Identifiers. They label us and present a version of ourselves to the world around us that the world before they get to know us. For me, my general identifiers at the moment are the 5 you see in the title of this post: Black, Woman, American, Blogger, & Student. At this moment in time, these identifiers rule my life. They permit whether or not I get a job, where I can live at the moment, the activities I can partake in, my life in general.
But your main question may be, why is race the first identifier for me? Because it is the first thing anyone sees and it categorizes my experience in this world, especially in America. Race has defined how I experience life and in today’s world, I can’t escape the notion of how race plays a role in every other identifier and my experience in the world.
Ever since I went to college, I have had a few revelations about how race impacts my life because I lived in a bubble while growing up. I lived and grew up in a colorblind bubble, or at least I thought I did. The world does not look at a little black girl and think about how sweet and docile she is, just as they do not look at little black boys as sweet and docile. As I look back, I realize that the people, especially adults, in my life, no matter their skin color, never treated me the same as they did the other children around me. This is a trend that followed me through elementary school, all the way through to my present: college.
Growing into my current self has made me come to the reality that the world is not as diverse as it may seem. As other people of color around the world have been saying for years, people of color are not valued in this world. My entire life has been spent fitting into a box that was never designed for me. I was told to break a glass ceiling that keeps getting higher and higher, and aspire to be a skinny, toned, perfectly tanned white woman, when in reality, I will never be that girl. As I grow into myself, let me explain to you how race played into each of the other 4 aspects of my life.
Society Doesn’t Love Black Women
Aggressive, Not Very Pretty, Too Dark, Thunder Thighs, Slutty. These are just a few of the stereotypes that I’ve dealt with, but I am none of these (except dark-skinned). I’ve played sports my entire life so I am competitive, but never aggressive. Sports have led to my legs being larger than the other kids around me. I’m not a Victoria’s Secret model, but I’m not unattractive. I’m dark skinned and proud, but there’s no such thing as too dark. Don’t @ me on this.
And to that last one. I’m not a slut, not a whore, I’ve never had sex and I’m really not a sexual person. Society has placed so many stereotypes on black women that we are expected to represent at all times. In reality, a majority of black women are not like this at all. Black women have to be strong, delicate, and fit stereotypes that are impossible to fill. Race has played such an important part of my life because I’ve battled all of these stereotypes for my entire life.
America’s Not Too Happy with Black People
America has Trump. We have the KKK. We have the Alt-Right. The country is full of white supremacists. We have a multitude of hate groups around every corner. We have racists in the corner store and in the boardroom. America thinks Black Lives Matter is a hate group or terrorist organization (please refer here, here, here, and here to see why that’s a load of crap) and we are literally having debates about whether or not we should remove statues that were used to intimidate people of color during the 20’s. America is not happy with black people.
Race has been a focal point of how I act in my life. As an American, I have to represent my country and my people at all times. At the same time, I must denounce the President and his racist comments, but also explain to the rest of the world that people of color don’t act like how we are portrayed in the media. Most of us don’t like Trump just as much as the rest of the world.
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Where Are All the Black People?
Take a look at your Instagram. Take like 3 minutes, stop reading, open the app, and look at the first 10 people who come up. How many of these people are people of color? If it’s diverse, great for you, I’m proud! If you don’t see a lot of people of color, take a moment and realize…where are all the black people? In reality, there are a lot of black women who are in blogging, but the blogging community and brands do not come together to raise them to the same level as white bloggers.
Take a look at your Youtube subs. Take like 3 minutes, stop reading, open the site, look at your suggested videos at the top of the page. How many of these people are people of color? I’ll answer again for you, not a lot, I’m willing to bet. Black women and women of color overall are not valued unless they do beauty for black women or hair care for black women. People expect us to fit into a certain niche. The industries that we work with don’t cater to us. Explain why I see 10 shades of beige and tan next to 4 shades of medium-dark brown on foundation shops.
That is a key to why representation matters. Representation means that women of color are supported and can get the same opportunities as our white counterparts. It means that when beauty brands make foundation or concealer shades, they create an even spectrum. When brands use the #AllWomen or “We Are Women”, women of color must be included and not sidelined, just because their skin color does not match a brand’s identity politics.
Great black bloggers like Kristabel, Gracie, and Stephanie to name a few, have been mavens in the world of blogging while black, but there are also bloggers like Anastasia, Yossy, and Rebekah who deserve love and represent bloggers. There are amazing black vloggers out there, like Maya, Patricia, Nikki, and Jackie, who have been recognized by a segment of the community, but there are also others like Jaz, Autumn, and Debbie who also deserve love and support from the community! Change does not come overnight, but the community at large and white bloggers must make a point of supporting bloggers of color. Stop saying that everyone looks alike. Stop saying that the same people get all the campaigns and do something about it, don’t make it a pretty trend, support the movement.
Apparently, I Talk White
If you’re black, how often have you been told, you talk white? During my formative years, people asked: “Why do you talk white?” What does that mean? Inherently, it means that white people are the only people who can be “educated”. In reality, black women are the most educated group in America. I don’t talk white. There’s no such thing as talking white. Just because I don’t sound like a black stereotype off of TV doesn’t mean I talk white, it just means that I am my own person. Being articulate doesn’t mean I’m any less black. Using AAVE doesn’t mean that a black person is any less intelligent.
As a black college student, I have to fight harder than other students to get certain opportunities. Emory is a diverse college, but only 9.1% of 7180 or so students, the population of black students is small. In my classes, I am the only black woman, if not the only black person in 4/6 of my classes. At a large university like Emory, it’s not only sad, but it is shocking. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of my family members, including both of my parents, pose as people to look up to as people who participated in higher education. Nothing can prepare you for being black in college, especially at a PWI (predominately white institution). The incessant struggle to prove oneself and constantly have people doubt your intelligence when you have worked just as hard as they have to get into the same university is real.
To my white peers, I don’t blame you for all of it. At the same time, you have to talk to the people of color in your life to get some perspective. For my fellow people of color, it doesn’t get easier, but just know you aren’t alone. The questions will never stop. Just know that you don’t have to educate all of your white friends on their ignorance 24/7. Just live your life.
I have never talked about this before on the blog, but I want to share my experiences. I wanted to remind people who are starting out or just in need of motivation that just because people don’t look like you, you should still do what you love. Just be yourself, don’t be defined by the identifiers in your life. At the same time, make a conscious effort to promote diversity in your life. Whether it’s life, school, friends, or in the people you follow on Instagram.
Start the conversation and although people may not see your perspective, it’s worth trying and showing your worth. Each one of us is special in our own way. The color of our skin should not downplay our influence in the world. I’ve been limiting myself due to fear of backlash and hatred from the community as a whole and the people in my life. You know what? Fear does not, and will never rule me or my life. Here’s to content that matters and makes me happy, no matter what.