Friday, January 8, 2010

forget that black women are more than just strong

This is a guest post by RVCBard, a Black woman and HBCU graduate too close to thirtysomething for her own comfort. Playwright, web marketing strategist, and sometime film and theater reviewer, RVCBard identifies as a lot of things: queer, Black, Jewish, woman, and more. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, she now lives in Brooklyn.


One of the most persistent (yet damaging) "modes" of Black womanhood that's inflicted upon us is the Strong Black Woman. You know who I mean. No matter what life throws at her, it doesn't get to her. No matter how much is put on her body and mind, she won't (can't?) break. When life hands her a lemon, she starts a lemonade stand. She goes for what she wants, and she don't take no mess. Yet she's always there to lend a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on. And she never complains. Ever. She never demands anything from the people in her life. After all, that's what Angry Black Women do.

Don't act like you don't know her. And don't act like you don't see her when a Black woman says or does anything that does not flatter White people's opinions of themselves. Where do you think that tone argument comes from anyway? But she has her uses. She can be very amusing when set loose on someone you want to see properly charred or skewered. She's also good for reminding people how reasonable and benevolent they are and for convincing White people that there's no point to unlearning racism because there's no way Black women will ever be satisfied.

But the Strong Black Woman and the Angry Black Woman are conjoined twins when it comes to expectations from and assumptions about Black women. When coming from White people, though, there is something deep and ugly going on.

For instance, when examining why no one chose to speak up against some of the ironically demonstrative comments toward Black women, Witchsistah notes:

This constant non-defending of BW comes directly from the stereotype of BW not being "real" women as in not being seen as delicate, feminine, worthy of care, affection and protection. We are seen as "mules uh duh worl'" and as rhino-hided, she-beasts utterly incapable of delicate, complex feelings or thoughts. Basically no one defends us because we can "take it." It also leads to the idea that BW cannot ever be harmed (from this comes the view that BW are un-rapeable).

Although a few White posters chimed in to express their belief that many of the Black women commenting at SWPD seemed more than able to stand up for ourselves, Lady Dani Mo says:

It's quite obvious that Witchsista can handle herself, but sometime it does not hurt to have someone's back. I mean come on some of you guys didn't hesitate to defend KD or thought she could handle herself after she made her bullshit comments did y'all? She was bold as hell coming on an anti-racist blog saying that shit.

Witchsistah digs deeper:

Even capable people need assistance and care every now and then. And capable people are able to assess when they need them and are able to request them if needed. If others see those capable people as deserving they offer said assistance and care.

Not so with BW. BW are often just left to fend for ourselves while others psychoanalyze, pick apart and pass judgment over how we do that. The whole Strong Black Woman motif is just an excuse to do that, neglect us. It rationalizes that neglect. BW don't really need anyone's help. We're tough. We can take it. We can make a way out of no way. No asking us if that's what we WANT to do, especially since it seems that's what we're always OBLIGATED to do.


And to make it even worse, this pattern Witchsistah describes sets it up so that Black women are not acknowledged as anything but strong, as if strength alone is all that can define us. So hung up on being strong makes it seem like Black women can't be sensitive, intelligent, mystical, creative, vulnerable, or a myriad other things real human beings can be. It creates a dynamic where Black women are, psychologically speaking, beasts of burden who must bear the weight of racism and sexism but receive no recognition of the toll it takes on our psyches. Not to mention, the connotations of strength, as applied to Black women, further perpetuates the bestial, subhuman nature often associated with Black people in general. Mules of the world indeed.

Finally understanding the nature of the dynamics over on another thread, fromthetropics states:

I think I finally get it now. Yes, when I had my knee jerk reaction to the choice of words, I did see KD as a "fragile" being/woman in need of rescue. I thought, "Oh shit, she's gonna cry and cry and be in a wreck if someone doesn't rescue her." Meanwhile, yes, I did start to see the Angry Black Woman or Strong Black Woman stereotype overlap with RVCBard & Witchsistah's reactions. It did not occur to me at all that they might be hurt by the exchange that was occurring because, well, they seemed tough judging from all the comments and posts they've made before. And I can now totally see this actually is part of stereotyping or racism based on the notion that Black Women (or any women who don't burst into tears and seem obviously fragile) do not need to be treated as feminine. (Note: Being treated as feminine with respect as a human being, I believe, is very different from being treated in sexist ways.)

Consider the discussion of the treatment of Black women on this thread then compare and contrast to the thread about Asian women here.

The focus of much of the commentary on the "Asian fetish" thread was to better understand this particular experience of Asian women. The questions and commentary were more fully focused on gaining a deeper and more nuanced understanding of that. Contrast that to the thread about the treatment of Black women. Notice any striking differences? I most certainly do. The starkness of the difference is astounding.

Despite the fact that many Black women shared some harrowing, heartbreaking stories from their personal lives to drive the initial point home, many White people couldn't get beyond their disbelief and pity long enough to try to better understand this particular experience Black women face and/or how they unwittingly contribute to it. There weren't so many questions seeking to clarify the context of this behavior but there was plenty of general derailing as well as predictable outpourings of White sympathy, with the occasional "Thank you" thrown in.

There was a lot of posturing going on, a lot of attempts by White people to seem so benevolent and enlightened and/or so much the anti-racism authorities, that they "forgot" that they were supposed to be trying to understand Black women as we understand ourselves. They were so focused on what they gained from the discussion that they "forgot" the cost of that benefit - and who paid for it.

Rather than repeat the disturbing dynamics of the previous post about Black women, I want to try something different, something less taxing for Black women and more constructive overall. Let's take a cue from the thread about the Asian woman fetich and focus on refining your understanding of an experience shared by many Black women.

While I am loathe to present a one-size-fits-all approach to discussion, and it's certainly not my responsibility to teach White people how to treat Black women like human beings, for the sake of my own sanity, I'm laying it out as simply as I can. It's OK to be confused. It's not OK to hide confusion behind a pseudo-intellectual authoritative stance. It's OK to be shocked and saddened. It's not OK to make your shock and sadness the focus of everything you say. And stop trying to so hard to prove how progressive, insightful, and unique you are. In fact, feel free to reskin some of the questions and comments on other threads if you feel they ask or say what you want better than you could.

219 comments:

  1. Now I as a BW am confused, but I guess that was the aim more or less. Or not? Or maybe these comments, especially the last ones are not really meant for me. Or are they? One thing that has always confused my is that despite our image, if I may call it that, as 'strong', we're still very much at the bottom of the racial, gender, economic, political and whatever food chain. Is this 'strong image' purely perception? Or this is probably a different discussion all together. Or not...?

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  2. Is this 'strong image' purely perception?

    I would imagine that depends on individual Black women, but you are more than welcome to share your own ideas about the answer to that question.

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  3. Just to clear up any confusion, here's something fromthetropics said in the other thread that's really illuminating:

    While trying to answer them [the questions on the Asian fetish thread] yesterday, I felt that I really appreciated that you guys were asking because it helped me think about my own experiences more deeply and helped open space for me to share.

    That's what I'm talking about when I say:

    Rather than repeat the disturbing dynamics of the previous post about Black women, I want to try something different, something less taxing for Black women and more constructive overall. Let's take a cue from the thread about the Asian woman fetish and focus on refining your understanding of an experience shared by many Black women.

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  4. How do you (and any one else here who is a black woman) feel when a discussion of Asian women fetishes goes so much smoother than one of Black women? Do you see this difference in other, like, arenas?

    What do you think could be some causes of that difference?

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  5. A bit too groggy to give a cogent answer now, but I want to say something about this:

    How do you (and any one else here who is a black woman) feel when a discussion of Asian women fetishes goes so much smoother than one of Black women? Do you see this difference in other, like, arenas?

    What do you think could be some causes of that difference?


    This is exactly the kind of thing (amongst others) I'm most interesting in talking about.

    See, was that so hard?

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  6. I'm thinking about different ways in which the image of black women as strong ties into their place in society and not only reflects on that but reinforces it (i.e. as a cause and also an effect), and perhaps this speaks to darkfairyadventures' question.

    Often in black communities (particularly poor ones), you see a lot of BW as matriarchs, holding families together, often single mothers. And this role for BW is often highly represented in mainstream media representations of BW. BW as the glue that holds a family together, the nurturer and child-rearer, and often the breadwinner as well.

    We are all probably familiar with the trope of BW as sidekick to a WW in movies. The WW is the star of her own life, and the BW is there as support, complete with sassy barbs, neck rolls, and finger snaps. After all, the BW doesn't have problems of her own to deal with; she doesn't face fear or vulnerability in relationships; she doesn't have a learning process or a personal journey to go through of her own. No, she is fully formed, impenetrable, and strong enough to support the vulnerability of her friend.

    In some ways, there is a very real burden on BW to be strong, in response to societal ills due to longstanding racism and sexism. What woman would survive the steady pressures of white supremacy and patriarchy aimed at her and survive without acquiring some strength? So, perhaps on one hand, the strength is real, though coerced. And on the other side, there also exists vulnerability and the desire for support, for protection, for grace, and that is never allowed. Sometimes, I don't feel very strong, but in the face of expectations of my strength, I summon it out of necessity. For instance, I've noticed that when I share an experience of racism with white friends, they express anger at the perpetrator but they very rarely express concern for how it makes me FEEL.

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  7. In the msmagazine article you linked to, author Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafantant describes the strong black woman concept as "both a social expectation and a personal strategy." I think that's exactly right.

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  8. I saw something different with the two threads. The thread about Asian women feels pretty quiet. I feel like the threads about Asians on this site don't get nearly as much attention as the threads on blacks, probably in part because whites are trained to think race = black vs. white. Ask a white person about racism and they'll start talking about blacks, completely ignoring other races.

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  9. Thinking about thesciencegirl's idea about roles, I'm wondering if these constricting expectations apply less to black girls? Or look different somehow? And, if so, when does that start to change?

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  10. Do you think that the Strong Black Woman stereotype contributes to the image of black women as somehow sexless? Is this a modern version of that tired old Mammy stereotype?

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  11. In the msmagazine article you linked to, author Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafantant describes the strong black woman concept as "both a social expectation and a personal strategy." I think that's exactly right.

    This is very correct, and exactly what I was going to point to and back up. A thought I had while reading the comments from the previous post was that it's a cycle. It's a combination of I am a strong black woman because I'm expected to be such and I'm a strong black woman because it's easier to be that way (and it's easier to be that way beacuse it's expected).

    I previously mentioned a white friend I have who is very independent and doesn't want people's help, but she recieves it anyway. For me personally, I'm not looking for anyone to do more than offer help to me in the same instances they would offer help to a woman of a different race, even if it appears that I "got it." I'd rather be offered help and not need it than need it and not be offered it (this is not to be confused with having a salesperson in a store follow me around constantly asking if I need help...)

    As for the differences in the asian thread versus threads dealing with black people, I personally wonder how much of it has to do with how many black women comment here. If fromthetropics is the only person responding to all the questions pertaining to asian women, I can't help but imagine the threads will be smaller and a bit smoother.

    However, there's at least 4 black women who comment on swpd regularly, so you could potentially expect at least 4 different responses to one question. We've done the "black women are not a monolith" thing. Asian women aren't either, but that fact isn't demonstrated in the comments as plainly as it is for black women. Not that the black women who post here don't agree on points, but no one should expect us to (for we would be angry) and all of our opinions are valid, it's bound to get a little hectic.

    That's the thing about race discussions. 4 black women can all have the same experience, have relatively the same background*, and yet read that experience 4 different ways. I see some black women respond to things showing a reading of a comment that I didn't take, at all and I'm sure the same goes the other way.





    *I do not mean to suggest that the black women who comment here regularly have similar backgrounds, I don't know that to be true.

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  12. Unfortunately, little Black girls are expected to strong too.

    In jr.high a white male teacher made our class carry history books up from the basement to the 3rd floor. He gave the girls 3 books to carry and the boys 5. Well, guess how many he expected little black me to carry? Yup, five just like the boys because at 5'2 and less than 120 pounds I was clearly strong enough to carry them. I was the only girl he did that to and the only Black girl in class that day.

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  13. @thesciencegirl

    The movie reference you've made is quite true. Your story triggered a memory immediately of "School of Rock" when Jack Black's character is giving everyone their titles in the band, the heavyset little black girl was asked to pretty much move instruments and set the stage. Until she sang and (of course "all black people can sing," shoulda seen that coming) then, suddenly, she had value. We could probably find SBW and ABW stereotying in every single mainstream American film. Even in children's films.

    @RVCBard

    This sentence crystallizes so much:

    It's not OK to make your shock and sadness the focus of everything you say.

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  14. * sorry, the rest of the comment where I said "your story" was really electrifica's story. I'm having the copy/paste issues again.

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  15. @Cloudy

    "Ask a white person about racism and they'll start talking about blacks, completely ignoring other races."

    Hang on, while I certainly agree that American whites certainly do this (I lived in Chicago for nearly a decade and just returned home to New Zealand a few months ago), I would be careful about generalising to all whites, as culturally race operates under different paradigms in different cultural spaces.

    In NZ we have developed a more multicultural lean in the past few decades, with a considerably large immigrant, and particularly Asian immigrant, population developing. Moreover, even historically with the more bicultural approach, our racial paradigm was a 'first people' one, where the primary non-white group (Maori) weren't themselves immigrants (whether via slavery or otherwise). I think this has produced a situation where a considerably larger complexity of race can exist in the minds of WP.

    Admittedly, not as complex as I, a NZ white person would prefer (hell, not even bloody close), but I definitely noticed the differences in moving between NZ and American racialisations (not that NZ is some racial utopia or any of that kind of crap some whites here would like to think it is).

    But today, when race is brought up, I do notice in NZ that there is far more than a black/white paradigm, which is something I really noticed living in the US. It was really jarring for me to notice it (particularly since I was taken 'under the wing' as a supposedly 'fellow white person' and would hear racial assumptions and thoughts as though because of my skin colour I would naturally share such ... the thought that maybe I didn't operate under the same racial paradigms just didn't seem to occur to American WP), and really shook me up and made me look at my own racial constructions.

    Please don't think I'm disagreeing with you here, as I also really noticed the black/white dichotomy in American race relations, I just don't think it can be so easily generalised cross-culturally ... of course, I'm coming at this from a white perspective, so it's eminently possible I'm not seeing stuff.

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  16. "Yup, five just like the boys because at 5'2 and less than 120 pounds I was clearly strong enough to carry them. I was the only girl he did that to and the only Black girl in class that day."

    electricafro,
    do you mind if i ask what you made of that at the time? that is, i can imagine a younger person interpreting the teacher's action in many ways: like as if she had received a compliment (he thinks i'm as strong as the boys) or as an injustice (all the other girls only have to carry three) or as a punishment (maybe he's mad at me) etc., etc.

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  17. Gah, I just realised my post above was typical White Person Bullsh*t, in coming into a thread about the experiences of Black Women and then making it all about Whiteness ... bloody hell, I apologise profusely ... sorry everyone, that was a moronic move on my part.

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  18. Xenu01 said:

    Do you think that the Strong Black Woman stereotype contributes to the image of black women as somehow sexless? Is this a modern version of that tired old Mammy stereotype?

    Yes. In pop culture -- movies and TV and poorly-written novels -- the Strong Black Woman trope has become the acceptable way to portray black women without having people cry "Racist!"

    Think about the representations of black women you see on your TV. If the black woman is a character we're meant to take seriously -- i.e., in a recurring role that isn't a hooker, drug addict, nanny, maid, sassy comic relief, Mammy, or Magical Negress -- there are probably a whole bunch of things about her you can assume to be true.

    She's probably beautiful by white standards (slender, small-breasted, light skin, light eyes, straight hair). She probably never brings up race or racism as an issue in her life -- or if she does, a white person will prove somehow that her assessment of the situation was wrong. She may appear to be perfectly content without anybody to love her. If she does have a love interest, he or she is probably offscreen or a far-in-the-background storyline, and he or she is probably, conveniently, also black. This black woman we're meant to take seriously is probably professional and passionless -- friendly but not that important.

    It's a hard stereotype to pin down, and it's meant to be flattering -- a woman who doesn't need a man! A woman who's "risen above" the trials presented by racism! But it's really just disheartening. Because what is this black woman, if not an elaborate, politically-correct foil for her white castmates?

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  19. It wasn't the first time he'd singled me out. I just figured he did it because he didn't like me. I've always butted heads with white male teachers. They didn't like me and I didn't like them.

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  20. @ Sarah from Chicago

    Glad you're reading here. Hope you'll come back and comment on the actual topic of the original post, as opposed to educating all of us about race relations in New Zealand.

    Black women aren't "more than" just strong, we are "other than" just strong. Some of us are sad. Some of us are scared. Some of us are lost. Some of us are silly. Some of us are poets, some of us are dreamers. The problem isn't that white people forget that we are "more than" just strong. The problem is that they have so little experience with Black Women that as soon as they meet one / pass one on the sidewalk (if they see her at all), they try to fit her into one of their stereotyped categories . "Strong" is just a positive spin on the "Sapphire" stereotype.

    I don't have practical solutions to offer for this problem. I hope that people who are reading this blog are making an effort in meatspace to be present to opportunities to defy stereotyping, to engage in dialogue, and to listen. It might not come naturally, or easily, but it will come.

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  21. @Zara:
    I have a perfect example of an "acceptable" black woman on tv: Dr. Camille Saroyan on Bones. Sure, she was sleeping with Agent Booth for a brief period of time, and she wasn't a single mother for a while, but now she has adopted a teenage girl, the daughter of a dead ex. She has slept with, I think, one other man besides Booth since being on the show. She doesn't date, she doesn't talk about love feelings at work like other characters, and now she is a single mother, conveniently.

    She is, of course, light-skinned, stereotypically pretty, and posessing of relaxed hair.

    I love her character, of course, but still- sigh.

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  22. @electricafro:
    i hear you. "and I didn't like them." No, and with good reason, it sounds like. I'm sorry that this guy (and the others, too) chose not to treat you as a young girl who deserved care, respect, and concern.

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  23. The expectation of BW strength might also contribute to the "bootstraps" aspect of white supremacy: BW are always strong, so why don't they just pull themselves out of this alleged oppression? Again, this assumes that BW, and by extension all black people, keep themselves down without the agency of the benevolent white culture that would be happy to welcome them if only they would (fill in the blank) or would stop (fill in the blank).

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  24. @ Pareodolia

    While I definitely realised my comment was badly phrased, and yeah, totally derailing, which I again apologise for, there was something in it I wanted to bring forward.

    Namely, what is it about US culture that produces the construct of the Angry Black Woman, or the Strong Black Woman? Because these archetypes don't have as much credence cross-culturally internationally, or even simply don't exist. What is it about US whiteness that makes these stereotypes so powerful?

    I know my comment above was at the very least inartful in totally the wrong focus, but I wanted to ask about contextualisation is all.

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  25. "Strong" is just a positive spin on the "Sapphire" stereotype.

    I suspected as much too. But to what extent is it positive if real needs by real human beings (other than to know themselves capable) are being ignored?

    But that does make me wonder: what about when Black women don't follow that expectation? What about Black women who are mystical, poetic, artistic, philosophical, etc.? What happens to us?

    For instance, writing Anne&Me* has been one of the more cathartic experiences precisely because I was able to show myself as something other than the Strong Black Woman - and to have that other stuff affirmed, if only obliquely.

    But, as an artist, I generally find that few people wonder what kind of person would write something like "Anne&Me" or "The Rose Knight" (my first play), let alone treat me as though I am the type of person who would write such things. I find that I'm given a lot less leeway in showing my "artsy" temperament than many White people who do likewise. If I'm moody, introspective, and have erratic sleeping and eating habits, it's not treated as a sign of my needing something or just being sensitive to (or rather, overwhelmed by) my surroundings. I just need to be "set straight." Rarely, if ever, have some of the extremes of my behavior been explained or justified by anything worthy in my nature or my abilities. I'm not saying I want people to indulge my bad behavior (my parents certainly didn't), but it is interesting to see that White people who share my traits get away with shit that people wouldn't put up from me for a second.

    It was only very recently (like, within a few weeks) that I finally came to understand some things about myself as a person that I received little to no affirmation of during crucial periods while I was growing up.


    * "Not that shit again!" Yes, this shit again.

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  26. @sarah from chicago.

    I'd have to disagree with you on 'strong black woman' not existing in different cultures. It does it is simply manifested differently. It is not a US cultural thing it is a worldwide racist thing.

    You know, they say look at those women in Africa.. they just push those babies out! no medication! As if we are incapable of experiencing pain.
    I don't live in the US and I experience it 'strong black woman' syndrome. I gave up a friendship because it was expected of me.

    At work, we are expected to deal with things without complaint. even when our WW counterparts are excused from it.

    Please, ask us if it exists before telling us it doesn't.

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  27. @ RVC Bard: Black women who are "mystical, poetic, artistic, philosophical, etc." get the Magical Negress label applied to them. One of my white male friends constantly referred to me as a prophet until I sat him down and explained to him how othering that is.

    @ Sarah from Chicago: Other commenters have hazarded guesses about the utility (to white people) of stereotypes about black women. It seems to me that the stereotypes are based on lingering justifications for slavery, Jim Crow, and welfare reform. "Black women are ____", the reasoning goes, "so of course they are suited to work in the fields / clean houses / raise white people's children / pull themselves up by their bootstraps / fight their own battles without any assistance."

    I'm a little confused by your apparent need to have an "ah hah" moment here. Would understanding the basis for the stereotypes help you to believe that they actually are stereotypes (and not God's Truth) in a way that hearing about the lived experiences of black women doesn't?

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  28. I have learned a lot in the past four hours of reading (I really have to pee). Macon: I was incredibly frustrated by the Teflon thread and linked in the process to lots of other blogs where my reading time could be better spent. It’s only RVCBard’s post that has kept me around to see if a more productive, safe discussion can occur. I say that in hopes that the more people that express dissatisfaction with the way this blog works, the more likely it is that positive change will happen.
    Having said that, here is the question with which I struggle (I hope it’s not off topic. I think it relates in the sense that it relates to the relationship between strength and femininity): how do WP acknowledge and value the femininity of BW (I don’t think I need anyone to explain how to treat human beings as human beings—that whole bit was incredibly disturbing) without exoticizing/objectifying/fetishizing them by accident. If white standards of beauty are privileged over all others, it seems racist to admire a BW’s physical beauty according to white standards.
    (I am ploughing ahead here into possible accidentally-say-something-offensive territory, by the way, after learning on the Teflon thread that saying nothing out of fear of screwing up is cowardly in a particularly white way, so bear with me and then nail my ass to the wall if necessary)
    On the other hand, if I were to compliment a BW on her natural hair, her skin, the shape of her nose or mouth, I’m afraid it would be reductive and objectifying in some way.
    So should valuing a BW’s femininity be about treating her with the kind of deference (not really the word I’m grasping for) WW experience all the time while never delving into admiring her as a physically beautiful human being? I am all for not negating BW’s space to feel feminine or womanly, but I would hate to hurt someone even more by reducing her to a painful stereotypical fragment of her whole self that is complicated by power and privilege. At the same time, it’s important to be made to feel beautiful sometimes. Maybe I’m about to answer my own question: is it that acknowledging the womanhood/femininity of BW must be done in a holistic way, and not just by saying something nice once, or helping her the way people often help me, or seeing her as merely a pretty object?
    Okay, maybe I partially answered it (or didn’t and correct the hell out of me anyone), but I’m still confounded by the physical/aesthetic aspect. Can a WP acknowledge a BW’s physical beauty in a way that isn’t racist (you look pretty in a white way/you have black features by which I am fascinated). Is there “neutral” beauty territory or have white beauty standards somehow infected everything?
    Apologies for length and lack of coherence.

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  29. @ Pareidolia - Oh no, please don't think I want an "ah hah" moment at all ... not asking these questions to fulfil any need of mine to disprove the stereotypes. I know they're constructs and stereotyping ... it's more about getting to the basis of the archetypes in order to better combat them.

    Hearing about the basis of them is insanely educating as a white woman (though I realise such education is hardly the point of their articulation), but in combating them as an academic, understanding their construction is important, at least to me, which I know is a privileged position.

    @ soul - it's not so much that they don't exist at all cross-culturally, for they do certainly (as I mentioned), but rather how these differences cross-culturally alter the stereotype, giving it more or less strength, and qualitative differences. Just thought getting into those differences might shed some light on what I am talking about with Pareidolia.

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  30. Damn. Girl. Damn.

    You hit the nail square on its head with the thread differences.

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  31. electricafro, your story brings to mind the double usage of "strength"--we are for the most part, in this thread, using it specifically to mean emotional strength, which is the standard use when the word is applied to WW. But in that case it played out very clearly as physical strength. RVCBard, is this what you were getting at in the OP reference to the connotations of strength? I am wondering if this is a contributing factor in WP's steadfast refusal to see Black women as, well, women, or maybe just an example of it.

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  32. Think about the representations of black women you see on your TV. If the black woman is a character we're meant to take seriously -- i.e., in a recurring role that isn't a hooker, drug addict, nanny, maid, sassy comic relief, Mammy, or Magical Negress -- there are probably a whole bunch of things about her you can assume to be true.

    Do you think that characters like Celie and Precious play into that? I mentioned the Miss Celie Syndrome over here. How do you think such portrayals undermine, reinforce, and/or perpetuate the Strong Black Woman cliche?

    For me personally, I'm not looking for anyone to do more than offer help to me in the same instances they would offer help to a woman of a different race, even if it appears that I "got it."

    Mmhm.

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  33. @ NovaScotiaGirl:

    Can a WP acknowledge a BW's physical beauty in a way that isn't racist?

    Yes. I think you're thinking too hard about this.

    The problems I've encountered have generally not been about running into racism when people genuinely think I look good. I don't mind getting complimented on my hair if it looks particularly nice today; I do mind when people treat my hair (or, you know, me) as something fascinating or "Other".

    A sincere "Wow, your hair looks great" is very different from "Wow, it's so poofy! Can I touch it?" or "Wow, those braids are so tiny! Is it true they're made of polyester?" or "Wow, your dreds are getting long! Can you even wash your hair when it's like that?" I've had all these things said to me and it doesn't even occur to people that they might be being rude.

    It seems like you think that acknowledging a black woman's beauty necessarily involves something like complimenting her on her blackness. Which is a little strange.

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  34. Is there “neutral” beauty territory or have white beauty standards somehow infected everything?

    It's difficult terrain to be sure. And that's for women in general as well as Black women in particular.

    In my experience, the "admiration" for Black women's beauty does tend to focus on the more overtly sexual traits (butts and boobs). I rarely see anyone compliment a Black woman's eyes or her hands. And complimenting her figure is always weird because if she's thin you could be reinforcing a big load of misogynistic anti-fat garbage (ie, only pasty stick insects can have great figures). If she's full-figured, you could be exoticizing her. Don't get me started on the hair. Oh, God, the hair!

    For me, I love getting compliments about my appearance if they are: 1) about me, 2) about me, and 3) about me. IOW, as long as the compliment draws attention to something unique and special about me as an individual (as opposed to a representation of Black womanhood), I'm likely to respond well. Compliment my outfit, and I'm likely to take it as such. Appreciate a change in hairstyle or something, and I'd like that too. You can even praise my complexion if it's particularly clear or smooth or is a particular color you like (but don't push it). But the minute I get a whiff of you talking to me as an ambassador of Black womanhood, the reception might be a wee bit frosty.

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  35. electricafro, your story brings to mind the double usage of "strength"--we are for the most part, in this thread, using it specifically to mean emotional strength, which is the standard use when the word is applied to WW. But in that case it played out very clearly as physical strength. RVCBard, is this what you were getting at in the OP reference to the connotations of strength?

    I was meaning it in both connotations.

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  36. @ RVCBard,

    You said, How do you think such portrayals undermine, reinforce, and/or perpetuate the Strong Black Woman cliche?

    I just followed your link to that LJ post and I agree with what you said there (hope you don't mind if I copy and paste): "It's like you have to be broken down as much as humanly possible before anybody notices you have feelings at all."

    How can I explain this? I think that movies like "Precious", no matter how fantastic they are, kind of invite white people to feel okay about their aversive racism. They go and get invested in this story that invites over-the-top emotion, and then they can feel good about empathizing with a black person and go back to their lives. "Precious" doesn't invite controversy, because nobody can deny suffering that deep.

    But create a black character who (to quote you again) is "thoughtful and sensitive and poetic and romantic and deep who's also Black" without high drama, and nobody's interested. The everyday joys and pains of the everyday black woman aren't enough, though we are just drowning in movies about everyday white people.

    For instance -- after the new Star Trek came out, a popular complaint from white female fans was about Uhura, that they couldn't relate to her. She's strong without being invulnerable, smart without being sexless, no-nonsense without being sassy, able to cry and love and hook up with Spock -- what is there not to relate to? Probably if she'd been beaten down and taken apart and lonely but long-suffering, white women would have liked her more.

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  37. thesciencegirl @1/8/10 11:27 AM said that white friends blame the perpetrator of racism rather than comfort the victim of racism.

    This is very thought-inducing, since I would tend to do the same, assuming* support needed was in keeping stiff upper lip, saving face.
    *(As the saying goes, "to assume makes an ass out of you and me")

    Are you getting a double whammy from the science culture as well as the more general white culture? Does the white friend think that you __are__ the Strong BW, invulnerable? or think that you would be embarrassed by being perceived as emotional, and treat you like one of the guys, complete with offer to help whale on the perp?* I know that the second can be as racist as the first.

    *(By your moniker and previous posts, I assume that you are a student or post-doctoral fellow in the sciences. To clue in non-scientist readers here, many women in male-dominant academia believe (or used to believe) that they need to "act macho" to have any hope of being taken seriously, and many or most men in the sciences tend to look at feminine women and married women, especially those with kids, as insufficiently committed to scientific careers).

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  38. @ NovaScotiaGirl:

    RVCBard said, "For me, I love getting compliments about my appearance if they are: 1) about me, 2) about me, and 3) about me."

    Pretty much this is what I was trying to say.

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  39. @ NancyP,

    You said, "This is very thought-inducing, since I would tend to do the same, assuming* support needed was in keeping stiff upper lip, saving face."

    Well... If a friend of yours was mugged, you would probably a) get mad at the mugger, and b) comfort your friend. (That's what I would do.) The same if, say, a friend got in a fight with her family -- get mad at the fam, sure, but also ask how she's feeling, right?

    But I, like thesciencegirl, have experienced some of this phenomenon of having all the attention put on the racist guy. My theory is that it makes white people uncomfortable to think too closely about how it feels to be the victim of racism, and it's hard to ignore those thoughts when someone you care about is telling you how it feels. It's easier instead to assume that your strong black woman friend would want to keep a "stiff upper lip".

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  40. I would agree about it being a personal strategy. You tend to get hit all day, everyday, and yes, sometimes I wish sticks and stones...
    Another concept I'm having difficulty with is when fellow black women's expectation for one another.

    I remember expressing to a manager how I didn't think the job was going to work out for me, due to the unmentionable... she shrugged me off and told me, "You'll be fine." I watch her go through much of the same treatment and her only response is to get louder, more irate, and less approachable. You see her with her family and she's a different person.

    It's very defeating because you're not sure where to go. Where can you go to work and feel human? I'm quitting my job in the next few days for these very reasons and it makes me wonder if I'm capable of retaining a job for long periods of time? My ancestors put up with it, so am I being unreasonable to ask for fairness? If WP are unwilling to see black women for who they are (human) where are we to go? What are our alternatives?

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  41. Thanks for the responses Zara and RVCBard. I agree that I'm probably overthinking a tad. But the focus on something "about me" makes it a little less intimidating to think about.

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  42. The past few posts and comment threads have been very interesting. I've been re-thinking a few conversations I've said to a good friend of mine. Yeah, I can be stupid and tactless, I must have some redeeming qualities and be not stupid more than I'm stupid. (tactless is to be expected, she's even said to me, "you said what to your father?")

    NovaScotiaGirl - would you complement a WP on their skin, seems weird to me. Stick to things you'd normally complement someone on, like a new hair cut, outfit, or accessory. Wow, X really looks great, is it new? Complementing someones expression of taste usually goes over well.

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  43. fromthetropics said this in the previous thread that prompted this discussion...
    "There’s a lot of pain here. A lot of very, very deep, unspeakable pain that’s crying out to you from deep within the ground where it’s buried, but which neither the convo nor blog nor anything else here do them justice. It’s not one person’s pain, or that of a few people, but a collective pain. And yeah, the general impression is that it doesn’t seem like any of us are actually hearing it. It’s there, it’s raw, but it’s still just there – sitting there and getting passed over.

    And then on the side there’s these flickering distractions made up of the apologies and confessionals, which just doesn’t mix well with the pain. Like oil and water. Personally and generally, I can feel my own racism/prejudice the most when I try to make confessionals or apologies. Probably because it’s just hypocritical – sounds like a confession, but really, it’s self-congratulating. It’s basically rooted in racism, IMO."

    POC have shared some very personal things through out this blog and these experiences drive home the points made in ways I'll never forget.As a white man I felt that any response I posted would have just disrespected that person so I read,listen and have silent respect.You are not being ignored and you are being heard.The implications of being white and of privilege has shattered my world view and like humpty dumpty I am slowly putting it back together again.Any WP who thinks they can read a few blog entries and "get it" are just kidding themselves.The implications of racism and privilege are so systematic that it requires me to completely reassess my whole out look on life.I find my self questioning not just how I communicate but my actions,my religion,my politics's,the friends I have and how I raise my family.Many thanks to those who make up this blog and the courage that it takes.It may not be obvious but your postings here do have an impact..

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  44. Just read this post, read through much of the prior Teflon thread to see what was up, then back here to this thread. I'm not sure I have much helpful to add, but as silence can be construed as not hearing, I'd like to say that as a WW I'm paying attention.

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  45. I hope this is not inappropriate to ask, but, uh, I was wondering how the Black women here feel about how this thread is going? (At least until a couple of the most recent batch of comments. Macon, have you decided whether to start moderating out It's About Us posts?)

    @NovaScotiaGirl
    I'm going to post a message for you on the most recent "friday open thread", December 18, 2009 if the link doesn't work, so as not to derail this thread.

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  46. Apropos the thing about giving (looks-related)compliments that are not connected to racial characteristics: do you think the same approach is preferable when it comes to Black little girls, or just grown women?
    I'm asking because my best friend's 7 y/o daughter refuses to play with Black dolls, saying they are ugly, and already hates her hair when it's let loose and natural. I've once seen her with a white blanket on hear head, pretending that she has long blond hair - I did that too as a child, but I never refused to play with the White, brown-eyed, brown-haired dolls that looked like me, or thought they were ugly. And I don't think kids buy into simple, general compliments like "you're beautiful the way you are", especially when everything they see around tells them otherwise. How should a White person address that if they have a Black little girl in their close circle, and witness such behavior?
    Of course the easiest thing would be "ask her mother" - but the parent who is my best friend is her father, I don't know the mother (and she is not Black, she is Asian, but the little girl looks Black). All he says is "she's gonna feel beautiful because I tell her that she is beautiful" - an assumption with which I strongly disagree as a woman, but I would never dare to tell him how to raise his daughter either.

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  47. NancyP,

    Yes, I'm a graduate student in the biomedical sciences. My mentor/boss is a white woman, and she's counseled me extensively on how to navigate sexism in our field, though funnily enough, it never seems to occur to her how my race plays into my experiences so that they are different than hers. She did tell me a couple of years after the fact that when she interviewd me for my academic program, she told the admissions committee that I was "not just a good minority candidate, but a good candidate period." I know that she was trying to compliment me, but that spoke volumes about how she views minority applicants and students.

    There are so few black women in my field (I don't know any) that any treatment I face as a biracial woman (or as a woman often perceived as a black woman) is impossible to generalize. I know that my race, my gender, and the combination of the two alter my reception, but I can't always say how exactly. I am also often assumed to be different races which I am not, so I don't think my experiences are always in synch with what other BW experience.

    I do know female scientists (especially those one generation older than me) who faced a lot of pushback when they chose to have children. I am single and childless, so that issue has not arisen yet for me.

    There are no black female PhDs running research labs at my university (or black males, for that matter). I don't have mentors who I can really ask about these issues as they pertain to me. There are some black female MDs here, and, as I am also a medical student, I suppose at least I could glean some advice on that aspect of my future career.


    Going back to how my friends react to my experiences of racism, I think that they assume I'm strong b/c, though I do show vulnerability, I am generally a self-reliant person and I talk about racism a lot, quite often using sarcasm, anger, and humor to describe my outrage (instead of hurt). So, maybe they are just following my lead. I have had male friends describe me as confident, able to take care of myself, and like I could handle things without a guy to take care of me (and I can, but as others have said above, it sure would be nice if they offered). I don't know how much of this perception of my strength is about my race and how much is an individual thing. The role of the strong, dependable, non-vulnerable person is one I've played in my family as well (I am a middle child, after all) and that is certianly not a race thing. I think it boils down to this: of my group of friends (from a variety of racial backgrounds), I am undoubtedly the most loud-mouthed anti-racist of the bunch, and many of my white friends recognize white privilege and racism, and are, I think, kind of excited to talk about it with me and mock the less-aware, but 1. don't always recognize it in themselves, and 2. don't realize how what is sort of an intellectual exercise for them is a painful, lived experience for me.

    Now I feel like I'm just rambling, but I hope that answered some of your questions.

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  48. Julia asked some of the questions I had about age but still I'm wondering:
    At what age do you think you became conscious of these stereotypes?
    Did you think growing up would make things better (more able to defend yourself) or worse (more expected to defend yourself plus added helpings of the body/sexual stereotypes)? Were you right?
    What happens when BW get much older? Is SBW or ABW replaced with Mystic? or are those apples and oranges?

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  49. @sara from chicago.

    Again, I strenuously disagree with you and where you are going. The BW American experience is not any harder any the sentiment s not any stronger in the us than anywhere else.

    The difference is BW in many other Western communities do not have the same voice or the same population distribution which means they have some sort of power to voice things like this.

    Again, I'll ask you ask, rather than state.
    You seem to be negating our experiences or assigning some kind of 'oppression rate' to us.
    I'm telling you it is not so, please stop arguing even in a nice way that it isn't because you do not see or recognise it.

    When i think of the way many European countries and Australia legalised the seperartion of black children from their families, did they care about the emotional well being of the mother?. or did they just imagine, oh no, she's black she can take it, it won't make them go crazy...

    Again, please think over what you are saying.

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  50. Willow wrote,

    I hope this is not inappropriate to ask, but, uh, I was wondering how the Black women here feel about how this thread is going?

    I second this question. Answers to it would be especially helpful to me as the moderator.

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  51. @Karen L:

    At what age do you think you became conscious of these stereotypes?

    TBH, I was an adult when it became clear to me in a way I could verbalize. I became generally aware of racism during adolescence, but the Strong Black Woman cliche didn't really hit home until much later.

    However, looking back on it, there have always been a few signs of that. Let me give you one example.

    As a 1st grader, I competed in the school's spelling bee against kids who were much older than me (Mom says they were in 5th grade). My mother told me that I said something like "I don't want to be in front of all those people" (aka, the ENTIRE SCHOOL). I don't know why they believed this was an appropriate thing to do to a six-year-old girl. From what I remember, there was no effort put into keeping my dignity and self-esteem intact, nor any effort at making sure I was comfortable with the whole process. After the spelling bee was over, I got tag-teamed and hounded by my teacher and guidance counselor for daring to adjust the mic to my level (which they told me was WHY I misspelled "care"*). Reassurance? Ha! I don't think I told my parents about that incident until a couple of decades had passed**. If it'd happened today, and I told my parents, I think that people would lose their jobs over shit like this.

    There are a lot of other stories I could share, but one of the recurring themes is how people (even WOCs, which my guidance counselor was) were very quick to use humiliation as a way to control my behavior, even though I, as a child, clearly showed the intellectual capacity to be effectively reasoned with ("Do it this way because [insert something that makes sense]"). Nevertheless, I was still a child, so it's interesting to note that I was typically treated like an immature adult and not like a child.

    * I knew how to spell the fucking word. But I was extremely nervous, and the letter came out my mouth differently from how my brain imagined it.
    ** There are a few cases where, in the aftermath of something I did that made the adults in my life look bad, teachers and administrators would corner me and further humiliate (read: abuse) me. I recall never talking to my parents about it. In retrospect, I should have, but I was never, ever encouraged to do so. One incident in particular practically killed anything in me that was interested in theater (ironic for a playwright) until I was a sophomore in college.

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  52. I hope this is not inappropriate to ask, but, uh, I was wondering how the Black women here feel about how this thread is going?

    Much better than the last one, give or take a bit of Center Staging.

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  53. I think this discussion is going better. I just hope that the WP asking questions of the BW in this thread don't fall into the trap of taking individual answers as gospel or as representative of all BW. I am particularly aware of this as a woman who does not identify solely as black.

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  54. soul said,

    >> "When I think of the way many European countries and Austrailia legalized the separation of black children from their families, did they ever care about the emotional well being of the mother?"

    In U.S. "coverage" of this (history class), the mothers are almost completely ignored. It's all about the devastation wrought on the children, the "family" as a unit, and Aboriginal people as a whole.

    Does this gap in acknowledgment/way of reinforcing the SBW stereotype also occur in other parts of the world today?

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  55. @Willow.
    Yes, it did then. and it does now. The only problem is this, black people in many other western countries do not have the same voice as those in the US.
    their population and numbers were utterly decimated and worse yet, the documentation is largely buried or erased.

    That's why you get many WP from other Western countries mistake their lack of knowledge of atrocities committed against BP in their country as evidence that it just doesn't happen.

    It's really negating and actually quite offensive and it really does undermine the extent of pain, racism and injustice that those Black people in those countries suffer.

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  56. @mike & olderwoman – thanks for that. It’s good to know that there are people listening. Next time I’ll just assume that there are many readers listening.

    On the other hand, if I were to compliment a BW on her natural hair, her skin, the shape of her nose or mouth, I’m afraid it would be reductive and objectifying in some way.

    Uhmmm…(I might be repeating some of what a few others have said in response, but...) – How often do WW compliment another WW on the shape of their nose or mouth? As far as I can tell, white and Asian women usually compliment other white and Asian women on their new look, hair style, nice make up, clear skin, nice tan (when they made an effort to go out into the sun to get it), etc, etc. You look nice today. I like the way you’ve done your hair (when some effort has been put into it), etc. It is very rare that I tell another woman that I like the shape of their nose, eyes, legs, etc. For those who are straight, that usually comes from a man to a woman whom they like, no? That’s why if a white woman tells me they like the shape of my (small, slant) eyes, it feels very Othering. It’s because you notice the feature only because it is different from you as a white woman as opposed to you as an individual.

    Namely, what is it about US culture that produces the construct of the Angry Black Woman, or the Strong Black Woman?

    I think the link RVCBard gave with the word “vulnerable” already gives a good explanation of this. (Click link in OP.)

    cl said in another post: Sometimes I feel as though being a minority, no matter what I do, someone else governs my life; someone else's ideas and notions determine what I do.

    And I’m wondering, does the SWB stereotype affect or come up in romantic relationships? It seems to come up in friendships where you become the friend whose shoulder white women (and Asians too) cry on according to what Dark Moon said here. Does it also affect/come up in romantic relationships (whether interracial or not)? If so, in what way?

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  57. None of my links worked. Here they are again.

    cl's comment in Asian women fetish post

    Dark Moon's <a href="http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/01/treat-black-women-like-theyre-made-of.html?showComment=1262843038661#c3200797825981430775>comment</a> in the treat black women like teflon post.

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  58. Just wanted to chime in that this thread does feel safer and less frustrating for me as a black woman than the other one (adamantium and teflon).

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  59. And I’m wondering, does the SWB stereotype affect or come up in romantic relationships? It seems to come up in friendships where you become the friend whose shoulder white women (and Asians too) cry on according to what Dark Moon said here. Does it also affect/come up in romantic relationships (whether interracial or not)? If so, in what way?

    Ohhhhhhh, yeah. Boy does it ever.

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  60. "so it's interesting to note that I was typically treated like an immature adult and not like a child." this really resonated with me because as a 2nd grader my teacher said to my mom during a conference "you don't know what she is like, she has pulled the wool over your eyes as to what kind of person she is" and my mom replied "she is 7!" But at 7 this teacher still thought of me really as an equal, someone who was misinforming my mom on what kind of teacher/guardian she was. I spent the entire year begging my mom to allow me to get out of the gifted and talented program. I wanted to be like "everybody else" which meant like the other black kids warehoused into the remedial classrooms. And it was my constant pleading to get out of the program that sent my mom to the school to find out why. Not my wool pulling over the eyes skill.

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  61. At what age do you think you became conscious of these stereotypes?

    I got lucky because I went to an unusual public elementary school -- it was extremely diverse in terms race, nationality, and class. The teachers were pretty diverse, too, and there was a lot of emphasis put on the value of diversity and individuality. Most of the people who sent their kids to a school like that had done so on purpose. So aside from a couple of minor incidents (kids my age loved to ask if I was adopted, because my mom is white -- I'm biracial but am identified as and usually self-identify as black), I'm not aware of racism influencing my interactions when I was younger.

    When I went to a private school for middle school, though, everything changed. I was often called upon to represent the great monolith that is Black People by students; the teachers all acted coolly colorblind (none of them were black). When my mom went to the brunches hosted by the mothers in my grade, the other moms would talk about the black students -- there are so many of them! what are they doing here? they're like a "Super Race"! they put so much emphasis on race that my poor daughter feels like she's not special enough! -- until my mother outed herself as the mother of a black student, at which point the other moms didn't like her so much. I got a lot of surprised compliments at how "articulate" and "polite" I was, the first time I hadn't liked people saying that kind of thing about me, because this time I wasn't articulate for a kid my age, I was articulate for a black girl. A lot of the mothers there wouldn't let their girls ride the subways or buses alone, or go above 110th Street (which is where Harlem starts).

    At summer camp when I was eleven, one of the only black campers there, a group of white girls who hated me would follow me around, making fun of my afro and chanting the Chia pet song. Camp counselors saw this happening and did nothing to help me out. (That was the last time I wore an afro until I was twenty.) That same summer camp, as I got older (and, honestly, prettier) was also where I first experienced being a black girl -- and thus completely un-female -- around white and Asian boys.

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  62. How do I feel when the SBW stereotype is applied to me?

    I actually had to think about this. I thought, "well, sad." But no. It took me a pitifully long time to realize that I feel... angry. And then instantly tired. In a split second, my spine stiffens, and then my shoulders just sag. Before my anger even registers, it's discarded as an option, because ABW is worse than SBW. And those are my only options, and that makes me angry. Right there in the moment, I know that it doesn't matter what I do. I feel angry, tired and offended, almost like, "jeez, how stupid do you think I am?" Not so much because of the actual offense that's taking place, but because it's a trap. It feels like concerted training. Sometimes I'll be in a situation (say, irate with a salesclerk), and it's like I can't get anywhere unless I do SBW/ABW. It doesn't soak in that yeah, I'm not happy with this stupid toaster oven or whatever, unless I do the dance. (Which is not natural to me.) I'm not there unless I do it (or threaten to do it; same difference*). The thing that puts a lump in my throat is knowing that the only way to get what we need in the moment is to sandbag the entire BW community. And I really, really feel that. That's the pain I'm swallowing. It'd be one thing if the indignity was individual to me, but the weight of the effect of my reaction on all BW lays on me like a suffocating blanket. That is the thing that's foremost in my mind, and it's paralyzing. I can be angry right now and reinforce that meme, or I can suck it up, ignore the knot in my gut, and be strong... and reinforce that meme. And you're trained to believe that SBW is positive.

    Meanwhile, in my heart of hearts, I know that SBW really isn't better than ABW. I feel... bamboozled.** That's the thing that gets me down. When I look back on all those nasty episodes, I just feel a bit sick at the enormity of it. It's far beyond me personally. I sometimes cry about it, but not because I'm reliving the fear or being lost in the snow or whatever. That's not the primary emotion I remember. Even that very day, I was thinking about all those other black girls. At that exact instant, as my idealized image of the police was exploded, I somehow (not sure how) grokked that it was not an aberration. I immediately understood that it had happened, and was happening, and would happen again and again, to all those other black girls/women, because that's the standard. Those rules I'd been fed for 10 years (cops are there to serve and protect) don't apply to us. Not me— us. A very red pill. And suddenly existence just felt so hugely futile. I just want to lay down and die. Literally. That feeling of futility and dejected acceptance is what I remember. I think I could have stood it if I'd felt it was about me, personally.

    [continued...]

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  63. [...continued]
    Bamboozled. Futile. It's like all of society is going "act this way and we'll respect you (all)," and even as they're telling you that, you know, and they know— and you know they know— that it's a bald-faced lie. Acting that way is demoralizing, and it's also not effective— you don't get respect. You get the opposite. You may get what you need right then, but you don't get the prize. There is no overarching prize. It's just moving a shovelful of dirt from one side of the hole to the other. The hole never fills.

    In the US, at least, WOC get the exact same positive messages about "roles" and how to be that everybody else does. Strength is a Major American Meme. Good is independent and self-sufficient, and (probably partly as a consequence of being a black immigrant with a single parent), I've really taken that to heart. I believe it, I really do. I want that respect. Desperately. I work my ass off to deserve it. I do deserve it. I played the game, didn't I? My whole family played it. We don't ask anybody for anything. But it turns out there's a huge-but-subtle difference between being a "strong black woman" and being a "respectable self-sufficient American." The SBW role ought to fit right in to this American Strength thing, but no matter how many SBWs are out there "manning up," the overall image(s) of BW stays the same. Why don't we get that (white) Pioneer-Woman-With-A-Shotgun image?

    Sorry for the length.

    _____
    *I swear there are some WP out there who actually like it. They get a weird pleasure out of being taken down by a z-snapping ABW. Ever seen this? You're railing on them, and they're taking it with a hint of a smile on their face?
    **I hated that movie (the ending sucked) but that part of it was really profound to me. The theme of all these forces encouraging you to put on blackface, promising that it's the road to respect and real humanity, and knowing— being eaten up inside by the knowledge— that in fact the blackface (which is the only way to make them see you) makes them respect you, and everyone like you, even less. Training.

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  64. [Thank you for the post suggestion, KAT. ~macon]

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  65. @ Sarah from Chicago

    You said this:

    Namely, what is it about US culture that produces the construct of the Angry Black Woman, or the Strong Black Woman? Because these archetypes don't have as much credence cross-culturally internationally, or even simply don't exist. What is it about US whiteness that makes these stereotypes so powerful?

    Unfortunately, this statement is wrong. Because US culture is so widespread as a result of TV and movies, other nations society's are influenced by the very same stereotyped images of Black women so it is now a universal agenda. Here in South Africa, I face many of the same judgements and disrespect that Witchsistah, RVCBard and all these wonderful women are discussing. No matter where you are on this Earth, the Black female experience is of the same nature. There isn't much difference actually.

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  66. This post is so much better than the last post. I just want to point out why I thought the last post was problematic. I think many of it was that many of the White posters made themselves center stage of the thread but also many felt that they were walking on eggshells of discussing the problem. I can't help but to believe that the angry Black woman stereotype was subtley expressed in the last thread and is the reason why the Fetichizing Asian Women thread turned out better. I mean I just don't find RVCBard and Witchsista to be that difficult and discussing the matter. I mean I just don't see them banging their heads against a keyboard because you said something fucked up. I've never read their post as anger but more so frustration. It's very frustrating to discuss about the experiences of Black women on anti-racist blogs because most people just derail and trivialize our experiences.

    Anyways the question that was said was about the SBW stereotype. I hate that damn stereotype and soul is right that it is presented to be positive. I had a male friend who told me I was a strong Black woman and I had to tell him that I hate the saying being placed on me. I explained and he understood and that was the end of it. I hate it because it is a modern day mammmy stereotype. This is one of the reasons why I hated "Secret Life of Bees". To me it was some White liberalism film that glmamorized Black women for helping the young White girl. The Black women in the film were a combination of Magical Negresses, Strong Black Woman, and the angry Black woman [which was applied to one character June]. The only character I liked was April. I liked April because she was different. She was sweet, kind, but very vulnerable and sensitive. She was not afraid to show her weakness and cry. Which is why I liked her because she was not caricature nor a stereotype from the other characters in the story. When I tell my mom and aunt about why I thought it was another White liberal film about the exotification and glamor of Black female strength, they said I was thinking in Black and White and that I was being too militant. I never understood why I was thinking in Black and White for saying that and hoping for another film that didn't fit those tired stereotypes. Is asking for Black women to play more well-rounded characters too much to ask? Black women are much more than those tired ass stereotypes.

    Anyways, as for the angry Black woman stereotype, it is dangerous. It is most often an insult thrown at Black women to prove that they are not worthy nor good enough for their mates in a relationship. There are so many reasons why it is problematic but I just want to point out one of them that applied to a situation I was in. I have had people become disappointed when I do not fulfill this stereotype. One incident happened when me and my friend went to an amustment park. We are both Black women. We walked past this interracial couple that was a Black man and a White woman. Whenever I'm out I usually nod my head and smile as I walk past people. However, this couple seemed disappointed that they didn't get the reaction they were looking for. They kept looking at me and my friend as if they were waiting for us to be angry that they are together. [Because everyone knows that Black women are jealous of non-Black women for taking their men]. I mean are you serious? which is why I agree with many of the Black women posteres that stated that the angry Black woman stereotype is more entertaining to people. The apathetic Black woman is not as entertaining word to Danielle Belton from "The Black Snob" for putting that out there.

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  67. "Apropos the thing about giving (looks-related)compliments that are not connected to racial characteristics: do you think the same approach is preferable when it comes to Black little girls, or just grown women? I'm asking because my best friend's 7 y/o daughter refuses to play with Black dolls, saying they are ugly, and already hates her hair when it's let loose and natural. I've once seen her with a white blanket on hear head, pretending that she has long blond hair - I did that too as a child, but I never refused to play with the White, brown-eyed, brown-haired dolls that looked like me, or thought they were ugly. And I don't think kids buy into simple, general compliments like "you're beautiful the way you are", especially when everything they see around tells them otherwise. How should a White person address that if they have a Black little girl in their close circle, and witness such behavior?
    Of course the easiest thing would be "ask her mother" - but the parent who is my best friend is her father, I don't know the mother (and she is not Black, she is Asian, but the little girl looks Black). All he says is "she's gonna feel beautiful because I tell her that she is beautiful" - an assumption with which I strongly disagree as a woman, but I would never dare to tell him how to raise his daughter either."

    Lest we forget, the culture that is spewing out images of skinny white women as beautiful/superior and normal; do not care about this little black girl or any “Other,” girl who looks like her. In their minds; in their collective conscientiousness, black women just aren’t beautiful. Look how Tyra Banks and Wendy Williams strut about in blond wigs to look a bit whiter than they are, seeking to gain some white approval. Look what this negative self-hating mindset has done to black women like Lil Kim; who because of skin bleaching, resembles an Asian woman and speaks like a valley girl. What’s contrary is the behavior of these white women. Popular culture on one hand tries to paint the white woman as pure- demure, vulnerable chaste and virginal. While at the very same time they are painted as Bombshell, Vixen- sexbomb; seductress and temptress. In the movie Sin City, you had Jessica Alba’s character headlining in a strip club; but the narration wanted you to believe she was innocent and pure as the driven snow. Look at the behavior of some of the white women America lauds for their beauty. Look at Sarah Prejean’s fall from grace and so many white women like her. It goes contrary to the squeaky clean image most whites put out about white women. The Girls Gone Wild segments that air constantly on late night don’t help matters much. It tells me white girls will do anything to please white men; moreover they will be excused for such behavior.

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  68. Continued:
    Do a search for Babe, or for The Girl Next Door; in Google Images (Family filter off mind you). You won’t get back many results with black girls in it; because for most whites, a black woman does not live next door. How can a little minority girl ever feel she is pretty when it seems white society at large is running a campaign to prove otherwise? She needs to hear it from her father yes most definitely. The positive image she will have of herself will start there. But sadly there aren’t enough black fathers in the home on a constant basis to reinforce this. Even if White girls do not hear the words, “you’re beautiful” from dad; they will surely hear and see it throughout mainstream culture. From the moment she is able to perceive it she will come to recognize this unavoidable fact; her beauty is normal and her looks are preferred above all else. Her looks, and esteem will be validated every day of her life.

    Hollywood/Disney is busy turning out the next Hanna Montana even as we speak. Its the people who churn these images out purposefully and with intent that keep the white woman at center stage in mainstream culture; black women need not apply. When 2 Live Crew hit the scene with that explicit album, what was considered worse were the images that graced the cover; namely three big black bare asses. I think some whites feel the only use for a butt is to keep one from falling in the toilet. They couldn’t understand the black man’s preference for a big butt, because it was their (whites) preference that mattered. When Sir Mix-a-lot explained his preference in a video whites were shocked again. They made explicit references, thinking black men like big butts for anal sex. (Ahh maybe that’s why they like big butts) Not even realizing it’s a sign of beauty in some cultures; having an attraction all its own in the same manner white men enjoy big breasts.

    White America was shocked and appalled. Not knowing/or caring enough about black people to know what we think, or what we find beautiful; whites just assumed that black folk appreciate the same things as they do. Isn’t our way normal?” whites would ask. Isn’t fawning over a skinny white babe normal everyday guy stuff? When Jennifer Connelly posed- hung and reclined over a motorcycle; giggled as she ran across the screen, those images were seen as Normal. Every man in America was supposed be driven crazy by her beauty.

    It was an affront to black women and the many nuances that define her as uniquely beautiful. Its why white America has such a hard time accepting Michelle Obama, with her big butt and thighs. She doesn’t look like them or the people whom have led this country for the past 200 yrs or so.

    These videos show so clearly how black girls already perceive the connection with whiteness and beauty; and they know they are not white.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqSFqnUFOns
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6Xmm57_gls
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BxFRu_SOw

    White girls just seem to know that they are the apple of the white man's eye; however black girls have known from day one that they are not.

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  69. Does [SBW-Only] also affect/come up in romantic relationships (whether interracial or not)? If so, in what way?

    Many ways. To put it bluntly, as a BW dating in an almost exclusively white town, I found myself attracting deadbeats at what I felt was an unusually high rate. I have only recently begun to wonder, looking back, if this was because of the SBW image (this thread is helping). Think of what a relationship is "supposed" to be like, from meeting to "serious." Think of all the situations where the woman is supposed to essentially kick back. But what if she's "strong"? This is highly personal (obviously), but I can get you started thinking on it.

    - During the initial wooing stage, you may find that you don't get the metaphorical flowers n' chocolates you've been led to believe are standard dating fare. You don't strictly need fanfare on Valentine's Day, and you don't mind paying your own way on dates, but...

    - On the other hand, if you have any small advantage (eg: a better apt/car/etc, higher salary, helpful connections), expect them to help themselves to it without even thinking. A guy who has a functional life when you meet him may let things slip once you're a couple.

    - If you cohabitate, you may have to do all the housework, not just the usual 80%. You might even end up doing a lot of jobs that aren't usually considered "the woman's." (I learned to chop firewood thanks to a white guy. He grew up with wood heat. I grew up in f'n New York City. But if I wanted to be warm at his place...)

    - Expect minimal emotional support. Had a bad day at work? Totally unfair? Don't vent, because you'll probably get something like, "well, you shouldn't have..." (ie: you could have handled it better) or even "ugh, I don't want to hear about it!" (ie: when you get "all pissed off," it's unpleasant for me. deal with it elsewhere.)

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  70. [...con't]
    - And then there's just completely off-the-wall stuff. I'll give one example cuz it's a bit funny: I had 2 group dates and I think 3 one-on-one dates with a seemingly perfectly nice cleancut guy; intro'd by a friend. Nice enough, but honestly? Kinda boring. I was just about done. One night he shows up at my house at 2am telling me the police are chasing him. I blurted out, "And you came here?!" He'd broken into his own job (an electronics store) after hours! Later I wondered if he was living out some kind of COPS fantasy. Did he think I would conceal him?! Stand by not-really-my-man?? (Eff dat! I'm a BW, and I'm not a citizen!)
    SMH. Where did I find these dudes?!

    This is going to sound awful to any men on here, but basically, this is what I see in most WM/WW relationships: There are a bunch of Social Rules that keep the men from COMPLETELY taking the easy route (the selfish route?) when they have a girlfriend/wife. If you're kickin' it, and your girlfriend calls you from 5 miles away with a flat tire, you get in your car and go help her. It's easier not to, but jeez. If some guy ogles your date, there are only a few acceptable ways to handle that, or you simply can't hold your head up. It's not just what you're "supposed to do," on some level, it's also that you just can't feel good about yourself otherwise. This is what I see anyway. They're literally uncomfortable. But those Rules haven't always come into play for me, a SBW. (Yes, I have had them say it.) They've often been totally okay with (assorted versions of) kicking back.

    [YTF can't I make a short post?]

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  71. @mgibson

    Thank you for your insight. I know it's essential for her to hear that she is beautiful from her father, I meant that it probably won't be enough, but he assumes that it will be. Don't get me started on Hannah Montana, she worships her. Apparently you don't need to be able to sing, dance, or act, to be a teen idol nowadays, and it's great to have a facial expression that suggests a recent lobotomy. Luckily, she seems to be outgrowing the doll phase (now it's Hello Kitty and everything with cats, lol, and she's getting into books too). I sure hope things in the mainstream media change as she grows up, even a bit.
    American (media) beauty seems extremely vacuous to me nowadays, both in looks and behavior, I don't even know who is trendy now, from the younger ones, because they are all so forgettable. Having tons of plastic surgery, using "like" every two words, being famous for nothing, and being clinically underweight is no good model for any little girl.
    Anyway, not to go off the road here, I was just curious if it has a bad or good psychological impact to give a minority child compliments on her specific race traits. The Black women here seem to resent that now, did you feel the same when you were little girls too? Was it useful to hear positive reinforcements on your traits that were/are deemed as undesirable, or did it make you feel "abnormal" even at that age?

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  72. @ Marianne, re: your question about giving looks-related compliments to black girls as opposed to black women (sorry, I'd copy and paste but it's not letting me):

    First, I just want to say that I'm definitely not speaking for all other black women. I know there are a lot of black women who don't attach this kind of significance to their personal hair/fashion/makeup choices, or who do but have made different ones. This is just me.

    Starting when I was eleven or so, when I began to care about how I looked and who was looking at me, I wanted to change everything about myself. I wanted long, straight hair -- or, in lieu of that, long, straight braids. I wanted light-colored contacts to cover up my brown-black eyes. I wanted to be beautiful in the way that everyone around me (i.e., the white girls) was beautiful. Makeup that had nothing to do with my skin tone, clothes that had nothing to do with my body type. Aside from feeling unattractive because I didn't fit in, I was making myself unattractive by wearing things that didn't suit me.

    I was sixteen when I realized what I was doing to myself. That was when I gave up on straightening my hair and finally cut it all the fuck off; and started doing my makeup and my eyebrows like I respected my face rather than wishing it was a white girl's; and started buying clothes that fit my body and my skin color rather than a skinny white girl's.

    When I do these things, I do them with the awareness that there are a lot of white people who don't know me who will assume I'm an Angry Black Woman -- pretty much any sign of a black woman as an individual puts her at risk for this. I'm also of even less romantic interest to white men, because now I'm not just black, I'm "ethnic". The little black girl you know will make her own decisions when she grows up one day, and if she's smart enough to set her own standards of beauty for herself, then I'm glad for her.

    But, having been a little black girl, I'll tell you, when white women complimented me on my black features, I was a) annoyed at their condescending to me, because kids can always tell, and b) certain that they were only saying it out of pity, to be nice. That's pretty much how I feel when I get race-related compliments as an adult, too.

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  73. @ mgibson17:

    Thanks for all those links. I wanted to post one more, the entire "A Girl Like Me" video. This hit me hard.

    I also wanted to say, many of the white women I know who like Michelle Obama like her because she's "accessible" and "civilized" and "articulate" and "ladylike" and "fashionable". I always hear an unspoken, unlike all those other black women.

    Something that came up in the previous BW thread (adamantium and teflon) was the phenomenon wherein black women are perceived as either sexless and not to be loved, or highly sexed, only good for sex -- never fully realized women. I was thinking about that, reading your thoughts on what black men find sexy in black women. It's too early in the morning for me to sort out the tie-in right now.

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  74. For me, this thread feels no different.
    As a non- US BW, it seems ok for my experiences to be denied and vanished, and nothing really happens. no-on really says anything.

    It seems there is this wide spread belief that slavery, racism only really exists or happens to Americans and the rest of us Black folk are just making it up.
    Or that the ugly part of racism doesn't affect us.

    *sigh* the more thing change, the more they stay the same.

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  75. You know what, soul, you're right. it just happened again... we stand by because we think you got it. too ironic to even contemplate... I'm sorry.

    I really have been appreciating your contributions, and not appreciating Sarahfromchicago's. I should have said this.

    And I--and other--should have chimed in when you voiced your opposition to Sarahfromchicago's posts. I am absolutely in agreement with you.

    I certainly know that I know crap about black experience ANYWHERE and I am only benefitting from the perspective of ALL black women who have commented here.

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  76. The only problem is this, black people in many other western countries do not have the same voice as those in the US. Their population and numbers were utterly decimated and worse yet, the documentation is largely buried or erased.

    That's why you get many WP from other Western countries mistake their lack of knowledge of atrocities committed against BP in their country as evidence that it just doesn't happen.

    It's funny - White people in Western Europe sometimes act like America came up with chattel slavery all by itself, and that colonialism came to us from aliens like the pyramids.

    It's really negating and actually quite offensive and it really does undermine the extent of pain, racism and injustice that those Black people in those countries suffer.

    Tell me about it.

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  77. As a non- US BW, it seems ok for my experiences to be denied and vanished, and nothing really happens. no-on really says anything.

    In what sense? Do you mean in the "Oh, that stuff? That's an American thing" sort of way or "Black people only come from Africa and Detroit" sort of way?

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  78. Too little too late for me to add this here now, and I too regret not addressing this issue here sooner. Nevertheless, for those who still fail to realize that racism against those of African descent is faced by more than African Americans, I recommend the following swpd posts.

    soul, if you have suggestions for other posts that illustrate/educate about white ignorance of racism faced by black people other than African Americans, or if you would like to write as a guest poster here yourself, please let me know.

    how not to write about africa

    assume that nigeria is a threatening, hopeless morass of corruption

    homogenize people from over fifty different countries into one group: "africans"

    fail to distinguish african immigration from slavery descent

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  79. I agree, RVCBard, it's fantastic. In a post linked above, "homogenize people ... etc.", I included and wrote about Adichie's TED talk.

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  80. Sarah from Chicago said: I also really noticed the black/white dichotomy in American race relations, I just don't think it can be so easily generalised cross-culturally ... of course, I'm coming at this from a white perspective, so it's eminently possible I'm not seeing stuff.

    Yeah, it might be more obviously dichotomized in the US. That said, I don’t know about NZ, but I think it applies to Australia as well. I think that’s what prompted my friend as described here to derail our conversation about the racism I experienced by bringing up Aborigines. This same friend also mentioned something along the lines of, “Well, you’re talking about racism, but think about the Aborigines. Their situation is much worse. Do you experience what they experience?” And the obvious answer she was looking for is, ‘No.’ Thus, the racism experienced by the non-Aborigine minorities becomes invisible in her mind. (Note: Aborigines are referred to as 'black' in Australia.)

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  81. fromthetropics, yeah that's classic oppression olympics. "Your experience of racism isn't as bad or as important as this other experience." Like, are you supposed to be relieved that (according to a white person), your oppression isn't as bad as it could possibly be.

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  82. Julia That sentiment makes me feel 'lonely' for want of a better word. That's what being a SBW makes me feel. Like, my articulation on knowledge needs no support. The most disappointing thing about this is that, even with my gently, softly approach with sarah she did not see nor acknowledge it.

    RVCBard I've said it before and I'll say it again, they have successfully buried and incorporated their racism into their systems. It will drive you crazy being in some places in Europe where black is a dirty word. To gather as a community is seen as savage and discouraged unless it is as entertainment for white people.

    RVCBard (in response to ur second question)
    In many ways too long to go into but I'll say this:
    In many European countries, black americans are 'noble blacks'. Fortunately for you, the ills of America against black americans occurred in recent history and we still have witnesses.

    For us Africans, the horror of being rapped and colonised in our own lands has been written over as a result of our corrupt leaders, In most other parts of the West they have re-written history. How in the world can Sarah from chicago even begin to think that the SBW is 'unique or not as prevalent' in intensity anywhere else?

    That is the first step in excusing other white people and making this not a world wide racist problem but a unique American problem.
    It is a lie. A horrible racist lie and it is one which I expected people to immediately point out.

    I don't think it is intentional but many people treat other black people as nonentities and our suffering as minor in light of that of Black Americans. It's as if colonialisation (which is really just slavery under occupation in your own homeland) didn't happen. As if it was just white people on holiday camp who just happened to meet some bad leaders and make some smart deals.

    @macon I'll think about it.

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  83. I'm having trouble with comments, several have been lost (possibly a good thing?). So I'll just say again that I'm still reading & paying attention.

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  84. That is the first step in excusing other white people and making this not a world wide racist problem but a unique American problem.

    How have you found that other Black women relate to this reality? I've yet to come across many Black women who pretend that racism only happens in America, or that the only legitimate racial discourse is US-centered discourse. After all, Black women didn't suddenly sprout up on US soil like cabbage.

    I don't think it is intentional but many people treat other black people as nonentities and our suffering as minor in light of that of Black Americans. It's as if colonialisation (which is really just slavery under occupation in your own homeland) didn't happen. As if it was just white people on holiday camp who just happened to meet some bad leaders and make some smart deals.

    I mentioned before how White people tend to sort of create this hierarchy of suffering. Over here I mentioned the futility of a one-size-fits-all approach to fighting racism because - you're gonna love this! - everyone is different, so racism affects different people in different ways. To push that idea further, to what extent do you believe that your voice and your perspective is made invisible because White people assume that racism is one thing that affects all POC (or at least all Black women) in a particular way, one that ignores the way racism plays out for Black women with different experiences and temperaments in different environments?

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  85. soul,
    i hear you. it sounds really lonely.

    And this sounds very familiar: "It's as if colonialisation (which is really just slavery under occupation in your own homeland) didn't happen. As if it was just white people on holiday camp who just happened to meet some bad leaders and make some smart deals."

    Is this a phenomenon that you see in the West in general? Or do you see it expressing itself differently in the US, say, then in Europe? And is the motive, do you think, to excuse a certain subgroup of white people (e.g., Europeans) from past racism? And also from present racism?

    sarahfromchicago,
    I hope you will reconsider your response to soul so far, especially in light of her most recent comment.

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  86. sorry...didn't quite get that right.

    soul,
    i meant to say: i hear you. it SOUNDS really lonely. And maybe also like it made you feel almost invisible...is that right?

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  87. >> "Note: Aborigines are referred to as black in Australia."

    Oops.

    soul, I'm sorry for switching it up.

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  88. @RVCBard
    unfortunately, some black women seem to believe it. especially online, I've been in conversation with some people before who have said to me:
    Well Africans don't know what our forefathers went through, they didn't suffer through the middle passage, they were sold us for gold, mirrors and trinkets. Usually, when that comes up, I simply remove myself from the conversation. I'm too tired to go through all that mess again.

    re: White people creating a hierarchy of suffering.
    RVCBard, that was what sarah was doing and for awhile, no-one said anything at all. I think that was a fairly important point for someone to step in and say, hold on a minute sarah.....

    Moving on, I don't think you understand what I am trying to say, many white people don't think racism affects all black people in a particular way....

    What I am trying to say is many White Europeans/Westerners believe that racism is something that black Americans go through.
    They believe it is something they do not take part in because ironically, racism has worked so well in their environments/countries that the indigenous black population has been so overwhelmed, undermined and infantalised that they simply do not 'see' them in any other terms than simplistic and noble people who have no autonomy and whose main priorities is to be like them or to attain their likelihood.

    What I am saying is that they believe we black people who live outside the US might suffer 'pockets of discrimination' but they do not believe that we suffer 'real racism' or that it is as 'severe' as that of black americans and sarah's post was a perfect example of that.

    She had no problem speaking on behalf of the black people of New Zealand, even though she is not one of them and does not have their experience.

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  89. @julia

    Yes, yes, yes!. I do see it as a sinister attempt to excuse other white groups (I wouldn't call them subgroups) from racism. You try speaking to a French person about institutionalised racism in france, they will tell you racism doesn't exist just those good for nothing Arabs and senegalese!.

    Talk about racism in Australia and they will pontificate and talk about how Australians don't have any history of it. See since we can't point to cotton fields to them it didn't exist!.

    They think colonialism was a good think or a thing of the past which has no effect on the present.
    And in my experience when they are in the presence of a black African and a black US person they play the suffering of one against the other.

    Black African history has been systematically, stoled, brutalised, penalised, been banned and destroyed in order to hide and shield the shame of many European countries...

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  90. @all,
    Thank you for taking the time to address my thoughts but I'm looking at this thread again and I am unsure if it is going off course.

    I have addressed the issue brought up by Sarah's post. But this is now taking the focus off BW as a group and onto a wider issue. I wouldn't mind addressing that in a different topic but I would really like to follow the previous discussion that was going on.

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  91. As a non-US BW, it seems ok for my experiences to be denied and vanished, and nothing really happens. no-one really says anything. It seems there is this wide spread belief that slavery, racism only really exists or happens to Americans and the rest of us Black folk are just making it up.
    @Soul,
    Could you expand on this? When you say your experiences with racism are denied/ignored, are you speaking of WP where you live, your society at large, or Americans/Euros looking in from the outside? Or a combination? Do you feel there are specific consequences unique to being a non-American BW?

    For me: As a non-American BW living in the US (who has traveled quite a bit), I've often felt that some WP (from all over) are DISTINCTLY RELIEVED to find out I'm not actually American, I'm Jamaican. It's like they think, "phew! she's not one of those pissed-off (American) black people!" The idea being that since I don't have the American Slave Era™ background, I've not nothing to be upset about (read: they will be psychically comfortable being around me because I'm essentially white when it comes to my attitudes about race). Some have actually said it, directly or indirectly. Basically, non-American black people are never "angry." Thing is, this actually pisses me off about 6 different ways, because, without even getting too far into it: Jamaica did not miss slavery! At all. Crazy brutal Industrial Plantation Slavery. We have the background. To get personal: all of my grandparents had Euro last names, okay? (And NOBODY wanted to talk about it. All I managed to extract was that at least one was a product of rape. And honestly, I didn't want to go much further after that. All of which makes me pretty angry.) Oh, and can we talk about colonization?! (Hell no! Let's talk about Bob Marley instead! But let's not listen to the lyrics.) They don't know anything about it, you see. So it never happened. Or, all they know is that it "ended" much earlier, so things are totes cool now, like it never happened.

    Even more confounding are the ones who know that while it was active, the Atlantic Slave Trade had much gnarlier effects in some places (ie: the African nations the slaves were extracted from; the Caribbean; Brazil) than it did in the American South. But they'll somehow have this idea that that anti-black racism is (currently) "worst" in the US, and everywhere else is fine. (Y'know, except maybe South Africa.*) Huh? If things "weren't that bad" here, how is it that slavery is thought of as having such a huge and still-prevailing effect on the US, but nowhere else? And note that I've gotten this from Euro WP who were the colonizers. Clearly, this stuff is not in their history books. (So what the hell are you complaining about?!)

    _______
    *Note: I haven't heard SHIT about the race situation in SA since apartheid ended (except by looking for it). It used to be all the hell over the television, but it's "over" now, so presumably, it's now a multicultural utopia. What's to talk about?

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  92. @ Soul,

    Whoops!
    Posted before I saw your comment at 1:17pm.
    Ignore me if you desire.

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  93. (Let's see if comments work.) Back to BW. I realize I keep wanting to ask about how I can improve, which I believe is Centering. Right? So I'll say that I've had quite a few conversations with BW about issues like those in this thread, am aware of a pretty broad diversity of BW's backgrounds & experiences along with the reality & pain of racism, at the same time as I'm constantly confronting my White standpoint. I know I can't "fix" racism by saying one nice thing or doing one humane thing. I remain interested in what people in this thread are saying, but realize I don't know what questions to ask. So my real question is: what else do you want to have people hear? As a possible prompt, I'll offer examples of interactions. (1) A BW student who is objectively one of our best students who told me she has a hard time accepting the evaluation because of past experiences of racial marginalization. When she expressed concern about an upcoming hurdle, I told her that she sure seemed like she knew her stuff and I expected her to do well, but even if she failed I'd still be there with her. Is this helpful, not helpful? Do you have examples of people trying to be supportive who screw it up? Or of what does help? Maybe more if this comment works.

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  94. >> "Do you have examples of people trying to be supportive who screw it up? Or of what does help?"

    A couple of thoughts:

    -Google "white allies"
    -Look through the archives here
    -For examples of people who mess up, any of my comments on the teflon/adamantium thread
    -Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks
    -Read. This. Post.

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  95. Doesn't look like your link works, Willow -- I think you meant this post.

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  96. @ olderwoman:

    First you said, I realize I keep wanting to ask about how I can improve, which I believe is Centering. Right?

    Then you said, So my real question is: what else do you want to have people hear?

    Okay. I know that much of this thread has been kind of a Black Women Q&A for white people. I recognize your good intentions, and I want to draw your attention to the fact that you are still asking to copy someone's notes instead of showing up for class yourself. What I hear you saying is that everything that's been told to you so far is not enough. You want more.

    You say you're a teacher. I request that you try to be a slightly more self-sufficient student: re-examine the text you've been given in the thread so far, all the testimonials and explanations from a diverse pool of black women. There's plenty we've said clearly and explicitly, in great detail, but there's a lot of subtext, too, implicit wants and needs, the things we wish white people would internalize.

    Given your current understanding of the subject matter, will your asking us more questions really help you out? I think revising your current research would be more fruitful, as would asking yourself this question: what do you think we want you to hear?

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  97. @karinova, I have no desire to ignore you at all. your experience and conversations mirror mine.

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  98. re: Marianne's questions

    First, obviously, I'm only speaking for myself. Second, I was a very precocious kid— and, coincidentally, it seems like a lot of the women here were, too (gifted programs and such)— so I'm not quite sure if the trajectory of my attitude was just due to being black and female, or if the precociousness was part of it but: until about age 10, I didn't worry about myself at all. I was plenty confident (sassy, even), and I didn't notice my race as any kind of issue. The one thing that bugged me, generally speaking, was feeling condescended to (I didn't know the word, but I knew the feeling). I HATED that. I didn't take it personally, though. Seemed to me that most adults were condescending. It was an adult trait. So looking back, I don't think I took their compliments seriously! "Oh you're getting so tall/pretty/clever" just didn't soak in. It seemed to me to just be small talk. Meaningless. It didn't contribute to (or hurt) my self-esteem. I think my confidence came more from acknowledgement of the things I did (like say, learning to read early) and the talents I had, not how I looked.

    Anyway. I started to notice something was "up" around age 10. (I started to have a lot of experiences I couldn't explain. Something was definitely "off," but I certainly didn't know what it was.) The poop officially began to hit the fan at age 11, with the advent of puberty. Puberty was a freakin' disaster. THAT was the period when I could have used some boosting. Remember how AWFUL puberty was? The drop in self-esteem, the anxiety about your appearance, about your new-and-different feminine status, about being accepted? Now add the miasma of racism. Suddenly my hair wasn't right. I developed kinda early, and suddenly I was getting male attention— much of which I didn't like— that was possibly more... let us say extreme, because black girls over the age of 7 are often treated as black women. (Boy, was I. Ugh.) Suddenly, I was too tall and "big"— meaning, not feminine enough. (Definitely connected to my blackness, in retrospect.). And I was left to figure things out with Seventeen magazine (aka: White Beauty Standards Monthly). Things could have gone... a lot better.

    I didn't even begin to recover (?) until I was about 20.
    And— and this is the important part— I didn't begin to realize why it had been so hard until I was about 30. While I was going through it, I didn't realize that my race was affecting these things (feeling too "big" and so on). For me, with the way my mind works, it would have really helped to know that I wasn't simply handling puberty poorly. That there was a reason I felt so unacceptable. I think sometimes people don't want to acknowledge racism to kids, because they don't want to turn them into Angry Black People too soon. Or, they don't want to be responsible for turning them into ABPs. They figure if it's not addressed, the kids won't notice or be affected by it. NOPE. I fear this is what your friend the father might be doing. Feel free to pass this BWs assessment on to him.

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  99. @olderwoman,

    After you read those links pointed out to you, I wonder if you could take a step back, to re-read the original post and wonder how your question fits in with it or not. Might be quite a cool exercise for you to partake in

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  100. @ karinova:

    I just wanted to phone in with some empathy. I already talked a little about my Black Teenage Experience here, but you said more than I did, and more explicitly, and pretty much all of it applies to me. Depressing and comforting at the same time.

    Two things stood out to me that I wanted to ask people's thoughts on:

    1) The shared experience some of us seem to have as "gifted" black children. White people have often taken this as implicit permission to differentiate me from Those Other Black People, by which I assume they mean Those Savages In The Ghetto. My being in AP-type programs and my fancy test scores often led to my being in a tiny, tiny minority -- one of two black kids in a crowd of three hundred white and Asian kids, for example. (I have often found too that white people always assume that black people know each other simply because we have being black in common, even if there is absolutely nothing else to draw us together.)

    2) You said, suddenly I was getting male attention— much of which I didn't like— that was possibly more... let us say extreme, because black girls over the age of 7 are often treated as black women.

    This happened to me, too. I'd be walking around the city in jeans and a tank top at age ten, having grown men of all races catcalling at me on the street. It was really, really frightening, especially because men like that would get hostile when I ignored them, and would sometimes even follow me for a while. Even here I find myself wanting to explain further, as though it could have been my fault that other people treated me that way.

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  101. @ soul, yes exactly, I take the point. And Zara, yes even more so. And I really, really, really am not trying to hijack this thread. I don't expect this to be about me.

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  102. First, I am mortified about posturing, entirely accept the rebuke, and will "go back to school" on my own time. I also understand what was wrong about my question. I apologize to all of you.

    The thread has gone in a direction of experiences with sexuality and being gifted. What I'm thinking (as a relatively unattractive WW) is that there are some kind of universal themes about being sexualized or desexualized that get another whole layer of pain when tangled up with racism.

    I do have two questions that link back to the original "strong Black woman" theme and some of thesciencegirl's comments. If you don't want to cycle back just ignore.
    (1) Being strong and competent seems like a positive to me, at the same time it get connected for BW to your feelings not counting, being expected to just take things. Do you take pleasure in the positive aspects of strength, or is it all negative in your experience?
    (2) Prompted by thesciencegirl's comments and experiences with BW (as well as BM and WW and WM) students, I wonder about experiences people have in keeping self-esteem and assessing/calibrating your own competence in the face of the dual problems of condescending praise and a racist academic culture. I was trying to get at this in my badly-done question, thinking about people who are objectively quite good but still tied up in knots about their ability.

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  103. Zara and Karinova, yes, yes, yes on the gifted black kids thing. My experience in elementary through high school (and heck, college and med school too) was of being the only or one of 2 kids of black heritage in honors or AP classes or talented and gifted programs. And WP people often treated me as an exception to their ideas about what black people are like ("you're different." "you're not really black." "you're an oreo."). People are so ingrained with the idea that intelligence and academic giftedness is not part of blackness, and it's not just white people that buy into it. Just yesterday, I had an asian male acquaintance (I think he's from Japan originally) ask me about my race, and when I explained that I was black and Italian-American, he kept saying, "are you sure you're not part Indian or Pakistani or something?" After my repeated denials, he finally said, "Oh, I just always thought you were Indian because you're so smart. Indians are really smart, you know?" (the subtext being that black people aren't?). I was surprised to hear an Asian male espouse this view, but I've heard stuff like this before (though usually not so blatantly).

    And there are always people who assume that my presence amongst other highly gifted people indicates that I don't really belong there (you know, they assume I'm an affirmative action case, not knowing my credentials).


    Oh, and Zara, it's worse than just assuming the black kids know each other; it's also being called by each others' names. I have been known to snidely respond to repeated errors in identifying me with "No, I'm the OTHER black girl."

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  104. 1) The shared experience some of us seem to have as "gifted" black children. White people have often taken this as implicit permission to differentiate me from Those Other Black People, by which I assume they mean Those Savages In The Ghetto. My being in AP-type programs and my fancy test scores often led to my being in a tiny, tiny minority -- one of two black kids in a crowd of three hundred white and Asian kids, for example.

    I get that treatment too - until I say something that shatters that illusion. In fact, it seems that a Black woman who can put together a sentence in Standard English that correctly uses 4+ syllable words seems "safe" until she reveals that she isn't. Then she's treated even worse than "ghetto" women because something about us comes off as more threatening.

    I was very, very fortunate to have had educators take note of my potential and get involved at a very crucial stage (9th grade). I not longer think it's an accident that they were Black (The first was my NJROTC instructor, and the other was the woman heading up the International Baccalaureate Program.).

    I was also very fortunate to go to an HBCU for my degree. It was very beneficial to experience the fact that smart Black person is not an oxymoron. Yet even in this environment, there was a persistent expectation for Black people - particularly Black women - to "stay strong" regardless of what's happening with us internally.

    Does anyone notice a difference in their experiences in an environment filled with diverse Black people - or even one that is predominantly POCs?

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  105. Do you take pleasure in the positive aspects of strength, or is it all negative in your experience?

    For me, it's one thing to show physical, intellectual, psychological, and/or moral strength based on your own nature, values, and motives. It's another thing to be expected to display it all the time as a matter of course. I don't always want to be exceptional just to be viewed and treated as average. I don't want the weight of greater expectations in every choice I make.

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  106. olderwoman, to speak to you second question:

    I'm in a really competitive joint graduate program. I have discussed with classmates a common feeling (esp., I think, among the women) that we don't really belong here and that everyone else is smarter than us, and we always sort of feel that we've pulled the wool over the school's eyes and aren't really as awesome as they think. From talking to older students, I know that this is a common feeling for people early in their training, and I'm sure we'll all turn out fine. But I'm also aware that there are racist people (peers, TAs, faculty members, etc) who genuinely don't expect me to excel, or are waiting for me to fail. So, along with my very natural feeling of nerves and worry about succeeding, I also have that do-twice-as-well-as-everyone-else thing and so I am careful about who I whine to about how mediocre I am (knowing I'm really not) because I don't want to feed their low expectations of me. And coming back full-circle to the post, I basically hide my vulnerability behind a facade of strength.

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  107. I wonder about experiences people have in keeping self-esteem and assessing/calibrating your own competence in the face of the dual problems of condescending praise and a racist academic culture.

    Frankly, confidence and self-esteem are things I've always had to work toward because they were taken from me very early.

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  108. And coming back full-circle to the post, I basically hide my vulnerability behind a facade of strength.

    And this, Well-Meaning White people, is why the Strong Black Woman stereotype is a problem.

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  109. @Zara,
    Oh, ya. Your comment is what made me write mine, because it's startling to me to be seeing all these gifted-girl BW! [My HS was all-gifted and took kids from the entire city, and I think there were 5 or 6 other black girls in my entire graduating class... and I wasn't close with any of them. (Most were quite hostile.)] I was thinking, "Dude, that's how I was! I don't think compliments, per se, would have helped." And then I thought, "well, is that a black-girl thing? or a smart-girl-who-happens-to-be-black thing?"

    That is, I had that same pattern, but I was a pretty cerebral kid; I thought about the "meta" side of things. So— possibly because I was gifted and thinky— I totally understood that puberty and that whole teenage period was supposed to be fraught. Teen Angst was normal, to be expected. So the problem (in my mind) was not that I felt unpretty and insecure and whatnot, it was that I wasn't handling it well for some reason. Like, I seemed to do an inordinate amount of just pure, confused crying. What was wrong with me? Thus— perhaps unlike a "regular" black girl*— I don't think compliments would have helped.

    Not to say that I didn't care about looking pretty, etc.! I most certainly did. I did want boys— everyone— to think I was pretty. It's just that my struggle with prettiness seemed to have another undefinable dimension I wasn't handling properly. I didn't think to reach out for help with my "normal" angsty struggle beyond the "usual" things like (white-oriented) teen beauty mags and my friends, who were also angsty and adrift. A specific example: to this day, I don't know how to use eyeshadow. My mom is very light, so the Cosmo beauty tips worked for her (and for my white friends at slumber parties and so on, which is how girls learn). I could see that my results didn't look right, but smart as I was (maybe because of it) I never thought to ask say, a darker aunt to help me out, because I didn't recognize that that was the problem, and not my technique. I figured I just needed to practice more, so I didn't even think to "bother" my mom with it.** But unlike everything else I practiced at, I never got better, which caused deep anxiety and confusion.

    What do you think? Sounds like you didn't want (need) compliments on your appearance either. Black thing, or gifted thing?

    ______________
    *I'm astonished to suddenly realize I just did not know any "regular" black girls my age once I entered the gifted program at 7. Not even in my own extended family. So I have no idea what the typical li'l black girl thinks.

    **Shades of SBW!! Was I unconsciously applying it to myself?

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  110. Zara, ah yes, gifted programs! I think they confounded many issues I dealt with growing up. Yes, I got good grades. Yes, I was a member of the honor society. Yes, I had awesome test scores.

    Mix these components together and somehow you get the following recipe: She's different from the other black students, which somehow can be attributed to her light complexion, not possible genetic intelligence and/or working my ass off studying.

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  111. @ thesciencegirl,

    Oh, I've had that happen to me, too, and at first I actually couldn't figure out why this girl and I had been mistaken for each other, because, you know, we looked nothing alike, except in the way that apparently all black women look alike. This happened to me in Texas last year, and it was the first time I'd ever run into this particular sparkling symptom of racism, and I was surrounded by white people and way too embarrassed to say anything. (To which I now say -- why the hell should I have been embarrassed?) I was in a weird mood for the rest of that day, and when my (white) friends found out why, every single one of them was absolutely certain that it had nothing to do with "the black thing". ... Okay.

    @ RVCBard, you said I get that treatment too - until I say something that shatters that illusion.

    My gifted white acquaintances always seemed uniquely betrayed whenever I brought race into the conversation -- like I ought to have been "beyond" that sort of thing (postracial, perhaps?) somehow.

    But then again, they also seem betrayed in a different way when I don't conform to their expected stereotypes. For example, since I was six, despite being black and tall for my age, I have been disappointing people by absolutely sucking at basketball.

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  112. RVCBard,

    Does anyone notice a difference in their experiences in an environment filled with diverse Black people - or even one that is predominantly POCs?

    Yes and no. My elementary and high school years were hell. I was picked on for enjoying school and learning. I thought I "was better than everyone else" apparently as I received this constant reminder. I couldn't wait to actually graduate and surround myself with those that enjoyed learning as much as I did.

    However, I attended a HBCU and then transferred during my senior year. At the HBCU I attended I noticed the dichotomy of the environment and noticed students who enjoyed learning. Yet, the students that actually enjoyed learning were fewer in number than I expected. The focus, unfortunately, was on socialization.

    I had to come to the realization that I could not expect support in an all-POC environment either.

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  113. @ Zara

    >> "...as though it could have been my fault that other people treated me that way."

    Not that you need me of all people to tell you this, but...it was not and *could* not have been your fault.

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  114. My gifted white acquaintances always seemed uniquely betrayed whenever I brought race into the conversation -- like I ought to have been "beyond" that sort of thing (postracial, perhaps?) somehow.

    Without psychoanalyzing the people I've met, I often got the impression that the sense of betrayal - particularly coming from Well-Meaning White Liberals, and especially those who are activists of some sort - came from my being "ungrateful." Almost like, "I did so much* for you and this is how you treat me?"

    *By the way, "so much" almost never includes anything that demands much of them. At most, "so much" is a minor inconvenience.

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  115. @RVCBard:
    Curious. Are you moderating this thread? If so, 1) thanks! awesomeshowgreatjob!; and 2) are you having to bounce very many comments? That is, are the kinds of problematic comments from the Teflon thread still coming?

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  116. I'm still at the helm. I've only bounced a couple of comments.

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  117. @ karinova,

    To everything you are saying -- YES. (I apologize in advance for how long this is.)

    It's just that my struggle with prettiness seemed to have another undefinable dimension I wasn't handling properly. Oh my God. Yes. The "undefinable" part was probably the worst, because I spent years refusing to count race as a factor in my interactions with people -- I didn't want to "play the race card" or further differentiate myself from my mom (who is white, and who I now know would not have taken it personally) or my peers (mostly white). And when I did think maybe race had something to do with what was going on, there was always someone there to tell me I was paranoid or completely delusional.

    The whole concept of being "bigger" than other girls is one I am intimately familiar with. I know, too, the godforsaken makeup struggle. There was a big babydoll/pastels/bellyshirts trend going around when I was twelve and thirteen that really just made me look ridiculous, but I didn't know what else to do.

    I did ask my mom for help -- mainly with my hair. She brought me to all the right hair salons (the white woman and her mixed daughter in the black beauty shop got some sideways looks) when I decided at eleven that I would NEVER AGAIN go natural. I tried braid extensions of all lengths and thicknesses, and then moved on to relaxing and straightening when my hair was long enough, but I had no idea to do with my hair in the weeks between salon visits. I still don't, really. (After trying an afro again, I am now experimenting with locking my hair.) I am at my least-stressed about my hair when it is all shaved off. Maybe next summer?

    We talked about this some in the adamantium/teflon thread, but the hardest part of being a smart adolescent black girl among white people was my complete invisibility to boys. White men (especially white boys, before they grow up and form opinions of their own) just did not register me on their radar. (Neither do gay or bisexual white women.) And when I went to a more integrated high school, the black boys thought I thought I was "too good" for them. (Seriously? I was fifteen/sixteen and lonely. I didn't think I was "too good" for anybody.)

    What do you think? Sounds like you didn't want (need) compliments on your appearance either. Black thing, or gifted thing?

    I think what I needed was just to be seen. As a smart child, I totally did not care what I looked like or what I wore or what people thought of how I looked. Then puberty hit.

    At the risk of sounding conceited, there were occasions during my teenage years where I was really, really pretty (at the time I doubted it because NOBODY SAW ME, but I'll look back at pictures now and go, huh). I just wish that I hadn't been ignored in favor of all these blondes and brunettes and redheads who could wear pastels and talk in Valley Girl accents.

    There were plenty of white boys who appreciated how smart I was and thought I was a great friend and flirted with me for kicks. And there were a handful of black guys who thought I had a nice rack (even though my butt was too small) but that I was kind of uppity. Either way, a fundamental part of who I was, was a problem, which is ridiculous.

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  118. @ RVCBard, you said, Without psychoanalyzing the people I've met, I often got the impression that the sense of betrayal - particularly coming from Well-Meaning White Liberals, and especially those who are activists of some sort - came from my being "ungrateful." Almost like, "I did so much* for you and this is how you treat me?"

    Yep. The "so much", I think, is their being open-minded enough to be friends with a black woman in the first place. "I give you the benefit of the doubt but it turns out you're just like the rest of them!"

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  119. Hi everyone :( I'm a first time poster but a long time lurker. I'm an 18 year old senior at an *says dryly* elite New England boarding school. All that you women have been saying has hit me so deeply that when I first came upon the Teflon post and comments I started to cry. Sorry if this post ends up longer than I feel is mannered but I really need to vent and I see you women as almost like aunties at this point due to your age and experiences.

    I'm Jamaican/raised in NYC and have always been in a gifted-type program ever since I started school. I never really noticed racism personally since my school was mostly black/Latino but I understand honeybrown's point of POC trying to put you down for your accomplishments. However, even that didn't really affect me since it happened outside my gifted class and I still had the support of kids in my class so that was enough validation for me to get through it.

    I got into a reknown summer prep program and they helped me get into "Y" boarding school. That's when it all went to hell, ladies. I came in as the *only* black girl which was a culture shock in itself since I had only ever been in a significantly black environment. I came in bright eyed, soft-spoken but not quite shy, slightly naiive but able to read people very well and I've always been considered very mature for my age. Cut to me now 4 years later and I've become quite depressed, cynical of most people at this school, frustrated with being subtly shunned in many ways (money, race, gender, experiences, privilege etc.) and I'm looking sooo much to graduation. The thing is though, I'm usually a very lively person and when I go back home on vacation find it immensely easier to talk to people, love life etc. But when I'm here it's as if a miasma of pain holds me back. And this has hurt me in terms of my grades, leadership etc. which I'm praying doesn't stop me from getting into the college of my choice...

    But anyway to get on topic, I'll list all the ways over the years that I've been expected to be a strong black woman and how my pain has been marginalized and ignored, despite my age.

    [cont.]

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  120. Zara, you said:

    "... the hardest part of being a smart adolescent black girl among white people was my complete invisibility to boys. White men (especially white boys, before they grow up and form opinions of their own) just did not register me on their radar. (Neither do gay or bisexual white women.) And when I went to a more integrated high school, the black boys thought I thought I was "too good" for them. (Seriously? I was fifteen/sixteen and lonely. I didn't think I was "too good" for anybody.)"

    and

    "There were plenty of white boys who appreciated how smart I was and thought I was a great friend and flirted with me for kicks. And there were a handful of black guys who thought I had a nice rack (even though my butt was too small) but that I was kind of uppity. Either way, a fundamental part of who I was, was a problem, which is ridiculous."

    SO MUCH THIS. I didn't date at all in high school; it was a very white and very (openly) racist area. Then, I went to a women's college. And post-college, well, I've found that these issues continue to be a problem for me in my mid-20s. In my daily life, I am mostly around white and asian men, to whom I remain invisible for purposes other than friendship or aimless flirting. On the flip side, I get more attention from black men, but it is always in response to my physical appearance, and it always seems as though my actual personality is a deterrent for them. I am too "intimidating" or "intellectual" or my tastes are "too white" or whatever. I feel like I'm an attractive person in both physical and non-physical ways, but I don't seem to be anyone's actual type. I have a lot going for me, and I would say that I'm objectively pretty, and yet... I've had exactly 1 date in the last 2.5 years. I think there's a lot more to that than some deficiency of mine (I have tons of friends, so my personality doesn't suck), and quite a bit of it is about race.

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  121. @macon, you said: I'm still at the helm.

    Interesting choice of words.

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  122. I've been reading along, getting ready to comment--then someone says something I would've said anyway. But I do want to be a part of the "gifted Black women" discussion.

    I wasn't the only Black kid in the gifted classes when I was younger (not by a long shot, since I went to a predominantly Black middle school, then a moderately diverse high school), which benefitted me (that's probably not the right word as I get ready to finish the sentence) in that I didn't hear the "not really Black" comments from White people until college. Now, don't you all know I'm the poster child for Affirmative Action? Those cards you send in the mail that read "'send your poor, your tired, your huddled Blacks' to this elite school" have my picture on them. :-/

    The worst part is having that message disseminated by other Black students, even at an elite school. I'm good at not caring what White people think, but it hurts to see other Black students internalize that message and encourage people to not reach their full potential because that's not what "we" do.

    At the very least, I hope those reading this thread have realized 1) that not all Black women are the same and 2) that we don't need/aren't asking for your pity.

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  123. Karen L, I flinched when I read your comment. I just mean that I'm doing the moderating, sorry for the bad choice of metaphor. I offered the job to RVCBard (as I will offer it to all guest posters from now on), but didn't receive a reply, so I've been doing it.

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  124. @Zara and Karinova

    Thank you for your replies, I think they will be very useful in my future interactions with her. I think so too, that her dad is trying to protect her from learning about racism too early, especially that she is very, very shy and delicate. He says he doesn't want to shove anything down her throat (like Black dolls or even Black role-models), although I don't think it's about shoving, more about putting things in a light that would be appealing to her. But, hey, I have no kids, nor do I have any other friends with kids, so it's easy for me to say do this and do that. I have no idea what I would do in his place, if I had to choose between preserving my child's oblivious innocence and toughening them up for life at such a young age. She goes to a school with many Black children, so maybe her identity will crystalize in a healthier way by the time she becomes a teenager.

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  125. I wonder about experiences people have in keeping self-esteem and assessing/calibrating your own competence in the face of the dual problems of condescending praise and a racist academic culture.

    I was always confident about my academic abilities. I think because I had different standards. I didn't judge myself by my grades. Instead, think I was very good at assessing the other students. I could (somehow?) tell who "got it" and how hard they'd had to work, and I compared myself to that. I almost always got it, and compared to them, it seemed I was consistently working less (before I got into the programs) or a "medium" amount (once I was in). Not too hard, not too easy. It might have helped that I vaguely knew that when we'd come to the States, my (equally smart) older brother had very nearly ended up being put back a grade in school. Apparently they'd casually "figured" that his Jamaican education equated to an American grade level one year behind the norm for his age;* our mom blew a gasket, and he ended up in the right grade— and later, elite programs as well (So there!) So I kind of didn't fully trust the grades anyway, from a very young age: "t-h-e-a-t-r-e is not incorrect!" thought a silently fuming 6-year-old me. I knew I was right. I'd read that word a million times.

    So yeah. I never really pegged my self-esteem to academics.
    I was chewed up by the social sphere.


    ________
    *That's RACIST!

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  126. karinova, in middle school, I was arbitrarily moved to lower level classes and had to fight for the opportunity to test my way out (I was dying of boredom). I finally earned my way back into honors classes. I'll never forget that my first day back in honors classes, I was in science, and one of the white kids (everyone else in the class was white) looked at me, turned to everyone else and said, "so what do you all think about black people?" and then then went on to discuss black people. Sorry -- that's off topic, but the memory just smacked me in the face. My dad was an army brat and when he transferred to a new high school in my home state, he also had to fight to get out of remedial classes, despite being demonstrably brilliant. I can only imagine how the added level of being from a Caribbean country in your brother's case made things more difficult.

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  127. My goodness! Is this gifted thing worth its own post?!
    "Stuff White People Do: Find Themselves Unable to Comprehend Gifted Black People"

    And probably some other groups, too, for that matter. And on the flip side, I'm suddenly having a horrible thought: might gifted Asians in particular go unnoticed as gifted? *heart sinks*
    Sigh.
    *fires up the Google machine*

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  128. - The first week I came to the school I was in an after-class research group with 2 white boys and a Latina. As we were getting to know each other the other girl and I realized that we both came from the Bronx and we were starting to bond over the common origin. One of the guys butted in with "Oh, so do you guys usually hear gunshots and shit?", which I thought was very rude in itself but I'm not really quick to anger and calmly said that I live in a pretty nice neighborhood and I've never seen a gun, least of all heard a gunshot before. The Latina mirrored my response. That didn't seem to placate them though and they proceeded to make guns with their fingers and say really ignorant stuff until the Latina cried and ran away, to which they called after her and told her to stop being so "sensitive". I gave them an angry look and told them to stop being so ignorant and stupid and walked off. All they did was seem amused by my response...

    - When I voice my opinion in a group (when a teacher isn't present) people tend to ignore what I say but commonly 5-10 min later someone will say the exact same thing and they'll say that was a really good idea. Seriously, those times I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone and I was just invisible.

    - My school has an adviser system (a mentor who lives in the dorm and looks after 4-6 girls). My freshman year I was telling my adviser about my troubles with getting guy friends/a boyfriend and she said "Maybe you're just too... exotic for them". I remember wanting to cry when she said that but didn't understand why at the time because she said it as if it was suppose to be a compliment. My adviser the next year (different), had a penchant for American Girl dolls and when our group would eat together they would all talk about their love for them and I would feel ignored because they were very expensive and the only doll that looked like me was Addy (the slave). The whole entire year I probably said only a few words, and my adviser thought I had mental issues because I was often sad.

    - These "mental issues" landed me in the psychiatrist's office a couple times over my 3 years by different teachers. All these white women ever wanted to do was label me depressed despite me telling me about my problems with racism (and other isms) and how I was very happy when I was at home (I don't think they believed me). They just wanted to give me pills for my "emotional imbalance" and call it a day. I refused many times and my dad got so mad that they kept doing this that after he explicitly stated to the school that he didn't want me getting anymore of their "help".

    - This is probably a hint to what school I'm at but a few years ago we got a mail scare where all the black students received death threats in the PO boxes. They had our school directory pictures on it, a target and said something like "bang bang, you're dead". That was bad enough in itself but what really made me sad was the reaction (or lack thereof) by my white peers. Most would either refuse to look me in the eye as I walked around campus(perhaps out of some twisted guilt?) or else spoke to me in a condescending manner as if I was a baby that needed coddling. Add that to the fact that most people said things like "Oh, it was just a prank" or "Don't sweat it, nothing's going to happen", and I would walk around the school in near paranoia of the white faces around me. I wasn't afraid of death in the sense of the threat, I was scared by those who I was suppose to trust and like...
    [cont.]

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  129. All in all, I think I would have been much better off going to a school in NYC. Though it wouldn't have had quite the resources of this school I wouldn't have nearly as many doubts about myself, a lowered self-esteem, such deep cynicism. I used to hate being black but I've worked that but and I'm proud as hell of my background but I just need to post this because I feel like no one has been able to make sense of all these experiences for me... No one understands and the people I love the most are far away from me most of the year. My friends tell me to buck up and try and get out and meet new people but now I just stay more to myself and rarely talk just because of my past. I don't trust people at this school anymore, from the students to the teachers. I'm just holding out until graduation... I suppose I'm posting here because I just need, some validation that I'm not paranoid. That I'm not being irrational for being so hurt and having it be hard for me to live and be as free and social as everyone else at this school is... To not feel as if all of this is my fault or doing.

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  130. @thesciencegirl,
    OMG. I won't ask how you felt at that moment (unless you wanna say), but: what were the impacts of the science class episode, if any? Like say... if you told anyone about it, were they supportive, or were you poo-poohed? Did it affect your experience in that class for the rest of the semester re: the other students, or the teacher (was zie there?!)— or did everyone just studiously "forget" about it? (And leave you to sort out your feelings on your own? For the rest of the freaking semester.)

    Also: getting kinda pissed here at the idea of generations of bright black students being jerked around. Gee, I wonder why all doze lazy black folk haven't made more of themselves. After all we've done for them.


    @ any white commenters:
    What would you have said, had you been a student in thesciencegirl's class that day? What do you think that guy was after? What was his deal?

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  131. karinova, I honestly don't remember any of the responses he got, how I reacted (I think I turned red and sat there in shock), or how long it took the other kids to speak TO me instead of ABOUT me. I do know that I got a lot of bullying from some of the white guys in my class that continued throughout middle school, and that a lot of it was race-based, and that it happened DURING classes, but somehow never in the teacher's hearing. I think that particular incident was so awful that I just kinda blocked it, to be honest.

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  132. @ Karua,

    You are not imagining things, and you have every right to feel the way you do. I'm glad you're reading and posting here. I can empathize with the everyday bullshit you have to put up with, but I can't imagine anonymous threats like the ones you describe. I'm infuriated but not surprised at your white peers' inability/refusal to offer you meaningful support. I think it's pretty brave of you to keep going to that school, and to stand up to your guidance counselors when you can. And I admire your self-awareness in recognizing racism in the people around you, because I did not want to go there at all when I was in high school. It felt like cheating or making excuses, but now (four years too late) I know it's not.

    I was at an elite NYC private school during my junior high years, and those were some of the loneliest, most stifling years of my life. Both race and class get in the way at places like that -- you're kind of left with a mark on your soul, you know? The entirety of my first year there, I didn't have a single friend. It was actually my mom who made me get the hell out of there for high school -- she reasoned that the slight hit my education might take was worth the boost my self-esteem would get from being in a more diverse high school.

    Keep searching out people who know what they're talking about, and reading and posting here as long as this blog can give you what you need. I'm glad you've come across this corner of the Internet.

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  133. @karinova re thesciencegirl (and all the other awful stories), I guess I'm up. I'm not going to defend the white people, because they were all jerks. Whether they were generic jerks or only racist jerks is harder to guess, but I'll vote generic jerks. It happens that I was teased and harassed as a child -- I had "cooties" and the other children overtly mocked me relentlessly for four years. At one point boys threw rocks at me. My children were also teased and harassed in early school grades (my daughter in all grades). My children are now adults, and my childhood was the 1950s and 1960s, so it's been a while but the wounds are still there. I'm not trying to get pity points, just saying what my background is and why it is totally believeable to me that people get harassed. What's different about me and my kids is that we had White privilege to fall back on, so the personal harassment (which was very wounding) was countered by a lot of other messages, and I am in no way saying that my experiences are comparable to the ones gifted BW are writing about. In particular, my claim to being one of the smartest kids in the school was not challenged by anyone, even as they thought that I was unattractive, unfeminine and a social incompetent. (In high school, I was successful and weird, not harassed like grade school.) But my experience does lead to my belief that overt racial harassers probably harass other people. (This is different from unconscious racism which is also real.)

    So, now the hard question, what would I do or have done? I'd like to say: speak up and stand up for the victim. I'd sure like to believe I'd have the strength of character to do it now. I know my experiences as a child contributed to my concern for justice. But would I have had the courage to stand up when I was young? Let me put it this way. I've spent some time trying to encourage my children and other children to think about intervening when they see someone else being teased. The children say they are afraid to, that if they say anything, they'll get picked on next. The one white kid my children told me about standing up for a disabled kid who was being teased was a popular kid, a gifted athlete. He got teased for standing up, but I'm guessing his popularity made him feel strong enough to brush it off. Or maybe he just had better parents.

    I talked my daughter once into trying to advocate that the White-dominated school newspaper invite columns from the various minority student clubs, and she reported an incredibly racist and mocking response from the other White students, mostly mocking the ESL students. And yes, my kids reported racial teasing on the playgrounds, too, out of earshot of the teachers. Significantly, I think, the school that told my White children that being teased was their own problem and they should deal with it had a very bad reputation among POC in our city. The school that had a blanket "no personal remarks" school did better.

    Um, I've kind of run off topic. I'll post and then see if there's more to say back on topic.

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  134. @Karua
    [Dang, you may be asleep by now. I was waiting to see the rest of your comment, but it's not coming up. So for now, I'm responding to the 1st part.]

    Oooh, I feel you. Especially the "subtle shunning" part, as I went to school with mostly wealthy white kids from 9th grade through high school. Quite a few were just plain RICH. Good god, they have a million ways to screen you out. (Ain't it a bitch when they have absolutely no class, but still think they're "better" than you?) And as I've written (all over this thread!), I totally get the "miasma of pain." That indefinable thing that kind of chokes you down. Well, please know: it ain't you. So many of us have felt it.


    When you say you're more relaxed on vacation at home, you mean New York, right? D'you think that's because it's more racially diverse there? Or might it be the psychological support of (presumably) just being around people you know, who know, love and accept you (family, old friends), and in a place that's familiar to you, that you "own"?

    Because I live far from the place I consider "home" (New York also!), in a mostly white town, and I feel waaay out of sorts here. I've been here over 10 years— and it's getting worse instead of better. I can't get used to being here; I feel very alone. I have few friends here. (I did at first, but I let them go.) And while I don't know a single person in NYC anymore, but I still take vacations there when I can afford it., and I HEART it. Just being there feels so good. One of the few times I've ever cried for joy was one the subway the first time I went back, from just hearing all the different languages being spoken. Even after 10+ years here and an all-but marriage, I feel this place is temporary. (Interestingly, my (white) guy loves the idea of New York, but HATES actually being there. And he cannot handle the subway. Hmm...) Lucky for me, I have a nearby city (90 minute drive) that's very New Yorky. It does the job. Believe it or not, just seeing brown faces helps.* Maybe there's one near your school?


    _____
    *Note to nonPOC observers: never seeing other POC is not easy to bear. (Imagine being stranded on a desert island.) Just one more thing that takes "strength." And sometimes it's hard to dredge up.

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  135. I was not deemed gifted or that undiscovered Will Hunting, but I remember being bored in school from a young age. In High school, I often did my own research projects and read my own books during class (Shakespeare, Kant, Freud, etc)—but I was in an all white school—there was only 2% blacks in my whole High school. Of course, I was intimidated by the smart kids (by some miracle I was able to take a couple of AP classes) and they were all academically geared to get into the best schools, so in truth I didn’t feel that I hold my own, (even though I was submitting quality work in the AP classes), they just seemed to have so much more practice and support then I did. It was only now that I realized that my middle and early high school education was vastly subpar to the high school I was transferred to during my sophomore year. I struggled with math and logic and never acquired the foundation necessary--is an example of some milesstones that I missed. They had a lot more resources, smaller classrooms, etc that my other school didn’t have, but this realization now is cold comfort to what I was dealing with back then.

    And even though I went to a school that was solidly middle class, prior to the transfer (to a new state out west no less) I was living in a working class neighborhood that was pretty much all Black (all the white people were gone and moved to the suburbs)—so moving to an all white enclave was a real shocker. I remember having White pride flyers pasted on my locker and having the word N*gger casually tossed out to me as I was walking home from school. I lived in a house where Jazz played and there was African art on the walls but I was totally unprepared on how to deal with racism.

    I also liked certain guys in school but I was rendered completely and utterly invisible. It was a horrible feeling and even now I am largely critical of my physical appearance and still feel the sting of not being seen as attractive and thus once again invisible. Even after I graduated from High School I continued to have doubts about my intelligence, due to some negative experiences when I served in the military and out. Although I got my degrees through grit and hard work—I still doubt my intelligence, my social currency and ability to feel comfortable around White people. Kind of like—social and body dysmorphia. It’s a vicious cycle of not being able to let one’s guard down and just being and not caring about that judgment.

    I would like to conclude that I don’t consider this a pity party, many posters experiences trigged something in me and why I find it hard to build up real self esteem and worth and not having to put on this impenetrable pose in order to stay sane. I think it is very hard to build a real foundation (especially if that kind of resiliency against racism is not innate) of worth when you never learned how to create the tools necessary to combat the normal angst of growing into your own, as well as the virulent form of racism that pretty much poisons everything.

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  136. more on karinova's question: What was he after? I'm guessing/assuming making himself look good by picking on someone else using any weapon at hand. He might have had a particularly focused racial motivation, and he certainly drew on racial stereotypes for his meanness, and might have had an intentional goal of preserving racial boundaries. The school and teachers also get their share of the blame for creating the situation by pulling sciencegirl out of the class in the first place, and setting her up as a target, and that part was inexcusable.

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  137. @Karua:
    Oh shit, "mental issues" and "emotional imbalance."
    "Diagnosed" by impassive white female counselors (who may then send you to psychiatrists).
    This... is getting creepy. I've fallen into some kind of bizarre Mirror World, where there are 17 of me. As Zara said, "depressing and comforting at the same time."

    No shit I was depressed. However, the problem was not a lack of whatever-random-pillz-will-get-you-out-of-my-office. I swear I overheard the word "lithium" one time. I was 11. Thank god my mom had zero patience for any it. And thank god I got out of that school. None too soon, as I still bear the scars. Big time. That single school year threw my entire life onto a different track.

    And oh shit to that mail scare! WTF?! And that reaction from the other students (and teachers?)... that's exactly what's wrong with how white people deal with this crap. Nobody just addresses the damn elephant in the room. Just a prank? Can you imagine if that had happened to white kids in some all-white school? That shit'd be all over the news with Nancy Grace screaming "oh won't somebody think of the children???" and cable news choppers hovering over the school.

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  138. @WHITE COMMENTERS:
    Random thought. It just occurred to me that I have a stock phrase—a stock thought, really— that I use a lot. Note that I only know white people (except for my family), so I'm using this phrase with white people. A lot. The phrase is: "I'm not even angry." Say I'm approaching someone to (for lack of a better word; I'm tired) correct their behavior. I'll be making my case, and somewhere in the middle of it, I'll insert "I'm not even angry! It's just that..." [[Perhaps some other BW here have similar phrases? Maybe "I'm not yelling at you," or something like that?]]

    I'm thinking I might actually be angry.
    I have some thinking to do; I won't do it here. But it occurs to me that you may be hearing blow-softening phrases like this, and maybe that's something you can think about too. Are those women angry? Maybe they should be? Consider it. And— I'm loath to give actual concrete advice here, but— maybe you can (in some situationally sensitive way) let them know that, okay, that's cool, but if they are angry, you'd like them to let you know. They might need a minute to think it over.

    Next time you hear a "emotional discounting" phrase from a BW ("I'm not upset, I just..."), stop and think about it. That seems ally-like. Just a li'l something that might shrink the gap between being a "well-intentioned" and "well-acting" WP just a bit more...? I dunno. Just a thought. [[Please weigh in, other BW.]]

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  139. @thesciencegirl,
    Word on sitting there in shock. I've done a lot of that. Talk about feeling betrayed. Ditto for Karua's stories. It's like, "Wow. Seriously? Thanks, guys. Can't trust anybody, can you?" And of course, yes on blocking it out. You can't carry that around. So you end up blocking it out so well that it's a shock every. fucking. time.

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  140. @ karinova, and everyone:

    This was middle school, so I'll go with, before I read White Women's Christ and Black Women's Jesus. ^_^

    1. I would have said, "Why does it matter?" Or maybe "Don't say that."
    2. I would have said it tentatively.
    3. I would have made a Special Effort to be nice to her/you the rest of the year.

    What was his deal?

    WP don't like to talk about race. He was comfortable doing so in a way that some of the answers would OBVIOUSLY hurt her/you. That speaks for itself.

    thesciencegirl, was it cool to be "controversial" at your MS? If no, his goal was probably to disrupt the class.** If yes, he was probably trying to look cool. Middle school: Embarrassing someone=>social credibility. (Maybe more true with girls?) Also, was he "popular"? If so, the class's subsequent reaction supports this theory.

    And @ everyone, I can't understand, but...I'm listening.

    ** (side note: OMG, can you imagine if Young Willow had been there and said "Why does it matter?")

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  141. Oh, thesciencegirl. Wow, I'm not sure how I would've handled that either. I remember often being the only black girl in the room during February.

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  142. A few years back, I was through quite a traumatizing experience. I live and study in northen Sweden. Used to being the only black person, let alone woman. A teacher, who I had had a heated discussion with and who was known to be really "nice" completely humiliated me, yelled at me in a period spanning over 3 hours. What was so hurtful, was that he was known to be "nice".

    Later he "appologized" by saying "things went a bit harsh. I thought you were tough, but you are just like the rest of us". This puzzled me and was even more traumatizing than the actual intial rudeness. A while after that I was in the library, looking through bell hooks "Aint I woman" were she wrote about this phenomena. I immedatly borrowed the book. I never knew there were others with MY experience, I assumed all of this was in my head (having nobody to discuss with). Now I'm sort of in extacy, knowing how many brilliant thinkers (like the one who wrote this post I'm commenting on) and that I a just scratching the surface.

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  143. Zara said...
    Do you think that the Strong Black Woman stereotype contributes to the image of black women as somehow sexless? Is this a modern version of that tired old Mammy stereotype?”

    http://wiki.smashits.com/wikipedia/Racial_slurs
    In recent times the female term Negress has been used satirically to refer to the recent prevalence of formulaic tokenism in US-made TV dramas. For example: "Every cop show needs one Blond woman who is not dumb, one Negress-with-issues, one quirky but lovable lab nerd and so on..."

    Chances are if you see a black woman in a sitcom with a white cast- or a police drama with a mostly white cast you're going to see a “Negress with Issues.” (In the mainstream's view) The single, overweight "Sassy," SEXLESS character in a sitcom supporting role; she has to fit this narrow definition whites have established for her. Comedy may be a the worst offender because it allows us to make light of the stereotype without feeling guilty. White Hollywood perpetuated these stereotypes but we blacks were (and still are) complicit to a degree. Precious is a beautiful film to some but it hasn’t helped matters much in how whites see black women. For the most part Black actors needed work, and for us at home these sitcoms were the only shows on TV where most of the actors looked like us. The first one that comes to mind naturally is Beulah. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beulah

    Do you remember Mabel King as Raj's big black momma? In a supporting role you also had Shirley Wilson; the big black waitress who worked at "Rob's Place.” Nell Carter of Gimme a Break comes to mind. Then you had, Baby I’m back. With cute little Kim fields as Demond Wilson’s five-year-old daughter Angie, cared for by an overweight maternal troublesome mother-in-law Luzelle. Single black and matronly also applied to the sitcom Thea (Thea Vidale) and Good times, once the writers killed off the father James Evans Sr. Most if not all of these black female characters are based on the mammy archetype.

    Tyler Perry has gone on the perpetuate this image of big black women in matriarchal positions, both in his stage plays and his two comedies on TBS. Meet the Browns and House of Pain. It is said that Oprah’s rating go up when she was at her heaviest and fall when she is at her lightest. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/item_qsVByRonBMLfHljqm7kXIO/1

    "Her success is cast as a therapeutic victory over the extraordinary shortcomings of a difficult life." It is interesting to note that Oprah's ratings fluctuate with her weight: when she is slender, they go down; when she is heavy, they go up."

    Could white women be more attracted to Oprah’s presence and wisdom when she more matronly and mammy-ish? Concerned only about their problems while pushing her problems to the back-burner. Not speaking about or even hinting that she has a sex-life. Jovial and happy; seasoned by years of pain and frustration. Isn’t it amazing that Aunt Jemima is still selling pancakes to us every day in stores across this nation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aunt_Jemima

    The manufacture has updated her image yes with a string of pearls; but most of us know her image was adopted from slaves on the plantation. Where there weren’t a lot of intact families that raised their own children, but rather maternal aunts and uncles that raised the children. Frederick Douglass speaks of this practice in, My Bondage and My freedom.

    Its also why we don't see many sex/love scenes between black couples in movies targeted towards whites. Black directors will film such scenes for black consumption with no problem. Its why the black actress or actor usually has no sex in these movies; deferring to the white characters for that arduous task. The exception of course is between a white man and a black woman (Monster's Ball.) Necessitating a black woman of a certain physical type and shade; thin and light-skinned.

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  144. I had a diverse group of teachers, mostly white, throughout childhood and adolescence. Some were supremely dedicated to their jobs and, looking back, appeared to keep their prejudices in check; others should have been locked up for their sins against black children, and though I believe I should be past the things I witnessed, I'm not. They are hated in my memory, and I hope they're living miserable lives -- away from other innocent children. I especially remember being singled out by one, a man who taught science and math, subjects I had enjoyed until he came on the scene. I was 10, and the trauma of his tenure ran so deep that I learned nothing of value the entire year and had to catch up later. My folks didn't realize how much damage had been done until later. He wouldn't call on me or help when I needed it (and this was a small class). He taunted me when I was wrong and threw chalk at my head. As we prepared for our first science fair, an event I was excited about, he cut me off cold one day to address another white child, though I approached him first. He screamed, "You always interrupt people!" (which I hadn't) and proceeded to lecture me about "my place." Though I was late for my next class, he proceeded to take his sweet time (not) answering my questions, even after the other child left. The only other black child in our class -- a smart, gentle boy -- left our school shortly thereafter, adding to my frustration. When we reconnected in our late teens, he said his mother was fed up with our private, liberal, church-based school's languid response to this educational sadist, adding that this man had taken him aside and verbally abused him in ways that our peers hadn't experienced. The pattern was also followed where certain teachers had no problem looking the other way when their young charges made racial taunting into art form -- until they had the crap knocked out of them by their weary targets. Definitely the "you can take it" method compared with what happened when these same childen, all white boys, taunted little white girls in other ways.

    I was considered "gifted" and never had terrible grades until I entered this man's classes, which finally alarmed my parents, who promptly met with him. The sociopath lied, of course, saying that he "had no problems" with me and that I was a "delightful child." It was only after a few white volunteer parents peeped his generally boorish behavior, especially with girls and very much with little black me, did the school throw him out on his sexist cracker behind. Being a child who tried to please, I felt like I could do nothing right, that somehow this was my fault, which delayed running to tell my parents. Close to the end of that terrible year, the only "win" I had was nailing him in the crotch one day during tennis practice, when he subbed for another coach. Somehow, I escaped big trouble for that.

    As an adult, I'm often surprised so many more of us aren't stark raving mad, though I'm grateful that we're not. Merely being "tolerated" has been just as draining on my psyche as outright hatred. As a black woman, I thank all of you for having this real, raw conversation. All I can say is, I don't want or need hollow apologies. In fact, if they're offered, I might reply with expletives. All I've ever wanted was for people to force the scales off their eyes and recognize how racist behavior, unconscious and conscious, DAMAGES lives, starting with our youngest. If I didn't have a spiritual life and open mind as an adult, I would be a different person. However, none of that means I will forgive this behavior, ever, ever, NEVER. I hope some of you lurkers and commenters think about how many people like me are out there.

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  145. Cookie and others: for the record, I believe you are telling the truth. Including the truths you say about Black children getting picked on more than White, the truths about the deep wounds this inflicts in people, and all the emotion work you have to do to keep living with suppressed rage.

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  146. @olderwoman,

    "I'm not going to defend the white people, because they were all jerks. Whether they were generic jerks or only racist jerks is harder to guess, but I'll vote generic jerks."

    I didn't ask for your vote.

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  147. sciencegirl: I know you didn't ask for my vote. I was responding to Karinova, who specifically asked White readers to explain what they thought was going on in the minds of the guy, so I gave a White view. I'm not trying to diminish the racism of the experience, and I'm sorry if it sounded that way. I'm also sorry if the emotionality of my recall of my own experiences seemed to be trying to diminish or equate mine with yours, because that was also not my intent.

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  148. As a black, Jamaican woman living in the US (It's incredible the story that one statement alone holds)as well, I co-sign on ALL these stories. I've been crying this entire weekend due to the flashbacks. The clarity I have been experiencing is astounding.

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  149. karinova said:

    @any white commenters:
    "What would you have said, had you been in sciencegirl's class that day? What do you think that guy was after? What was his deal?"

    Huh? It's clear that he thought a Black child had no business being in a gifted class, and wanted to show her who's boss.
    If I had been in the class, I would have turned it back on him with my legendary bitchiness, and picked on something related to his appearance, his clothes, his family, whatever vulnerable spot he had. Saying stuff like "Don't say that, it's not nice" DOES NOT WORK in the real world. If it did, this forum wouldn't exist.
    If you say something back that is mean and catchy enough, other kids join you against him, and he backs off, because bullies are always cowards. If you have a PoC friend (doesn't even have to be a friend) exposed to such a situation, giving polite, lukewarm admonishment to the offender doesn't make much difference. It just makes you a sissy, and gives the bully two targets instead of one.

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  150. olderwoman, ok, gotcha. FYI, this kid was not a bully. We had classes together through senior year of high school (and always got along well, actually), and he was more of the class-clown type. I think, him being 12 or 13 and all, that his words were more a reflection of his family and our environment more than anything else. He wasn't one of the kids who bullied me throughout school. I have lots of examples of crazy things peers of mine did or said in the midst of them being otherwise incredibly friendly. I think that as they got to know me, they just filed me away as "not like those other black people" and somehow assumed that I wouldn't take offense.

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  151. I am completely and totally loving the way all of us diverse black women are posting.

    I just wanted to out myself real quick -- I keep having this urge to apologize to any white posters who might feel "excluded". I'm not actually sorry, because I love the sense of solidarity that's growing here, and I kind of wish we were all hanging out and getting coffee together in Real Life, because I've never had a conversation this supportive before.

    ... Which is why I wanted to call myself out on this urge, and ask if any of the other black women experience/have experienced similar feelings. There have been times in the past where I've met another black girl in a predominantly white space and the white people around us (particularly the white women) have felt discriminated against when we talked about Black Issues. Then we'd jump in with justifications, like we'd been doing something illegal -- Oh, we're so sorry! It's not that we don't like you, it's just... -- You know?

    I guess that's a heads-up to the white posters here too. First, those of you who are observers to our conversation, or who are part of it without derailing, thank you. (Let it be an illustration of how rarely people behave this way that I am grateful, because this is not something black women should have to be grateful for.)

    Second, you really don't have to reply to this, because it would be massively derailing, but maybe think about how you feel and what you do if/when black people connect to the point of excluding you in your everyday lives. I hope this conversation has helped to illustrate that when that happens, it is not about (hurting/excluding) you. Maybe the next time that happens, you can leave those black people alone, or lend your support when other white people demand to be "let in on the fun."

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  152. Zara, I didn't really have close black friends growing up. I do now, and when it's just us girls together (usually friends and my sisters), talking and joking and sharing -- whether about race, or just able to be ourselves without worrying about which stereotypes we're upholding -- it's incredibly freeing. And, yes, I've noticed confusion and resentment on the part of white folks.

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  153. karinova said, @WHITE COMMENTERS: Random thought. It just occurred to me that I have a stock phrase—a stock thought, really— that I use a lot.

    My "stock thought" when I talk race with white people -- well, I guess in my case it's a stock action -- is to apologize. Over and over and over.

    Someone (I don't know if it was on this thread or another) compared experiencing racism to being in an abusive relationship, and I think that is completely accurate. Of course there are degrees of abuse. There's having someone physically hurt you; and then there's having someone yell at you and say terrible, unforgivable things; and then there's microaggression, which I equate to being in a relationship with someone who's too "civilized" to hit you or yell, but who hates you enough to secretly want to do those things all the time. When you're in a relationship like that, you're really just waiting for the other person to get mad enough to snap and finally hit you.

    That last has been my primary experience as a black woman. I've never been called "Nigger", for which I suppose I should be relieved (but I'm waiting, and shoring up my defenses for the day when it will happen -- it will happen), but there are a million secret ways (all of which we've been discussing) to make it clear to a person that she is unwelcome, and those ways cultivate fear. I am always aware that I could lose any devotion or affection from my white friends and mentors by saying the wrong thing about race -- so when I talk race with white people, I shove excuses and apologies in there anywhere I can to make it easier for them to stomach. But here's the thing: I'M NOT SORRY. Like karinova, I think I'm pretty angry, and under other circumstances I never apologize when I haven't done anything wrong.

    So if you're white, and a black person is apologizing for something they've said, think about this: do they actually owe you an apology? Do they mean it, or have they just been taught through long experience that there will be trouble if they don't say it? What can you do to help absolve that black person of undeserved guilt for being honest?

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  154. Delurking for a moment to say thank you to for sharing your stories, and letting us observe your conversation. I...can't figure out how to say what else I'd like to say, so I'll just leave it at thank you. *WW, relurking*

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  155. Karua, this:

    "When I voice my opinion in a group (when a teacher isn't present) people tend to ignore what I say but commonly 5-10 min later someone will say the exact same thing and they'll say that was a really good idea. Seriously, those times I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone and I was just invisible."

    is waaaay too familiar. It happens to me ALL. THE DAMN. TIME. And always in nearly exclusive white company.

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  156. [agree that no responses to this should happen here but think incredibly important point/question. perhaps worthy of its own swpd post?
    "Second, you really don't have to reply to this, because it would be massively derailing, but maybe think about how you feel and what you do if/when black people connect to the point of excluding you in your everyday lives. I hope this conversation has helped to illustrate that when that happens, it is not about (hurting/excluding) you. Maybe the next time that happens, you can leave those black people alone, or lend your support when other white people demand to be "let in on the fun."]

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  157. Hey everyone! I'm reading everyone's comments and loving it , however, where are all the White people in the midst of this discussion? Come on out!

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  158. @ Lady Dani Mo

    I don't know about the other white people but I'm trying to read more and say less unless I have a legitimate question, am REALLY feeling someone's comment, like mgibson17's most recent one, or someone asks a general WP question, as karinova has done above.

    @ karinova

    "What would you have said, had you been in sciencegirl's class that day? What do you think that guy was after? What was his deal?"

    I'm "respectfully aggressive" (no hitting or cursing people out) in real life so I would have leaped at the chance to ask him exactly why he could not fathom that she is black and then the detailed questioning would have continued from there. I don't know what he was after, perhaps some confirmation of his own stereotyped ideas.

    @ mgibson17 - I really got into your explication of sitcoms and the Mammy roles. I posted this somewhere else but the comment was huge: The nanny on Hannah Montana is also a Mammy/Negress With Issues role. How's that for getting people to view black women stereotypically before they've even had the breast milk wiped from their chins?

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  159. just want to say I can identify with pretty much every story told here.as yet I am uncomfortable sharing but I have been through most of these over and over again.

    Thanks my fellow BW for being open and brave enough to share

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  160. Lady Dani Mo,

    I asked some questions way up thread, and have been listening (in awe sometimes) since. I've learned so much here, about myself and other white people too, about what we "do." I really don't know what more to say or add in such a context as a white person, and I'm quite all right with this thread being a space where BW draw together in a way that effectively shuts out white people (as I am in other such situations). Sometimes I feel almost voyeuristic for even reading it, until I pull my reading back into an anti-racism mode.

    How would you like to see us take part? I really don't see a respectful way of doing that, and I'm only writing this comment because you called us white folks out . . .

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  161. @ Lady Dani Mo
    Reading and taking it all in..... Not much to add other then its been an intense read and has opened up my eyes.
    Its easy to be white,live in a culturally diverse neighbor hood,share car pools and birthdays, have a black president and think that everything is O.K. and that our society isn't as racist as it use to be.I see now that I had embraced an illusion that well intentioned W.P. want to believe in but the reality of racisim and privalage in our society and the damage to POC has been made abudently clear by all of those sharing here in this thread ...

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  162. Karinova asked above what WP would have done in response to my middle school incident. Here's the truth: the vast majority would do NOTHING. I could probably count on my fingers (in fact, at the moment, I can't think of any examples outside of my own [white] mother) the number of times a WP has defended me against a racist attack. Half the time, they don't notice, and the other half, they either agree with the sentiment, think I can handle it, are too afraid to say anything, or maybe just don't care. Usually, I am on my own, or perhaps another POC will stick up for me.

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  163. Ok
    Invisible to people-check
    Had ideas stolen-check
    Been called someone else's name more than once-check
    Been knocked out of the way or pushed - checked
    Had doors closed in my face - check
    Been diverted out of AP classes - check
    Had to retest to get back in AP classes-check
    Been accused of cheating when scoring highest on exams-check
    Was told I had mental issues when I despised myself during puberty- check
    Been called racial slurs for no other reason then waiting for the bus or going about my business-check
    Been humiliated by superiors and colleagues-check
    Watch what I say when WP ask me about race-check
    Double and triple check my work just to be sure I am not letting down my people by making a mistake on the job- check
    Look forward to getting home so I can be myself-check
    Cry at things WP say when I am alone because I cannot cry in front of them-check
    Wish there was a place I could be myself all day everyday-check

    Whew - need I go one--can someone start a blog for us so we can let our hair down--whew.

    These posts have lifted me up so much today because I know I am not crazy-so many people deflect, defend and derail that the GASLIGHTING I have gone through was almost working, but in my heart I have always know I was no crazy.

    Thanks everyone.

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  164. @ thesciencegirl,


    ... Yup, to everything you just said. It's been my experience, too, that my mother is the only white person who will come to my defense. I also agree with your reasons for why WP won't step up. It doesn't help much to understand why, though.

    @ Willow, you said you might make a "Special Effort" to be nice to a black student who was bullied. I'm reading an awareness of the futility, and the pity, implied in your words; just checking to see if that's what you meant.

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  165. Hey, all. (Macon, feel free to disregard if this is totally out of line.) Sorry that this is off topic, but I got a creeptastic email quoting a lot of out-of-context statistics trying to prove that blacks are naturally more violent than whites. This is really the only place I post about race -- maybe a troll picked me up here? Just wondering if anyone else got the same email.

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  166. Zara, that's awful! I hope you didn't pick up a troll here. Who was it from? (I wouldn't want something like that to scare people off from the great conversations going on here. . . )

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  167. I haven't read all of the comments but I wanted to chime in. I did notice that a lot of the black women had some of the same experiences, being in gifted programs, growing up in nearly all white environments, being slightly bigger/taller than the other women their size. I can't say I share the same experiences in the least. I think the one thing I have in common with most of the BW here is a graduate degree.

    I went to a black private elementary school and a primarily black and latino junior and high school. While I am told our white teachers may have said things that were inappropriate, I either never heard them or didn't understand the context. We didn't have gifted programs in my junior high or high school. What we had were Advanced Placement classes which you had to test to get into and once there, most of the other students were also black and latino. Also, in College, I went to a predominately black and latino college and therefore didn't hear or notice any scathing remarks from my non black teacher. I also want to add that I developed on time or late which had me pinning for my secondary sex characteristics. I was made painfully aware that I was the one with the smallest breasts as well as the darkest one in summer camp (age 13). I think that can also place certain Black Girls in the sexless category. No one in my HS looked like Beyonce or Britney. We probably resembled the 12 year olds of today rather than the 16/17 year olds. Because of that, I believed I actually blossomed into a "woman" by 23/24 year old.

    Anyway, It was once I attended grad school and started my first fulltime job that I begin to notice oddities if you will.

    I keep wondering if I was better off not noticing these things back then or would it have been better to be aware of such instances so I could properly prepare myself when those racists situations did arise. When it did happen, I was so overwhelmed and unprepared that I felt debilitated.

    Also, I wanted to add another stereotype, the small, dimwitted black girl, a la, Gone With The Wind. I haven't seen the movie in a long time and I actually hated it but there is a black servant who gets smacked because she is "hysterical" or something.

    I'm not imposing; I'm quite petite so I have to overcompensate for people to actually take me seriously by verbally challenging them so they know I'm older than them and not their peer which gets me labeled the "sassy one." If I don't do that, I'm infantilized, which in the job sphere means she's not ready for a management position.

    I just wanted to add to the mix.

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  168. @Victoria - you can look even earlier into children's programming. I've noticed that in a lot of animation with multicultural casts, the black girl always looks older or speaks with a more "mature" sensibility. I'd bet money that when these shows are being created, the description for the black female character contains the word "sassy".

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  169. Also, I wanted to add another stereotype, the small, dimwitted black girl, a la, Gone With The Wind. I haven't seen the movie in a long time and I actually hated it but there is a black servant who gets smacked because she is "hysterical" or something.

    You mean Prissy? She got slapped for lying about her knowledge of midwifery. To swallow a lot of that racist garbage, my subversive reading of Prissy was that she acted like that to get out of doing work for her White masters via being seen as incompetent. But I admit that's a very, very charitable reading of it.

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  170. @Zara and thesciencegirl: man, this just speaks volumes: "It's been my experience, too, that my mother is the only white person who will come to my defense."

    @Lhunfindel: your post about knocked me over. it sounds crazymaking, absolutely crazymaking.

    @Lady Dani Mo: I'm wondering if you could say a little more about why you asked the WP here to join the conversation. my first instinct was like that of the others who have posted here--that is, it seems best to shut up and listen--but perhaps i'm missing something about how it feels to you for us all to be (mostly) silent?

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  171. oh, and Zara, so sorry to hear about the troll. How cowardly to have gone to a personal email account and not have said what ze had to say here.

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  172. @ RCVBard
    Yes that's it. Was she presented as childlike and idiotic in the book? I couldn't get passed the first line "it was a most glorious time" or some such nonsense.

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  173. @Zara, I haven't received anything like that.

    @moviegirl, thanks for sharing your perspective. BTW, I hate Gone With the Wind.

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  174. @Moviegirl:

    Considering the source, I'd wager the book version of Prissy would make you throw the book across the room. I couldn't get past page 10 myself for all the slurs in it.

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  175. @ the people that responded to my comment

    I was just wondering where some of you were at in this discussion. I understand that there was a few of you who have participated, I just didn't want it to be like the last thread where there were more Black women giving their confessions than an actual discussion.

    I have a question for some of the Black ladies in the thread. I know that many of us have touched on the SBW and ABW stereotype but here's a question about the jezebel stereotype. Have any of you guys been sent to the office at school and was shamed for an outfit that your wore? But have seen White girls where something similar and not be sent to the office? I remember a time I went to the office and had to wear a gym shirt and shorts because they thought it looked to sexy and inappropriate but it was not. I have seen White girls where the same thing and not be penalized for wearing very short skirts and shorts. Could it because how they view Black women's body types of being more fuller and sexual? Because of that do people automatically believe that Black girls are "being fast" and trying to get sexual attention? I couldn't help but to believe that when Michelle Obama was being ridiculed for wearing shorts.

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  176. @Lady Dani Mo:
    "I just didn't want it to be like the last thread where there were more Black women giving their confessions than an actual discussion."

    Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying.

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  177. @Zara 9:05pm:
    Yes, I definitely feel that too. It's two things:
    As far as white commenters, last night I had a thought something like, "how long are they going to let this go on?" (meaning, WP) combined with "we're pushin' it." Not to be overdramatic, but I feel like we've broken into a room full of food because we were starving, and I'm seeing us all cramming it in as fast as we can (and it's not fast enough, because when are we going to get this chance again?!) and I know we have to get out before the watchman comes back around— he's going to bust in the door any moment now and we will be caught— "gotta go, gotta go. But... so hungry. Just let us have us one more minute, one more minute..."
    I don't exactly feel guilty, though. More like... furtive? And: this can't [be allowed to] last.

    No, the guilty part is for the non-black commenters. (Particularly the WOC.) They're what I feel guiltily anxious about. I don't want to hog this blog. I don't want to exclude them. Not only that, I want them to have this and I'm worried that us having this right now is taking away from their chance to have their "this." Like: Is this thread holding up the blog? Is it keeping posts/threads for them from happening? No need to reassure me, my point is, I think I feel like I can't be feeling this good and not be fucking up somehow. Because at the same time, I really want this.

    Which, now that I think of it, is a feeling I have a lot actually. People praise me as conscientious, but it's not like it comes easily. Unconsciously and uncontrollably, yes, but not easily. I'm conscientious simply because I have trouble doing things that feel good to me only: How can I take time out to practice my guitar, when I should be _____?! Whatever, I suck at it anyway. Because I NEVER "take" the time to practice. Never mind that I love doing it; it doesn't "get" me anywhere; it's not "useful." So why should I be allowed?
    (Speaking of which, I should probably get back to work!)
    Similarly: How can I be spending my whole weekend on SWPD when I should ____? Insert impossibly long list of chores, most of which are not even urgent, none of which are particularly pleasant. And: Selfish much? This thread's all fine and dandy for YOU [ie: me], but think of everyone [anyone] else!

    Some part of me strongly believes that if I'm enjoying myself, it's probably because I'm not doing something I ought to be doing. And/or taking something [my labor?] from someone else, and what right do I have to do that? Most of the time, even if I force myself to go ahead and do the thing anyway, I'm... jumpy. I can't fully enjoy it.
    S

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  178. @ Lady Dani Mo

    The only people who took issue with some of my clothing were my Black female teachers. They never shamed me for what I wore but they made sure I stayed covered up. One teacher even pulled me aside and asked me if I could always keep a jacket with me.
    I wasn't offended then and I'm not offended now. I think they were trying to protect me from being viewed as the jezebel. They were trying to keep me from getting that gaze lots of little Black girls recieve from males once she hits puberty.

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  179. [This thread is going to get me fired! Luckily, my boss can't get along without me.]

    @thesciencegirl (12:09pm),
    Yes. I guess what I really meant to ask was "what do you (now) think someone/anyone/everyone SHOULD have done?" And to be perfectly frank, that's how I'm taking the replies. Because you know what? I knew nobody said anything. I had to have. (If they had, it wouldn't still be an awful memory for you. Duh.) Especially not at 15 or whatever. I guarantee half the class was in shock, too, but they didn't say anything. Been there. And I even know why: it's because there's a social risk to it for them.

    So: I apologize to you for inviting people to go there.
    I don't even know WTF I was thinking. I said it in Denial Mode— which, I guess, is Standard Mode. Much like a WIWP! (How convenient is it that that acronym is almost "wimp"?) Shame on me. I'm sorry, sciencegirl.

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  180. @Lady Dani Mo, I'm still here and listening. And it definitely doesn't feel (to me) like it's all BW giving their confessions. It feels (to me) like pretty good discussion, between and with BW.

    I guess it's just the nature of the blogosphere but it's too bad that there weren't more older women here to be part of the discussion. A fair number of commenters have talked about their mothers but (I think that) there hasn't been discussion of children and grandchildren, parenthood, and grandparenthood. Good discussion of growing up with these stereotypes but not, so far, of growing old with them.

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  181. @ karinova, you said I don't exactly feel guilty, though. More like... furtive? And: this can't [be allowed to] last.

    I am so with you. I keep expecting this entire thread to eventually go down the route of my RL conversations with black women: we'll be talking, and then a white woman will walk in (usually a white friend, which makes it worse somehow) and say, "What do you mean, 'white people do ____? I don't do that!" and the whole thing falls apart as we do everything we can to try to stem the flow of white woman tears.

    You also said, I think I feel like I can't be feeling this good and not be fucking up somehow. I think the furtive/guilty feeling comes from black women having been taught, over and over again, that purely good things are not ours to enjoy, even seemingly simple things like compassion, or being the focus of our own conversations. (There's a purely human element to this too -- our morals involve valuing duty over pleasure -- but race adds extra weight, I think.) It sounds like we've all had experience derailing discussions of racism for our own safety -- when the white people involved would not have reacted well -- and it's weird to be sharing this with other black women and with white people without having it all go to hell.

    Against all reason (i.e., my knowledge of the rules of this blog) I feel like I'm waiting for a WP to get fed up with our speaking so freely and turn us off. A lot of my white friends get prickly at the mere mention of their whiteness -- I only know a couple of white people (my mom is one of them) who could listen to an entire conversation like this one without resenting me for it.

    Considering how rare a discussion is awesome is, I am bookmarking this thread and saving it for ever.

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  182. @ thesciencegirl, you said, Zara, I didn't really have close black friends growing up. I do now, and when it's just us girls together (usually friends and my sisters), talking and joking and sharing -- whether about race, or just able to be ourselves without worrying about which stereotypes we're upholding -- it's incredibly freeing.

    I didn't have any close black friends either -- sometimes because there weren't any around, and sometimes I believed white people when they called groups of black girls together "self-segregating". (Funny how it never occurred to me that a lunch table occupied purely by white students was equally self-segregating.) I have white friends that have gotten offended when they figure out that part of my connection to someone is because we're both black, or when they discover I wish I had more black friends.

    I joined a gospel choir recently (it's at a fancy music school rather than a church, so it's probably half PoC, half white) and some of the women there make my whole week brighter. I remember at one point I was talking to another biracial girl about the frustrations of having combination hair (too slippery to stay in braids, too nappy to do much with natural), and it was totally surprising how glad I was that we could relate to each other.

    I'm still pretty new to my current city and to this choir, but hopefully I'll make some friends. It is such a relief even to be around black women who know my name. I feel like I'm always waiting for something nasty to happen, but with other black women I know at least I won't have to face whatever-it-is by myself. "Freeing" is exactly the right word.

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  183. Zara wrote,

    A lot of my white friends get prickly at the mere mention of their whiteness -- I only know a couple of white people (my mom is one of them) who could listen to an entire conversation like this one without resenting me for it.

    That sentence really resonates with me, as a white person's who's learned and felt a lot by mostly just listening to this conversation. I'm hearing it not just as a good chance for BW to share painful experiences (and to share pain), but also for some open-minded and open-hearted white people to realize that they're sometimes -- even often -- the ones causing that kind of pain. I'm learning about BW's lives and pain here, but I'm also learning about what myself and other white people do to cause that pain. Yes, much of it's obvious (as in, "Why the HELL would anyone do THAT?!"), but much of it's not.

    And btw, if it's any consolation or something, I've only disallowed two comments from this thread, both for being too far off topic.

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  184. lol. I have written 2 posts which are not conducive for this blog at all.
    Featuring a heck of a lot of swearing and a heck of a lot of adult content..

    It's amazing what gets unleashed when you realise that your entire feelings of 'maybe it's just me' are not 'just you'.
    and when someone like lady D, asks a question and you can already see based on previous responses that finally...

    It wasn't just you

    It re-affirms the 'I am going to be me' despite how hard you try to make me not to be, despite how much this society insists that I keep trying to mimic or be a caricature of something and someone who is not me and who I can never be...

    I am just going to be me. Call me too sexual, too 'uppity', aggressive, earthy, too whatever new words are used today, tomorrow and forever.

    I will never.... NEVER let anyone try to convince me or make me believe that I am inferior. I may never have the power to fight them, but I will always re-affirm myself to myself, even if I have to whisper it as a daily mantra.

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  185. @ macon d, you said, And btw, if it's any consolation or something, I've only disallowed two comments from this thread, both for being too far off topic.

    "Consolation" isn't quite the right word. It's heartening, certainly.

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  186. electricafro said:

    I wasn't offended then and I'm not offended now. I think they were trying to protect me from being viewed as the jezebel. They were trying to keep me from getting that gaze lots of little Black girls recieve from males once she hits puberty.

    Which is kinda point though. Why are young Black girls shamed for their bodies? I know you said you didn't feel shame because many were trying to protect you from the jezebel stereotype. However, why do Black girls have to have extra attention placed on them for their clothes choices? I remember when alot of Black girls were sent to the office because of their outfits and it made them feel shameful because they felt that their bodies were being demeaned. I mean damn it's hot outside and their shorts and skirts were not really that high. I think that many of the teachers who discipline the girls on their clothing choices had nothing to do with the length of the shorts or skirts but more so on how the shorts and skirts hugged their hips and booty which made it look sexual and automatically assumed that the Black girls were being slutty and trying to get male attention. Many of the Black girls I knew that were sent to the office were not trying to get male attention. Hell they avoided many of the boys because they were shy LOL. So it goes back to my point of how the jezebel stereotype is place on youg Black girls pretty young. I saw this quite young on the distinctions on how young white girls and black girls body's being viewed.

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  187. I could probably count on my fingers (in fact, at the moment, I can't think of any examples outside of my own [white] mother) the number of times a WP has defended me against a racist attack. Half the time, they don't notice, and the other half, they either agree with the sentiment, think I can handle it, are too afraid...

    I agree with this sentiment. I became friends with a White woman—who I thought totally understood my quirkiness and I thought it was easy to discuss race with her. She would empathize and I felt validated because she was different. She had Venezuelan background and had a very worldly way about her that made her attractive. I would visit her in New Orleans and it never dawned on me until later that she never introduced me to any of her friends or family. I put it aside until I met her husband’s parents. It was horrible. When I shook her husband’s fathers hand he wiped it on his pants and he had a face in disgust.

    The rest of the evening he didn’t even look at me—I was invisible. Her husband’s mother was even worse. All this time I couldn’t leave—I didn’t have my own car and “my friend” didn’t notice the awkwardness and the blatant disrespect and said nothing. I told her later and how I felt, she commiserated—said she didn’t notice (roll eyes—at the dead silence afterwards), but now I realized it was just to pacify and patronize me. I was really angry. Naturally I ended the friendship—because of this incident and the fact that she never saw me as anything but an accessory. She didn’t do or say anything or stand up and say that his parents were wrong.

    Thus I don’t think I can ever have a real friendship with a non-Black woman. All of my best interactions have been with Black women.

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  188. Zara, it's funny that you mention the gospel choir. I'm also a member of a gospel choir, and it has largely ushered a whole lovely community of black womanhood into my life that is just absolutely refreshing. My choir is at my church, which is a historically black denomination, and it has always been my one real tie to a black community of any sort. I appreciate that more now than ever before.

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  189. Darkmoon, you said, "Thus I don’t think I can ever have a real friendship with a non-Black woman. All of my best interactions have been with Black women."

    I actually feel quite differently. My best friend in the world (outside of my sisters) is white. And my other close friends include white, black, and asian women and men. I am able to discuss race and share a certain common cultural humor with my black friends that is unique and special, but I'm able to have equally close friendships with others as well. Actually, the friend I've had the most in depth (and safe) discussions about race with is a white Jewish woman. I will say this: I have backed away from some friendships with white individuals over how they handle race stuff. But I am honestly surprised by how many white friends I've made who own up to white privilege, etc. without a problem. No one's perfect, but they're not at racism 101 level, you know?

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  190. I have backed away from some friendships with white individuals over how they handle race stuff.

    Same here. I'm going to doing that a lot more this year, it seems. I'd rather be lonely by myself than constantly feeling misunderstood and ignored.

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  191. @thesciencegirl, or others who participate in a religious/faith community: (How) do you think that the SBW or ABW stereotypes play out any differently in your faith community than in the rest of your circles?

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  192. Karen L said:

    @thesciencegirl, or others who participate in a religious/faith community: (How) do you think that the SBW or ABW stereotypes play out any differently in your faith community than in the rest of your circles?

    This is a good question! I can't speak for every Black woman, but I have to say the ABW and SBW stereotype is used against Black women heavily from experiences of attending predominantely Black churches. Hell it's used against them to explain why the Black community is not doing well and blaming Black women for all the ills of the community. Some pastors use these stereotypes in their sermons to explain why the Black family structure is not doing well. So yeah its mainly sexist ideologies. However, in racially mixed churches I've yet to really encounter these stereotypes places upon me. If there is a time I'll let y'all lol

    @ RVCBard said:

    Same here. I'm going to doing that a lot more this year, it seems. I'd rather be lonely by myself than constantly feeling misunderstood and ignored.

    Tell me about it.

    ReplyDelete
  193. @Dark Moon,
    My best friend was a WW woman. I had to leave that friendship behind too. We were very much alike, very quirky, tomboyish, playful and spontaneous but her racism left me exhausted.

    Overtime, the more comfortable she became within our friendship, the more frequent her racist outburst, try as I might. I could not get her to stop applying stereotypes first in place of asking questions.

    The worst thing was she would argue blackness with me. I mean really argue. A short afro was not an afro because we (she meant her and other white people don't call it that).
    Africans were aggressive and they talk at you even! (I had to keep reminding her that I was African)
    Black women all wear weaves and have hard hair (I have natural hair)

    When she was drunk it was the worst thing, I remember her grabbing my hair and attempting to pull me by it. bruising my scalp in the process.

    I became her accessory, I will never forget the day I ended up in hospital and she heard about it. She didn't sympathise with me, she asked me why I left my house if I knew I was ill and that she thought hospital beds should be reserved for essential services and people who pay taxes... blah blah blah (see in her mind despite the fact that I was born in the same country as her, work in the same place, and know how her accountant helps her rip off the tax system, I was an immigrant and like all immigrants, I didn't pay taxes) she had started to apply an anti -immigrant way of thinking to me and this situation). i got up, walked away from her then she sent me an email accusing me of being 'over-sensitive).

    Yet, this woman suffered from black woman envy. She was a fitness expert and had incredible muscular toned enviable arms (think defined like michelle obama but even more). She would tell everyone how she used 'black girl hair products' (the ones I wouldn't let near my natural hair with a barge pole), then she would bring out the most ridiculous antiquated theories on why she thought she must be kinda black.

    You know, black women have 'heavier bone density' type BS, thus are 'big-boned' hnn hnnnn, tell that to the nomadic tribes to the fulani's and the kenyans.

    Black women don't swim type nonsense (I do, thanks very much)

    She spent ages in the sun working on that tan, and then she'd stick her arm out and say almost sistas now. Of course she accused us black kids of always sticking together e.t.c.

    I'll be honest with you, I'm not prepared to let my guard down again for any WW to become friends with. I simply cannot go through the emotional trauma and anguish of standing on constant guard knowing that somewhere down the line a friend I had invested time, love and commitment to could one day just blurt out racist nonsense and expect me to agree or just live with it.

    nah I am unwilling to invest my time & patience into teaching. We were friends for 2 years, when I look back in hindsight I put a lot of time and effort into that friendship, I was eternally patient always gently explaining , explaining explaining..

    There was nothing about what I needed at all and all to what end? it was a waste anyway. she never changed he just got bolder in her racism and used my friendship with her to justify it.

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  194. @RVCBard.

    Yep, I will also rather be lonely than feel undermined, misunderstood, ignored and insulted. My ancestors fought to have physical shackles removed from their ankles. I will not allow emotional shackles to grip mine.

    ReplyDelete
  195. I've come to the conclusion that a lot of white women not only believe the strong black woman stereotype but feel its something to envy: 'I wish i could be that strong, they are so lucky', or something. the idea that it is a damaging stereotype that effects us from pretty much the time we are toddlers and not reality never occurs to them.

    i think also there's a big difference between strength and boundaries. I know perfectly well i'm not invulnerable or superwoman, but I learned a long time ago that not *acting* as if I was could have dangerous consequences in white environments.

    ReplyDelete
  196. I've been waiting for this thread to Hit Bottom, and today it finally did, all the way. Forgive me ladies, but I have nowhere else to put this.

    So I reread the thread last night and it got me to thinking about jr. high, and the friends I had then. I get on the Google, and I find the school's FB page. I couldn't find my own class photo, but I did find one with several friends in it. I'm smiling, reading their comments, just glad to see their (young) faces again & know they're okay, and I click to the next pic (hoping it's mine), and IT'S HER. My heart just about stopped. Teacher X. I will never forget her.

    She ruined my life.

    I was reeling just seeing her name, much less her image. Finally, I scroll down to the comments, and I find this:

    "[Ms. X] really had a profound effect on my life. I was the class clown and played around her class. She once told me that "I would never become nothing if I did not work harder." Thanks to her, other teachers and my parents, I have done something with my life!"

    Well, I just shut down. Closed the page, went back to what I was doing. Forgot about it. And then I get up today, and I get in the shower, and as I start to wash my hair, I burst out crying. So, so hard. I still can't quite stop.

    ReplyDelete

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