“My mama said life would be so hard
Growin up days as a black girl scarred
In so many ways though we’ve come so far
They just know the name they don’t know the pain
So please hold your heads up high
Don’t be ashamed of yourself know I
Will carry it forth til the day I die
They just know the name they don’t know the pain black girl…”
I first wanted to write this post after having a day out with one of my good friends Tiffany. We met about two years ago through work and mutual friends and I thought that I found a kindred spirit, another black girl from Northern California figuring out her life in her twenties here in the desert. We aren’t best friends, though easily could be, but we catch up from time to time when we really need it, telling each other the secrets and shame of whatever happenings are going on in our life over a bottle of wine and usually food.
I will say this, I don’t have many black girl friends, shit- I barely have any girl friends period so my relationship with Tiff is special. While we caught up, over tears she told me her struggles and hardships since the last time we spoke. Romantically, academically, professionally, spiritually I witnessed her breaking down the way I had over and over again in the past few weeks. I felt her pain, but not only as a fellow girl roughing it through her twenties, but as a black girl who understood the pressure you feel and corners you’re backed into.
This, of course, is all tied into the Trayvon Martin verdict from this past weekend. I’m not one to usually preach on what it feels like to be “black” because I feel like I have no authority to speak on behalf of any race let alone the black community; also, I know that my experience as black girl may or may not reflect anyone else’s experience, but today I’m going to attempt to shed some light on “black girl pain”.
Black girls are always at a disadvantage. Are you going to date black guys exclusively or branch out? If you date outside your race will they understand why you can’t get your hair wet? Will white guys even find you attractive or give you the ole stand by “I’ve never been with a black girl before” as if you’re some kind of alien? Rarely do our Caucasian counterparts have to think about this. How can you even navigate something so complex when dating in your twenties is already filled with “will they or won’t they text me back”? If you date black guys how can you find someone of quality and substance when their’s statistics like this? Sure more black men are enrolling in college than jail now and that’s a good upwards trend but 15% less black men graduate than black women. That may not seem like a lot but if these rates remain steady the disproportion of educated black men to women is going to make it hard for black women to find their equal.
Luckily for us their’s no pictures required in resumes. I’ve never not been hired because I was black, those are things of the past (or at least I like to think so) but being a black girl means working harder, being faster, and handling things with ease and class or else you’re just playing into the “angry black girl” stereotype. I can’t tell you how many interviews involve a manager just looking at me and commenting on how “articulate” and “well spoken” I seem. This is nothing new to be asserted but I feel like should be reiterated when talking about black women in their twenties who usually have customer service jobs and thus this encounter happens on the hour. With every table you greet or customer you check in you’re looked at in the same way over and over again.
Ditto with everything I said above except with classes and teachers instead of customers and bosses. If you’re lucky your campus has an expansive black greek culture or the like on campus, which has it’s pros & cons (stay tuned for a post on why I didn’t chose to go to an HBCU and why I think it can actually harm the new generation of black young people ).
Family & Spirituality
Figuring out the two above things is hard for anyone but for black girls it’s ten times harder. The truth is with family a lot of us in our twenties are trying to set ourselves up with what we didn’t have in our own families. If we grew up in a single mom household how do we make it work with a two parent home? If we grew up in a strict two parent home how do we start to create a more inviting, less strict environment for our own children? Ditto with spirituality. A lot of us grew up in church but is that going to be how we continue our lives? Do we really believe in the principles or the black church or do we want to branch out, explore other religions and teachings? If we do will other black people look down on us? Will other religions be accepting of our color and heritage? More questions than I’ll bet most white women consider. but then again I wouldn’t know…
When I was done having a great, albeit adventurous day with Tiff I played the song by Talib Kweli called Black Girl Pain, a song he wrote for his daughter outlining all the reasons she should be proud to be a black girl. With all that the remarks that President Obama made yesterday in the wake of Trayvon Martin I think it is the time to have some more open dialog about what it’s like in the black community instead of just just trying to change it. Maybe if more people knew or could read what our experiences are really like they could better understand where the pain and hurt comes from.
For Tiffany and I, I think of the last lines of the song:
“Black girls, raise up your hands; the world should clap for us.”