Internet memes love to focus on the tooth-deprived, heavy-set, or more flamboyant sector of blackness. It’s like when ‘Precious’ came out. All the Hollywood (white) actresses raved about her, loved taking pics with her. I don’t remember that level of fanfare over Thandie Newton. Uh HUH.
It makes me laugh and die a little when I see black women in ill-fitting clothes held up for ridicule by social media. What makes it sad is the women see themselves as multi-faceted individuals and think everyone else does too.
These women are in booty shorts with grills and 4-inch fingernails, but they also have jobs, spouses, children, and artistic interests. Too often all we see are the two minutes they let their hair down after a 50-hour work week. But, like those Hollywood actresses, people love to laugh at the poorly dressed, heavy-set black woman because they feel superior to her. They need to believe that lie, because their own self-worth is based on a hierarchy that is itself based on a lie.
Working in Advertising I’m usually (if not perennially) the only person of colour at the agency - this is something I’ve grown accustomed to, and honestly, hadn’t seriously considered until I read your hilariously erudite piece of literature - it was empowering.
I’ve found very nuanced ways of tactfully calling people out on their - sometimes varied - ignorance as opposed to my prior habit of laughing off those awkward situations. Case in point: here’s how a mate of mine *casually* described a girl he wanted to set me up with: “Dude, she’s great! She’s a lawyer, has a great sense of humour and not like *insert neck roll gesture* Shanaynay… she’s white-washed… like you… you two will get along”. In an equally casual tone, I told him that the term “white-washed” isn’t exactly complimentary and he seemed genuinely surprised. This in turn led to an honest conversation about the problem with stereotypes (how they are incomplete and ultimately flatten people’s experiences) and a profound learning experience for the pair of us.
Cheers a ton for such a capital read. Your acerbic and bone marrow dry humour made for numerous laugh-out-loud-at-an-ungodly-hour-type-scenarios.
Many thanks, Baratunde!