Last Tuesday’s #BeingMaryJane episode Ugly Truths was, well, in a word: UGLY.
It went there. And I mean the show really went there–Beautiful, smart, talented, medical doctor Lisa commits suicide. And everyone left behind must deal with their neglect of her obvious pain, and the part they all played in making her come to such an untimely and ugly demise. This wasn’t just TV for many of us–I was in tears thinking about a young black woman in DC, age 22, Karyn Washington, who committed suicide last year and I penned my thoughts about it (as did many) in April 2014:
I could have written this piece for any number of mainstream outlets–instead I decided I wanted to put this on my own blog so that I could speak for me, as I know I am speaking for many of us: Unedited. Undeterred. Unhushed. And most importantly unleashed.
You see this is our collective problem as black women. We have a lot to say but nobody listens. We have a lot of needs but nobody seems to care. We have a lot of love to give but does anybody want it? Value it? Dare to return it? We have much to share and impart but we are always being silenced. We are always being told to shut up–shrink back. Quiet down. Back down. Back up. Turn it down.
I am tired of being “edited”. I am tired of being “compared”. I am tired of being denied the same full range of emotions that every other woman and person is allowed to have, but us. I am tired of having to always make sure that my mere presence in a room, corporate or otherwise, doesn’t offend or rattle others. I have to constantly make sure I am carrying myself the right way. Having to make sure people will “like me”–find me “acceptable”–or find me to be one of those “nice black women” unlike the ones we all see on Reality TV. The way we are depicted is always ANGRY. STRIDENT. STRONG. OVER THE TOP. HOSTILE. You all know the drill.
Yet, the collective wounds that we carry as black women are many. I am not suggesting we are to be pitied, or felt sorry for. What I am suggesting is that unlike any other human being that walks this earth (either male or female) we carry a unique history, experience and stigma like no other. We carry the unique burden of being both black and female in America; while never experiencing the benefits of our “white” sisters–or of “black” men. One is white. The other is male. Both classifications come with power, access, privilege, and opportunity that we will never ever know.
To my fellow black women, I just wanted to say that you are in fact: Beautiful.
You are in fact: worthy.
You are in fact: desirable.
And that the time has come for us to take off the ripped, torn and tattered superwoman cape, as well as the mask we all wear too well. It is time for us to stop letting black men dump all of their anger and angst on us, as if we don’t carry enough of our own. It is time to raise our voices from the depths of our hurt: the childhood rapes, sexual assault (data, including that in my book–Black Woman Redefined–say the numbers are as high as 40% or more of black women have been sexually abused in their lifetime), physical violence and emotional violence that too many of us experienced. It is time for us to stand together and STOP fighting and beating the hell out of each other.
As I said on Twitter the other night: “No-one can hurt a black woman, like another black woman.”
We do evil to each other without cause. Mean girls in the church are the worst offenders. The late great Audre Lorde, in her essay “Eye to Eye” (1983), says that all the hate that had been poured into her by white people since she was a little black girl in Harlem in the 1930s is what made her so angry. But that her anger was not directed so much at white people, but at other black women. Because it will hit the target. Because we remind her of herself, the self she cannot love and accept. Yet, ironically black women are the only ones who could ever help to make her whole again.
The essay was printed in Essence magazine in October 1983, but you can read excerpts in my book Black Woman Redefined and in my Essence Online series #SistersHeal from April 2012 http://www.essence.com/…/get-lifted-sisters-its-time-to-he…/
“Every Black woman in America lives her life somewhere along a wide curve of ancient and unexpressed angers. My Black woman’s anger is a molten pond at the core of me, my most fiercely guarded secret. I know how much of my life as a powerful feeling woman is laced through with this net of rage. It is an electric thread woven into every emotional tapestry upon which I set the essentials of my life; a boiling hot spring likely to erupt at any point, leaping out of my consciousness like a fire on the landscape. How to train that anger with accuracy rather than deny it has been one of the major tasks of my life. Other Black women are not the root cause nor the source of that pool of anger. I know this, no matter what the particular situation may be between me and another Black woman at the moment. Then why does that anger unleash itself most tellingly against another Black woman at the least excuse? Why do I judge her in a more critical light than any other, becoming enraged when she does not measure up? And if behind the object of my attack should lie the face of my own self, unaccepted, then what could possibly quench a fire fueled by such reciprocating passions?”
It is time to heal from our black mothers who loved our brothers more than they did us. Who raised us, and pushed us relentlessly to be independent. Educated. Strong. And capable. More than they did our black brothers who were coddled. Loved. Spoiled. And nurtured. And to add insult to injury when we turn 40 and are alone, they ask us why we aren’t married? Where are their grand babies? They unwittingly mock us for being too strong and too smart. Huh? What? I mean really? We are your creation. You never wanted us to endure what you had to endure. And for that we thank you–but you cannot have it both ways moms. You just cannot.It is time to heal from black fathers who were either absent from our lives, of if they were there it was sporadic, dysfunctional, abusive or part-time at best. It is time to heal from the warped way we are portrayed in history and in books. In the media and in corporations. It is time to heal from white women who say we are their sisters but ever since slavery, through women’s suffrage, to the feminist movement, to modern corporate boardrooms, and modern politics, have bartered us off, and sold us out, as they themselves gained by using “affirmative action” as we took the heat. I could go on and on about women like my white ex-sister in law and her white father: who suggested I should be sued when I wrote “Black Woman Redefined” in May 2011, because I dared to put a photo (with copyright permission from the famed photographer) of me and my two bi-racial (black nieces) with me in a chapter that I devoted to them, so that one day when they grew up to be black women (and they will no matter how much the white side of their family doesn’t like it) they would have a road-map, a tool to help them navigate being a black woman in America.Those same two nieces (now 17 and 13) are now forbidden to see my black mother (their paternal grandmother) and I, as their mother is divorcing my black brother. And she has alienated the children systematically from him and us in a most vicious way. Even in our own families, as black women, when our brothers marry white women, we are expected to cater to them and be “nice”. Not offend or upset their delicate nature. All while they can disregard, be rude, be unkind, and consistently remind us of the fact that we should suppress our blackness and deny our culture. I could go on and on about the foul things black men who should be mentoring us in corporate America do and say to hold us back. Or worse, our black sisters who “make-it” and refuse to lift other black women as they themselves have climbed. But, I won’t because like me, you live it as a black woman daily.