences that depict black fathers as absent low-lives. The statistics of single black mothers, 72%, does not indicate that black fathers are absent, and it’s a slap in the face to black fathers who are there for their children which shockingly enough is most of them! Again with the generalizations…
Why don’t we like to confront our mental health issues? She asks this with a comedic tone– almost as if she knows it’s a dumbass question. It’s not that we don’t like to confront our mental health issues, it’s that we don’t know how to. Chronic depression affects blacks folks more than it affects any other race. On a personal note, I’ve suffered from depression since I was nine years old–possibly even sooner, but I didn’t “confront” my issues until I was fifteen. Not all black women were as fortunate as me to receive help, medication, and a referral to a therapist. Most black women don’t have the accessibility, resources, or information to get to the help they need. Many don’t even realize that they’re depressed. Therapy may be a magical and wonderful place, but it’s not that simple and if it was, don’t you think depression stats among black people would be significantly lower? C’mon now, sis.
Moving down to Identity and Authenticity…
Why is there a check list for being black? My answer to this: ???????????????What are you talking about, dude??????????????????????????????
Why is being educated considered a white thing? Here is where I begin to wonder if this video was even conjured up my black folks because sis could not be serious. There are so many “white things” to be considered, but education is not one of them at least not this day in age; however, historically speaking, education was considered a white thing just not by black folks. Early to mid 20th century, Black children enrolled in schools were receiving “Jim Crow education” that limited equal and fair education and maintained the Jim Crow persona that wanted black youth the accept their abysmal economic situations and quarter-assed education so they couldn’t get ahead in life. Because of the Jim Crow laws, schools were segregated and the white schools, of course received the better education. I guess this technically answers the question.
Black isn’t only defined by adversity? Yet almost this entire video perpetuates the common adversarial constructs of blackness used against black folks and collapses on itself in the end.
This concludes my rant. While there were parts of the video that I understand, I still feel as if it’s a comical witticism of blackness and the flaws of our people in society. A debilitating contradiction. It almost inspires me to make either a video or a post asking questions to black people that initiates the aspects of self-love, prosperity, acceptance, etc. as opposed to this catastrophe that is supposedly meant to ask us what we’re afraid to ask other black people and what we’re afraid to tell. I realize I could be digging too deep into this video; however, the context is clear. I can’t help but to question its legitimacy, the folks who participated, and why the hell internalized racism isn’t acknowledged properly. I can’t help but to wonder if these folks have been so deeply enriched with generalized sentiments that shame us for engaging in dance trends, but don’t know how in depth we are in politics. I wonder about the “black card” rule because honestly, where the hell did that come from? So many thoughts peak in my mind…
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“I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.” – Audre Lorde.
Today I am thankful for Audre Lorde’s perseverance and unapologetic voice in Black Feministic perspective. While taking a Women of Color: Image and Voice class, I was introduced to some of her work such as I Am Your Sister and Zami: The New Spelling of My Name, and I was immediately enticed by her authentic and insightful analysis of not only being a black woman, but of being a lesbian black woman whose oppression ran deep within the walls of blackness and sexuality. R.I.P to a very real, inspiring, and beautiful woman who will always have an everlasting influence on my own Black Feminist perspective.
#UnconventionalBlackBeauty was the popular hashtag I saw earlier last week as I was nonchalantly scrolling through my Twitter feed. I remember thinking to myself “wow. This is finally happening.” I instantly engaged in the topic, even posting my own unconventional black beauty selfies. This time two years ago, it was on Twitter, where endless bouts of slander and hatred of black women surfaced so steadily and heavily onto my feed. Every other new tweet was about how unattractive we were, how we possessed the inability to be independent, how we were only good enough for sex OR that our vaginas looked disgusting, and most shamefully, that black men preferred light-skinned, white, or Hispanic women. Flawless examples of internalized racism and the disgusting portrayal of what we were all generalized to be.
“Black bitches always have a bad attitude.”
“White girls > black girls”
“Black bitches shouldn’t have blonde weave”
“She’s pretty for a black girl”
and my personal favorite:
“Black bitch at Mcdonald’s gave me an attitude like I’m the reason her dad wasn’t around for her first 23 years of life.”
Women of color, especially black women, have been at the bottom of the food chain from day one. But now in 2015, more voices than I’ve ever heard before are not only voicing their self-worth, they’re showing us. It’s time for us to love ourselves if we don’t already. It’s time to shut down the obscene stereotypes, the idiotic tactics of colorism and internalized racism, and refuse to live a society where we’re not deemed good enough. For some black women, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps they’ve never had to deal one on one with being ostracized for having dark skin, wide noses, big lips, or nappy hair. For those whom the cause does matter, we’re stronger than ever. Not only are we fighting for ourselves, but for each other.
Last week when the #UnconventionalBlackBeauty tag came into play on my Twitter feed, it was a chance to point our our flaws or what made us unattractive to other people, and embrace the self love and acceptance we deserved to feel. I saw it as a fantastic start to eradicating internalized racism and loving all shades, shapes, and sizes. We can’t love other people unless we learn to love ourselves, the melanin in our skin, and the beautiful, unique physical attributes we were born with. I engaged in the trend so thoroughly, reading and appreciating all the black beauties who deserved the shone light. From wide hips, to big lips, naturally kinky hair, long legs, thick eye brows, no make-up, chocolatey eyes, big eyes, small butts, big butts, love-handles, thin lips, wide noses, short hair, etc, etc, unconventional black beauty was expressed in various ways. Eurocentric beauty standards couldn’t touch the beauty and authenticity of these women. #UnconventionalBlackBeauty wasn’t created for the approval of other people, but for the promotion of unveiling the dark queens we are and refusing to be torn down by mainstream beauty standards that have excluded us for centuries.
For those who don’t know, my feminism centers on the equity, success, and self-love of black women. Being that I’d suffered through years of self hate of my blackness, depression, and dealing with the various milestones of being a black girl in a society where the standards don’t include me, it is VERY important to me assure that my future daughters, friends’ daughters, younger sister, and even my friends themselves, live in a world where they can love their blackness and not be ashamed of it or apologize for being a woman with opinions.
I would like to thank the innovator(s) of the #UnconventionalBlackBeauty trend. It’s an amazing step into inspiring young black women to not only love themselves, but speak louder for the audiences in the back, and feel beautiful for the hell of it, and not just for being a black girl.
I’ve attached some of my Unconventional Black Beauty selfies. I was called fat, ugly, gorilla, and manly for having broad shoulders and arms. I don’t have big hips like others would expect, but I do have a stomach, but guess what? I kinda like it.