25 Things That Bother Me as a Woman of Color: #1

So the other day, Carlton asked me for an introductory post. I had no idea what to come out the gate with. I am honored to be in the company of such extraordinarily bright people, and being that I will probably never use words such as “diaspora” or “caucus”, I was admittedly a bit intimidated, and wondered if my style of writing would fit in to such an intelligent forum. 

But then, I was like, "Damn that. I’m just gonna be Kristen." I use profanity. I talk shit. I write in a very conversational style so there may be some slang and intentional bad grammar thrown in here and there. And although I had to Google the word “caucus” just now, I too am extraordinarily intelligent. My posts are just going to be a bit more light-hearted than the amazing pieces I’ve read here so far. I may not go that deep, but I hope to make you giggle. I hope to make you think. I hope to even enlighten you a bit. I might even irritate you from time to time, but hey, the best discussions arise from disagreements, no? :)

Again, I am just honored to be in the company of such wonderful people, all working together to breathe life into this amazing project Mr. Mackey kick-started. I think it's awesome and I look forward to getting to know you all through your individual perspectives and life experiences! So let’s get on with it!

I am here to present to you (among other topics as, upon request, Carlton sent me a plethora the other day), a series of posts in which I discuss things that, as the title announces, bother me as a woman of color. The first on this list is the term “Blacks”.

Does that irk anyone else but me? Take this headline I came across on NYTimes.com for example:

“Incarceration Rates for Blacks Have Fallen Sharply, Report Shows”

Blacks. Blacks. Even hearing it in my mind as I write it gives me this slight feeling of ick, and not even the positivity of the report can quell it. I mean, it’s bad enough that it is only in America that distinctions in race are based on ancestral nationality and/or skin color. People from Italy are Italians. People from the Middle East are Arabs. Even within continents, there are distinctions: Asians consist of Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Indian people, for example. Europeans are our Germans, Italians, Belgians, Spaniards. Africans: Moroccans, Kenyans, Egyptians, Sudanese. South Americans: Brazilians, Argentinians, Colombians.

But then we come over to North America, where based on the make-up of the continent, the people are either Canadians,  Americans, Central-Americans or Caribbean, right?

Wrong. This is America, Jack. And only…ONLY in the “United States” are our identities hyphenated. No, you aren’t just an American here. You are a Latin-American, Asian-American, African-American, Native-American, Some Kind Of-American but never just an American. And that’s a problem. But it’s not really the problem I am ranting about right now.

MY problem is that even within these hyphenated descriptions of who we are, it is the African-American community who has been kept in this color box. Hell, even “whites” have been given the fancier term of “Caucasians”, whatever the hell that is. 

Blacks”. I want to digress for a minute as this has me thinking hard about the way I identify myself. Yes, I am a Black woman, an African-American woman, even. However, over the past year or so, I have grown more comfortable with listing myself as a Woman of Color; and it is a title that I share with my fellow sisters across the globe: my beautiful brown Indian princesses, my dark chocolate African queens, my South American and Caribbean sisters, and even many of my Arab sheikhas. 

I am more than just one color. I am comprised of all colors (hell, we all are) and thus, will not be put into a box of “blacks”.  *snap snap* Digression over.

Getting back to the root of my discomfort, I can only propose that it rests in the fact that the term still carries with it the memory of the “Whites Only, No Blacks Allowed” lifestyle that my Grandmama ‘nem had to grow up with. Back then, our ancestors, who were brought here against their will (unlike most of the other hyphenated Americans who migrated here by choice, mind you), were not described as “Blacks” as a means of respectfully identifying them as a people.

Blacks” was said with the same snarling tone as the word “nigger”. It wasn't a title given simply based on the beauty of our dark perfect skin. There was nothing beautiful about “black” back then. “Blacks” were dirty, disgusting, inferior, worthless, evil, slaves…blacks. And although, the word “nigger” has transformed over the years to mean something completely different in the minds of most who use it, “blacks” remains just off for me.

Now I know I may have had a lot of ya’ll with me until the “N-word” comment above. And here is where I may contradict myself. Yes, I use the word “nigga” all the time. But I don’t use it exclusively to define or address one group of people. For example, I was watching “Dumb and Dumber” the other day, and while laughing at Jim Carrey (who is white), I exclaimed, “That nigga stupid.”

Alternatively, I may show up at the Summer Jam cook-out at the park and observe (that), “There are a lot of niggas out here.” You got me. Guilty as charged. But “Damn, there are a lot of fine blacks up in this club tonight,” is something I would say never. I just read that out loud and while saying it, my lips automatically turned up in disgust, though  trading out “blacks” for “niggas” caused my eyebrows to raise in approval. It’s just me. Note the title. Things that bother ME. And no, the fact “niggas” is still a thing does not irk me in the slightest as it is no longer an identifying term for “blacks”. So there. Don’t judge me. I will get more into my thoughts on the whole "N-word" debate in a later post...it may make a little more sense when I go more in depth with it. Hell, I may even eventually eliminate the word from my vocabulary all together. We'll see...I've been trying to stop cussing for the past 10 years. So yea, we'll see how that goes.

Let me wrap this up, as I have another 24 things to conceive. #1 on my list of things that bother me as a woman of color is the term “blacks." I feel that our people are more than the color of our skin. We are Africans, Americans by default and therefore African-American and, as this blog suggests, we represent all shades of dark and lovely. Actually, that’s what we should be called. Let me change that headline:

Incarceration Rates for Dark-n-Lovelies Have Fallen Sharply, Report Shows

Now that’s a group I’ll proudly claim membership to. Not no damn “blacks”. Sigh. 

'Til next time, ya'll be cool.

Kristen

Posted on April 22, 2013 and filed under blog, personal stories, skin tone.