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Awhile back I read a tweet from a woman that said it’s hard not to become just a little jealous or insecure around a beautiful and successful woman. With the ubiquitous images of catty women on television and in movies it’s easy to think this is true of all women, especially black women. Yes, this is a result of capitalism, racism, misogyny, and patriarchy. Because of capitalism, film and TV producers will compromise other people’s dignity to make money. Because of racism, there aren’t enough positive and nuanced portrayals of blacks in mainstream media. Because of misogyny and patriarchy, women get the worst of capitalism and racism. AND it’s all about getting a man, right? Many people seem to think the bulk of female envy stems from the need to find and keep MR. GOOD ENOUGH. (Again, the media exaggerates this phenomena in portrayals of black women.)

Structures are in place that provoke and support hatred among women, structures that we can’t readily change, structures that have become self-sustaining. But I believe we can empower ourselves as women to love or at least appreciate each other.

So how do we remove the jealousy, insecurity, or hatred from our hearts? Reading a blog post won’t get it done, but I suppose it’s a start.

Don’t compare. 

Even if you’re not a hater, per se, simply comparing yourself to other women can make you feel insecure, which makes you miserable and produces bad vibes. Bad vibes often cause conflict. On the road of life, someone’s always farther along or farther behind, so you might as well focus on your own journey. Use what’s in your own hand.

Be inspired. 

This was my personal epiphany. I was about to be jealous of someone, then I thought, Why be jealous? If she can do it, I can do it too! Now when I see women who have something I want or who do something I want to do, their accomplishments validate my dreams. In fact, my dreams seem more and more plausible with each new successful woman I see.

Learn something. 

Instead of smoldering in envy, ask the other woman how she does it? If you listen to her story, you might realize she’s overcome tremendous obstacles. When you see a successful woman, instead of whispering and staring, try networking. You might get the hook up with a new job, a new stylist, or a deal on a new car!

It sounds simple for such a deep and complex issue, but these attitudes have actually worked for me.

I’m curious to know what your experiences have been. How do you handle this issue? I really want to know.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

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Relax Your Hair and Get a Nose Job Too!

Plastic surgery, facelifts, boob jobs, but implants, collagen lip injections, Botox, skin bleaching, extreme tanning, tattooed makeup… All of these things are still kind of taboo for many African-Americans. We criticize people who resort to these methods of beautifying themselves. We condemn them as being shallow and fake. Michael Jackson is called a disgrace to the race for wanting to be white. We shake our heads when Asians complain about their eyes, and we ask, “Why can’t everyone just love themselves.”

But are we any different when we get addicted to hair straightening and extensions? If our natural hair is not good enough, maybe our natural lips, eyes, nose, skin, and breasts aren’t either.

I’ve come to the conclusion that chemically altered hair is no different from other forms of physical alteration. In each case, for whatever reason, people aren’t satisfied with their physical features, so they change them.

We as African-Americans fail to see the connection because the majority of us have been straightening our hair for so long that we’ve normalized it. For decades, the unnatural thing has been the natural thing to do. We believe we’re normal. Those other people? Well, they just need to love themselves the way God made them.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

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Sister-to-Sister: an Interview on Colorism

Two girls of different skin tones, growing up together as sisters born of the same mother AND father. This is a glimpse into the mind of the lighter skinned sister as she reflects on colorism.

Visit the new site ColorismHealing.org

Describe your home/family and work life.

I have been married for five years and am expecting my first child in March of next year. I am the middle child of three children and grew up in Baton Rouge, LA with my mother. My parents were divorced when I was 11. I currently practice school social work at a high school in southern Louisiana. I am a social worker by profession and a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work at LSU. I maintain a very busy and active lifestyle between work, LSU, and family. In addition, I assist with the youth group at my church planning activities and teaching bible classes.

Tell us about your earliest memories recognizing or dealing with skin color and colorism. 

I remember a time when my sister was being chased and taunted by a group of white girls at our daycare center, when I was about 8 years old. My older brother and I stopped them through physical restraint. When the day care workers took stock of the incident, they concluded that the version of the story that my brother, sister, and I told could not have been true since there were no “MARKS” on our skin like those on the skin of the white girls. Obviously, the darker our skin the less likely MARKS will show up.

At the same daycare, one of my sister’s Hispanic friends really frustrated me. I was 8 years old and had to teach a cultural competence lesson to this girl all the time because she didn’t understand that I could be the “real” sister of my darker skinned siblings. She kept asking “Why are you white and your sister and brother are black?” Granted the girl was in kindergarten, and I’ve been asked similar questions by adults both black and white, but mainly by other BLACK folks.

“Do you and your brother and sister have the same mom and dad?” “You must be mixed right?”  “Man your brother is black.” My response to this particularly ignorant comment was always “So are you and I.”  On and on, the annoying questions/comments went.

How do you view yourself in terms of skin color now?

My skin color is just a product of my birth. I don’t see myself as any better or worse because of the color that I am. I still grimace when people make comparisons about my sister and brother’s color, as if the shades of black are limited, or that it’s impossible for a great array to exist within one family. I am awesome because I’m me, which includes my skin color, but it’s not BECAUSE of my skin color.

How, if at all, has colorism played a role in your life up to this point?

I have seen elements of bias towards me as discussed above when compared to my sister and brother at daycare or among friends. I have come to be embarrassed at times because of my lighter skin color. What I mean by this is the snobby attitude of some lighter skinned women/girls makes people believe that snobby attitudes are common among lighter skinned women/girls. I am not that way. I am still very angered when someone attempts to tell me that I might be mixed or that I have to have different parents than my darker brother and sister. So I have had many points of frustration from colorism in my life!

As you prepare to be a new mother, do you have thoughts about raising a child with a healthy attitude about skin color?

I will be adamant about my child knowing the difference between ethnicity and skin color. There are very few people whose skin is actually the color BLACK. I will be sure that my child never says “Oh mom, look at him; he’s BLACK” to refer to a dark skinned person. My child will know that he/she is a Black person, and that different shades of BLACK should not define how we treat each other. Perhaps if we teach kids to value the black ethnicity and stop putting value on looks, our ethnic group/race would be in a different position in this country.

On a personal level, what may cause an individual to be biased against dark skin or light skin?

I think a level of insecurity is present when someone demeans another for any reason. This is also the case with skin color. When insecure about our own beauty, we try to cut down the beauty of others because of their skin color.

If someone has a negative image of others because of their skin color, what can they do to change that?

Biases usually stem from ignorance, so knowing others with a particular skin color BETTER can help to ease some of the negative images.

If someone has a negative image of themselves because of their skin color, what can they do to change that?

Examining your own self-worth is often a life long process because people often go through significant changes and stages. Acceptance and appreciation of your own qualities is a start. Rather than spending time on the negative images, one should spend energy using their individual qualities to make a difference in his immediate circumstances/ community.

Jandel Crutchfield

“Live Like You’re Dying”

“Leo ni Leo. Asemaye kesho ni mwongo” ~ E-sir

With love, from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

Visit ColorismHealing.org

 

 

Woman in the Mirror: A Reflection on Short Natural Hair

Like hair clogging a drain, the topic of tresses floods the media. I think I’ll put my two snips in anyway.

Speaking of snips, I got my haircut on Christmas eve. No biggie. I’ve been cutting my hair for at least a decade now. Barbers and stylists occasionally click the clippers on with hesitation, perhaps fear. I understand this. How can they know upon first seeing me that I’m NOT one of those women who will tell you to “chop it all off,” only to gasp at the mirror when it’s over, literally cry, and say, “What have you done??? I didn’t mean for you to cut it all off.”

To put my stylists and barbers at ease, I try to use visual representations of what I want. I point to another customer. Flash a magazine photo. Pull out an old image of myself.

This time, despite making a mental note, I forgot to tote an issue of Essence in which women are dawning my dream cut. I had to settle for talking the stylist through the process. I sat in the chair of the already sour looking stylist in a salon that shall remain nameless. I told her, “Cut it all off.” She asked to start off with a #4 (clipper size). I said, “You could probably go down to a 2 or 1. I think the previous stylist used a #1.”

She paused. “A #1 is like a man.”

I nodded.

“Why you wanna do that?”

“That’s how I usually get it.”

Silence. In some reflective surface in the salon I caught a glimpse of the face she gave to a coworker.

At that moment I had to consciously process the situation. Could I really be receiving such poor customer service?

I got my ears lowered. She got an earful. Every woman in the salon commented on how great the cut looked, or bragged about how they used to wear their hair shaved, or how their daughter wears her hair cut even closer than mine.

I know it’s not mainstream for women to wear such short hair, but shame on anyone who calls themselves a stylist and is unaware that many women do, including celebrities famously known for their beauty.

Hair has been as sensitive and controversial an issue as skin color. The sensitivity and controversy have roots embedded deep in patriarchy and colonialism, spreading across continents, races, and generations. Several people have talked about the tension caused by tresses, from Tyra Banks to Chris Rock. Maybe someday I will compose an in-depth piece on attitudes about hair. For now, I just want to share the following.

I had relaxed hair until midway through high school. As a child, I prayed for long, straight, “pretty” hair that cascaded down my back. I had what many black people consider long hair, yet I still wore towels, shirts, or Mardi Gras beads on my head to know the feeling of longer hair. Perms burned me to tears.

When I went all natural at fifteen, I wanted to immerse myself in the natural black hair community (if there is such a thing). I wanted to tell all people to give up trying to conform to the Eurocentric standard of beauty. I had a big, Angela Davis fro. I wore twists, afro puffs, plaits, cornrows, girly hair accessories, and anything that allowed me to play in my wonderful, soft mass of hair.

Now, my hair must be measured in millimeters. It’s my favorite style to date, except for maybe the mohawk. I’m satisfied enough with my hair that I don’t care what styles other women wear. I do hope that more women experience freedom and love when they think about their hair rather than limitations and pain.

I leave this topic, for now, with quotes from Joan Juliet Buck via the Poetical Quotidian on Paul W.H. Kan’s website.

“Hair is time.
Women with short hair always look as if they have somewhere else to go. Women with long hair tend to look as if they belong where they are, especially in California. Short hair takes a short time. Long hair takes a long time. Long hair moves faster than short hair. Long hair tells men that you are all woman, or a real woman, or at the very least a girl. Short hair always makes them wonder…”

“With short hair you suddenly dislike the month of March, when the wind blows down the back of your neck. With short hair you begin to crave pearl necklaces, long earrings, and a variety of sunglasses. And you brush your teeth more often. Short hair removes obvious femininity and replaces it with style…”

“You can’t hide behind short hair. Your nape is exposed…”

“You may look a little androgynous, a little unfinished, a little bare…”

“People who used to look straight at you will love you in profile. Short hair makes others think you have good bones, determination, and an agenda. The shape of your skull is commented on, so are its contents. They can pick you out in a crowd, and you can be recognized from behind, which can be good or bad. But your face is no longer a flat screen surrounded by a curtain: the world sees you in three dimensions.
Chase to the cut.”

I love that.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?