Black Women Are Not Your Plaything

Black Women Are Not Your Plaything

There's nothing trendy about suppressing black women.

I've spent a majority of this summer frustrated, annoyed and even furious. It's not because of personal issues or anything, but more so because of the diminishing of black lives and the reduction of our existence to bull's eyes for target practice or racially inflamed entertainment. As a black man myself, one critical aspect of that frustration stems from a particularly jarring case in which black women have had their bodies reduced to nothing more than sexual playthings and items that can be hijacked by white people, often like a customizable toy.

There's been a strange trend about "white girls evolving" where there are pictures and videos of white women with large butts (often twerking, horribly). There's even an entire Facebook page about it. Now this may seem like harmless fun, but if you really understand the implications behind this messy rhetoric, you'll see that there is nothing harmless about it, and it's actually extremely demeaning to black women. Black women have been made to believe that their curvaceous figure is unattractive and twerking is disgusting behavior, but once the same is done by a white woman, it's automatically seen as attractive. So I pose this question.

Why is it that black features are seen as the standard, but black people are left to suffer?

I am still trying to discover an answer to that question, but for the time being, I just want to address the severity of this phenomena. Black women spend a majority of their lives believing that their hair is "dirty," "nappy," or "unkempt" and that they'll never prosper if they keep these features. I've seen black women forced into drastically changing their appearances just to because their own skin was deemed unworthy by society. Excessive behavior that often leads to damaged hair bleached skin and different colored eye contacts. It's something beyond a simple aesthetic choice and an entire shift in identity because they are pressured into adhering to a Eurocentric look. And then the paradox comes when white women do things like this:

I see you, too, sis.

This problem is that white women are never criticized for their hair or their curves, and are even lauded for adopting "urban" styles (which is a thinly veiled buzzword for "black"). Allure Magazine even went so far as to write a piece about Afros, without any mention of Black women at all. This is hijacking and erasure at its finest.

Some people, especially fashion designers, think it's incredibly chic for them to use pieces of black females and paste them on white women to seem progressive. But time and time again, we've told you that it's not cool, edgy, chic or flattering. It's downright disrespectful. Box braids can be traced back to ancient African civilizations. Afro surged in popularity in the 1960s as an answer to white supremacy (see?) and in contemporary times, Bantu knots, cornrows, and twist-outs are an affirmation of the immense pride that black women have in themselves. The fact that a white woman wouldn't know any of these things but still would don these styles is headache inducing.

Appropriation of the bodies of black women has existed longer than we think. Crinoline dresses of the 19th century were made to emulate the figure of black female slaves who were more voluptuous and caught the eye of their slave masters.

"But what about if a black girl straightens her hair or dyes it blonde? That's white appropriation!"

Hey, Becky-Ann. If you referred to our girl, Ms. Google Dot Com, you would realize that there is a clear distinction between appropriation and assimilation. Pressured by nonsensical standards set by a Eurocentric society, black women are forced to model their appearance after y'all in order to be accepted and progress somehow. There is no history or tradition behind blonde, straightened hair. This is assimilation. There's been more than enough articles in the past few years detailing this, yet it still doesn't seem to get to y'all.

Amandla Stenberg, the actress who played Rue in "The Hunger Games," outlined the thoughts of Black people perfectly in her video, "Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows." Watch this video several times in a day, and then a few more dozen times before 2015 ends so you don't make any mistakes about black culture in the coming year.

On the flip side, black women are made to be hyper-sexualized simply because they are black.

I once had a (white) friend, who made this strange oath that he would no longer date white girls and only date black girls. I was (and still am) perplexed to this day about this attraction to black women. Our conversations often went like this:

Him: I only date Black girls. White girls aren't doing it for me.

Me: Why are you only attracted to Black girls?

Him: They have the nicest skin, the nicest waist, and the nicest butt. You can't get that anywhere else.

Cue my disturbed side eye.

Magazines and the fashion industry often glorifies black women simply because of the color of their skin. Yes, Black is beautiful and Black girls rock, but the simple fact that my friend is attracted to them because of that singular attribute is outright wrong. This is indicative of a larger issue that has existed for decades and has only become worse over time – that black women merely exist to be considered sexual playthings for society, for their "sass" and "ass" to be a turn on, and for their struggle and suffering to be ignored.

We as a society need to get over this mentality. It places a perception on black women as sexual deviants who are only appreciated because of their "exotic" features. While you may believe you're being "open" about other races, you're simply viewing attraction with tunnel vision and demeaning and inherently racist ideology.

Black girls rock, not just because of their looks.

They rock because of their determination in being recognized for who and what they are.

They rock because of their pride in both their natural hair and their weave.

They rock because they have the ability to drastically shift our culture.

You can either get with the memo or get lost.

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6 Things You Hear When You Move To America From Another Country As A POC

My mom is from the Philippines, I'm from Michigan.

I grew up the same as everyone else I’d say. I spent my evenings at the park playing with the neighborhood kids, I went to kindergarten and ate a bunch of snacks, ran after the ice cream truck numerous times, and learned to count to 7. The only difference that seems to make a significant impact on how others see me is that I grew up in a different country and am also a different race. Is it really that big of a difference though?

I was raised in a military family, so we were constantly moving from base to base, state to state, and country to country. I was born In North Carolina, my sister was born in Alabama, but we were raised in Japan for the majority of our early years. My mother would take us on mini vacations to the Philippines to visit her family quite frequently as well. So over the years we were most definitely exposed to several traditions, cultures, and more. To this day we still celebrate these traditions and our lifestyle can be a tad bit different than the average American. However, are we so different from everyone else that it gives people the right to make assumptions based on my race? No. No one deserves the basic stereotypes and racial comments regardless of who they are or where they’re from.

When you get into the nitty gritty of things in finding the differences between someone raised in America and another country there’s not a lot. Sure, there’s a slight language barrier sometimes, but is that any different? Sometimes we have more traditions to celebrate and handle things slightly differently as well, but when it comes down to it, we don’t have too many differences between us. Hell, I grew up in Japan and the biggest change I noticed when I moved to Michigan wasn’t the people- but rather how many damn trees are here.

As if growing up in another country isn’t enough, I am also Filipino and African American. A lot of people cut pretty quick to the chase in making assumptions when they see you’re from another country. However, once they see you’re a different race that’s not white AND you grew up somewhere else it’s basically a whole new ball park that’s full of questions and slightly offensive remarks. These assumptions are generally stereotypical and sometimes can come off as borderline racist (depending on how you phrase it). If you were born/raised in another country and found yourself moving to the country we know as the land of the “free”, or if you’re an ethnicity that’s not the “American Norm”, then you have definitely heard some of these questions/statements at least once or twice in your lifetime.

1. Where were you born? No, like where are you from? …where are you really from?

Well I spent the last 13 years here in Michigan, but I was born in North Carolina. But if you really wanted to know, yes, I’m half Filipino. Yes, I’ve lived there. Happy?

Almost everyone, regardless of their race, gets that question handed to them and it’s annoying enough to make your eyes roll out your skull.

2. What are you?

Human? What kind of question is that? Do I look like a breed of a dog or a vegetable to you? Just ask me what my race is, at this point I’m used to hearing that question so it wouldn’t bother me. Flat out asking what am I is a little more offensive than anything.

3. Basic racial remarks.

“Do you see as much as I do with your eyes that squinty?”

“Does your mom cook orange chicken really well?”

“Why are you so tall if you’re Asian, aren’t they usually shorter? Oh, that’s right, you’re also half black! That’s why you’re 5’4” instead of 5’0”!”

“You don’t have a stutter, that’s just your accent coming back to you I bet.”

Don’t even get me started on how many people have pulled their eyes back and said “ching chong ching,” to me and made fun of me with a fake Chinese accent. I’m not even Chinese.

4. Do you know how to speak their language? Can you say a sentence?

I know just as much tagalog as you know Spanish. All swear words and how they are. No, I will not say them either.

5. Common stereotypes.

These kinds of people just jump to conclusions and base their knowledge off television shows or the internet. There’s really no filter on them either, so they kind of just fire it at you.

“I bet you can do math really well, but watch out for her on the roads! She’s probably an awful driver!” Add the fact that I’m a woman on there too, that stereotype never ends.

No, I can’t do karate. No, I can’t do jiu-jitsu. I can barely touch my toes, let alone throw a solid kick.

6. How do you pronounce your name?

There are two types of people that ask this question: ones who say it in the most Americanized way possible, and then those who try to add an unnecessary obvious accent to it. Either they find new syllables and vowels in your name that you never saw, or it’s a giant slaughter altogether. Regardless, at least they asked right? They’re still going to pronounce your name wrong…but they still asked.

As much as I can go on this topic forever, the point I’m trying to get to is to please watch what you say. POC shouldn’t be used to hearing remarks like these. The things listed here are directed mainly towards the Eurasia side, this doesn’t cover what our buddies from other countries and continents endure. We are all human in every way possible. We may have different traditions and cultures, but we do not barge into your life and ask you irrelevant questions. If anything ask us in depth questions, not the simple black and white ones.

Cover Image Credit: Max Pixel

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I'm Bi And Dating Straight For The First Time Ever

And sometimes it feels weird. In a good way, though.

There’s a time in almost every bisexual’s life when the implications of actually being bi slam against them.

It’s usually the moment when you have to make two profiles on a dating app because it only lets you pick one gender. Or, typically if you’re a woman, all the worst threesome-seeking couples within the tristate area glom onto you like a starved barnacle on a 15th-century Spanish galleon.

For me, it was a Lyft ride. I was on my way home from a Tinder date.

The driver was friendly enough. She was middle-aged and built of soft, sweeping curves. Her car smelled like peppermint and a hand-sewn and very pink Christmas sweater clung to her shoulders. If she wasn’t a grandmother yet, she was already well-prepared for it.

Naturally, we chatted. She asked me what I had been up to. “Just got back from a date.”

“Oh, what was she like?”

I fired back the basics: she was a biochemistry major at Oregon State University, we had a lot in common, had a great time.

There were things I didn’t share: we’d hit it off so well that we’d missed out on plans to see the new Blade Runner and I’d ended up staying the night. That my date had soft, brown eyes with an understating gravity, strong enough that you barely realized she was wearing glasses. But the basic point was relayed.

It hit me as we pulled up to my place. Not once, in describing the idea that I had had a date, did I have to disguise the pronoun of my date to hide her gender.

Later, when I had a second date with Eve, and when we eventually decided to make things official and date for good, the culture shock echoed further: I was in my first-ever straight relationship.

Eve wasn’t the first woman I’d ever dated. However, she was the first woman I’d dated since transitioning to male.

My first relationship started in the 8th grade. I was out as bisexual to a handful of friends and relatives. She was an out-and-proud lesbian. We would stay together for three years, eventually ending up long distance after my family packed up and moved across the country.

Like the best of lesbians, she’d introduced me to the finer points of vegetarian cuisine and we’d write shitty fiction together, my fiction considerably shittier than hers. We’d even stayed friends, for a time, after an amicable breakup.

The entire relationship was spent in various closets. We held hands in the dark. I didn’t even tell my parents until we’d been together for at least two years. We’d ignore the sneers we’d get in public. I handily hid my gender issues.

Not long after I turned eighteen, I stopped hiding the gender issues and began working towards manhood. I’d like to think I did okay for a former girl scout. Along with that? I started dating (and hooking up with) other men.

Like my ex-girlfriend, my ex-boyfriend and I got used to keeping a couple inches away from each other while walking in public, especially in the shadier parts of town. I got used to calling him my “partner” just so I wouldn’t have to out myself as gay/bi to classmates or colleagues.

When I came to realize I would be a guy dating a girl, some small part of me finds I’m still amazed at the novelty of it. Another part of me feels a little guilty. And I feel that weird guilt, especially as I “pass” more and more as a male. I blend in, when I was used to sticking out. Sometimes it’s comforting. Other times I feel like a traitor selling out the gay agenda.

But that’s the thing about being bi. We date who we date. We love who we love. And hoping one of these days, it’ll only be love that matters.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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