I never listened to a Beatles song until I was twenty-three. I heard a few snippets when Across the Universe (2007) was advertised. And, I enjoyed the covers on American Idol. But, I never heard them sing their own songs until I was cornered by white coworkers shocked and amazed at my inability to name a singular member of the group or song.
Their puzzlement went from inquiry to harassment to public shaming as they paraded me around the office showing me off to other white people who were similarly shocked at my apparent “poor upbringing.” They had no idea that their projections of what constituted “good music” denoted their own simmering privilege. Meanwhile, they were discrediting everything I actually had grown up listening to.
It all started when a young white lady in the office was commenting on her favorite Beatles song. When asked, I responded, “Which group is that?” Then, ‘el shit’ hit ‘el fan.’ I got the Beatles mixed up with the Eagles mixed up with the Rolling Stones. They asked me to name them and I said “Well, I know it’s not Elton John. Bob Dylan? Maybe Billy Joel?” Shit everywhere. It was completely foreign to them that I could have possibly missed something so integral to their lives. So, they attempted to shame me.
Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.
Piously, I was saving myself until marriage. I was always into books instead of boys. I carried no less than a 3.5 GPA. Though I was too tall for most of the guys still dealing with their own issues of pseudo-masculinity, I was waiting until I found the person who would love me and all my quirks forever before sharing myself intimately. It just didn’t happen that way. Instead, a mentor at my school exploited my innocence and preyed on a broken young girl who—at some point—lost her way.
The circumstances which moved me from my mom’s house to my dad and stepmom’s apartment during my senior year left me bitter, angry, and hopeless. My mom had remarried and moved away while I was away at a summer college program at Syracuse University. I was no longer welcome in the home I had grown up in. My life, as I knew it, had ended. I would be living with my dad—whom I had only been visiting on weekends since junior high school.
Having lived away from my father since he and my mother divorced twelve years earlier, I was completely unaccustomed to him and he to me. As we struggled to reconnect with one another, I fell further into feelings of isolation and depression. Sometimes he’d lock me out of the apartment for coming home from school too late. Other times he’d simply come and go without speaking to me at all. When I was there, I spent time in my room, alone. I kept my grades up, but I just wanted to go back home to my mom. We struggled. I was afraid of him. Our disagreements turned into verbal abuse and physical violence.
Read the full post at MarieClaire.com.
I recently added a new name to my list of inspirational writers: Janet Mock. Her best-selling memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, is a beautiful—at times bumpy—journey through girlhood. Reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston’s iconic Their Eyes Were Watching God, it is a touching story of self-realization and self-love.
For many it was Mock’s early 2014 interview on CNN with Piers Morgan that drew attention to this young woman’s story. But she is so much more than one interview. Mock publicly proclaimed her identity as a transgender woman in 2011. She has continued working in her community to advocate for women and girls like herself. She has commanded a social media presence through the #GirlsLikeUs hashtag, encouraging transgender women to live freely.
After her many successful years as a staff editor at People.com, writing and advocacy have continued to be her main motivation. Most important, Mock has challenged us all to question our perceptions of challenges facing transgender girls and women of color. She spoke with The Root about her work and how words empower isolated communities.
Read the full Q&A style interview at The Root.
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.
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]”
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”
Sometimes books suck. Sometimes they amaze. But, more often than not, they suck, they’re boring, and they go on for what seems like forever. Well, there’s one ‘coming of age’, post-apocalyptic, futuristic thriller zombie novel that defies all those odds. ‘Panther in the Hive’ is a sleeper. Written by poet, activist, writer, and all-around dope chick, Olivia A. Cole, this book about Tasha Lockett – a twenty-something black girl navigating zombie filled Chicago streets with a knife and a Prada bag – is perfect for nerdy black women (and everyone else). Let me tell you why. Continue reading “WCC: Blerd Book Review: ‘Panther in the Hive’ by Olivia A. Cole [INTERVIEW]”
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?”
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.
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.