Recently, a friend shared a story Stylist Cuts Little Girl’s Braids After Mom Refuses To Pay.
At first, I was filled with maternal rage, wondering what the heck got into the stylist’s head to think it was ok to treat a child that way, but as I considered it further, I wondered why the mother would leave the child with someone for hours, and why the mother thought the child needed a hairstyle that took several hours and hundreds of dollars to accomplish? The answer was not as simple as a mother who wasn’t thinking of her child’s best interest. The answer lays a lot deeper and involves the unstated standards of beauty we place on women in our society. The rest of this blog entry may be a study in surrealism as it’s coming from a White woman who is tired of having White standards of beauty imposed on Black women. Many may think it’s not my place to take up that flag, but they would be wrong. It is not my goal to insult anyone with this entry, but if you are, I hope it makes you think and you eventually take it how it is meant: A love letter from White Women to Black Women.
I grew up in a predominately Black, rural area. I moved back to that area after my parents split, at 10 years old. I remember walking into the classroom, filled with faces that looked very different from mine and being scared to death. Not because they were Black, but because I was the dreaded new kid. A young girl named Bridgette was the first person to talk to me. She didn’t hover or make me feel uncomfortable, she just included me in conversations, picked me for softball and made me feel welcome. I had the opportunity, recently, to photograph her daughter for her college graduation and I couldn’t help thinking how lucky I was to have had her in my life then. Not just because she made me feel welcomed during a very emotionally stressful time in my life, but because she was my touchstone in a society that told me that she and I were too different to be friends. When I heard negative things about Blacks, it was her face, and several others, I saw, and I knew those things were wrong. Later, when high school was over, it was her and a few others I thought of when a young Black Lawyer asked me to dinner and punctuated his invitation with “I don’t date sisters, only white women…can you imagine taking some ghetto girl to a dinner with my law firm??” I politely declined his offer and pretty much told him I had no intention of being a “token”. The more I thought of his words, the more I realized his judgement of Black Women was also a judgement on White Women. Though his words were only about Black Women, his meaning was a racial expectation of both me and those Black women he wouldn’t be asking out. He believed Black women to be “ghetto” and White women to be demure. I had examples of both that shot those preconceived notions to hell. It was then that I realized, that no matter how much society tried to tell us otherwise, Black Women and White Women would always be intertwined and subjected to what the world told us we were supposed to be, but all the while telling us the other was to blame. Black Women would be held to some impossible White standard of behavior and beauty, and White Women would be implicated as the evil that perpetuated it, when the truth was the complete opposite.
I want to speak on behalf of a lot of White women, directly to Black Women when I say STOP! Stop falling for all those standards the world sets you up for. We already think you are beautiful. You know that annoying habit White women have of wanting to touch your hair? It’s not because we think you look like a side show freak, quite the opposite, we are fascinated with it. Your skin, that you wish was lighter, we think is amazing. It shines with health, looks gorgeous in any color, and lets face it….”don’t crack”. Yes, when it comes to the aging process, Black women have it all over white women. But the most amazing thing about you, is your confidence. A White woman who gains 10 pounds will dress in a flour sack and stay in her room until she looses those extra pounds. A Black woman will dress it in a fabulous dress, new shoes and earrings and take pictures of it for Facebook. Because of this, you are our heroines! We admire you, we adore your strength, your confidence AND your beauty, so to see you falling for the bullshit the world is trying to feed you that you need to look more like what I see in the mirror each day, is heartbreaking. I can’t imagine the world telling my beautiful, funny, smart and amazing friend that she isn’t worth as much because she doesn’t fit into a very tiny standard. It angers me that the other beautiful, funny, smart and amazing women I have met over my lifetime work so hard to stuff themselves in a box I have struggled my entire life to break out of. It is especially frustrating to think the mother who sat her daughter in that stylist’s chair that day, was the catalyst for that child to try to stuff herself in that box as well.