How (a Very Small Number of) Black Women Treat Me and How I Feel About It

Can I process something?

I don’t really know where this is gonna go but I have had something on my mind for the past few days.

I’m terrified, however, of being dragged by the bangs across the internet so I’m gonna try to dance around this topic in as gentle of a way as is possible.

So, at the store I work at probably about 60% of the customers are black women.

Most of my coworkers are also black women.

I’ve spoken on my blog before about my exploration of my racial identity and my odd attempts to reconcile my feelings on my place in the “black community”.

I often find that certain customers will raise their voices at me, look on at me with a face of disdain, and will order me around with no regards for even the simplest of formalities. These same customers upon interacting with my “blacker” coworkers will beam with joy and appear to have spontaneously developed manners.

I would be remiss to not mention that this disparity in manners works the other way around as well; often white and east asian customers will be quite a bit quicker to say please and thank you to me than my more prominently black coworkers.

My blog is about me though so I’m gonna complain about my situation specifically.

When I was a child up until even high school I was often called uppity

I get that. 

I use words like “disparity” casually and really don’t code switch between a formal speech pattern and a casual speech one. I can seem like I’m doing an impression of Ophelia from Hamlet at times. It is totally rational to think that I’m a self aggrandizing narcissist who went to see too many plays (not entirely inaccurate).

I think it’s quite funny, however, that often the people who call me uppity, bougie, or rich girl are in far better financial positions than me.

When I was a child I remember a girl would call me bougie and push my glasses into my face. That girl, upon leaving school for the day, would return home to a mother who is a doctor and a father who is a lawyer. 

Oftentimes in my childhood I would be mocked for being a rich kid by kids wearing Jordans as I padded through life in payless moccasins.

I think it’s rational to draw a comparison between my childhood bullying and the hostility I am met with now. 

I think I’m gonna sound like a whiny lightskin here, but especially in high school the word uppity would be accompanied by the term lightskin.

Just saying there’s probably an association there.

I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that people are hostile toward me upon simply observing me. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same thing happens to my darker skinned coworkers. It’s probably not a coincidence as well that the rude women I deal with have a similar complexion to my childhood bullies. And I really don’t believe that the customers in the store don’t know that I make barely over minimum wage.

I think it’s important to not develop blanket hostility toward a group because of specific instances of less than satisfactory experiences. It’s pretty tough to do that though.

I’m a pretty sensitive person. When customers raise their voices at me I’m often on the verge of tears by the time they’ve gotten in their car to leave the store. I get that it’s really easy to tell people to toughen up. I think it would be a better use of resources to tell people to not be *ssholes though.

I don’t have a solution to any of this.

I don’t even have a satisfying conclusion to draw from this.

I notice that my coworkers are better at dealing with terrible customers than I am (at least on the surface).

I think that can be attributed to all sorts of things. They could just not be sensitive like me. They could be more experienced with dealing with mean people. They could be hardened by living harder lives than me.

I’m gonna pull out my hypothesis for why I think stuff like this really gets to me though.

I think as a person who deviates in the ways that I do, you often feel like people with more concrete traits have a community while you don’t. I feel sometimes that people lay on a spectrum and when you have a definite space on the spectrum you’re more likely to sit in the same space as others. I feel like i swing on a rope over the spectrum wearing nothing but a wizard hat and gogo boots. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. The boots are too small.

So…

I don’t have much to say.

I wrote a post very similar to this yesterday. It was 3000 words long and really great and I don’t like this one even half as much.

Thanks for reading though.

Advertisements

Revisiting Chrissie

I’m not posting my entry that’s taken a long time today so don’t hype this up. It should *fingers crossed* get posted tomorrow.

I have a youtube channel. I plug it whenever I’m working on a video but for real guys… you can subscribe. I won’t stop you.

Since we’re on the topic of youtube, I’ve been wanting to revisit a post a made right at the beginning of my blog. Most of yu guys probably haven’t read it so here’s a link to the aforementioned post: questioning my blackness

This post is only a few sentences and it was written within the first month of my blog. It’s also very vague and inoffensive.

If you decided to not read my post I’ll sum up the feelings discussed in it.

Basically a youtuber named Chrissie makes a lot of videos about black struggle and colorism, and some of her statements about multiracial people made me reflect on my race. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s revisit Chrissie.

I’ve actually been watching quite a few videos from her and I’ve even subscribed to her channel. I think she has a very important platform and her main point of wanting positive promotion for dark skinned women is a point I not only agree with, but one that I hope to promote in my lifetime.

When I first saw some of her videos I was close to being offended by the way she speaks about multiracial people (specifically part black people), but now I totally get it.

For most of my childhood I felt like people like me were very underrepresented in media, but upon doing further research I’ve realized that my childhood media consumption was basically an echo chamber.

I watched a lot of Disney and in Disney’s huge repertoire, I would be correct to say that until about 2010 there was not really any representation for girls like me (P.S Disney please cast me to voice the first multiracial princes, please please please). The first time I remember seeing myself in a girl on TV was when Zendaya debuted on Shake It Up. I remember seeing Beyonce as a child and comparing our skin tones, but Beyonce always felt otherworldly.

Zendaya however is only 4 years older than me, so she felt like a person I could talk to, while Beyonce felt like someone to worship.

For kids who grew up watching (don’t get mad at me for saying this) “black media”, there we’re quite a few girls who had a similar skin tone and hair type to me and likely a similar genetic makeup. I could even go so far as to say that there were as many or more of them than there were of “fully black”, brown and dark skinned girls. Statistically, that’s super unrealistic. Yes, there are quite a few multiracial people with Zendaya-esque features, but there are definitely more black girls in the world.

And when you analyze the character attributes given to a multiracial girl and compare them to the character attributes given to darn and brown skinned black girls, things get worse.

Think of all the girls in black sitcoms.

How are mixed girls and light skinned black girls portrayed?

  • feminine
  • smart
  • desirable
  • something to care for
  • pretty
  • fully fleshed out
  • kind
  • “bougie” (I hate that word so much)

I saved the only common negative attribute for last becasue we’re gonna do some juxtaposition.

How are brown and dark skinned black girls portrayed?

  • feisty
  • almost always single
  • loud
  • stereotypical
  • masculine
  • insert stereotype (jezebel, sapphire, mammy, etc)
  • strong

This isn’t my opinion on people of different skin tones, this is just analysis of common media portrayals.

Notice how the big traits for lighter skinned women are majority positive whereas the traits for darker skinned people are majority negative?

This is basically the crux of Chrissie’s platform.

Darker skinned girls can be just as feminine, just as beautiful, and just as all around great as even the best light skinned girl. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it feels refreshing to see a darker skinned girl portrayed positively in most media. It really shouldn’t feel refreshing because there should be that sort of representation in the first place.

After watching quite a few of her videos, and taking off the veil of defensiveness, I’ve realized that Chrissies point of view should be more common. People should all be working toward positive and accurate representation of our various groups and we should support it when other demographics are fighting for their representation.

Also, even if you’re not black and you don’t concern yourself with “black media” you can see similar tropes applied to people of different shades in pretty much every demographic. Think of anime. How often do you see a tan or brown skinned character? Not even a black character, any darker skinned character.

I can probably count on one hand the darker skinned anime characters I know the names of (and I’ve watched a lot of anime in my life).

Actually let’s do it now. I’m gonna name off every tan and dark skinned anime character I can think of.

  • Brock from  Pokemon
  • Ymir from Shingeki no Kyojin
  • Michiko Malandro from Michiko to Hachin
  • Atsuko from Michiko to Hachin
  • Dahlia from Pokemon
  • Isis Ishtar from Yuhgioh
  • Karui from Naruto
  • Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo
  • I can’t think of anyone else
  • uhhh
  • Orange Blossom from Strawberry Shortcake??? That’s not even an anime!

Like come on? Anime is a huge genre and I’ve seen a ton of it and this is all I’ve got.

And don’t try to argue that there are no tan people because anime is japanese, because A) there are lots of naturally tan japanese people B) especially in the 90’s a lot of japanese people tanned and C) japanese people know what black people are and there are quite a few black people who live in japan and assimilate to the culture. I mean for gods sake, Miss Universe Japan 2015 was half black and Miss Japan 2016 is half indian!

I can do this over an over for like any genre of entertainment. Musical theatre, Kdramas, Opera, Ballet, fantasy, historical dramas, superhero movies, comic books, dolls, dog owners in movies about dogs, like literally anything and the results would be similar.

I, of course, am not going to do that though so consider yourself lucky.

I went off on a roughly 500 word tangent when really what I wanted to discuss was multiracial identity.

For years I have felt very bad about my racial makeup. I felt like a weirdo for most of my young childhood (up to about age 10), then I felt really average and un-extraordinary (up to about 13), then I felt so strongly that I wasn’t “black enough” (up to age 16), and nowadays I feel supremely unaffected. Not necessarily unaffected, I still have some self identity issues, but neutral? I can’t really think of a good word and the thesaurus isn’t helping.

I’ll give a quick overview of how I feel about my race and maybe you’ll catch on to what I mean and why at first Chrissie’s videos slightly offended me.

I feel like my race is probably the least interesting thing about me. I feel really annoyed when I’m lumped in with the multiracial stereotype. I like to imagine that I’m not *ugh* “bougie” (I truly despise that word). Some of my features that I dislike are more associated with certain races (but no race owns really any feature) and a lot of my really defining features are “mixed girl traits”. I don’t love that. I feel like if my self expression were different and I liked Fashion Nova more, I would be pretty indistinguishable from the standard issue multiracial instagram model (not that there’s anything wrong with looking like that). I feel like I often face barriers to entry before I do… most things. From dressing the way I want (“do you wanna be white/asian?” is a rhetorical question I’m often faced with) to listening to the music I like to my hobbies to my future aspirations. When I face racism, it’s a special flavor. Often I find that people who love to say the word n*gger even though some people would beat them up for even saying n*gga are far too comfortable saying it around me. When I speak up for any race I find people asking me “why do you care?” People wonder why I’d care about black people if I’m barely black, why I’d care about white people if I’m barely white, why I care about *insert race here* if I don’t have any ties to them. (hmm, maybe because I have empathy?) I fear that when I try to live out some of my dreams, I’ll be faced with a lot of pushback simply because of how I look (although that’s not 100% a race thing, it’s also a looks/weight/self expression/personality thing). I can continue but honestly I want to be done with this post.

So basically I’m conflicted about my place in the world in many ways. So when Chrissie makes absolutist statements about multiracial people’s place in the world, I feel… put out? shocked? forced to be whatever I’m “supposed to be”? I don’t know. I felt like I was being told what to do.

But after a long time, I’ve come to realize that I don’t necessarily agree with Chrissie’s stratification of race, but I do feel a little comforted when I’m told that I can have my own category. I think that’s where a lot of “mixed angst” can come from. We never get told where we belong and more often that not we’re told to figure it out ourselves. Nobody else has to do that!

So I guess I’m ok with never identifying as black.

I don’t think describing myself as multiracial will cause any new issues in my life and in fact I think it could help with my feelings of nebulousness.

So I guess that’s what I’m gonna do.

If you’re multiracial though, you don’t have to.

You can figure it out yourself.

I guess I’ll say thank you to Chrissie for getting me to really put effort into thinking about my place. I’ll link to her magazine so you can support her or something. Her publication is really a great force in the battle against color discrimination.

Divine Dark Skin Magazine

I think once I start making more money I’m gonna send a donation to her magazine.