Monday, March 26, 2012

Black Girls Can't Be Innocent?

I had said as much during the Amber Cole debacle, but it's pretty hurtful to actually see people affirm the worst: That in the minds of some Americans, a little black girl can never represent the image of purity.

This theory has been played out with the absolutely ugly way in which young Amandla Stenberg has been treated. In the movie version of the book, "The Hunger Games", she is cast as the young Rue, to whom the main character Katniss managed to grow attached. The reason is that little Rue reminds her very much of her sister, Prim.

This is what Katniss's sister looked like in the movie:

Here we have blonde-pigtailed blue eyed Primrose Everdeen. Clearly she is ethnically a bit different from the other character.

And so people were "surprised" or just plain pissed off: How DARE they cast some nappy-haired negro girl child as the representation of white innocence and purity! (And I'm actually paraphrasing at least one response there.) 

Yeah, you're reading that right. As a few people have pointed out, the angry bigots who have come out to complain over a black Rue took issue with the fact that they were "tricked" into sympathizing with the character, into caring about her, into seeing her as a proxy for the sweet and innocent Prim. But when confronted with absolute proof (visual as well as written because clearly they can't read) that she was NOT the flower of white purity standing in for Katniss's sister, they felt they could no longer identify with the character. She had, in the words of one person, been "ruined".

Despite the fact that Amandla absolutely owned that role, some people refuse to see beyond the color of her skin, even when it is explicitly stated that her skin was dark brown.

"I just assumed it meant tan, like she'd been out in the Sun."

I suppose this means the next time someone as described as very pale, my first thought should be they are Japanese.

Indeed, there was grumbling about the POC being cast in certain roles, despite the fact that two of the characters, Rue and Thresh, are clearly meant to be of color. Even the author said so. 

But what was most disturbing was the reaction over little Amandla's casting. It kept coming back to being unable to understand how a little black girl could be seen and treated as innocent and helpless and someone worthy of being loved and empathized with.

This is what happens when black people refuse to let Mammy/Sapphire/Jezebel portrayals, born of the same white racism that makes this young girl's casting seem strange and unfathomable, DIE and be DEAD. You get idiots thinking that something is wrong if a black girl is cast as something associated with purity. 

I actually only half blame the (liberal my behind) Hollywood industry; I also blame a black community that's more than proud to throw black girls under the bus whenever possible. If you cannot fight for or protect the image and innocence of black girls, then you cannot expect anyone else to. You basically shake hands with white racism everytime you encourage black boys to to rape black girls. When you say things implying that black girls can't be virgins at age thirteen. When you could care less how black women are represented in the media.

If you're willing to cooperate with this ugly line of thinking, you are helping to keep this sort of hurtful ignorance alive and well.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blog Note: Differences...

In addition to blogging here, I also blog at "Beyond Black & White". Some posts are repeats, and some are slightly different. Also, I decided that some topics I'll keep unique to both places in terms of how I write them because the situations may be addressing conversations and topics unique to situations or observations in either location.

Also, it might be a relevancy issue.

So, if you see a post here that's not there or visa versa, that's why.

Your Right To: Be A Gentle Feminine Woman

I will let you in on a little secret: I am not what you would call a fighter. The only time I ever threw a punch was when I was six-years-old and this boy simply would not leave me alone. He insisted on bullying me whenever he got the chance. In that situation, it turned out leaving it to the grownups solved the problem in the end and that person did not bother me anymore. So I learned very early that often violent problems have a non-violent solution.

I also learned, within my home, that I wasn't expected to go around fighting. I was expected to apply myself to my studies, go to college and have a non-problematic life free of fisticuffs. I did not need to holler. I did not need to mean mug. And I did not need to be coarse or hard either for my own safety or to assert how "real" I was.

I had a cousin who I thought well of, despite how different we were in nature. She was actually bragging to me about all the fights she got into. My reply: "I'd rather the Lord fight my battles." She was unimpressed. At first this bothered me, because I wanted her to like me. But as I grew older, I realized that being uncouth and violent in order to represent myself as an African American woman wasn't something I ever wanted.

I like being soft spoken. I like flowers in my hair. I like people complimenting me on my lady-like and gentle manner when I'm in the grocery store. And I always notice the people who do so that are black tend to be my parents' age or older. Somehow, it's strange, particularly among younger black people, to see a young black woman not be hardened, or uncouth, or unwelcome to vulgar advances. To demand to be treated like a lady is unheard of among this crowd.

I actually made such an observation, only to have it said,

"Black women can't be ladies...they're black."

There seems to be two minds at work towards chipping away the gentle feminine nature that black women are as entitled to as any other woman. First, the sad and untrue belief that we are less than women. The lie that we as human beings hold no real value and should be treated as cheap and abusable. Second, there is the fact that the environments of many black women do not provide the ability to be gentle.

"All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy, I had to fight my uncles. I had to fight my brothers....A girl child ain't safe in a family of men" - Sofia, The Color Purple

Whether it's having to fight the sexual advances of trusted and not-so-trusted males or fight jealous de-feminized black women over some useless two-timing black man, the fact remains: Too many black women have become deprived of their femininity and told that it's not for them because they are black. Duped into thinking this to be true, they then laugh at the idea of trying to be gentle. In their minds, that's for white women (though many non-white women are extremely feminine). These black women and girls cherish their "street cred" too much to try and carry themselves any differently. Unfortunately, this image has done serious damage to them in the wider world. It's reached the point where a black woman is considered a tough tongue-lashing, neck-rolling she-male on sight.

And the biggest slap in the face of all is despite contributing to these circumstances, the same cast of characters at fault for this development now gladly stereotype black women as coarse, hard, emasculating, and markedly unfeminine.

Why You Have The Right To Be A Gentle Feminine Woman 

To some people, you are a hardened, non-feminine creature and a workhorse until proven otherwise. And even when you've attempted to establish you're anything but, the stubbornly unconvinced may try and use situations and circumstances to "test" you. To bring the "angry strong black woman you REALLY are" to the surface.

African American women*, you have the right to bypass such persons and such tests. You have the right to seek out loving persons who will protect and care for you. You are entitled to be with those who allow you to not be strange for reaching for flowers rather than the weave of some woman who needs to be taught a lesson "for thinkin' she cute".

Being a gentle woman is not something that must be withheld from you or seen as not for you because of either the self-hatred of others or a widely encouraged misconception. Do not let it be so. Do not be afraid to be soft and gentle. It is your right to be so.

*I am speaking mainly to African American women in this situation; this seems to be a line of thinking unique to our ethnic group. I could be wrong and non-African American black women are free to correct me in this regard.

Have you been confronted with the "strong angry black woman" stereotype? Have you had others try to force it on you if that is not you? ...Are you an angry strong black woman, and if so, what benefits do you feel you gain in this role that would be lost should you surrender it?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shutting Up About Black Men

This three part series was inspired by a recent conversation, though the hot-button topic does come up quite often in IRR/BWE centric communities. Namely, why these spaces often bring up black men, despite claiming to not be about black men. Why continue to discuss negative experiences and attributes of black men?

Depending on who you ask, black men are by and large removed from these arenas as welcomed participants (pro-BWE black men being the exception) and have little or no place in the circles of many BWE and BW/non-BM blogs. And yet, depending on the topic, the words "black men" are very likely to come up.

In circles revolving around black relationships, the subject of black men means discussing how there aren't any good ones, how the white/non-black women have all the good ones, or things black women are doing to drive black men away.

Meanwhile in other spaces, the tone turns from despair to anger: The lack of black men in the lives of their off-spring. The inability to get enough money from the fathers to buy diapers. Paying a black man's way through college only for him to get a good job and dump that person "for some white (bleep)".

But surprisingly for some, on forums where black men aren't even considered romantic relationship choices, they still come up. The topics range from black men who are indignant about black women dating interracially to the negative effect of black men's failings on the black community. A place, mind you, from which not all black women who are interracially coupled or minded have removed themselves or their interests.

But, some people strongly feel that it's time for black women seeking self-sufficiency and a better life away from black men and the black community stop talking about them. Period. It's not enough to exclude black men from much the conversation, since it's firmly stated black men don't get to run things in BWE/IRR circles: We need to not discuss them at all.

- It's a hindrance
- It makes us look angry and bitter
- It's hypocritical

I've heard a slew of reasons, and admit at times I've wondered myself.

Why do black women continue to bring up problems and issues involving black men in BW/BWE/IRR-centric spaces? In part two: Reasons why the topic of black men repeatedly comes up....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your Right To: Personal and Physical Boundaries

In case you missed it, I'm writing a series of articles regarding rights that each and every black woman has, rights they may not realize exist or have unwittingly surrendered.

This week, we talk about boundaries.

To illustrate my point, I'll share with you something that happened to me last year.

"So, where do you live?"

I was walking through town when a black man who I didn't know called to me: he had a question. I was not alarmed because (1) it was day time (2) there were people around and (3) I could literally kick a stone and hit the local police station. And the person, at first, didn't seem to possess any ulterior motives.

When he was in front of me and I could clearly see him, I noted that he was covered in tattoos and appeared to be in his late thirties. I politely asked him if I could help him. He stated that he was new to town and wanted to know if I knew of any apartment complexes in the area. I told him of a new development that had recently opened, what it was called and where it was located. Throughout my attempts to explain, this gentlemen kept complimenting me (referring to me as beautiful) in a way which I found a bit odd but not offensive. Having given him the information, I was ready to be on my way, and was going to say as much when this person dropped a figurative bombshell on me:

He asked me what my home address was.

This person who I knew all of five minutes, if that, felt that it was not at all bizarre to ask a complete stranger where they lived. I didn't give him my home address, suffice it to say. I did however firmly state that I didn't share personal information with people I didn't know. I wished him the best of luck and then headed in the opposite direction. And with as much speed as I could muster without actually running.

No, you can't have my personal information, total stranger...

He actually seemed surprised, not offended, but surprised by my civil rebuff. That makes me think that some black women have given such sensitive information to him in the past. And that worries me.

I remember writing about what happened later that week with that specific concern in mind, asking, "My God, are black women really THAT desperate?!"

So desperate for black male companionship that they would so easily give away such vital information? So desperate that they would risk their personal safety and that of any children they may have? So desperate they would unwittingly alert a potential murderer, rapist, child predator, etc. as to where they can be found sleeping and helpless at 3am?!

I was and remain flabbergasted by the event, and similar ones observed and experienced regarding  black men and the absolute blatant disrespect and disregard for black women and girls, which goes completely unchecked by the recipients.

Why you have a right to set boundaries

Black women, you don't have to give out information to any yahoo who asks for it. You don't have to allow anyone into your space, figuratively or literally, that doesn't deserve to be there. A person who hasn't earned your time and respect is entitled to NOTHING when it comes to stepping beyond the boundaries you've set for yourself.

Some black people have gotten it in their heads that because you share a skin tone, they are perfectly within their right to approach and chastise you in public ("Why you with that white boy?") or sexually harass you as you attempt to walk down the street or any number of highly irregular or inappropriate behaviors. This "I know you, even though I don't know you, because we're both black" ridiculousness needs to end. Somehow the brotha and sista terms are felt a little TOO strongly by some folks who think it's a license to treat your boundaries as non-existent and act in an ultra-familiar way. You wouldn't do it some white person that you didn't know, why is it okay to do it to me? Because "a black woman won't call the cops"? You've got the wrong one, Slappy.

Ladies, you have the right to not consider this behavior to be normal, to treat it as abnormal, and to do whatever you have to in order to oppose it. It doesn't matter if that person is "just trying to help you out". It doesn't matter that others feel that a black women shouldn't have boundaries. YOU have the right to look out for your own safety, dignity, and well-being.

Do you have personal boundaries? Do you have a set of rules for what is required of a person to pass beyond your boundaries? If the answer is no, stop and FIGURE OUT what you need to do to go about constructing mental, emotional, and physical boundaries for yourself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Trip To Bizarro World: Using IRR Communities To Attract Black Men

In the past, I've written about observing black women who insist on going into black woman-centric spaces, especially interracial relationship-centric spaces and trying to "change things around" a bit. They want to alter the flow of thinking to make things as fair and comfortable for black men as possible. These women approach discussions from the point of view that not enough consideration is being given to how black men feel, what their needs are, and what black women should be doing to make black men desired, comfortable, etc.

Let's remember that this attempt to make things black male centered is happening in spaces that  (1) were not set up to address black men and their needs (2) in terms of romantic relationships, have little or nothing to do with black men because the women are interracially coupled or are planning to be so and (3) are often safe spaces used to discuss how they feel about issues caused by failures of black males without feeling censored or threatened by black men or their defenders.

So ultimately, these women are asking BW-centric and IRR-centric spaces to defeat the actual purpose for their existence. Why on Earth would some black woman go through so much trouble to make a clearly non-black male-identified space a happy home for black men and "black love"?

"Black love" spaces on and off the internet tend to be duds and embarrassing failures.

One of the main reasons for this is that black men as a whole have absolutely no intention of limiting themselves to black women, especially to very very dark, non-Eurocentric feature-having, natural hair-wearing black women. Non-lighter, brighter, whiter women who can't adequately double as status symbols and a middle-finger to white men. These men also don't intend to limit themselves to black women who choose to rant to any and everyone who will (or won't) listen about "black kings and queens of promise" and how they'll never date, marry, or procreate with a man that's not dripping the deepest darkest shade of melanin.

These women are at the same time D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E (a trait that's by far one of the most unattractive) for black love to be real and acknowledged, but that's not happening on BL-centric spaces, spaces tending to be filled with lonely black women and little or no black men.

Meanwhile, you have BWE/BW-centric and IRR-centric spaces crawling with black men foaming at the mouth over women who, let's be honest, they will never get in a million years and who want nothing do with them (not necessarily because these men are black, so much as because they are creepy stalkers and have the tendency to be disrespectful and pathologically possessive of total strangers). These men will figuratively trample over these "I LOVE YOU BLACK KANGS!" type of women to get at the women that they can't  have.

It's not rocket science ===> Something you can't have >>>>> Something readily available

And so, some NBAB women have decided that their best bet is to go where they absolutely know black men will be, and make their love and deference known. A feat accomplished by trying to turn BW-centric and IRR-centric spaces into some sort of haphazard love nest.

Does it work?

......... Nope. But desperation that is puts one on the path to insanity insists on adopting failed strategies in the hopes that if you do something long enough, you might actually yield different results.

I hope you enjoyed your trip through Bizarro World. Sanity pills can be purchased at the gift shop.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Your Right To: Self-Respect

Thus begins a series of posts about the various things black women have a right to, but some may not realize it as much as others. Or at all. 

First up, your right to self-respect.

What is self-respect?

It is defined as "pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity."

Pride and confidence in oneself

When you have personal pride, you are deeply proud of who you are and what you've accomplished. Your confidence stems from the same. The combination means that you think highly of yourself. There is nothing wrong at all with thinking highly of yourself, where those feelings are TRUE pride and confidence. I am not speaking of bravado (false confidence meant to impress or intimidate) or arrogance (a grossly exaggerated sense of self-importance).

When you have healthy pride and confidence in yourself, you tend to do things like expect better for yourself. You also tend to want to associate with people who are worth your time, people who treat you with the respect and consideration that you feel you deserve.

Behaving with honor and dignity

Carrying yourself with "pride and confidence" is only half of what is required; you must also go forth into the world in a dignified and honorable manner. What this means is behaving in a way that does not bring disgrace and shame on yourself. If you are vulgar, uncouth, unclean, and willing to fall under any man in sight, it cannot be said you are behaving with honor and dignity. I know in the 21st century there has been a push by some to make it seem that not behaving like a slattern or a sleaze-ball is old fashioned. But just because some people want to justify their bad behavior does not mean you have to fall for their lies.

Make no mistake: People will judge you. I and others have learned, though some of us have learned the hard way in the most humiliating way possible. The best thing you can do for yourself is be determined to behave in a civilized and intelligent manner. Do not yell details of your sex life on the bus because you are too busy yammering on a cellphone to notice the strangers around you are clearly not interested. Do not drink in the streets at all hours of the night and then carry on like a howler monkey because you mistakenly feel that this is the most adequate way to spend your time. This is no way for a person with any sort of self-respect to behave.

Why you have the right to self-respect

When you respect yourself, you expect to be respected by others. You have boundaries, you have expectations, you have standards. Not everyone wants a black woman to have these things. They feel perfectly within their right to talk to you in a disgusting, ultra-familiar manner (even if you've never seen them before). They feel that it is wrong for you to have standards, especially HIGHER standards and refuse to settle for mediocrity. Nevermind the violent criminal offender who has children by at least a dozen other women, and several STDs.

Also, a woman with self-respect understands that she does not have to put up with slights on her honor.  If someone is disrespectful to her, she is not obligated to give that person her time or attention. She is not obligated to forgive and forget. She can choose to do this, but not for the sake of continued humiliation and mistreatment. If you forgive because you do not want to hold hatred or anger in your heart, that is one thing. But some people mistakenly believe that forgiving foul behavior requires that they put themselves in the line of fire for future abuse.

You have the right to avoid that mess all together. Do not settle for hurtful or harmful treatment. Ever. Not from others and not from yourself.

So stop and ask yourself: Do I have self-respect? Efficient self-respect? And if not, what can I do to improve my self-regard?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Black Women Who "White Knight" For Black Men (Part 2)

If you haven't, you may want to read part one before going any further, since I'm basically going to be writing with the assumption you've seen the other post...

What are the problems caused for black women by "white knighting" for black men? For starters, you effectively surrender your femininity to black men...who then in turn adopt feminine traits and expectations.

I am not going to sugarcoat this for the black men who may be reading this who have no problem letting women handle their business as a man: When you desire to have a woman fight your battles, you have effectively surrendered your manhood. It doesn't matter if it's on the internet, it doesn't matter if it's in the real world. The truth is what it is: No self-respecting man will play the role of princess to a woman's knight. That's just now how the world functions. A confident, self-assertive quality man speaks for himself. He neither needs nor desires a woman to speak for him. He is not so helpless as to need to women to defend his "slighted honor".

And this is the point I am trying to bring home to some black women who continue to NOT. GET. IT. Make no mistake, there are males out there who, for whatever reason, prefer to be treated as a "damsel in distress": ever admired and defended (no matter how wrong they are) and will actually expect you to "white knight" for them. And when their honor fails to be defended, they will give YOU grief for not manning up on their behalf.

And do not allow these persons to bring race into it. Ethnically speaking, you'll be hard pressed to find a group anywhere on God's green Earth where the men expect the women to defend them in any way, shape, or form. If you are the one doing all of the fighting, and the other person is sitting back enjoying the jousting, there is a problem. And if that person is not willing to do the same for you, there is a HUGE problem. Black women have a HUGE problem.

If you allow yourself to be guilted into defending such persons you will cooperate in being stripped of your femininity. Ironically, you'd be doing this for persons who hate you for your part in their emasculation, even as they are allowing it to happen.

You read that correctly: The black men you elect to white knight for hate your freaking guts.

I've already stated that no self-respecting man would want or expect a woman to go around defending them like helpless damsels. Well, it may (or may not) surprise you, but the ones who lack self-respect think even worse of you.

We're talking about weak men here, damaged men who are already in a bad way to begin with. Such persons tend to possess a ridiculous sense of entitlement. They're often users and leeches with no inclination to do for themselves. Manipulative and catty.

But beneath all of that is the desire to be an alpha male and admired and respected by other men. See, such men may be able to pass themselves off as something other than what they are to women who don't know any better. But one thing is for certain: other men, especially TRUE alpha males, see them for exactly what they are. And they will certainly never give them anything remotely resembling masculine acknowledgement and respect.

Rather than blame themselves for allowing women to fight their battles, these DBR damsels do what any cowardly weak man does: Blame the woman who is sticking up for him!

"She won't let me be a man! This is her fault! If only my mother had taught me how to be a man, I wouldn't be like this!"

This is why it is poisonous to raise males in an environment without PROPER male role models. I emphasis proper because a body doesn't mean anything if what that person is saying is backwards and harmful.

*cough* Too Short *cough*

 A proper male role model demonstrates through action and advice what it means to be a man and how one should treat a woman.

It's also important to have a proper male role model as a woman to allow you to BE A LADY. An environment where you feel protected, rather than having to be the protector. Being raised to be precious, rather than hard as nails to "hold it down for the brothas, because they got it hard and they need us to be their soldiers in the war against THE MAN!"

Black women are getting the swords, and black men are getting the flowers. Other groups of males are snickering, and regardless of what your indoctrination tells you, you are resented for your part, at least if you choose to cooperate with what's happening.

There is nothing wrong with being proud of and loving your ethnicity. There is nothing wrong with having love and respect for the black men in your household and social circles who may be very good and decent. Perfectly normal and understandable. Just don't assume it's on you to defend black manhood whenever the subjects of OOW birthrates, low marriage rates, and HIV/AIDs comes up.

Please understand that no logical and respectable man immediately associates himself with scumbags whenever the subject of scumbags comes up. If such a man does, however calmly...GET AWAY FROM HIM NOW! These persons cannot stand to be called out, and a negative reaction is actually a revelation so do not ignore it! Take them at their word by their willingness to associate themselves with DBRs.

Ladies, do not open yourself up to being used by weak men in thankless battles with contempt as a reward. Do not fool yourself into thinking that readily jumping to the defense of brothas everywhere (especially when it's clear that the black men in question are in the wrong) will win you brownie points or make you magically special or desirable. Do not confuse racial solidarity with trading gender roles to your own detriment.

Do you want to be loved and respected as a feminine black woman? Do you want to be treasured and fought for? Then put away the armor and let men prove themselves worthy of you by handling their own business and being willing to step up to the plate to defend you if need be. A man who is unwilling to do both for a woman he claims to care for is not a man worth being associated with.