Ithought I would use this opportunity to explain what life looks like in my shoes and for the majority of other African-American females today. You may think you know who we are just by looking at us, but most likely you’re mistaken. African-American singer India Arie once wrote, “I am not my hair, I am not this skin and I am not your expectations.” I find myself wanting to echo these same words, because it seems that African-American women are still being reduced to these same shallow characteristics today.
The media loves to focus on our hips and thighs instead of on our souls and bright minds. There have been many times in my own life when I’ve been told that I’m pretty “for a black girl,” that I’m well-spoken “for a black girl,” and that I’m intelligent “for a black girl.” However, my question is: why is this a standard that society has fixed upon me? Upon us as a group? Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer coined the phrase, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and I think I’ve just about reached the same breaking point. I’m sick and tired of people petting my hair like I’m a dog because they think my hair is “fascinating.” I am sick and tired of being told that I “talk white” because my parents taught me how to speak proper English. Furthermore, I am exasperated with the stereotypes that black women have been given, which express how we can’t change our circumstances, that we aren’t worth anything and that our voices don’t matter because we have two things going against us each day.
The fact that we are not only women, but that we also have a high concentration of melanin in our skin, leads many to think that we should just accept the hand that we have been dealt, but I believe I was born to bite it. As a black female trying to enter into the business world, I constantly feel like I have to second-guess myself before answering a question in class, or work twice as hard as my peers just to prove that I belong. Yet throughout American history we’ve had women like Alice Walker, Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height demonstrate the capacities of African-American women when we set our minds to achieve something.
Yes, I understand that you may not be African-American — you may not even be a female — and therefore you’re lucky enough to not be able to empathize with the experiences we face daily. I know my thoughts can’t change the world, but I hope I’ve been able to change your perspective on who we are.
At this point you may be thinking that I’m in need of your pity, but that isn’t going to do me or any other African-American girl any good. Queen Latifah once said “Love a black woman from infinity to infinity.” However, the problem we face today is that we aren’t taught or encouraged to love ourselves, and therefore society doesn’t know how to love or encourage us either. I refuse to accept this reality, and I hope that there is a small part of you that does too. Yes, we are different and many times misunderstood, but we were created by the same creator and should be loved and treated as such.