I simply say – BW just live your lives. Be who you want to be and make sure it’s on your own terms and own terms only. Don’t worry about trying to please and impress those who have already made up in their minds that you are simply a gender and race no matter who you are as a person.
Sometimes no matter who you are, where you come from, your background, pedigree, economic status, style of dress doesn’t matter. You can be the most polished, well mannered, kind, intelligent BW walking and there will still be plenty of people who will still see you as nothing but “A BLACK WOMAN” and often times attribute you to nothing but a stereotype even when you do not act accordingly.
In fact, the more BW are far from a stereotype, the more they will try to make you into one or “remind you” of your place by projecting stereotypes upon you. So the real battle begins and ends with NOT the BW who represent the stereotypes, but rather the BW who don’t.
YOU are a TARGET for many because you make many people uncomfy when you are not acting according to the nasty stereotypes that benefit them and take away from your individual personhood as a woman.
There have been recent incidents that have clearly shown me and other BW who see the transparency of these people, that folks are getting a beeeeet uncomfortable with BW who don’t “stay in their place”.
Some recent examples have been:
- Elizabeth Lauten a communications director for a Republican in Tennessee, recently felt the need to write an cowardly disgusting “OPEN LETTER” to the teenage Obama girls who appeared in the public pardoning of a turkey their father did at the White house. The girls who were wearing typical casual teenage attire, were apparently doing something SO offensive to Miss
PiggyLauten who basically went all passive aggressive and lashed out on two innocent teenage Black girls when really the intended target of her vitriol was Pres. Obama and likely Michelle.
“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”
- A NY Times writer named Alessandra Stanley, felt the need to call Shonda Rhimes out based on her new show “How to get away with murder”. She insisted that Ms. Rhimes should title any autobiography she may write of herself as “How to get away with being an Angry BW” . This writer took issue with “yet another network series from her to showcase a powerful intimidating Black woman”. Of course the other show she was referring to was Scandal in which Olivia Pope plays a powerful role.
When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”
On Thursday, Ms. Rhimes will introduce “How to Get Away With Murder,” yet another network series from her production company to showcase a powerful, intimidating black woman.
- On opening night of the show “How to get away with murder” where Viola Davis plays a powerful attorney (in an interracial relationship) a tweeter for PEOPLE magazine needed to remind Viola Davis that she was still just that maid in “The Help” by saying:
So two teenage girls who are Black and daughters of the President of the United States, both wearing typical teenage clothing, was told to “show class” and stop dressing like they “were looking for a spot at the bar”. This from a woman who was arrested as a teen for shoplifting, and one who has pictures of her floating around IN A BAR with a beer bottle hanging out of her mouth hands free. LOL. Do you see what we are up against??
They are not afraid of the stereotypical BW. Many are afraid of any BW who is NOT stereotypical. Apparently even INNOCENT Black female children and teenagers are not exempt from being a target. The comment about SHonda Rhimes being angry, was just another pot shot to remind the world, that any BW who is showing courage has some sort of power and intelligence is an “ANGRY BW”.
This is to remind BW that doing anything more than shaking your ass in a rap video or being some uncouth loud mouth pig, means you are ANGRY if you have any kind of intelligence or power outside of using your body.
Then the people tweet, was yet another reminder of how UNCOMFY people get when they see a BW not acting as a mammy. The whole point of that tweet was to say that Viola is still that mammy/maid in the movie THE HELP, no matter what role she takes that is completely opposite.
This is why I often wonder why so many Black women jump on the bandwagon supporting these kinds of movies when these Maid and help movies that showcase us as nothing more than mammies and “the help”.
Is it any wonder why these movies do so well at the box office and not the ones where BW are attractive capable competition for Non-black women? THEY LOVE YOU as being a servant, mammy, asexual sidekick, overly sexualized jezebel and sassy sapphire!
That is the Black woman they are comfy with because she is UNDESIRABLE and represents a character/caricature as opposed to a real living breathing woman with potential, style, intelligence and someone they have to compete with in many areas.
My point is – people especially those who have more to lose by BW not fitting into undesirable stereotypes, will continue to remind BW of their “place” by constantly trying to remind us of the “stereotypes” we need to stick to promoting and to stay in our “box”.
They will try to be slick (like the examples I posted above) and even appear at times to attempt to be helping you. But the reality is, the more BW who step out of the lil box of horrors so many people like us to be in, the more the attacks on our personhood will come. And young Black teenage girls and children are apparently NOT exempt from this either.
When I have seen all of the trash thrown at Michelle Obama, over the years, it has become plainly clear to me, that to many it doesn’t matter how well you carry yourself, you will always be nothing but a stereotype to them.
RESPECTABILITY POLITICS – THE SLIPPERY SLOPE
I have to admit I was for a long time of the belief that BW could win this battle by playing the respectability politics game. I also have to admit I did not really learn of the term or know what it was until fairly recently (I know – don’t judge me LOL). But I realized that my thoughts on how BW should be to turn our image around was based in respectability politics, and now I am not so sure I agree with playing that game.
Once I learned and researched really what the meaning of RP was – I can understand why so many Blacks believed in it and believed that it would work. I get it. But, eh, I’m not so sure that it’s really about gaining respectability, because the more I think about it, the more I realize that people who simply stereotype others have already made up in their minds that you will never be “like them” and are different. If someone has respect for you, they see you FIRST as a person and individual – NOT a group.
And it has also dawned on me. It’s not necessarily that BW’s image has to change. It’s that people refuse to ACKNOWLEDGE the scores of decent, well mannered, intelligent, kind and fun loving BW that they see and know of on a daily basis.
It’s that people have taken one kind of BW and have felt comfortable in using that image as the whole of BW. That is because people do not view BW as whole beings and individuals. Our personhood lies solely in WHAT we are and not necessarily WHO we are.
So the issue really is not the stereotypical BW. Its BW who do not fit the stereotypes, just have to be more vocal and proactive about representing ourselves. Just like the stereotypical BW have (with help) been readily representing themselves and their ilk unapologetically.
The reality is, there are ghetto BW. Loud BW. Angry BW. Overly sexualized BW. And there are ALSO BW who are the anti-thesis of those BW. But the world choses to focus on the former. So is it BW who really need to change? Or is it the world just refusing to recognize and DULY acknowledge that BW are not a monolith and that we are humans with varying personalities and characters?
It’s the latter. And because it’s the latter, there is nothing more you can do other than continue to be yourself and live your life according to your own rules and guidelines. Because no matter WHAT, the world will still choose to try fit your round bottom into that square peg.
This is why it’s IMPORTANT for BW to travel abroad! Many have said how surprising it is to just be viewed, seen and treated as a WOMAN and not some stereotype like here in America. America’s history is STEEPED in marginalizing Black women. It’s time Black American women realize its THEY who have the problem and not you. If you do not fit those stereotypes, it’s not your job to try to change them.
White women and Non Black women are given the ability to be who they are without feeling the need to PROVE they are not like their more or less favorable counterparts. They don’t have to play the respectability politics game despite the scores of unfavorable characters of their gender and racial group. So why should BW be expected to do the same?
The difference is POWER. And the power to control your images. The power to go and be around people and places that you can flourish as the wonderful being that you are, and not where you constantly have to fight to prove you are “not like the others”.
The fact of the matter is. If a person or people will choose to believe things about you based on stereotypes of Black women, it doesn’t matter how well put together and polished you are. How kind and feminine you are. They will NEVER respect you as an individual or a Black woman.
Progressive BW need to understand something. YOU are not the stereotype. And you do not have an image problem. I have come to terms with the fact that BW have no more of an image problem than any other group. It’s simply that no one wants to give BW the ability to be living and breathing INDIVIDUALS who are not a monolith.
The real issue is, Non stereotypical BW have just been too silent publicly about who we are. And we have to learn to use our power to uplift OUR KIND and create the culture that we live by daily that others refuse to acknowledge exists.
Just like there is a culture of the “Angry BW’ “the over sexualized BW’ “the sassy BW” there is also a culture of “the girl next door Black girl” ”the kind BW””the feminine BW” “the fun loving BW” etc. The problem is we have been unwilling to work to formulate our own culture as non-stereotypical BW. We have allowed one kind of BW to represent the whole. We’ve been immersed and mixed in with our unfavorable sisters – and no other group of women has to carry that burden BUT BW.
I have made a vow this day forward to no longer hold the many BW who are living right, doing well and being decent moral beings, accountable for fixing the images of the opposite BW. We have the right like all other groups to be seen as individuals and not our group.
And anything I do moving forward will focus on uplifting and promoting the culture of the PROGRESSIVE BW vs. trying to play the game of respectability politics which is an already losing battle for those who never needed to play it in the first place.
YOUR THOUGHTS ON RESPECTABILITY POLITICS?
I’m curious. Please share your thoughts on Respectability Politics and whether it would benefit BW to play it. Since this is a new concept to me, I would like to hear from you all your feeling on it. Maybe I can learn something more either FOR or against it. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so if I am missing an important aspect of RP and why you feel it does or doen’t work, please freely post it in the comments.