This is a topic I have been meaning to and need to touch on. From hair, lips, body shape, and style – the world continuously shames black women for being black but will praise non-black women for having those same attributes. This is not something new. It goes back to Sarah Baartman, also known as “Hottentot Venus”.
The Exploitation of Sarah
Born around 1789, Sarah (aka Hottentot Venus) was born in present-day Eastern Cape. At age sixteen Sarah was sold into slavery and brought to Cape Town. In 1810 she “signed” (though she could not read or write) a contract to travel with William Dunlop and Hendrik Cezar to England and Ireland to be a domestic servant and to be exhibited for entertainment purposes.
She was put on display for her large bottom and brown skin and was gawked at by the colonial Europeans. Sarah had different owners/”trainers” who displayed her like an animal, sometimes even displayed next to animals. She was dehumanized, forced to practically be naked for the enjoyment of the general public. She was kept in a cage and told to do the same poses as circus animals. In 1815 she was studied as a science specimen by George Cuvier, as well as zoologists, anatomists, and physiologists. This man concluded that she was the link between animals and humans…
Sarah died in 1816, sadly she was not able to rest in peace. Her body was dissected and her brain and sexual organs were pickled and a cast made of her body. They were all on display in France until 1917 and she was finally laid to rest in Africa in 2002. There is no way to right her long pain and suffering (even after death).
The Current Exploitation of the Black Female Period.
This is still prevalent in society today. Let’s take a look at the world today. IG models, celebrities, non-black women get surgery to gain Black/African features (body shape/lips) and up until recently the features we were born with were only accepted and deemed beautiful on non-black women. And it is not just that. It goes as far as our hair and attitude. Non-black people should not be getting box-braids or dreads. You can argue with me, but I stand by this. Black women use these protective hairstyles to protect the ends of our hair from breaking. That is the gist. So these are not just hairstyles. They are our identity. There are still young girls to this day who are told they cannot wear their natural hair to school, women are frequently discriminated at jobs because of their hair, and up until recently many of our hairstyles were not acceptable to have in the military.
Don’t touch my hair. When it’s the feelings I wear.Solange
Discrimination based on hair even includes touching our hair without asking. Black women cannot exist in our skin and hair without being gawked at? Calm down.
The Angry Black Woman
I am so tired of this trope. Even at my job in a “diverse” city, I am subjected to the prejudice of others. As a black woman, we do not have the luxury of having any facial expression besides a smile. If I concentrate too much at work, I am told that I am not approachable and don’t seem like I want to be part of the team. So on top of working 10x harder than my coworkers, I have to do overtime on the social plane (which I admit…I don’t do – too tired).
When we are rightly upset, we are often seen as being irrational or too loud. As if we should just keep our heads down and accept being treated unjustly. On black women, attitude is ugly, on non-black women (Hispanic women for example) it is feisty/firey and attractive. Any confrontation black women have to approach it in a delicate way all to not be seen in a violent light.
It is exhausting constantly being on display with no consent. It is exhausting always having to monitor ourselves in the fear of how others perceive us. But 2020 and on we are taking that luxury. We no longer need anyone to give it to us. We no longer need permission or faux acceptance.
Let me say this, to my fellow black women: from our kinky intricate hair to our thighs, from our big hoops to our even larger personalities. They take and steal because they fear. Be loud and proud of all that you are.
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”Maya Angelo, Still I Rise