black women Archive

Zoe, please sit this one out…my thoughts on the Nina Simone film

My skin is black, my arms are long, my hair is woolly– Four Women by Nina Simone

 

Growing up as a cocoa brown child with nappy hair in the 1970’s and 80’s, I never felt very cute or pretty. Oh, it’s not that anyone told me I wasn’t, my Pops used to call me his beautiful black bunny! However society let me know that compared to my latte and peach colored friends, whatever beauty I had only existed to those who were obligated to say such niceties. Rarely did I see reflections of my type of beauty; even growing up in Chicago!  Sadly my story is the story of hundreds of thousands of cocoa colored girls with nappy hair. I would like to think things have changed since my childhood but even in my day to day life here in Maine, I see the seeds of self-hate being planted daily with little brown girls, who look at me with the same raised eye brow that I used to give me family when I tell them otherwise.

I remember as a child stumbling across one of Nina Simone’s album covers and thinking that ugly woman looked a lot like me. Childish thoughts for sure! Thankfully I grew up and found my own beauty and realized that there was not a thing wrong with being a cocoa brown nappy haired girl and Nina Simone’s music has been one of the soundtracks of my life. Along the way I saw Nina’s beauty, a beauty that in my childish and simplistic mind I was not able to see. It’s safe to say I am a huge fan of Nina Simone.

Hence when I heard news that a film about Nina Simone’s life was going to be made with the beautiful and talented Zoe Saldana playing the role of Nina, I was momentarily shocked. Zoe is an attractive and talented actress without a doubt, however she looks not a whit like Nina and to play the role of such a legend, well you do need to look like Nina.

For those not familiar with Nina Simone, she was more than just a wonderful singer and the “High Priestess of Soul” she was a force to be reckoned with! Nina Simone had many faces yet they were faces that capture her essence and beauty at a time when a dark brown woman was rarely seen to be beautiful.

Hollywood has a way of playing it safe when it comes to casting for Black roles, rarely picking actresses darker than a paper bag and when they do; well we get to be The Help. Frankly I am tired of seeing only light complexioned African American women in roles; I need the next generation of brown girls to see themselves. I need to know that a day will come when a little girl who looks like me won’t be damn near 30 before she sees her own beauty.

So Zoe, this is not personal, to play the High Priestess and capture her essence, you need to resemble her and has lovely as you are, you simply don’t.

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Everything but Black

One of the subjects that I rarely ever write about on this blog is the fact that I am married inter-racially, yes the Spousal Unit is white and I am Black. I think part of the reason is that there are many far more competent bloggers who write on the subject and also that I have been married so long that we are just an old married couple as far as I am concerned. Back when I was young, I sort of got caught up in the whole we are interracial thing and honestly at this point, it just is, sort of like the way I wear my hair naturally specifically I have dreadlocks and its just a part of me. No need to dissect it…it just is.

I also raise my kids so that while they know their Pops is white, the fact is that they will be viewed as Black most likely, back in the summer and fall I wrote at one point about how elder boy who is now 17, refers to himself as an Half-frican. Yeah, that’s what he calls himself and frankly I got no beef with it. He’s old enough to know that white privilege does not extend itself to him just because his Pops is white….sorry, it just doesn’t.

That said and I will admit maybe its because I am suffering from PMS (sorry for revealing that but its my reality and I am old enough that I don’t feel the need to hide it) but it just rubs me the wrong way when I stumble across other Black women many who are partnered to white men who decide to breakdown their racial makeup.

Look, what Black person in America ain’t mixed with something? Shit, we (collective Black Americans) have not been purely Black since we were brought to this country. Otherwise how the fuck do you think we come in so many different shades? Look, we run the gamut from Whoopi Goldberg to Vanessa Williams and everything else.

Yet sometimes I encounter especially online, women of color who many might be called Black, who feel the need to tell you they are 1/4 crawfoot native, 1/8 this, 1/16 that…..look, its cool to know where we come from, in fact I wish I knew more about my own background. But I sometimes think some of these folks do that shit, to deflect from being plain old Black, after all its not exotic enough to just be Black. I know, because when I was a young woman, I did that same shit, claiming native this and that. Yeah, there is some Native American, Cherokee to be specific in my family as well as Mexican but those numbers are so small that really when I thought about it, I realized I was doing it more at that time because I was not proud to be who I am which is a Black America. Thankfully I am over that shit now. Now you ask me what I am, and I am going to tell you, I am Black. Plain and simple.

The other part of this that rubs me wrong is that many of these same folks will marry inter-racially and then have kids and tell you little Jonas is this and that, which may be true but it seems they are trying to avoid calling their kids Black in any way. Yes indeed, I have seen this too. Problem is you see the kid and even though little Jonas may be fair, half the time you can tell little Jonas is not pure white. Nope, you got Mama bringing her color issues to the kid. I’m sorry that is just wrong.

Obviously, I got no beef with interracial pairings, I truly believe love knows no color but at the same time, I think we do our kids and partners a disservice when we lack self love and instead latch onto whiteness because we are uncomfortable with blackness. For too long whiteness was the only standard of what was good and beautiful and times are changing but too many of us have not gotten the memo. Instead we choose to live withoutdated notions instead of changing the standards. I think its one of the reasons so many Black women love Michelle Obama, now that America has a Black first lady and the world stage knows she is a gorgeous we are willing to publicly acknowledge that Black is beautiful, thing is Black has always been beautiful.

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Love in Black and White

Being the Internet junkie I am, I spend a lot of time avoiding client work by hanging out on discussion boards and reading blogs. During the past few months, I have started reading more and more blogs by Black women who are interested in or are involved in interracial relationships. Now I enjoy reading them since after all, my very beloved spousal unit happens to be white, even my no longer beloved ex-spousal unit is white. Yet as I like to joke the fact that when I married a second time, I married yet another white man was the universe’s way of telling me don’t ever say never..

See, when the not so beloved ex and I split up, I swore up and  down, I was done with white men and I meant that from the bottom of my heart. In fact to prove my point I immediately hooked up with a Black man in what became a roller coaster of an emotional ride. That relationship was probably the most passionate that I have ever been involved in, the highs were high and the lows were low but in the end, despite giving 250%, the relationship crashed and burned after it was learned that brotha man was not as faithful as I expect my man to be. All I will say is that his Blackness probably saved him from some of the evil shit I have done in the past to white partners that have wronged me. (I used to be a real crazy broad, like I joke I am 1/8 Mexican and handy with a blade, I will cut a motha who wrongs me).

No, I did not run back to white men after getting done wrong by brotha man, but just figured that again if I ever took that long walk down the short aisle it would be with a man who shared my cultural makeup. However fate intervened and the hubster walked into my life and despite my desire for a man of my own hue, meeting a man who shared the qualities and values that I find critical in a mate, I decided to overlook that one pesky trait he lacked and that I desired…a high melanin content.

We have been married 11 years this fall, together 13 years and its been a ride. We love each other, we don’t argue much and considering that he puts up with my perimenopausal ass without much fuss does make him a keeper. Plus any man that can change shitty diapers without being asked gets a gold star.

However race does matter and it matters even more to me as I get older and no, I am not getting rid of him anytime soon. But when I hear sistas clamor to connect with white men because they think they will have better relationships, I must admit a part of me gets sad. Then when I hear sistas bash Black men, I must admit I actually get mad. See having done this marriage thing for a long time now, I know that a man is just a man and yes white boys may initially have a few more advantages over the brothas but at the end of the day, a white man is just a man. They can break your heart in a million pieces just like a Black man and sometime say shit that will hurt you more than anything a Black man can do.

When I see young sistas catagorically reject Black men, it makes me wonder how do they feel about their fathers? Brothers? Uncles? My dad was the first man I loved and my brother the second, so if I were to say all Black men are shit, what would I be saying about my own Pops? Catch my drift?

No, its ok to want to date across the racial spectrum but at the end of the day, I say fall in love with a person for who they are inside, not because you think a certain type of man is better than another. Living in Maine, I see plenty of white women wishing they had a decent man so I know all women are looking for Mister Right.

Yet when we say no to people who look like us, I think that speaks volumes for who we are deep down. Truth is we live in a society that pretty much does not value Black women, its for us to claim our space in this place and value ourselves but if valuing ourselves means tearing down our brothas, I say fuck that shit. Thing is even when you partner with a white man and have his babies, them children will still share your Black DNA and as a sista friend and I were discussing its important that biracial kids know who they are because we live in a world that despite the lip-service we give to embracing diversity as my son can tell you, them kids are considered Black.

So love who you want sistas, just don’t forget where we come from in the process.

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