Black assimilation is premised on being accepted by White people
and making them feel comfortable.
In reading Kevin Mumford’s brilliant book, Interzones, I learned that the
Urban League and the NAACP are historically rooted in making
sure that country Negros from the south, who moved to the north,
didn’t make aspiring middle class Black folks look bad.
These two groups monitored Negro behavior on the streets, went door to
door teaching folks about “personal cleanliness” and monitored Black sex
I am grateful that @Sistertoldja took the time to make it happen.
The 7th day of every month is now, Happy Black Girl Day. Wooter.
Last week I tweeted “Black women are awesome on 55 million different
levels. CNN can’t capture that and I don’t expect them to. It ain’t they job, its ours.“
I see those reports and roll my eyes because I know that when CNN does their
Negro reports they are simply doing their job, which is to serve the interests
of the shareholders and of the white power structure.
Don’t get me wrong, if CNN was like, can you come on and talk about
Black women’s sexuality, global economy or gentrification, I would roll,
but I highly doubt that phone would ring, lols. Renina the pundit. Ha!
Back to the hair. Black women needing to straighten their hair to increase
their chances of getting a job or a mate, is a manifestation of structural domination.
In other words, if White women had to go through what we did ever 4-6 weeks
to turn their hair into naps, in order to try and ensure their survival as employees
then the conversation about Black hair would be different.
Last fall when Alison Samuels was talking shit about Zahara Jolie-Pitts napps,
all I could think was can this child live? Can I live? Sidebar I haven’t combed
my hair since late December, I never just rocked the fro, and it has been an
illuminating experience. I am more self-conscious, always touching it, and
it’s just really BIG and unruly and I get stared at. Who knew? Talking
about the self presentation of Black girls the politics of respectability, Samuels writes,
But even the mothers who spare the hot comb still have to put time and effort into keeping hair healthy: Any self-respecting black mother knows that she must comb, oil, and brush her daughter?s hair every night. This prevents the hair from matting up, drying out, and breaking off. It also prevents any older relatives from asking them why you?re neglecting your child and letting her run around looking like a wild woman. Having well-managed hair is not just about style, it?s about pride, dignity, and self-respect. Keeping your daughter?s hair neat is an unspoken rule of parental duties that everyone in the community recognizes and respects.
Hair that is nice, neat, and cared for also gives African-American girls the confidence that they can fit into the world at large without being seen as completely different.
There is a lot to unpack here, so first lets have a little primer on whiteness.
George Yancy Writes in Feminism and the Subtext of Whiteness, “whiteness
goes unmarked” yet “it assumes to speak with universal authority can truth.”
He goes on to say,
Whiteness assumes the authority to marginalize other identities, discourses
perspectives and voices. By constituting itself as the center, non white voices
are Othered, marginalized and rendered voiceless.
When we think about assimilation we have to think about whiteness because
the two are related, in this country. Furthermore, what are the political, social
and spiritual consequences for a Black person assimilating into a system
that is historically rooted in oppressing that person. Yancey goes on to write
quoting Ruth Frankenberg,
First whiteness is a location of structural advantage or race privilege. Second, it is a
standpoint a place from which white people look at ourselves, at others and at society.
Third “whiteness” refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked,
Now that we have a working definition of whiteness laid out, we can get into Zahara
Black peoples respectability politics make my ass itch and Samuels comment
is the embodiment of Black respectability politics.
There is no greater freedom than being about to be yourself, and I cannot be
myself assimilate for Whites at the same time. Or perhaps I should say it is a
tenuous challenge to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it is a dance
and I have changed my self presentation in order to pursue opportunities
throughout my life.
We constantly adjust our Blackness in order to make White folks
feel more comfortable.This is the essence of Quest Loves piece about
about “The Little Things” and the ways in which he adjust’s his presentation of
Black masculinity in the presence of White folks.
We do what we have to do in order to survive. Wigs, perms,
weaves and God knows what else. Jonzey says that I put too much on White
perception of our hair in the workplace. And I may, however, if it comes down
to me and another candidate and her straight blond hair is perceived as more
attractive then my black napps, twists or straight hair, then I lose, and this, is
What would our hair look like if we didn’t need to straighten it in order to keep
The Gods to honest truth is that Zahara Jolie-Pitt, for all intents and purposes is
a member of the American elite, and one of the benefits of being member of the
elite is that your “deviance” is not susceptible to being punished the same way
that it would be if you are low income. Which brings me to the social costs of
Assimilation has a price. This is one of the reasons why I liked the conversation
around “Bitch is the New Black“ because I would frame it as a one about the
social costs of assimilation.
As I read the article I thought, class wise, do working class heterosexual and
queer Black women have the same dating and marriage statistics and challenges?
Do affluent queer and heterosexual Black women and have the same dating
and marriage statistics and challenges?
When I hear middle class heterosexual folks talk about the “dearth” of similarly
position Black men to date, I think of public education. What does it mean for
heterosexual Black women when Black boys are placed by a White
school system on a punishment/jail track at six years old, in first grade, and
what are we going to do about it? Why in the name of apartheid is this acceptable?
Historically, America has been premised on both the notion of Democracy and
the material reality of Black oppression and the denial full citizenship to
all African Americans. Peniel Joseph’s new book from Black Power to Obama
gets into this. The fact that we have been denied full citizenship is why the “Are
West Indians/Black beef is so deep?” This is why all immigrants are compared to
The notion is, if you can’t BE White you sure as hell don’t want to be Black.
Which leads me to ask, when can we just be, just simply be able to live and be ourselves?
We were never meant to survive, so for us to be talking about Happyblackgirlday is
revolutionary on levels that I lightweight can’t articulate right now but I am trying.
When will we be able to be happy, joyous and free?
As Black women we put our lives on hold for our lovers, our mommas, our families,
our kids, guess what, that life will never come unless we claim it. Sitting in Tuesdays,
waiting for the Chicken Bone Bus on New Years Eve, White dude who Loves Black
women strikes up a conversation with the me. He brings up the “Bitch is the New
Black” article. I listen. And then while talking about his Black women friends, he
says something profound, when he mentions that we “seem to put our lives on hold.”
I get that sometimes we have to do it, to push through. However, every time we put our
lives on hold for someone or something else, this is a willful act. We are not objects,
we are human.
I could give a fuck about what a Steve Harvey or anyone else has to say about
Black women’s marital statistics. Anyone paying their rent talking shit about us
can miss me with those. Rather than tell our story and reduce Black men to
being only worth what they can pay for on a date or in rent, how about writing
about his OWN relationships with his family members, his mother, his daddy,
his children, his narrative, his journey. Hmmp.
Happy Black Girl Day.
With Love, Resistance and Desire.