Thursday, January 07, 2010

Happy Black Girl Day x Assimilation x Whiteness

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Happy Black Girl Day

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
workers.


I am excited about #Happyblackgirl day because it is about us
affirming ourselves
and not looking to mainstream media to do so.

I am grateful that @Sistatoldja 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,
unnamed.
Now that we have a working definition of whiteness laid out, we can get into Zahara
and assimilation.

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
structural domination.


What would our hair look like if we didn't need to straighten it in order to keep
a job?


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.

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
American Blacks.

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.

10 comments:

aconerlycoleman said...

*applause* to your last paragraph... actually, the whole thing.

Happy Black Girl Day to you!

I've been thinking about the ways in which whiteness is unmarked and assumes a "universal" position. It's an old discussion, but it is one that will not go away as long as whites (esp. males) assume they speak to all peoples' experiences. In my thesis, I encountered problems with white scholars' formulations of Black history/post-colonial history. There was a sort of odd assumption on the part of these "Western" historians that they had the legitimacy to speak on behalf of formerly/presently oppressed and colonized people of color.

My frustration led me to be determined to tell my own story with my own words and voice.

Val or Pro Brooklynite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Val or Pro Brooklynite said...

I know just the person who would unravel at the intellect displayed here, thank you for sharing your thoughts- Pro

M.Dot. said...

Hey ACC,

Thank you for stopping by and for sharing.

I am actually am scared of that last paragraph and want to delete it. But ummmm....

I've been thinking about the ways in which whiteness is unmarked and assumes a "universal" position. It's an old discussion, but it is one that will not go away as long as whites (esp. males) assume they speak to all peoples' experiences
========
Old don't mean it ain't relevant. Shooot.


My frustration led me to be determined to tell my own story with my own words and voice.
=====
Yup. By hook or by crook.

M.Dot. said...

unravel at the intellect
======

Intellect that unravels.

Ummp.

Ummmm hhhhhmmp.

You just made a Black girls night.

Thank you.

chacedollars said...

Dope Post!

Honestly at the end of the day people put too much into black people's hair period...SMH

On another note Black Women have choices as do black men, and while agree that the context that they make choices within is real they choose what decision that they are going to make within that framework.

I am certainly more intrigued by the black middle class than I am by a movie about Precious yet that is what is continually pumped out and thus people consume it.

Finally what state are we in as a community when a commedian(albeit a somewhat intelligent one) is the person who knows the way to a healthy "black" relationship...Mind you cuz black people's relationships are different than white people's.

Gimme a break it is all BS. No one should speak for Black women the same way that no one should speak for asian women or native american men etc...

Dame is ILLAIM said...

"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’m not a black women, but I can affirm that as truth right there.


“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.”
............................

The realest of real talk
Off Subject on subject: I’ve yet to tell you how “Good Hair” f***** up my mind.

I see 2010 brings along with it more ill writings by you.

Model Minority said...

@chacedollers
=======

Steve ain't know the way, he is the one that gets the money to talk about the way, sweet heart. Ummp.
Trust, if the media talked to US, then it would be another story, but then again, thats the job of me an my peoples, and God willing we will have something to show fer it in 2011.

@ill.
Thank you. I am trying.

This next piece I am writing about food, class, race and the city might blow all our byrds. YUP.

Oh. Why so many people be at the Wizard game.?...I was like DAAAAAAAAAAAAANG...mad negros be out...lols...I ain't know.

Dame is ILLAIM said...

De Nada.

Chinatown will remind you that D.C used to be referred to as Chocolate City lol God Bless the Wiz, they need it right now

Changeseeker said...

Complicated and honest and beautiful. Next week, after I finish a series on role models I'm doing right now, this post will be one of the ones I'll feature in a set of links. Thanks for writing it.

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