Author Archives: cwashi18

Know Your Worth

Throughout the week I have been confronted with situations where I can plainly see that, as African American women, we go through alot of unnecessary trials because we do not know our worth.  I believe that we are battling images created and established for us prior to birth without the knowledge of what they entail and how our lives are shaped around them; so we conform to them without realizing it.  At my job I sometimes see cases that make me want to scream out to my African American sisters, but in order to keep the job, I’m unable to speak with them frankly.  We are struggling, as a minority group, with all of the elements that we have been discussing during this course:  classism, racism, sexism, a lost identity, and unity.  Many of the disputes that I see and hear about are one Black woman against another, and it is kind of expected.   Of the cases that I am privy to, I see that there is a lack of value and self worth; I say to myself, “If she only knew that she is worth more than this”, or “she has got to know that she deserves better.”  Sadly, in most cases, they don’t.  This mindset is not relegated to courthouse drama or any particular institution, thats where it often ends, but starts in our own homes.  I write this blog because it saddens me, and we have to do a better job of uplifting each other.  Giving compliments and kind words to each other instead of constant judgment.  We so badly need it in our society today because the odds are stacked against us and many of us do not understand that we are so much more than the pictures other people have painted of us.

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Beyonce to Michelle Obama- Letter of Appreciation

Beyonce Pens An Appreciation Letter To First Lady Michelle Obama, Thanks Her For Being A Role Model For Blue Ivy

http://theybf.com/2012/04/11/beyonce-pens-an-appreciation-letter-to-first-lady-michelle-obama-thanks-her-for-being-a-r

I came across this story on the Young Black and Fabulous site, and it was so refreshing to read a positive message about two highly-publicized African-American women.  The site posted a letter that Beyonce had previously posted on her website, thanking the First Lady for being a role model, or as she puts it, ” the ultimate example of a strong African-American woman.”  She also described Michelle Obama as “humble, loving, and sincere” while dealing with the stress of being under a microscope.  While many look to tear Black women down and project an image of us being hot tempered, mouthy, highly critical, and negative towards each other, we need positive images that will counter these harmful stereotypes.  This letter is an example of what we need to outwardly do to promote and project healthy relationships and friendships in our community; especially between Black women.  I appreciate the fact that it was handwritten as well.  We are inundated with negativity amongst and about Black women and that, sadly, is what the media chooses to highlight and replay over and over again.  With all of the ridiculous media attention given to things like ‘what kind of stroller Beyonce got for Blue Ivy’,  I wonder how much publicity this letter of appreciation to the First Lady will get.

Battle of the Complexions

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/24/10500787-african-american-complexion-pageant-outrages-many-in-st-louis

I came across this advertisement a couple weeks ago and I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I’ve included an article on the event that highlighted the fact that people were just as disturbed as I was by it’s divisive message.  St. Louis promoters organized the event “Battle of the Complexions”, “a contest to see which African-American women are most attractive — those with light skin, those with brown skin or those with dark skin,”  in an attempt to honor African-American women.  I don’t see how this type of event honors anybody, if anything, it  encourages the continuation of color barriers that have divided our community since slavery; its 2012!! As one critic stated, “”Not only does this kind of nonsense continue to promote a negative collective self image, (which society does fine all by itself). These clowns now promote it. Wow!!!”   Knowing that we have made some strides in building a stronger African-American community in a society that continues to see us as a “lesser-than” group, displays like this makes one question, how far have we really come?  We no longer have to be subjected to the paper-bag method of the slave owners to determine our place, based on skin complexion, now we are doing it to ourselves.  Have we picked up where they left off?  I honestly don’t believe we have, as a whole, but the ones that still feed into these offensive methods only perpetuate more division in our community where one shade of black is better than another.

Conspiracy of Silence

One of our readings touched on the “conspiracy of silence” in the black community, as it relates to abuse agaist Black women, and it really touched a nerve with me because I have seen its damaging effects.  I had a discussion with a friend yesterday about a Black woman, in our lives, who is battling with the silence she has kept about being sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend when she was a pre-teen.  She has chosen not to tell anyone in her family for fear that it will hurt them, yet she is, as an adult, still torn up inside by the experience and even further by it’s hidden presence.  She has been seen as an angry teenager and often disgruntled girlfriend, and much of her reactions stem from years of buried anger, hurt, and resentment towards the man that  has remained a part of her life, in some way, for the last 15 years.  Audre Lorde stated that sexual violence against Black women is “a disease striking the heart of Black nationhood, and silence will not make it disapear.”  I believe that, and I also feel that not talking about it and dealing with it will only hinder the healing process; because it can eat away at you and negatively alter how you interact with people.  My heart aches for those young girls and women who struggle with sexual abuse and walk around with invisible scars that only they know exist, it has to be lonely at times.  We need to encourage All women to break the silence so that it will not be a “secret” standard in our communities.

Killing Us Softly

I had to watch this video for my Gender & Sexuality class and I found it fitted into what we have discussed in class concerning the images of African American women depicted in the media.  Advertisements play a huge role in defining, for us, who we are supposed to be.  Most of the images that we see on commercials are of women who do not represent a majority of the women in our country as well as abroad.  We attempt to meet these unrealistic expectations and are controlled by what our eyes constantly see, whether we admit it to ourselves or not.  There is a part towards the end of this excerpt where we see how black women are often depicted as animals and, in effect, less than human.  Filmmaker Jean Kilbourne states that women of color are often “…dressed in leopard skin and animal prints over and over again; the real message is NOT FULLY HUMAN.”  She shines the light on gender stereotyping, of which, black women are no stranger to.  While looking at the full video, I was a bit disturbed at the images; when all grouped together and shown in this light, the reality of how damaging it is to the female psyche is clear.

Grown too soon!

If we only had media images as a source to define how we view ourselves, as African American women, we would be lost.  Lost, is how I feel many of our pre-teen and teenage girls are.  I attended a CIAA event this year in support of a friend who is promoting young music groups.  This particular group was a male hip-hop act and they couldn’t have been no more than 18 or 19yrs old.  As the small groups of teenage girls started to pour in I began to see a trend.  They all resembled clones of “Basketball Wives” and “Real Housewives “(of any city).  They were only modeling the images of that are flooding their televisions and the internet.  As we have been reading and discussing the categories and label associated with black women (e.g. mammies, jezebels, breeder women, aunt jemimas, prostitutes, and welfare mothers), I wondered in which direction these young ladies were headed.  I fear that they will allow the projected images to define who they are, but I also understand that I am looking at them only from the outside.  I mention this issue because it makes me wonder where the teenage years are; or do these girls go straight into adulthood from pre-teens?

Inside Struggles

I’ve been thinking a little bit about the disconnect between the white and black feminist during the previous waves of feminism and how that and other factors may contribute to how black women interact with each other today.  When the white women were battling through there own forms of oppression and at the same time oppressing the black women who were active in the movement, I wonder if they realized how counterproductive they were.  I say this because, in some ways, I feel like a number of black women are mirroring some of the same actions.  Where I work, I see that a certain economic or career achievement can change the way that we interact with each other.  There is a sense that the black attorney or judge and the black cleaning lady or cafeteria cook couldn’t possibly be able to relate to each other on any meaningful level without an acknowledgment of subordination.  I see these acts displayed in passing with the way that they greet or ignore each other, and even catching the side-eye glance on the elevator that subtly says “I know I’m better than you” or “I can’t look you in the eye because I think your better than me.”  We tend to judge each other and not credit those that are not in the same position, or give those in better positions more credit than we do ourselves.  Both are guilty and I feel that we have been trained, to a certain degree, to judge one another and find the worth and value of a person in that judgment.   I can say that I am just as guilty as the next person, and I do make a conscious effort to catch what I’m doing, identify it, and understand where it actually came from because it is toxic.  Nobody gains when we treat others like they are beneath us, because we become that which we are fighting to overcome.

Black women and the church

Black women in my family and community were all brought up in the church.  It was and still is the place where many black females go for love, safety, security, and overall comfort.   Black women are loyal to their churchhomes in ways that sometime rival their families; holding the church and pastor above all else.  I recall being in church at least three days a week and living on the same block guaranteed I would never miss a service.  I sometimes wonder how loyal the church is to its humble servants.   I have a friend who works tirelessly at her church and does whatever is asked or needed of her.  Her fiance had even mentioned that she spends maybe too much time fulfilling church duties and obligations.   With so much time and energy put into the church, I was shocked when she was given the run-around when she wanted to have her wedding there and for her pastor (with whom they had been through mandatory couples counseling) to perform the ceremony.  For weeks on end she would call and wait and it became so frustrating that she ended up having it at another venue with a pastor from a friends church.  She was hurt, and the sad part was that it became more of a business and the top employees were never more distant.  When they needed her she was always there, but when she needed them for one of the biggest days of her life, they treated her like a stranger.  Now I know that this is not a blue print for all churches, but I do believe that black women’s loyalty to the church is off the charts and sometimes it is not returned.  Many do not speak about it because it is the church and it’s a sensitive subject, but our faith is within us, not the building.

Obey!!

Yesterday I had a converstion with an older African American friend of mine at work about how the women of our culture react to the use of the word “obey”.   She explained to me that while talking to other co-workers she expressed to them that her husband wanted her to follow him to put gas in her car and, instead of restisting like she wanted to, she was “obedient” to him.  She instantly felt the glares of judgment by the other women (who all happened to be AA) for using the term; like they felt that she was a “kept woman”, trained by her man. 

She went on to tell me that she didn’t mean that she was obedient in that sense; she was being obedient to that gut feeling from God, letting her know in what direction to go.  Coming to realize that it was a blessing that she did follow him to the gas station because his truck had caught on fire and she was there to help and rescue him.  True story.  

I understood her reasoning behind the use of such a mishandled word, and I could also relate to the tender feeling that the other women got from it’s use.  The issue of women being subordinate to men is touchy subject in more modern relationships, since the roles that women and men play in relationships has changed.  Historically we had been groomed to eventually marry and within that union respect, honor, and “obey” our husbands.  We are now taught to be independent thinking women who don’t necessarily rely on men to guide our decisions.   As AA women have progressed in our society we now relish in the fact that we can now speak for ourselves.  It gets a bit tense when some women feel that this form of freedom is being challenged. 

 

AA Women in the Corporate World

In Western society we understand that race has historically been a deciding factor when determining whether or not to hire a person for a job, and it has also determined what type of job you would have.  Domestic employment, which used to be the main source of income for African American women(educated or not) has, for many, been replaced with high-paying & high-power positions.   There is an influx of AA women working  in areas of medicine, finance, and politics.  Yet, the struggles of race and gender relations within these arenas still remain.

Last week one of my best friends recently announced that she will be leaving her current job as a paralegal and collector at a Charlotte law firm to work for a successful financial management company in Ballantyne, NC (potentially doubling her salary).  She was interviewed by a couple that shares part ownership in the company and they informed her that, if hired, she would be the first African American person that they have ever hired.   They went on to let her know, in so many words, that some of their clients may be less tolerant of her race and that they would back her up if they gave her a hard time. 

I was excited for her new opportunity and initially found comfort in knowing that she would have great support system at the new job, but then I was taken aback:  Why should her interview process include an excerpt on race relations?; and Was she being forwarned because she was AA, or because she was AA and a woman? 

As stated before, the struggle continues… but now we are fighting our battles from outside and within the system.

Please share your thoughts…