In the past couple weeks there has been a surge of people asking what they can do to be better. Conversations are beginning to take place and guards are beginning to come down. While that's a good start, it is just the starting point and there's plenty of work to be done. Below are six ways you can begin playing a different role in a Black woman's life.
1. Stop Tanning And Comparing Your Skin To Your Black Co-workers
None of us get to choose our skin color. The cold facts are: tanning is a choice while being born with black skin is not. Black skin comes with an entirely different experience. A woman with tan skin is not likely to be followed in a store and asked if she can afford the item she's looking for. Many Black women feel they almost have to tiptoe through life as to not offend anyone through their mere existence. Try to understand that going to a coworker, neighbor or friend and implying that your tan skin and her real skin have anything in common shows a complete lack of awareness.
Our features are consistently stolen, but not acknowledged. Our bodies are copied, but not respected.
While some choose to have darker skin it doesn't mean they experience life as Black women. A Black woman's life is an entirely different experience, so comparing the two as the same is wrong.
2. Don't Jump To The Conclusion That A Black Woman Is Angry Because She Tells You How She Feels About Something And Is Direct About It
This is a very dangerous narrative. The biggest problem with the angry Black woman stereotype is that it doesn't permit her to be anything else in the eyes of others. She's not allowed to be sad when her son is murdered, she's not allowed to mourn the passing of a loved one. No one believes she's capable of being happy or feeling joy. That simply isn't right. We're women and should be afforded the same emotional permissions other women have. It's important to understand that Black women are raised to be strong, direct and to the point. We're raised to believe that we may not keep a non-Black person's attention for long so we need to make our points clearly, confidently and without any confusion. That does not necessarily equal anger. Chances are in most cases that the woman doesn't realize she's coming off as "angry" because in her mind she's being herself and importantly, she's being honest. Again, ask questions. Or in this case, let the woman know how she made you feel and start a conversation.
3. Don't Look Like A Kid In The Candy Store As You Ask Questions About A Black Woman's Hair Or Stare At It
A Black woman's hair is her crown and is to be taken very seriously. For decades Black women have gone out of their way to make her mane "easier to look at." Now that more women are rocking their natural hair, non-Black women seem to be confused...and it shows. There appears to be an uncontrollable desire to touch the hair, stare at the hair or ask ridiculous questions like "does it hurt?" It's one thing to ask a basic question such as "where do you get your hair done?" It's totally different to ask if her hair smells because she has dreadlocks? Black women should not have to think twice about wearing their hair in its natural state because they're concerned with being stared at or questioned. Be respectful. Refrain from reacting as if you're a kid in a candy store. Looking at a black woman's hair should not make her feel like you are at an exhibit. It's no different than naturally curly hair and naturally straight hair. Respect the hair. It's serious business, not entertainment.
4. Avoid Saying Things That Imply Our Natural Beauty Is Inferior To Yours
Black women are so beautiful that non-Black women are buying Black features like lips and booties everyday. Even with all that, there seems to be a difficulty with non-Black women admitting Black women's natural beauty. Instead, backhanded compliments seem to be the norm. "She's pretty for a Black woman" or "I wouldn't mind having a booty like hers but not her legs." "She has nice eyes, but her nose is too big." Comments like that are obviously hurtful and are better left unsaid. My brand sassmouth Company was created in response to this behavior, calling out the societal double standard on Black beauty.
5. Ask A Black Woman About Her Experiences At Work, As A Customer Or A Citizen
There's been an outpouring from all races asking questions about what they can do. How they may be unknowingly contributing to systemic racism and how can they do better. The simplest way to play your role in changing this country is to start a conversation. Racism has been able to fester the way it has is because so many people are afraid to have uncomfortable conversations. If that's you, don't jump right into the justice system as a topic, start simple and ask questions you can relate to. If you're a business owner talking to another business owner, inquire about her experience with customers, vendors, etc. Find a common ground and figure out how different your experiences are. Now, if you are ready for deeper conversations, be prepared for the truth because your experiences are not the same and if you're open, it can be very eye opening.
6. Provide Confidence To Young Black Girls
Little Black girls are taught by their mothers and grandmothers to accept their features are lesser than their counterparts. This isn't told to them verbatim and it isn't told to to be mean. It's a form of protection and a way of preparing our girls for the way the world is going to view them. America doesn't view Black women as beautiful. Our features are consistently stolen, but not acknowledged. Our bodies are copied, but not respected. Our confidence is misinterpreted for anger. Our daughters see that and it affects them. As a non-Black woman a simple statement of "You are pretty or smart, or beautiful" can have a lasting impact. So do it. And if you've had your lips done tell her "Your lips are so pretty I want mine to be as pretty." This isn't a dig, it's about playing a different role and breaking down barriers.
WRITTEN BYTachelle Lawson