A friend of mine sent me a really interesting email a few months ago that reminded me of how fundamentally different it is to be a black woman. I found this while I was cleaning out my email box. I meant to post this months ago when I first received it because I think it says more than I could ever say as a black man about the every day experience of being a black woman. But I got distracted and never got post it. Check it out:
T, I had a white man encounter today.
You know, on a day to day basis, white men are the least of my concern. Not "the white man" (the entity that has a chokehold on the vehicles of power in this country), but literally white men that I see on the street. Jim and Bobby and Kent…. I actually have fewer degrading, infuriating interactions with them than I do with my own (black men). Now I don’t mistake that lack of attention as respect. Hardly. Its just that they are rarely publicly attracted to the things about me that easily appeal to 9 out of 10 black men that I pass on my way to work or to the grocery store – big lips, thick legs, hips, and booty. Add in the brownskin and I’m usually a Grace Jones-like fantasy for the white man best enjoyed in private – at home where, in their minds, I can be exoticized and accessorized with leopard print. I am usually either the forbidden fruit or the asexual mammy, not worthy of a polite nod hello. Whatever. Who needs white men? I generally go about my business as if they’re just these odd pale aliens walking around – and if I act like they’re not there, they’ll just disappear.
Well not today. A white man at Borders stepped outta his mind and said to me "Has anybody ever told you how beautiful you are?" Alright. I can handle this. Benign. Maybe even sweet. "Aww. Isn’t that nice. Thanks so much." "But no, I mean, really beautiful." he says. Okay, I think to myself. He’s going somewhere with this. "Well thank you very much" I say again and turn back to my book. He then says in a low whisper (and in my mind this came out in slow motion) "I mean its just amazing. You ooze sex without even moving a muscle. You just are sex."
As I’m looking at him like "excuse me?" he says "I don’t usually say things like that, but something about you is so exotic and…primal."
My world stops for a second?
I am sex?
No one’s ever said that to me before. I wonder if its because I remind you of the women that you’re great grandfather raped. You think that has anything to do with it? Or is it because you equate my distinctly African features with the wild, savage, jungle sex that black women all have? And would you say that to a white woman? What in my carriage makes you think that its okay to talk to me like that?
T, my eyes saw flames for a minute.
I saw every film image of massa sneaking into a cabin at night, or reaching his hand under a skirt and got angrier towards white men than I ever had in my life. I just looked at him and sweetly said "you usually don’t say things like that? Well I’d recommend you stick with that pattern – because I’m not flattered by trying to read a book in the middle of my workday and having to be made aware of your personal sexual frustration. If looking at me makes you that primal, maybe you should keep it to yourself, jerk off, wash your hands, and keep it moving. Because I’m not interested in accepting that kind of compliment." I put my book down on the shelf as he protested "Wow…I think you misunderstood me…" and was looking around to see who heard. I marched out of that Borders into what I’m sure will be a month long offense towards Jimmy, Bobby, and Kent, Danny and every other white man (or dudes with names that end in a "y".)
Did I overreact? Probably.
Rarely do I lash out at someone for their unintentional ignorance. He probably just thought he was paying me a compliment and had no idea that I had images of Alex Haley’s Queen running through my mind at the time. Lol. But whatever. I’m still pissed. (And, it just so happens that Sister Toldja’s post today is about interracial relationships. Not all that relevant, but its just adding fuel to my fire….)
I’m bout to pull out my "for colored girls who thought of committing suicide" and launch into a monologue about how hard it is to be a black woman. And T, you know what? With all of my self-confidence and self-esteem (and thank God that my parents instilled that in me or I’d be a freaking mess!), even I get plain old tired. Tired of dealing with all of the bullshit. The day to day reconciliation of my womanhood and my blackness is such an exertion of effort and constant energy. I mean, I have to suit up like a linebacker just to deal with my daily regimine of esteem-bashing:
One black man disrespecting me and catcalling me down the street. (translation = I’m beautiful because of my ass)
One black man degrading me with his eyes for being too dark and nappy headed. (translation = I’m ugly because of my complexion)
One white man talking inappropriately about my appearance (translation = I’m the white man’s guilty pleasure)
One white man looking past/through me as if I don’t exist. (translation = I’m invisible because I’m black and/or I’m invisible because I’m a woman)
One black woman hating on me because she thinks I’m pretty.(translation = my sisters don’t love or support me)
One white woman asking me questions about my hair and my body like I’m a zoo animal. (translation = I’m a freak of nature)
One reflection of myself somewhere in the media being a sexual object. (translation = I am eye candy and visual foreplay for the media)
One absence of me in all other media content for the day (translation = no one that looks like me is desirable/successful/happy)
It’s just insane. And what about the little girls who didn’t have Daddies who love them? And Mamas that showed them how to carry themselves? And faith in a God that loves her fiercly? What about them? And, in the words of Effie, "What about me?". Cuz right now, I’m feeling worn and torn. Strong? Sure. Confident? Yeah. All of the other black warrior princess references? Yep. I’m still me.
But this sister is still just plain old tired. And his one thing I know for sure: Being a black woman is the hardest thing in the world. At least for today.
Think on it…