Showing posts with label Black. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black. Show all posts

January 31, 2014

Psst, Jen Polachek Sees 'Heavyset' Black Women in Her Yoga Class

“A few weeks ago, as I settled into an exceptionally crowded midday class, a young, fairly heavy black woman put her mat down directly behind mine. It appeared she had never set foot in a yoga studio—she was glancing around anxiously, adjusting her clothes, looking wide-eyed and nervous. Within the first few minutes of gentle warm-up stretches, I saw the fear in her eyes snowball, turning into panic and then despair.  … Because I was directly in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at her every time my head was upside down (roughly once a minute).  …  Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. 
Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me…”

Image found on: blackyogis.tumblr.com 
While the above passage may read like a contrived scenario devised by Andy Cohen and Bravo producers, it’s an excerpt from one of the most self-aggrandizing, presumptuous, anti-Black woman, quasi-think pieces drenched in white women’s tears, I've read this year; and it comes courtesy of XOJane

Written by a woman, who promptly changed her byline following the collective outcry of ‘Girl, bye!’ in the comments section, Jen Caron Polachek recounted the shock and dismay she felt at having her fair, thin, white womanhood subjected to the presence of a ‘heavyset Black woman’ in the predominantly white, donation based yoga studio she attends— populated by artists and hipsters. And while I suspect Jen may have over-exaggerated the unidentified woman’s body type, since many people tend to think all Black women are fat and lumbering, when juxtaposed against the European female aesthetic, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in a myriad of reasons why her essay was problematic, and it serves as a glaring example of why discussions like the #solidarityisforwhitewomen Twitter hashtag initiated by Mikki Kendall, take place across social media platforms.

February 01, 2013

Black History Month, Hate, & bell hooks

Today is February 1st, which officially marks the beginning of Black History Month. Depending on whom or how you are, this month evokes the myriad of feelings. It will either present a slew of little known but teachable moments in American history that you’ll appreciate; will prompt you to arrogantly refute factual information and espouse the ahistoricism taught to you by your high school history teacher; or it’ll serve as an excuse for you to assuage whatever feelings of white guilt you may (or may not) harbor, emboldening you to employ a series of silencing tactics when Black people share their lived experiences and the historically significant strides of those before them.

Black History Month is one of those commemorative moments that never ceases to heighten whatever feelings of resentment some white people still harbor towards Black people, inducing them to tap into the darkest recesses of ignorance roiling in the pit of their stomach, so they can spew bile across various social media platforms.

If you’re former Saturday Night Live comedienne cum social media jester Victoria Jackson or a prolifically racist Twitter troll, anti-Black sentiment is year-round, and especially vitriolic during BHM. Rage-typing ensues and results in myopic questions such as: “How come there’s no White History Month? It’s not like ‘The Blacks’ had it that bad!“

September 16, 2012

Yet More Thoughts About My Nina Simone Post


Since weighing in about the controversial casting of Zoe Saldana, in the upcoming Nina Simone biopic, several blogs and media platforms have picked up on my blog piece regarding the matter and especially since my comments in Tanzina Vega's New York Times piece. There've been a couple of misconceptions, so I feel as if I need to offer some clarity as well as reiterate my stance on the matter...

First and most important, I actually was not the first person to broach this topic, as was suggested on one popular celebrity gossip blog. The Black independent film website, Shadow and Act was the first to present the information about the movie. The site's creator, Tambay A. Obenson initially made mention of the project in April, and he's been keeping tabs on the Nina Simone biopic since then, announcing and confirming in August that Zoe, was indeed, slated to play the title role. With that confirmation intact, I merely contributed my two cents, via a blog post, about the matter. I also did not circulate or start the petition to get Zoe Saldana removed from the project. In fact, a thorough read of my initial blog post, touches on the reasons why Zoe being cast as Nina Simone, are problematic. I never wrote that she wasn’t “Black enough”, I never mentioned her complexion, nor did I question her race. I said she didn’t share Nina’s phenotype. Nina Simone was a vigilant, unapologetic, mercurial, and amazing force, presented in a package that often isn’t preferred in the entertainment industry. 

August 23, 2012

Secret History of the Black Pinup: Drum Magazine and James Barnor


This latest piece on the rare histories of Black pinup models [publications and photographers] led me in a different direction, so I put a story I’d been researching on a noted Black burlesque performer on the back-burner for now, to feature this one. 

My interest in the lives of vintage Black pinup models and the people curating their images has usually been relegated to the stories of people here in the United States. But Drum magazine was an essential part of African politics and growing trends, during a time when seeing a Black model in the 1960s was a rare occurrence in the U.K., just as it was here in the U.S.  Much in the same way John Moorehead had done for Jet magazine and other media platforms of the time, famed Ghanaian fashion photographer and photojournalist James Barnor also served as a pioneer in the world of fashion photography and photojournalism, within the realm of the Diaspora.

May 31, 2012

Writer Nalo Hopkinson on Discussing Race

Caribbean-Canadian writer and novelist, Nalo Hopkinson discusses the mechanics and importance of having an honest and open discourse about race, with people who've decided that doing so is somehow racist.

In this clip, Hopkinson speaks on how ineffective silence is when trying to address race, and recalls a discussion between another Black writer and a woman who insisted that she "didn't see race" or make it a problem in her life; to which the other writer replied, "If you can't see something that threatens my life daily, you can't be my ally." 

Hopkinson also stresses the importance of learning to address matters of race, while still acknowledging that none of us are a monolith and won't respond the same when interacting in similar scenarios; in other words, we need to learn how to acknowledge that people are different, and learn to respect those differences without resorting to oppressive silencing. We need to learn how to discuss race, deal with the myriad of emotions those discussions will provoke, and learn how listen when someone’s sharing their lived experience, without growing defensive. 



February 26, 2012

Coffee Rhetoric Redux-- If You're Black, Get Back!



In the wake of the latest foolery courtesy of a St. Louis-based promotional company, involving an ill-conceived marketing idea, themed: "Battle of the Complexions" pitting dark, brown, and lighter complected Black women against one another, I'm re-posting an essay I did in August, 2011 about Shadeism or what's also known as Colorism; which is still very much an issue in the Black-- (and other minority)-- communities, despite denials to the contrary. 
In perhaps, an equally as foolish attempt at insulting the collective public's intelligence, the promotional company responsible for the event released a convoluted apology (below), chalking up the idea as a tribute to Black History Month... 
MACK TV WOULD LIKE TO CLEAR UP THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF OUR CONCEPT FOR THIS PARTY...ITS NOT TO DEGRADE WOMEN OR DIVIDE SKIN COLORS. ITS SIMPLY TO SEE WHICH COMPLEXION OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN RACE REPRESENTS THE MOST (lightskinned, caramel-brown, or darkskinned) AS A WHOLE , MALE & FEMALE! I CAN SEE THE MISUNDERSTANDING WITH OUR PROMO.....WE COULD HAVE USED A BETTER CHOICE OF WORDS....WE DID NOT MEAN TO OFFEND THE OFFENDED
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO WE MADE A PARTY THEME DEDICATED TO OUR AFRICAN AMERICAN CROWD. THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS LOVING THIS PARTY BECAUSE HERE'S THE FIRST TIME EVER YOU CAN COME OUT & BE PROUD THAT YOU ARE BLACK!! REGARDLESS OF YOUR SKIN TONE SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION & MISLEADING INFO.
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO LETS BE PROUD OF THE SKIN WE'RE IN!! REPRESENT YOUR COMPLEXION! ...



If You're Black, Get Back!  
Originally posted August 8th, 2011

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne’s verse in Every Girl in the World, in which he expresses his desire for “a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon” has.

Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos.
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women… that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: “Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching … making them feel BLACK is ugly…”

Additionally, Actor/Singer Tyrese also felt the backlash of frustrated darker-skinned women, confused as to why his video was seemingly devoid of obviously Black women. “So I’m getting tweets … why aren’t any “Black Women” in your video.  I had a 2 days audition.[Sic]  I welcomed ALL women and went with the BEST.” he tweeted exasperatedly.

When framed within the context of entertainers and their sex lives, Colorism is undeniable. I acknowledge that it thrives within this realm and influences the aesthetic of many Black men, however, I’m a bit flummoxed as to why Black women continue to look to entertainers and athletes to validate their worth and personal brand of beauty. I understand wanting to see more honest and diverse examples of Black beauty in music videos; But when do we stop holding rappers responsible for how we essentially should view ourselves? When do we stop allowing Lil Wayne’s preference for a “long-haired, thick Redbone” to bother us and realize that when Black men (many of whom are also darker-complexioned) punctuate their preferences with disdain for dark women, it’s their deep-seated issues… and has nothing to do with us? When some Black men reach the pinnacle of financial success, they get to dictate who keeps their mattress warm and comfy… and for some, darker skin just doesn’t suffice.  As frustrating as their self-loathing is, that’s just the way it is. Quite frankly, when I look in the mirror, I’m not wondering whether heavily tattooed rappers with platinum dental work and several children by several different women, think I’m too dark to be considered attractive. Black men who look down on women for having darker complexions… have soul searching to do. Black women who agonize over and doubt themselves on account of a troubled individual’s superficiality… have soul searching to do.

This is definitely not an attempt to trivialize the impact of Colorism… My hope is that Black women with darker complexions move away from seeking acceptance in empty, cold places and hold themselves in high regard, despite the odds stacked against them.
Prolific film director Bill Duke eloquently explores the issue in this 9-minute trailer for his documentary,  
Dark Girls





Original post

              Recommended Reading:  

January 23, 2012

Blogging Elsewhere: Think Like a Dummy, Date Like a Foolio- The Myth of the Great White Hope

In the wake of all of the media attention aimed at Black women, which included but wasn’t limited to; ill-advised dating advice from comedians turned quasi-relationship experts, speculation about why we’re single and unmarried, No Wedding No Womb baby-mama campaign, why we are supposedly threatened by Kim Kardashian’s elegance, grace, and beauty, and play-play scientific charts documenting why we’re unattractive, many of us were flustered by the Tragic, Angry, Single Black Woman meme and exasperated with defending ourselves. The Black woman’s sensibilities definitely took a bit of a hit in the press and in popular culture. At Ariana Proehl’s (of Know This! TV) urging, I also resolved to put the tired trope to rest.  I didn’t want to lend the insanity any more credence or energy.
That promise notwithstanding, no agenda geared toward Black women is equally as annoying as the Black Women Are Better off  With and Simply MUST Date White Men or Will melt Into a Sticky Puddle of Nothingness and Despair propaganda, pushed by certain ones of my sistren is. Of late, articles are cropping up using another angle to access and publicly analyze our dating lives and there have been videos featuring groups of giddy Black women promoting bulleted lists of reasons why dating White men is somehow essential to our survival and livelihood. And it has to absolutely be White men… and none other, or else we’re doomed!
Author Niki McElroy has been making the social media rounds, promoting her book A Black Girl’s Guide to Dating White Men and espousing the attributes that will allegedly get Black women picked by a trophy husband (let’s cut the double-standard and call it what it so obviously is). In a video clip from a show called Everyway Woman, McElroy suggests that her current dating choices are relegated to White men and she wrote the book to placate her curious girlfriends’ queries. While I have no issue with interracial dating, believe in dating with an open mind, and have done so several times for no particular reason or sans any ulterior motives other than shared interests/mutual attraction/because I just wanted to make-out with a willing partner,  I do have a problem with people who date other, purely for opportunistic and superficial reasons or to prove some myopic argument. READ THE REST...
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September 26, 2011

Black Glah-MOUR Update!

Some days ago, I wrote about how much I love vintage ads featuring Black spokes-models helping endorse different beauty products. I also disclosed my fascination with the pin up era and lamented about the limited number of periodicals featuring Black glamour models save for a website called Vintage Sleaze, which archives an impressive collection of Black pin up periodicals and helpful resources for those wanting to learn even more... and I do, as anyone who reads this blog, knows that I like writing about the history of the female aesthetic and beauty regimens, specifically women of the African diaspora. 

I think Black sexuality is a relevant part of Black history, regardless of how people may (or may not) feel about it that element of our beings. Most of us are aware of the tragic life and times of Sara Baartman and continuously  try to understand the Jezebel vs Mammy stereotypes that is perpetually attached to our image. So in addition to having a genuine fascination with that moment in time and space, I naturally wonder how the relatively unexplored history of Black pin ups plays into those stereotypes and who the purveyors were... 
Enter writer, publisher, and collector Jim Linderman (who also runs the site, Vintage Sleaze)... 

I recently received an email from Jim (who happened upon my blog post), informing me that he has amassed a collection of rare photos featuring Black pin up models and featured them in a self-published, paperback book titled: Secret History of the Black Pin Up. Jim Linderman got the idea for the book after seeing a question on an internet message board asking; Why aren't there any Black pin up girls? This prompted Jim to find the answer to that question and much, much more about the history of Black glamour/adult modeling during 1940's to the present. 

Based on the previews I've read and the bits of information I've been able to scrape together via Google, It's an intriguing history. 

The softcover version of the book sells for $22.99 and additional  information on Jim Linderman can be found here as well as on his blog

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August 08, 2011

If You're Black, Get Back!

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne's verse in Every Girl In The World, in which he expresses his desire for "a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon" has. 
Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos. 
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women... that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: "Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching ... making them feel BLACK is ugly..." 
Read the rest over at The Intersection of Madness & Reality! ... 
Recommended Reading: Don't Play in the Sun by Marita Golden 






July 25, 2011

Hands Off! -- In Which I Rant About Natural Hair... Again.


Today, CNN.com featured an interesting article about Black women who wear their hair in its natural state and their displeasure with having it touched by stranger-hands. Of course, as with anything in the media featuring Black women voicing their opinion or personal stories about anything having to do with their being, it incited people to chorus. "Can I touch it?" recounted an incident as told by Tamara Winfrey Harris, who runs the blog What Tami Said, in which a woman standing nearby reached out to touch her natural hair as she and her husband made their way to their table at a restaurant, much to Tami's chagrin: “I turned around and she said, 'Oh, your hair is neat.' It just floored me because who does that, just reaches out and touches strangers?"  
The article also referenced blog posts which delve into the issue of Black women with natural hair who disdain having their hair petted by curious people who they have no type of rapport or relationship with, which can be read here and here. The article prompted people to trivialize the subjects' personal experiences by claiming how keen us Black folk are on playing the race card, before going tit for tat about how they as white people suffer the same indignities and suggesting that we should feel flattered about being petted like a goat at a petting zoo by strangers: "Someone wants to touch your hair. So what? I have blond hair, and I've stood in line at a convenience store and have had my hair touched by blacks."  And it empowered them to fan the flames of their bigotry:  "No matter what you say or do, black people are going to get offended and remind you of their enslaved history, as if NOOOO other race was ever enslaved.  Get over it... black pubic-like hair is not the only type of hair that summons curiosity."
Subsequent blog posts followed- (Many written by the Black blogging community) - either further explaining why it's not cool to violate someone's personal space and sensibilities or also wondering; What's the big deal? Accusing the Black natural hair community of being "pretentious" and "uppity."
See, here's the thing… whether people think the article featured a segment of women who're overreacting, the fact of the matter is it's simply not cool to violate someone's personal space and touch any parts of their person uninvited. I've had experiences where I've been asked by curious people, if they could touch my hair so they  can "see how it feels" or have had people reach out to grab or touch... growing annoyed when I denied them access or ducked out of the way. There were moments when I was caught off-guard and have had folks actually grab and disturb my neatly piled puff or pinned bun. For me, the issue of having my hair touched is political and a matter of intimacy as well as vanity. Are people that presumptuous and arrogant that they think it's okay to violate someone's personal space, particularly when someone has expressed their discomfort with it? And of course a few hissers from the be-weaved/relaxed peanut gallery turned it into an anti-natural hair manifesto, knowing damned well if someone ran their hands through their neatly laid tracks or freshly relaxed hair, they'd throw a fit of epic proportions, despite proclamations to the contrary. Why am I pretentious because I don't want some stranger mussing up my 'fro? I can't imagine walking up to some pregnant woman and rubbing her belly or squeezing her breast implants... nor can I fathom ever approaching an attractive man in fitted jeans and softly reaching out to caress his bulge because I think it "looks cool" nestled behind the taut denim fabric. Expressing genuine interest in someone's hair because you're curious about it... asking them reasonable questions and reaching out to touch or tousle it, are two very different things. And the latter is simply ill-mannered. 
Regardless of the reasons why Black women with natural hair don't want their hair touched and whether people agree with them, people should respect the wishes of others and pipe down. No one has the right to demand that someone "just deal" with having their hair touched and their boundaries crossed. How I express myself as a woman who happens to be Black and the way I extend or present my personal aesthetic is my business and no one (in this day and age especially) has authority over or is allowed to commandeer that right. That's my word. 

----
More of my natural hair diatribes... 

May 17, 2011

Voted Least Likely To Matter

This morning while scanning my Twitter timeline, I noticed folks getting up-in-arms about something relevant I hadn't figured out yet so I scrolled down further, attempting to piece events together myself... and now I wish I hadn't. I promised myself I wouldn't wax philosophical about any articles or studies undermining my right to co-exist with everyone else on earth, but the most recent quasi-scientific study published by Psychology Today's and penned by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, whose shtick seems to be to promote racial and gender stereotypes - (the article has since been removed due to the furor and utter ridiculousness of the evidence presented, I presume)- got my mind working and my fingers itching to get it over with and type this entry... perhaps in an attempt to speculate why this man (an obvious misogynist and bigot), continues to get money to conduct such drivel.
I'm no expert on evolutionary psychology, but I assume if conducted critically sans: bias, motive, a mostly Euro-centric view of how the world should function, or an antiquated belief system; it's helpful with studying human behavior and allowing us to acquire a better understanding of the myriad of cultures. Most people seem to agree that Kanazawa is incompetent at conducting research effectively sans bias and of understanding and objectively reporting on race and gender matters. In 2006, The London School of Economics found itself under fire after Kanazawa wrote a paper reporting that Africa's ills were due to low IQ rather than disease and poverty... that Africans were less intelligent than people in wealthier countries, which explains without a shadow of a doubt, why many suffer. Satoshi Kanazawa seems to be trying to resurrect the racist pseudoscience of Eugenics, so his attacks on anything female and non-European seem par for the course. This time the man sought to prove why Black women are less attractive than women who are White, Asian, and Native American women via Psychology Today. This one set the interwebs on fire... bloggers, Tweeters, forums, discussion boards, other psychologists and Toure X on MSNBC (why'd they defer to him?) sounded off. Satoshi used little charts and graphs to surmise the following (among other things):
 "It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others."  
"... For example, because they have existed much longer in human evolutionary history, Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races.  And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health).  But since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only blackwomen are less physically attractive, while black men are, if anything, more attractive."  
So forth and so on it goes. Apparently we're unattractive, mannish about the face, and are in denial about it, because we're somehow deluding ourselves into thinking we're anything but ugly.
Initially I was agitated and weighed in on Twitter and Facebook (the link on my wall generated some interesting comments, all varying degrees of outrage (funny, awe-struck, and angry). But realizing Kanazawa's propensity towards racist and partial research, my irritation subsided. I became more annoyed at Psychology Today for removing the article without explanation. As if they never made the decision to post it for all to read and get hyper over, to begin with (many people on comment boards questioned whether the article even existed). And while many well-intentioned men (mostly our brethren) suggested that there was an overreaction amongst the Black female masses, regaled us with compliments to placate our ire, then patronizingly (in just a few instances) advised Black women to "just ignore" the study for its obvious nonsensical findings, I think it's important to get to the root of why Black women continue to take a beating in the media as of late. Most of us are not seeking to have our looks validated ... I don't believe that is what incited many of us to sing a chorus of jeers, but rather, we're looking to be taken seriously and not marginalized as if we aren't relevant in the grand scheme of the landscape. Just like Black men are justified in feeling the same way about infractions against them, their livelihood, and very being. 
One commenter on a blog post regarding Psychology Today-gate said it best when she opined: "Its like black women have caught a case of the “leasts” ... Least likely to be married... Least likely to be taken seriously... Least likely to to NOT have AIDS …and now least likely to be even remotely cute..."
Even Black run blogs have gotten in on the action penning foolish articles about why we're supposedly losing to why we should covet or even care about Kate Middleton's induction via marriage, into The British Monarchy 
The dead horse has been exhumed and kicked repeatedly, making it an old and boring topic.. yes... but it's still annoying. If there's an issue or national crisis, Black women and people of color as a whole are always worked into random, negative equations whether we like it, did nothing to warrant negative press, or not. When does it eventually stop?
Read the Google Cached "study" here

February 14, 2011

Black History Essentials: Reading Is Fundamental

This month is as great a time as any to catch up on noteworthy books to read. Whether they be staples from authors of yore or present day provocateurs with something powerful to share... Here're a few books that shook me to my core after I read them. 
Wench by  Dolen Perkins-Valdez made me privy to a part of Black... American history that I was completely unaware of... This article over at Racialicious sums it up really well..
I was also rather struck by the late Chester Himes' searing and controversial (especially for its time) "race novel", The End of A Primitive, which charts the slow disintegration of a heated and alcohol fueled interracial relationship between a, as Himes describes, "sexually frustrated American woman and racially frustrated Black American male" where he allows them to "soak in American bourbon." The result is ... intense to say the least. Himes' own story is interesting in and of itself. 
Another novel of note is Walter Mosley's The Man In My Basement. I believe I read this in two nights... An intense  and philosophical study about race, identity, and impressions. Also seemed to tackle moral dilemmas about evil, redemption, power, and punishment... 
Check them out! 

 

January 04, 2011

Hair Raising Tale: The Beauty Supply Store


Warning: Gratuitous use of personal pics showing the versatility of my natural hair. Deal.
Anyone who reads Coffee Rhetoric or who knows me personally, understands that I am vigorously passionate about issues having to do with women of the African diaspora; Especially how we're portrayed, exploited, "fetishized", oppressed, suppressed, trivialized, marginalized, and perceived. Image, body types, and of course hair. The struggle will never get old with me. I won't ever stop negating the stereotypes and foolery continuously projected onto Black women. Whether media pundits sans a clue (with Steve Harvey's help) continuously resurrect a dead corpse, struggling to analyze the reasons why they think we're ALL hopelessly single to being told our brand of beauty doesn't suffice unless a bunch of prerequisites come before it, or it be someone staring at us with their mouth agape when they realize our features are in fact diverse and not as homogeneous as they think... And so this story goes... 
About a month 1/2 ago, my best friend The Notorious C.A.T. came for a long overdue visit. Of course lots of fun and foolishness ensued. Anything less wouldn't make sense. I introduced her to haunts new to her since her last foray into Hartford... we visited some old, familiar ones. Per usual, Cat insisted on making her annual pilgrimage to a certain beauty supply store downtown to stock up on the must-haves lacking in her adopted northern New York town of Plattsburgh. 
As the Korean woman behind the counter rang her purchases, I noticed her animatedly speaking in Korean to her daughter, who was also behind the counter reading. The conversation seemed to be directed toward Cat, whose unrelaxed, curly hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck, in a puffy ponytail. We both looked at the woman and her daughter quizzically. 
"Oh, we were just talking about your hair." The daughter said to Cat. "It looks really nice. Is is real?" She asked. 
While I struggled to not express a serious case of WTF-face, Cat, in an amused voice, answered, "Oh! Yes. It's real!" 
"Oh wow! Okay." The girl answered incredulously as she and her mother nodded their shocked approval. 
Cat and I exchanged looks, smirked, and thanked the inquisitive Korean woman for ringing our purchases and went back out into the cold... laughing that all-knowing laugh. We reflected for a brief moment outside the store... 
I told Cat what'd just transpired reminded me of the scene from Chris Rock's eponymous documentary 'Good Hair,' where he visits several Korean-owned beauty supply stores, afro-textured wigs in-tow in a humorous attempt to sell it to them and measure its worth against the more popular and preferred 100% Indian Remy brand, beloved by Black women who get their hair weaved. "They don't wanna look... Africa... like this! They wanna look the style!" one heavily accented Korean store owner exclaimed, stretching his hands out on each side of his head for emphasis. "Nobody walks around with nappy hair nomore!" his Black employee sneered. Other beauty supply stores had similar reactions. Alas, Chris Rock concluded that our afro-textured hair wasn't worth a damn, apparently. 
I presume to think that Korean-owned beauty supply owners are probably so accustomed to seeing Black women walk in, with their need-to-be-done hair wrapped up in scarves, to purchase Indian Remy- (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that)- that the mere idea that one or two would walk in with derring-do, their natural, neatly styled kinky/curly hair on display on a mission to buy Cholesterol conditioner to lovingly maintain and care for it, came as a complete shock to them. 
Perhaps the store owner (and many other shocked and awed of the like) couldn't ever fathom soft, healthy, thick hair sprouting from the scalp of a Black woman scalp or grasp the fact that many of us would rather wear it instead of what's sprung from an Indian woman's... or that, quite possibly, a head of healthy hair lay protected underneath the weaved heads of many Black women, who're merely giving their own hair a breather from styling and maintenance. 
On a few occasions, I've been asked if my own pulled back, 70's inspired natural hair was a textured ponytail piece or bun pinned atop my head. 
While I maintain that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Black woman experimenting with her hair and wearing it however she sees fit, our hair and bodies along with our dating and sex lives seem to pique the curiosity of many and becomes a topic of debate amongst those not in the know or who think they do. However, I'm left to wonder if the minority of us who aren't merely just trying a different look and who do truly despise our features and resent the texture and depth of our hair, don't shoulder some of the responsibility for the reactions of those outside our community.
The hair issue is a perpetually complicated one.. and there are a number of beleaguered Black women who are downright indignant about the texture of their hair, as illustrated by the beauty supply clerk in the 'Good Hair' clip, who co-signed her employer's disdain for "Africa hair."  I'd be remiss if I also didn't call out so-called natural hair wearers who follow rigid, multi-layered hair regimens and live by that blasted hair typing chart popularized by Oprah Winfrey's long-time hairdresser, Andre Walker, in an attempt to monitor and alter the texture of their natural hair... perhaps to mimic a Bi/Multi-racial woman's hair type
Black women undoubtedly seem to be under a constant microscope. Other people outside our community pick up on the conflict that rages within the minority of my sistren who dislike themselves, and they run long-distance marathons with it... formulating these grandiose ideas about our appearance, particularly that somehow we all want to mimic a uniform look based on a euro centric aesthetic
I'm often quite dumbfounded and somewhat disgusted when other Black women, who aren't attuned to the actual texture of their own hair, express the same type of surprise at the versatility of my natural hair. As if they, themselves came out of the womb relaxed or be-weaved. It's akin to a clear case of mental conditioning (read: brainwashing).  
Listen, there is absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting with hair as a personal form of expression, but once Black women become that far removed from themselves that it extends beyond a personal aesthetic and simple vanity in a way that causes them to disconnect from what and who they really are, then it's damaging and it perpetuates the growing list of ignorant rhetoric about us. 
Be mindful. Why on earth would you co-sign someone else's virtual (read: distorted) sketch of your image and allow them to wage a totalitarian ideology of how they think you should look? 
That is all. 

September 20, 2010

Socialite Diaries: In Which Black Hartfordites Have Preferences






In-between frequenting my favorite haunts, interacting with people, people watching, collecting numbers on cocktail napkins and listening to a crass Bostonian explain the merits of buying a fancy, sparkling truck that's "big enough to fuck in," and then asking me "So you wanna fuck me?" in the same span of space and time, I often take advantage of quiet moments and mull over the activities and things that make me happy and excited. I mentally brush off the b.s. complaints that there isn't anything to do in Hartford, CT as visions of good times I've had, both solo and while in good company, dance around in my head.  

While not a sprawling metropolis like New York City, Hartford is a pleasant place full of surprises despite rumblings to the contrary, with enough offerings to sate someone open enough to enjoy themselves and not continuously compare the small New England city to New York... an argument as fruitless as comparing apples to grapes. Nay sayers who constantly cry and moan about how there isn't anything to would find that if they just DID IT and kill the pessimistic and negative attitudes, there would be more of it TO DO. The beauty of being a native of this city is that at the end of the day, Hartford residents could care less where other folks are from, so for those transplants who wax nostalgic about how much better their city is to ours... the argument is an empty effort, as we'll kindly suggest you make haste and move back there. Hartford is nicknamed The Hartbeat for a reason...The people who live, play, and raise their families here and want to see it continue to thrive and grow, are passionate about its offerings and make sure to nourish its growth as a cool place to be, by making positive contributions and participating. 
Moooving on, as an open-minded Black woman who enjoys the arts and most things wine related as well as the finer things in life I can't afford, I often wonder what other ones of mi gente who reside in Hartford are up to as I nurse my wine and look on earnestly at my surroundings. Are they sipping wine and listening to music like me? Are they laughing off a loud Boston traveler looking to rock the Casbah in his truck? or are they side-eying questionable outfits and behaviors ... laughing raucously over a snifter of Hennessy? 
A local woman and fellow writer who goes by the name Ruby Phoenix has taken the time and effort to get at the root of what some of the Things Black People Do In Hartford involves, via her aptly named blog of the same title. Fortunately for us, it's not a strategically documented log comprised of shootings, drug activity, petty thefts, and car jackings; besides, the Hartford Courant has already taken on the role of clocking that information, ensuring that those outside the perimeter stay far away... as they point and throw major shade our way from their suburban enclaves. No ma'am... Ruby Phoenix features a series of events and  urban hang spots where wonderfully smelling Black people like us aren't packing heat; Opting to take in some performance art, poetry, dancing, or simple chilling with cocktails while ogling an attractive assortment of patrons ... dressed in the trendiest, sexiest, or most bohemian chic fits. 
Jessie, Al, Angela and Barack would definitely approve her message. Get into it ... 

June 08, 2010

LOL Cat

It's a wonderful, sunny morning. The air is dry (humidity and rain be damned) and comfortable, and I'm sitting here sipping on coffee mulling over what to do, checking my email, reading the news and chuckling at the latest and greatest in popular culture. Things seem par for the course as usual, lately; The Marginalization of Black Women.To further drive the point on home that we're the LEAST favored- especially (it seems as of late) considering all of the media coverage and news specials about why we can't find love- is a rapper who calls himself Slim Thug; - (insert smirk here)- who poked his head from behind the cloak of irrelevancy- (Read: from underneath a moist rock)- to eloquently offer his two cents on the plight of The Black Woman's Love to Vibe.com, because nothing feels as uplifting as a Black man stepping on our throats to keep us down, never mind the fact that the majority has and does already. I wasn't going to dignify this foolatry with a blog post, but I'm far too amused and tickled not to weigh-in: 
"I have a brother that dates a White woman and he always be fucking with me about it saying, “Y’all gotta go through all that shit [but] my White woman is fine. She don’t give me no problems, she do whatever I say and y’all gotta do all that arguing and fighting and worry about all this other shit.”
My girl is Black and White. I guess the half White in her is where she still cooks and do all the shit that I say, so we make it."...
are amongst some of the sparkling gems of wisdom Slim Thug shares with Vibe online. Quite honestly, I'm not offended; particularly when one considers the source. I think I was more taken aback by his un-cited comment about successful Black men being "extinct."  Since I don't have a "White side" like Slim Thug's current girlfriend or choose to cater to a man's every whim just because he thinks I should, I can only opine from a solely Black side and say that I am getting bored with this growing divide between Black men and women. Many Black men have been espousing Slim Thug's antiquated rhetoric for the past 50 years or so.  Slim Thug outlined a lot of what he wants done for him, but didn't outline how he'd reciprocate those gestures to his biracial girlfriend's "White side." (I didn't mind mentioning her "Black side" because he doesn't seem all that keen on that half). I'd like to think that relationships are a little deeper than merely cooking, cleaning, and catering to someone who feels self-entitled, can't stand a woman who does more than nod or blink, and doesn't think he should do something to nourish his partner. Slim Thug also presumes to think that EVERY White woman is a passive doormat with no aspirations other than to wait on someone hand and foot, as if they're 2 dollar concubines.
His ramblings about Black women being nothing more than gold-diggers with no drive (has he noticed the media attention on infidelity and the rise of the groupie lately?? None of them are Black women) - speaks volumes about his own pathology. As a rapper living the lifestyle it entails, I'm sure he runs amongst a certain circle, undoubtedly meeting a specific brand of woman on a consistent basis. Notwithstanding the fact that Slim Thug and his ilk perpetuate that type of behavior, braggartly promising to take women on shopping sprees and lavish trips, while having genital spasms over how much money they make from hustling  ... but will be angry when they're held to that particular standard.
I don't knock anyone's right to fumble towards affluence or a comfortable life or to date who they're attracted to for that matter, but his obvious issues with American African have nothing to do with me or most other Black women for that matter. He chose to engage a certain type of bird... that's his problem and his demon to slay. He should upgrade his intelligence and think outside his box... because any woman who graduated from Columbia University and chooses to nourish this man's ego and allow him to dictate to her, may have some soul searching  to do herself.  
While the latter part of his interview had some valid points about where our community's priorities are based, the bulk of what Slim Thug outlined in his interview spans a wide spectrum and is not behavior exclusive to just Black women. ALL women and men have the capacity to hurt someone or be jerks. The energy you put out is what you get back; bottom line. If you go looking for drama or looking to find flaws or pick a fight with someone, then guess what? ... the relation-SHIP will sink faster than the Titanic.
The same way his brother relates to his White wife, is probably different than how he tried to get on with a Black woman. Respect is a two way street. It's not rocket science. Slim Thug seems to be scarred from a prior relationship, so I'll forgive his irrational generalizations and ignorance. As long as Black men like Slim Thug continue to have a laundry list of ridiculous demands written on the palm of their hands like the next groupie's phone number, Black women will and should continue to have a list of reasonable ones folded neatly into a small square, at the bed of our purses. Otherwise, the word is COMPROMISE. That is all. 


 

May 03, 2010

Here I Go... Again...

Anyone who knows me... personally or via this virtual insanity... know that I am a Womanist and a staunch defender of Black women; and that I advocate us taking back control of our image and schooling the masses about what we are and what we aren't.
This year alone, there have been numerous "studies" ... articles and TV specials that obsessively try to get to the bottom of why I'm single. And having the resilient and tenacious personalities we do, many of us fought back... Sister Toldja's and Fungke Blak Chik's rebuttals being amongst those, rallying against the noise that undermines our femininity, our desirability, and our right to express our sexuality however we see fit. Their arguments were powerfully eloquent and spot-on. Everyone from White men to Black comedians; Russians to White women, seem obsessed with the mating habits of Black women. And Yemaya be damned if when we rear up and defend ourselves, for then we're labeled as bitter, angry, and hateful... with taunts of, "See?? See what we mean? See why Black women are single??!"
So why am I holding this seance, resurrecting this dead corpse again?  A little perspective on my frame of mind; I just finished reading Chester Himes' 'The End of a Primitive', then followed it up with a revisit of Charlotte Carter's 'Walking Bones,' and now have the nerve to be reading 'Wench' by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, so I don't mind going toe-to-toe right now. Observe...
While catching up with the goings-on of a favorite blogger's life, I was somewhat surprised, dismayed, and then pissed when I read about a conversation she had with her significant other- (they're both White with white collar careers).  The author of the blog didn't say anything offensive and usually logs very insightful, politically aware, and evolved posts... but her paramour... a captain of industry type who seems used to getting his way... didn't seem so progressive when he ranted against the (mostly) Black nursing staff (she's in the hospital) working the night-shift wherever she was recovering. It appears the nurses weren't keen on him staying overnight on a mostly female floor and reminded him that visiting hours were over. Annoyed, he opined that their sudden or perceived resentment toward his presence was due to them being angry, Black, and essentially bitter because they aren't the blondest or the fairest ones of all. And so they were jealous of said sick blogger... because she's white, blond, pretty, and well... because she has him to wrap her in his big masculine arms while she convalesces. And they'll never have that type of male sustenance in their lifetime. I won't offer a link to the post in question because I actually like her. She seems like a highly intelligent, honest, and nice woman. I enjoy her writing voice and I'd hate to be the catalyst who incites angry readers to chorus on her comments section. She seemed reluctant about feeding into her paramour's hype but, was equally as reluctant to question his rhetoric and obvious bigotry against and stereotyping about Black women... almost doing so halfheartedly so as not to upset him any further... which probably would've exacerbated the situation. She seemed - (an impression I got based on what she wrote) - willing to buy the rancid meat he was selling. I am not surprised nor did I expect her to jump to the defense of Black women or jump down his throat (since it is a relatively fresh relationship) and so am not disappointed in her hesitancy; particularly when you consider that her White female femininity was being elevated on a pedestal, which isn't uncommon- especially when being juxtaposed with that of a Black woman's. Here are some of the gems she shared when relaying the details of his angry rant- “Listen. I was married to a black woman for years.  I’ve spent a lot of time in many different communities. I’ve coached for years as well.  I lived and worked in and around D.C. for 10 of those years.  Outside the inner city it’s not so bad, but the black people in downtown D.C. are not fond white people. “
and --
"... I used to be come on to all the time when I was working in Northern Virginia you wouldn’t not believe it, sometimes I’d run across the street to get away from them.” 
and my personal favorite-- 
“I wasn’t going to say anything but a few of the nurses tried to catch my eye this afternoon. Two of them, at least. One of them even came on to me, and I mean she was BLATANT about it.  I just blew her off and kept walking. I couldn’t believe it”  ... 
"They all HAVE to know I’m with you, because I’ve been in bed with you since morning! I’m obviously devoted to you but they don’t care. They’ll just steal each other’s men, they won’t even hesitate. They.Just.Don’t.Care. Blows my mind.”
worst even-- “Trust me on this: With black women it’s all about the hair.  Believe me I know.”  <--(Um no son, you don't). 
So forth and so on. The entry left me speechless and angry. White (male) supremacy and propaganda at its arrogant worst. So now not only are Black women hopelessly single... but we're Jezebels without any scruples, who relentlessly chase men who're spoken for - (notwithstanding the high-profile mistresses who've been in the news lately) - have lost all hope in all Black men, and secretly lust for White men and all the riches they could shower us with, and apparently all of our self-worth is tied up in our hair. Such strong words from someone who was obviously upset because the head nurse opted to enforce hospital policy... much to his chagrin. 
As those two move forward in their relationship, it is my hope that my blogger buddy will encourage her lover to change some of his antiquated ideas about Black women. Stereotyping is a detrimental and hurtful process and it robs people of the right to share their truth.  It would be wrong of me to surmise, solely based on my own personal experiences, that all White men are pushy, psychotic, self-entitled, and racist. 
What his behavior within the context of that situation demonstrates is how the American White Male Privilege paradigm (which operates  to suit its own needs) is so easily projected when someone of his stature can't get his way and particularly when that privilege is challenged by a Black woman. I can't count how many times I've gotten grief from this type of White male, because I've either turned him down by refusing to play the Jezebel role he's accustomed to seeing in rap videos and reality shows or because I dared to challenge some ignoramus statement he made and that I didn't agree with. 
I like this blogger, but since she relayed the story on a public forum, with all due respect I, felt compelled just as publicly to challenge what I read in hopes that she can help her man get his mind right and hope she doesn't take this as a personal and malicious affront. Sans dialogue there can be no progress.
That is all. 

January 18, 2010

Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow


People who know me personally-- those that've read posts here, on Coffee Rhetoric, realize or have come to realize how passionate I am about Black women's issues. Specifically those having to do with our unique brand of beauty, our image, and our hair. A little more than 10 years ago, I opted to stop using chemicals to straighten my hair. I wear my hair "natural" if you will. That's a personal choice I maintain til this day. I love my hair in its natural state and tend to not care what anyone else thinks of my hair's type and texture. Natural hair does NOT a militant make... nor is it me trying to make a political statement. It's me, being at peace with myself. I did not come out of my mother's womb with a chemical relaxer. And I don't answer to or flinch over the negative connotations of the phrase "nappy."

While I don't subscribe to altering the state of my hair via relaxers, weaves, lace-front wigs or what have you... I don't begrudge any other Black woman the right to do what she sees fit to do with her hair regimen. To each her own. I am only concerned with my own hair routine. And while I would LOVE to shrug and say, "It's just hair," and move on... unfortunately for Black women... it isn't that simple. Women of color will always be embattled over the texture of our hair and skin shade. Unfortunate. Multi-layered. Complicated. And rooted in a painful history. And lately, I'm discovering it's not as cut and dry as relaxed hair vs natural hair vs hair that's beweaved vs that which is bewigged.
For the past 2-3 years or so, there has been a huge influx of natural hair care products, YouTube tutorial videos, online forums, and websites celebrating the beauty and versatility of afro-textured hair. But even within the natural hair community, there is a lot of controversy.
There are "naturals" who are obsessed with texture and so will swear by a hair system/chart to determine their "hair type" -- or to aspire to a 3C hair type, most commonly associated with mixed race people. Some naturals are more concerned with length and so will find ways to stretch the hair to its maximum- (preferably "bra strap long" some women on various forums will brag).
I've come across blogs where there is petty squabbling in the comments section over which natural hair care method is the best and only way to treat afro-textured hair or whether or not the blog's host features enough women with kinkier textured hair, versus women with "mixed race" hair.
It's maddening. While I do enjoy discovering new ideas, products, and recipes for my own hair, I've made a conscious decision not to concern myself with dictatorial methods of natural hair care. I run my hands through my hair everyday, and so know what does and does not work.

I find it most unfortunate that even while Black women reach their epiphany and "free" themselves from eurocentric hair and beauty expectations, many still can't make peace with themselves, even within the confines of the natural hair community. When will this "Good Hair/Bad Hair/Not Good Enough Natural Hair conflict end? These natural hair mandates are exhausting. I've read debates over whether or not First Lady Michelle Obama "presses" or relaxes her hair straight.  Or whether EVERY natural will experience major consequences if some of us choose to blow out our afro-textured hair using minimal amounts of heat. If we'll experience major growth if we take this vitamin, or that vitamin. If our White co-workers and dating prospects will like or accept us if we style our natural hair a specific way. All hell broke loose on the Black (and some predominantly White) celebrity blogs, when Solange Knowles stopped wearing wigs and cut her hair closely to her scalp. Listen, who cares? I would LOVE to see and for us to seize the day when hair will just be considered that. Hair. And when we can truly and really, for real, be happy in our own skin and with the depth of our hair's texture, without this seemingly constant need for validation.