Being a black woman

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Being a black woman is:

Beautiful because that’s what all of our varying shades of brown are.

Lively because hard-work was instilled in us.

Amazing because that’s what our mothers are.

Complicated  beyond measure because we deal with so much hardship.

Kindly accepting that we are strong.

Wonderfully rewarding.

Outstanding because we refuse to lower ourselves.

Marvelous because if it’s not that, what else can it be?

Awe-Inspiring because that’s what we have to be to uplift our youths.

Nurturing our loved ones with positivity and undeniable affection.

I purposely described mostly positive things about being a black woman above, but this entire article is not at all so heart-warming.

I remember when I was a little girl, I used to say things like, “I’m not just a black girl, I’m Paola. There’s a lot more to me than my skin color and gender. I can do whatever I want.” I’m not entirely sure who put that idea in my head. I was always introverted and in my own world. I’m not even sure I said that to anyone because I was always so quiet. That belief was not because I wasn’t proud to be black or a girl, I just always thought that the two words somehow put a limit on the things I could accomplish.

I was raised to accept that my skin color was inferior even in a black country like Haiti. Where the mixed little girls with long and curly hair were treated like princesses at school. Where they can do whatever they wanted and that was ok. And little girls who looked like me were told to straighten our hair, and speak quietly, and act perfect. We could not cry or complain because these things made us even uglier. I was taught that bleaching was “cleaning” the skin, and that my nose was not very attractive. I hated my lips because they were made into this overly sexual thing that I could not control.

I remember when I used to look in the mirror when I was just ten years old, hoping for long flowy hair, a narrower nose, and thinner lips. The only thing I was sure about was my passion for the things I loved, my beautiful skin color, and my ability to keep going. I used to say that the first thing I would change on my face were my lips because they were so big and ugly. I was young and dumb, and that’s about when I thought I knew it all.

I used to say to myself, “When people see me, they wouldn’t see that I am a woman or one of color, they would see all of the good qualities about me. People would be attracted to me because beauty is universal, and people would talk to me because of my personality. My skin color nor my gender have nothing to do with who I am. I am strong, independent, passionate and sometimes smart and charming, and that’s the only way I would be viewed.” I told myself if I worked hard, stayed positive in most life issues, and made sure I always looked the part, those were the only things that would matter. Not my black race, nor where I’m from, nor my womanhood.

“You’re a beautiful black woman,” I hear from straight black men. “I would marry you! You’re not like other black chicks.” Oh that’s nice. That’s supposed to make me feel better. Should I go to other black women and tell them how they suck and how somehow you deemed me “better” than the others you’ve encountered? What’s the point in saying something like this? By the way, this is just an example, I’m not blaming black men for our demise, I’m blaming society, ourselves included.

Recently, during my last trip in Haiti, this past September, a man walked towards me in a club, and he said, “You are beautiful. I’m sorry, you are a beautiful BLACK woman.” The look (half smile, half raised eyebrows) on my face made him feel uncomfortable and I replied, “Thank you, and there’s no need to be sorry.” I thought to myself, how many white, hispanic, or Asian women get the exact compliment from men their own race? A white lady gets approached by a white man at a coffee shop or a bar, and the white man goes, “I’m usually not attracted to white women, but you’re a beautiful woman. I’m sorry beautiful WHITE woman.” I mean, how many of these cases can you picture? Why do they happen so often to black women? The whole, “you’re ok for a black girl” is not and never will be a compliment.

I used to get so insulted. I can see you rolling your eyes now. So, you get compliments and you’re insulted by them because people include the word “black” in them? B*tch, please! Right? Well, here’s my simple reasoning:  I know I am black, and I love everything about my skin color. As I grew older, I decided to also love my hair, and features, (it all started in High School) but why can’t I just be a beautiful woman? Why does the word black always have to be part of the discussion, especially if the compliment comes from someone who is also black?

These titles used to make me cringe:

Beautiful black woman.

Intelligent black woman.

Successful black woman.

Why can’t black women who are all of these things just be these things without their race being mentioned? Is it really this hard to imagine that they could be all of these things? Now, I’m no longer insulted because the older I get, the more I learn about how hard it is to be a black woman. I also realized in most cases, it’s about pride. Mentioning the race means that something positive is associated with it, and that’s a good thing. Maybe I used to turn a blind eye to all of these things, hoping they would all disappear because a lot of them did not personally affect me. But then, I learned if they affected other black women like me, they were affecting me one way or another. I read countless articles, one written by a well-known male blogger about how black women really suck and how they are only there to be used. I actually never wanted to write an article like this because by doing so I’m just another whiny, aggressive black woman, right? I shouldn’t be tired of the way I’m constantly viewed and portrayed in society. I’m supposed to ignore it, and continue to smile and accept the bullshit compliments.

The stereotypes, the media, the way men of all races treat us as just sexual beings and nothing more, the way we look down on each other instead of empowering each other are just a small part of what being a black woman is. And I shouldn’t say it took me a while to realize that, I just refused to accept it. Because if I did everything I was supposed to do, and if I was happy, these silly things wouldn’t affect me. And most of the times, they don’t affect me directly, but when I look around at how they make women who look like me feel, that’s when I’m heartbroken. Whether, I’m one of those “lucky” black women who grew to love themselves and got to meet other people to encourage them to keep going, or one of those who are still fighting through all the craziness just to be happy of what they look like, being a black woman is complicated.

The thing is, no matter how hard you try to be everything positive, if you’re a black woman, that’s just who you are in this life. And I’m fine with that. ”You’re a beautiful black woman, and, you’re so well spoken,” wealthy women from Tribeca would purr with a smile after maybe one too many drinks. “Yes! Black beauty! Work it, black girl!” Some flamboyant men would shout in Harlem. But it’s not always these “flattering” comments, I get my fair share of, “That’s why men don’t want you black women,” random men on the corner would spit at me if I walked past them without a smile or if I don’t respond to their insulting cat calls. “I’ve never kissed a black woman before.” European men have tried to quietly whisper to me at bars with stupid smiles on their faces.

But my most recent encounter is the sole reason of this post, and it proves again how complicated being a black woman is. I went out dancing with my fiance and some girlfriends a few days ago. As I’m dancing with my friends and my fiance is leaning on the wall, he gets approached by a beautiful, curvy black woman. They talked for a few seconds, but I continued to dance. Finally, I hear a shriek, and she comes running towards me with excitement. “I just want to congratulate you on your engagement!” She gave me a hug, and I hugged her back. Why not? I love hugs. After I thanked her she decided to tell me the whole conversation she had with my fiance. And according to her, this is how it went:

Her: What kind of camera is this? (My fiance is my blog photographer and he was holding my camera.)

Him: I don’t know, it’s my fiance’s.

Her: Which one is she?

Him: The beautiful one with the headwrap.

At least, that’s what she told me. And she shrieked and congratulated me again. Then she finished with, “You did it for us black girls!” And she walked away. I was both confused and hurt that she would say something like this although I knew she meant it in a positive light.

Being engaged is a nice romantic thing. It means I’m going to get married to someone I’m in love with, and who loves me just the same. It means we built a connection and a foundation together that we want to expand. But I don’t think it’s just about status, it’s much more than that. Is she saying that black girls are so difficult that they can’t get engaged? Or that black women are incapable of finding love? Or that it’s that rare for a black woman to find someone who wants to marry them, and so it’s a big accomplishment for the race? Yes, there are countless useless articles about this. Try this one. All of this crap about black women and all of the things that make them “aggressive” or “bitter”.  How can society expect women to lift themselves up after being subjected to all of these stories about inferior and horrible they are?

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We as black women have got to think better of ourselves. Yes, we go through a lot. We hear all of these negative things about who we are, and even some of the compliments put us down, but that’s what makes us stronger. Stand tall, lower yourself for no one. (That’s what an older woman told me recently, and I’m saying that to you.) Accept who you are and who other black women are too. We’re not all the same, but we all get put in the same bucket. It doesn’t matter how you wear your hair, who you date, or what you decide to follow as a career as long as you are happy, confident, positive, and contribute in some way or form to the community. That’s why, being a black woman is beautiful because you are too. Lift yourself up, and once you’re standing, lend your hand to another who is still struggling because it’s never easy.

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A random post from the internet:blackwomenvsasianwomen

Googling black women:

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12 Comments on Being a black woman

  1. Bethy Pierre (@BPierreWrites)
    December 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm (11 months ago)

    Wow! Such great post. I appreciate how you examined the concept of being a black woman.

    Reply
  2. Colleen
    December 18, 2013 at 10:30 pm (11 months ago)

    Thank you so much for writing this, I am glad to have found your blog. Ms.Paola you are the top 5 most beautiful Black women I have come across. Reading your post is so heart wrenching because its so reflective of my own thoughts, experiences, and findings. Please continue to write, blog, and keep your head up high. :)

    Reply
  3. yeva
    December 18, 2013 at 10:12 am (11 months ago)

    Oh wow…
    I totally relate to this post 100%.
    Like…. Thanks for writing this.

    Reply
  4. Meghan Johnson
    December 18, 2013 at 2:51 am (11 months ago)

    That “random post from the internet” made me nauseous and furious at the same time. Despite the face-palming frustration, I’m so glad you wrote this post. I love hearing your perspective on your personal experiences related to race and gender, and how your sense of self has evolved and matured over the years.

    Reply
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