Clutch Magazine: Tall, Black, Woman: Navigating Intimidation Politics in White Public Spaces

I am six feet and four inches tall. I have been so since I was fourteen years old. I played basketball, volleyball, and ran track in school and wore Jordan’s instead of dress shoes whenever my mother allowed me to. I was called a “tomboy” for not playing dress up. And, although I wore the same super curved acrylic nails all the other girls did – when I could – I didn’t touch a stitch of foundation until I was a month out from my wedding day. My height was always a problem and never an asset for me. And this liability has always been more pronounced in public, predominantly white spaces.

The plight of the big, ominous, black male is not a new one in this country. Caricatures and minstrels are evidence of that. But, tall, black women face both the struggles of intimidating whites and navigating gender politics in public. These two issues in tandem create a completely unique set of difficulties for tall women like me.

When discussing his height on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show in reference to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman being called a “thug,” Professor Jelani Cobb asserted the following.

“As somebody who stopped growing, who reached the height of 6’3” at fifteen…one of the most important lessons I got was from my sophomore year high school math teacher. Who explained to me – I got up really quick and knocked over a chair – and he explained to me, this was a white teacher in a New York City public school, he said ‘You know, you have to be careful about how you present yourself. He said ‘because white people are afraid of you.’ And it was the first time this ever dawned on me.”

I have had this conversation many times over. But, I had the added dimension of dealing with gender stereotypes at the same time. It wasn’t easy trying to “take up less space”, as a teacher once told me that young ladies were supposed to do. It was virtually impossible to play with kids my age without them fearing I would physically harm them. While other kids got to tussle with one another, I was barred from horseplay for fear I might hurt someone else. My height was often a threat, even to adults.

Read the full article at Clutch Magazine.

WCC: Shonda Rhimes Says Hashtags Don’t Help, She’s Wrong [VIDEO]

I am a fan of Shonda Rhimes. I have loved her since the 1999 biopic “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.” And, while I grew weary of Private Practice, pretty much hated every moment of Grey’s Anatomy, and semi-swore offScandal after the gratuitous, cheaply written rape scene, I still deeply value her contributions to television. Beyond that, I think her presence is changing things for the better. But her recent remarks against “hash-tivism” make me wonder if her intentions and predilections are in alignment with the awe she inspires from the black community. Continue reading “WCC: Shonda Rhimes Says Hashtags Don’t Help, She’s Wrong [VIDEO]”

WCC: White Beauty, Black Hair, and Blue Ivy

Black (natural) hair is unkempt, nappy, sloppy, dirty, a mess, ‘ghetto’, etc. We have been force-fed these adjectives about our hair since childhood – at least I know I have. I was expected to wear straightened, blow dried, press and curled, or otherwise unnatural hair textures growing up. Unnatural because my hair grows completely kinky, tightly coiled, and thick as all get out from my scalp. It wasn’t until three years ago that I put away the master’s tools keeping my hair – and me – in mental enslavement. I stopped blow drying, straightening, and putting stress and tension on my strands just to please other (usually white) people. But, after seeing the public outcry about Blue Ivy – two year old daughter of Beyoncé and Jay Z – wearing her natural hair texture, I am reminded how white expectations of beauty still influence all of our lives.

I took time to comment a few years back when folks everywhere were in Continue reading “WCC: White Beauty, Black Hair, and Blue Ivy”

WCC: Ta-Nehisi Coates Has Courage to Make the ‘Case for Reparations,’ Do You?

Yesterday, Ta-Nehisi Coates nearly broke Twitter by laying out a thesis long explanation as to why reparations for American slavery, Jim Crow, and housing segregation could, in fact, be warranted. The piece wasn’t just about paying back money for illegal seizure and destroying of property and assets. It was about how hypocritical this nation is when celebrating Independence Day every year whilst ignoring the horrifying breaching of civil liberties as a result of the enslavement of Africans and African Americans. But, the piece isn’t about cash or debts. It is about action. Continue reading “WCC: Ta-Nehisi Coates Has Courage to Make the ‘Case for Reparations,’ Do You?”

WCC: Hashtag Activism, Silencing, and Sacrificial Lambs of the New Media Movement

One of the most dangerous byproducts of this age of new media is apathy. In this era, far too many people underestimate the power of social media. Conversely, far too many others abuse it. There just isn’t enough people floating in between. And, when it comes to what many call “hashtag activism” – better known as just plain old activism – social media has been the weapon of choice for many heteropatriarchal anti-acitivists seeking to stifle the grassroots work mainly led by women of color.

We have seen several attacks on women of color this year at the hands of virtual bullies and anti-activists. Namely, Suey Park – best known for creating and amplifying the hashtag #CancelColbert – and Jamilah Lemiuex – Senior Editor of EBONY Magazine. Continue reading “WCC: Hashtag Activism, Silencing, and Sacrificial Lambs of the New Media Movement”

WCC: Hispanics are Becoming White and It’s Not Good

Latino Americans – or Hispanics – occupy a stigmatized status in America alongside blacks. For some, that is cause for activism, social change, lobbying for legislative action, or preservation of their ethnic heritage. For others, it is a reason to deny their own heritage and abandon their genetic makeup. Sadly, the number of folks who choose the latter option seems to be growing.

According to a recent Pew Research study, more than one million Americans who previously identified as Hispanic and “some other race” on the 2000 US Census checked Hispanic and white on the 2010 census form. While the number of people who change their race on the federal form varies every decade, this is the first time these statistics have been analyzed on such a large scale.

The study went on to note that most people who identified as white, black or Asian on the 2000 census remained in the same category in 2010. So, it is truly confounding that so many Latino Americans changed their ethnic identity over the course of ten years. One writer noted that much the same trend occurred for Germans, Italians, and the Irish when they first immigrated here. He notes that the arc of change for many immigrant populations is relatively identical. New generations are predominantly English speaking, children attain more education than their parents, and wealth increases intergenerationally. On its face, this seems to be an ethnic Cinderella Story.

Sadly, it’s not.

Read more at WCC.

WCC: To Be a Black, Female, “Special Negro”

I have been called a “special negro” since elementary school. It started when my love of math turned into a game of wits for older kids who were not so good at it. My diction, my unintentional word choice – from hours and hours of reading the Encyclopedia Britannica (yes, I predate Google), and my overall poise made folks think I thought I was “all that.” They told me I thought I was better than them. While it wasn’t true, it still resulted in the name-calling and the isolation many geeky black nerds (glerds) experience in circles where mainstream ideals are pervasive and normalized. I still get the occasional “special negro” insult. I have to ask though: Isn’t it about time we retire that term and find more effective ways to empower ourselves?

If you have never heard the term “special negro” before, count your blessings. It originated as the “house nigga” in slave days. It later evolved into “uppity negro” in the twentieth century. And while terms like “bourgie”, “uppity”, and “high saddity” still prevail, it is the “special negro” moniker that is the most dubious. The special negro is the token black person. He or she is the individual that white people are talking about when they mention their one black friend. Being tokened has an equal and opposite effect. To whatever degree one is accepted by whites, one will be equally rejected by blacks – or so it seems.

Read more at WCC.

WCC: We Are Ready to #CancelSNL After the Coondoggle of ‘Black Jeopardy’

What’s a ‘coondoggle?’ It’s when a boondoggle is initiated by people who are cooning. A secondary definition of it is Saturday Night Live writers’ weekly attempt to make black stereotypes funny. Well, funny in a general sense – not just to white people. Really, the rest of the show isn’t that funny either so we think it’s time to go ahead and put it out of its misery.

We’ve done our fair share of covering the perennial Saturday night comedy show. First, the 39th season opened with a gang of new (all-white) castmembers. Then they tried to make up for it by having Kerry Washington host and play a slew of black characters (offensively). Next, they cast Sasheer Zamata after a “black female only” casting call. And finally, they added two black females to the writing staff. Amongst all of this, we debated whether to continue watching the show. And, we decided to give it one last chance.

Since then, SNL has become more and more of a weekly coondoggle and black people are usually the butt of the joke. With Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, and Sasheer Zamata, Lorne Michaels has managed to meet the call for more diversity he was burdened with after Maya Rudolph left. Yet, having a representative comedic and writing staff has done little to nothing about the piss-poor, basic writing which constantly depicts black people as the worst of ourselves.

The most recent example of this was “Black Jeopardy”, a skit in which three contestants, 2 black and one white, answered questions meant to be tailored to black folk. These questions painted blacks as chronically late, poor, and simple-minded. This, in the same night that Louis CK opened with a joke about ‘starving kids in Africa’ to make a point about Americans’ lack of perspective. Score one for SNL. The Politics of Pregnancy and the Workplace

As I sit here gazing at my newborn son, I can’t help but reflect on my experiences in parenting over the years. Having given birth to three beautiful children, I have spent almost three of my seven years in corporate America pregnant. It hasn’t been easy. It has been extremely difficult. But with Congress recently introducing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act—mandating paid leave insurance for workers— it seems our political leadership may be taking these struggles more seriously.

A placement counselor once mentioned to me that the automobile company I was interested in would want “foot soldiers” as opposed to people who were interested in starting families. I then imagined myself wearing Army fatigues in a sea of cubicles tucking and rolling over to the printer station. No, I was not a “foot soldier” if that was the criterion. When that company made me an offer, it was one I definitely could refuse. I was married and I believed I had the right to start a family whenever I wanted. Who were they to tell me I wasn’t “soldier” enough?

After suffering a miscarriage that year, I unexpectedly became pregnant again. I had already interviewed at several companies and not working simply wasn’t an option for me. So, I started my first job in an industry that I thought would be the perfect fit for an expectant mother. I trudged around attempting to look normal for three weeks until I had no choice but to tell them I was three months pregnant. I could sense the disappointment from pretty much everyone.

WCC: ‘Hyper-Racialism’: Where White Privilege Meets White-Guilt-Paranoia

It seems the quickest way to see a white person in America clam up is by mentioning the obvious. I have done this many times without meaning to. What did I do? Well, I just started talking about the color of my own skin. You see, it’s brown. I just so happen to be a black woman. This fact – though normal to me – seems to send white folks into a tizzy whenever I talk about it. I have termed this issue “hyper-racialism.” And, it just so happens to be colorblindness’ ugly, disfigured cousin.

What is Colorblindness?

Colorblindness is a unicorn. It is a figment of our collective imaginations like dragons and fat free milk. It is the assertion – mainly by whites – that it is possible to be ‘blind’ to the color of one’s own skin – and anyone else’s. Somehow, by simply ignoring skin color altogether, colorblind and post-racial zealots believe that all racial animus will be assuaged. Not so.

As Aamer Rahman has noted, race and racism are intrinsically linked to history. Racial genocide is in our blood. As long as we have history books, old people with memories, and our own functioning cortexes, we will have racial animus, awareness, and shame. To be actively colorblind is to be self-inducingly ignorant.

And who wants to be ignorant?

This is the equivalent of closing your eyes when you see someone’s broken arm. Simply shutting it out doesn’t make it go away. And, it does nothing to help the person who has the broken limb. All it does is make you look like a jerk for being insensitive, in-compassionate, and too immature to handle the situation like an adult.

Read the full article at WCC.