Walking out of Starbucks about a week ago, I passed three black women. I made eye contact with one and smiled but she didn’t acknowledge my existence. I thought to myself, “OK, rude much? I’m glad I don’t have that kind of black girl attitude.”
Woah. Hold on.
I am a black woman.
How could I think something like that when I have done the exact same thing? Yet people always want to compliment how kind I appear, or they thank me for saying ma’am or sir.
It brought me back to when I wrote a column in an earlier issue about how I don’t talk black. After I wrote that piece I felt on top of the world. I was getting so much positive feedback, and people were beginning to question how they judge others’ talking. I was starting so many new conversations that I stopped listening to the ones within myself.
My column was about how I am black no matter how I speak, and how I shouldn’t be treated differently from the next black woman because there is no difference between us. I don’t know when I started stereotyping black women, but I surely have brought myself back down to reality. I’m disappointed and angry knowing I thought I was a better black woman than my beautiful dark-skinned sisters.
After I wrote that piece, I started thinking that I was different from the average black woman because of how I talk and how my skin is lighter. The encounter at Starbucks was a reality check.
There is no such thing as the average black woman because we are all unique. Saying otherwise is offensive.
There are ranges of identities in the black community, but when this range is reduced to a stereotype with a single skin color, hairstyle or diction, everyone loses.
When I think of an average black woman, I think of Ruby Bridges, Maya Angelou and Michelle Obama. I imagine Oprah Winfrey winning her Emmy or Gayle King being composed and in control in interviews.
If I describe the average black woman, I say she is educated, driven, powerful, courageous, outspoken, and an inspiration to not just black women, but all women. She wears her natural hair without fear, she shakes the ground when she walks, and she leaves no room when she sways her hips because there is no space for anyone to walk beside her.
I refuse to be labeled as special or different from the powerful, wise and beautiful women I am lucky enough to share a race with.
Truthfully, I am not half the woman that the average black woman is, but I sure hope to be one day.