Nowadays, there is no shortage of online natural hair advocates and icons. A YouTube search for “natural hair” yields more than 10 million videos–granted some of that content is not intended to be consumed by folks with Afro hair textures in mind. But much of the content that is intended for the consumption of the natural hair community showcases women with looser hair textures, who are claiming an experience that isn’t theirs. And this issue isn’t unique to YouTube; women who don’t have Afro-textured hair can be seen appropriating the movement online, in the media and in real life.
The consequences of fatphobia are more dire than those of the everyday kind of bullying that thin people can experience. Unlike skinny jokes, there is an entire system of oppression working against fat people. It’s valid to be upset about people saying rude things to you. It’s also valid to be enraged that people feel entitled to scrutinize your body. But someone telling you to eat a cheeseburger is minuscule in comparison to being denied employment, promotions, unbiased health care, clothing options and positive media representation because of your size–all of which are well-studied obstacles for fat people navigating a thinness-obsessed culture.
The “privilege” of being an American isn’t felt to the same degree by every U.S. citizen. Perhaps the media has led folks abroad to believe that things here are just peachy for black folks. But they aren’t getting the whole picture. The argument that black Americans being in proximity to a collective that built its wealth and global dominance by stealing, assaulting, and killing our ancestors and people who look like us is a privilege is laughable.
We’re just three months into 2018 and already, several teachers across the U.S. have made it into the news for their racist behavior and commentary.
A Florida teacher made it to headlines Saturday after HuffPost published a report linking her to a white nationalist podcast. Crystal River Middle School social studies teacher, Dayanna Volitich, was discovered to have been secretly hosting “Unapologetic”, a podcast featuring discussions on white supremacist ideology, under the pseudonym “Tiana Dalichov”.
As an extremely part-time Marvel stan, my character analysis begins and ends with the “Black Panther” film. I can agree that T’Challa’s fortitude as a king is questionable, and his initial complacency with black oppression across the diaspora most certainly warrants criticism. But while parts of Killmonger’s quest to liberate black people look noble on paper, we can’t ignore his violence.
The widespread disdain for food stamp recipients is a mixture of equal parts racism and classism. Participants are often portrayed as lazy, good-for-nothing leeches who undermine the efforts of hard-working Americans. This deep-seated hate for public aid recipients is so embedded in the political psyche of America that many don’t see an issue with the government dictating what low-income people get to eat. Our contempt for poor people is so profound that we’ve normalized them being undeserving of small pleasures, like simply enjoying a good meal.
Like most children, Blue Ivy displays obvious physical traits of both her mother and father. In my estimation, she is the perfect blend of Bey and Jay, and neither one could ever deny her adorable little self. But for some reason, people seem to have forgotten she is just a kid. People also tend to forget that Beyoncé is a human, who once too was a non-lace wig and non-makeup wearing youngster. As a culture, we love to objectify and idealize Bey as this perfect, blemish-free being at the expense of her humanity—she’s become a caricature of sorts. And by extension, we’ve been treating Blue in the same manner.
This Walmart conundrum points to an even larger issue: the implicit crime of browsing while black. It’s not unusual for black people to be profiled and followed during the course of shopping. Many of us are hyperaware of the criminal perceptions we arouse and end up overcompensating to combat these stereotypes. Personally, I make it a point not to pull any belongings from my purse that could be perceived as stolen property. Lips get a little dry while I’m in CVS? Oh well. Whipping out a brand of lip balm that they happen to sell is not worth the potential trouble.
It has become an exhausting norm for the white friends, colleagues, associates, and institutions that we once held in high esteem let us down. And I completely understand why it is easier for some black people to let racism go ignored and unchecked, rather than react to the incessant white nonsense that lands upon our desks each day. To do so is almost necessary if you prioritize protecting your inner peace. But your personal decision to remain dispassionate in the face of racism is just that: a personal decision.
Black women have been the driving force behind social justice movements for many decades—centuries even. But the reach of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter has afforded us a much larger platform than we’ve ever had access to in the mainstream media. As a grossly underrepresented demographic, many of us rely on social media to bring awareness to our experiences, causes, talents, and businesses.
For black folks who believe that biracial people should not claim blackness, I understand the source of your frustrations. A lot of them relish in their racial ambiguity and keep blackness at arm’s length. They flaunt their mixedness—or state of being not completely black—for social leverage and only use their black ancestry for cool points or as a get out of saying “nigga” free card. I also understand black folks’ desire to re-define and reclaim blackness, without abiding by the white supremacist “one-drop” rule. But safeguarding blackness from mixed people doesn’t accomplish anything.
These narratives of interpersonal relationships do little to explore the dynamics of race relations, beyond the scope of tolerating another person’s ethnic phenotype. Little time is spent addressing the need for people to connect with their lovers and friends on a more socially conscious level. These relationships are portrayed as examples of people “coming together”, but don’t effectively address the larger picture of working through blind spots and fostering emotionally sustainable bonds, built on a foundation of mutual understanding.
My ancestors did not refer to themselves as “black” until their various, African identities were snatched from them, and a common phenotype—“blackness”—and geographical place of origin became qualifiers for a common condition in the Western world. There are black people, who if literal skin complexion were the only factor in the shaping of one’s racial identity, might not consider themselves black. But it’s not that simple. Our cultural identities are also about things like family dynamics, the languages we speak, the way we dress, how we style our hair, and the recreation we enjoy. Black folks don’t say “for the culture” for nothing.
A lot of the cartoons we watched as kids implicitly programmed us to normalize sexual harassment. And watching male protagonists harass their female love-interests until they win them over has desensitized us to the need to respect people’s boundaries in real life. To say that the media we consume—including the things we watched as children—doesn’t influence our perceptions of what is socially and morally acceptable is to tell a lie. And from these same questionable depictions, young girls learn that being on the receiving end of such behavior is just a normal, everyday inconvenience that we should learn to deal with.
So many black women spend everyday of their lives trying to “earn” respect by disproving negative stereotypes and exceeding the low expectations society has in place for us. But it’s time for industry workers to hold themselves accountable and start unpacking their harmful racial biases. Perhaps you didn’t receive a satisfactory tip because you were so busy anticipating a lousy tip that you didn’t realize how negligent and tactless you were in your approach toward a customer. Maybe if you treated them with same courtesy that you show white patrons, you’d see a better outcome. Self-fulfilling prophecies are a curious phenomenon, aren’t they?
You can simultaneously be both privileged in one regard and oppressed in another. And while you may be victim to oppressive systems like poverty or misogyny, you still benefit from your whiteness. Just as I, although I am black and a woman, benefit from being middle-class, abled, educated, and cisgender.
We all know the narrative: poor little light skinned girl was picked on in elementary school by a mean posse of darker skinned girls. Sad story, right? That said, none of us are strangers to the fact that darker skinned black children live on the receiving end of bullying too. So as it would seem, colorism is an ugly, two-headed beast. But truth is, the world is unequivocally kinder to lighter skinned black women than it is to darker women.
As more people of privilege learn about systemic oppression, well-meaning folks–or those who find the idea of purposely contributing to injustice abhorrent– have increasingly shown an interest in becoming an “ally”. But being an ally is not just for show, it’s a lifestyle that requires ongoing labor and self-reflection. Here are seven unmistakable signs that you need to reroute your approach to being an ally.
At first it was refreshing being in the presence of people who shared a passion for resisting racism. But over the course of the next few years, I began noticing something that troubled me more and more each time I noticed it: black lives only matter when the movement is centered around cisgender, straight men.
So many of us have a hard time wrapping our heads around current race relations in America because we haven’t grasped the true history of race relations in America. As children, we have in our minds that the 1800’s and 1960’s were so long ago. And as adults, we don’t swap out our child-like perception of time for a more realistic one. The same ones saying “life is short” are the same ones who can’t comprehend that 60 years is not that long ago in the grand scheme of history.