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.