When I was younger, my mother would tell me how important it was to leave the house looking your best. She wouldn’t accept un-brushed hair, sweat-pants or wrinkly clothing. Naturally, I rebelled as much as possible. As a former model, my mother believed in always putting your best face first. As a self-proclaimed tomboy, I believed in comfort. Looking back now, I can see my mother was right. Who you present yourself as to the world will determine how the world will see you. If you want to be seen like a businesswoman, dress like one. If you want to be seen as a gangster, by all means wear the clothing to match. What my mother neglected to tell me was that I would not only be a representation of myself…but of all black women everywhere.
If I am to be frank, our reputation as black females sucks. We are generally type cast as a group of loud mouth, neck rolling, and finger snapping bitches. This stigma of the “angry black female” is more saturated in media now than ever. Movies, Reality T.V., magazines and even MSNBC all cater to that same stereotype. Unfortunately for us, it is a burden we have to deal with daily. More so, most black women won’t admit or don’t care that this exist. It is time to wake up and taste the haterade. This is the cold hard fact ladies, unsweetened and straight from the horse’s mouth. When you walk outside, what you wear, what you say, how you walk, how you talk and what you do represent all of us. All black women. Everywhere. Cue the boos and disapprovals. Look, I’m not excited about this either.
In a perfect world, I would be able to speak however I wanted, to whomever I want and be responsible for me and only me. But this is life, and that world does not exist. Reality is that the only way to change the negative perception about black women is to start with ourselves. For example, my first week in Los Angeles my aunt invited me to visit her at work. Not having a car, I called for a taxi. The driver was a lovely older gentleman from Russia. For the duration of my trip we spent our time talking about love, life, and musicals. Who doesn’t love musicals, right? Anyway, when I arrived at my destination, the cabbing turned around a said, “ You very nice lady for a black girl”. Huh? What did he just say to me? NO HE DIDN’T. How do you respond to that? Uh…thank you? He continued to explain that he picks up a lot of people and took notice that black females seem to be the most hostile, but that I was lovely and it was refreshing to see that. Ok, so it’s a backhanded compliment and I know he meant well, but still pretty messed up. But the most troubling part was that I couldn’t disagree with him. As much as I wanted to retort and show him how offended I was, I knew that only thing that would accomplish was his proving him right. Black girls: 0 America: 1 I envy my white friends. If they get into an argument with a Wal-Mart employee it’s just typical Wal-Mart behavior.
If I get into an argument with anyone in public, it’s typical black girl behavior. In the same notion, if I don’t stick up for myself or fight for my cause then somehow I’m not a “strong woman”. I can’t win. I was recently promoted to manager at my job in Beverly Hills. As excited as I was at the time, the pressure is immeasurable. Working in a predominantly white neighborhood and being one of only brown people not in the kitchen, it’s my job to make the customer feel comfortable. As first impressions go, my young age already is a huge battle, but now I also have to make sure my attitude is in check as well. Any slight eye roll or ill mannerism will only add to the list of judgments. There’s a scene in the movie “Selena” where Selena’s father is trying to explain to her how hard it is to be Mexican-American. He says, “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans. It’s exhausting.” The same holds true for Black women. It’s a burden we must carry. A burden we have to accept and change.
I am so thankful for women like Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg and Michelle Obama who take this burden and make it easier on all of us. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to do your part. Look, it’s hard out there for everybody, but we as women have to do better for ourselves. We have to want better for our future children. I am so damn proud to be a black female. My grandma always says, ”God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, so he must know how strong black women are because he gives us a lot! It’s time to bite the bullet and woman up. As Paul Mooney says, “Your complexion is the representation of this nation”. So do better y’all and remember the world is watching.
Sade Sellers is a Twenty-Three year old independent woman who likes Netflix and dried apricots. She currently resides in California, but will always be a Michigander at heart.
Photo image [Top Center] from www.clutchmagonline.com