Stop Hating

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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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Colorism: Mama, Mama, Can’t You See?

I’ll start with mother.

Before children recognize themselves in mirrors, they recognize themselves through their mother’s eyes.

My heart breaks when I hear stories of mothers consciously or subconsciously conditioning their children to adopt the attitudes of colorism, to adore light skin and despise darker skin, adore light eyes and think little of dark eyes, adore straight hair and hate kinky hair.

Visit the new site ColorismHealing.org

Previews of Dark Girls the movie, the responses to it, and life observations reveal that too many mothers are complicit in their children’s pain. Several women describe their most potent experiences with colorism as experiences when their mothers failed to validate their beauty. As adults hopefully we learn to validate ourselves. Young children, however, must be trained to do so.

 

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My mother is light skinned. She won’t admit this, always claiming that she never saw herself as such and always identified with darker skinned people. She does acknowledge, though, that she is lighter than my brother and me.

My mother tells me how she has always loved going out in public with us and telling people “these are my kids.” We joke about how people rarely assume this fact due to the skin color difference, and she always makes a point to directly state it.

My mother is different from the women who are only proud to show off their children if their children are fair skinned or have a certain hair texture.

My mother intentionally combated the outside influences and negative messages about dark skin. She was not only aware of colorism; she had the courage to attack it head on. Just knowing that she in some way understood the struggle of a dark skinned child helped me endure the struggle. Knowing that no matter what happened with everyone else I could always go home and feel accepted and loved, probably saved me from the extremes of pain that other girls have gone through.

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So don’t trip if your dark skinned friend, cousin, sister, or coworker agonizes over skin color and the biases people hold toward certain skin tones. Don’t be perplexed about why she doesn’t “just get over it, and just love herself.”

Instead, ask her about her relationship with her mother. Ask her how many times she heard her mother tell light skinned cousins how pretty they were, without acknowledging the very daughter that waited in her mother’s shadow. Ask her how many times her mother told her to stay out of the sun. Ask her how many times her mother told her not to wear certain colors. Don’t judge her, she’s had enough of that. Just hear her story.

If you are a mother, do an honest self-evaluation. Do you make comments around your children that might instill colorism in them? How often do you tell your children they are beautiful? How often do you compliment their dark skin tones? Do you act like colorism doesn’t exist? Have you dealt with your own color complex so that your children can have healthy esteem for themselves and for others regardless of skin color?

With love, from Sarah L. Webb

Visit ColorismHealing.org

 

 

Colorism: 5 Reasons To Talk About It

Visit the new site ColorismHealing.org

Deep breath. I’ve procrastinated on this one while I cultivate the courage to write it. As I type this around 11:11 pm, I’m sending my mom the following text message:

It helps to talk about it. I’ve kept a lot of pain to myself throughout my life and that silence hasn’t helped the pain go away. Talking about it validates [my experience and] validates how I feel.

I know what you might be thinking. I shouldn’t be seeking “external” validation, right? That’s easy to say at the intellectual level, when we’re removing ourselves from the situation. However, when dealing with chronic pain rooted in childhood memories, when in the midst of a deeply hurtful condition, it’s nice to know we’re not crazy, not making things up, not projecting, not being “too sensitive,” not imagining things. We’re human. We need connection with other humans. That requires a level of human empathy. We don’t have to achieve this with everyone, but at various points in our lives we need it.

Honestly,  if you’ve ever brushed your teeth, combed your hair, ironed your clothes, made sure your outfit matched, applied for a job, held down a job, earned money, spent money, agreed that the sky is blue and the grass is green, opened your mouth to communicate, raised your hand in a classroom or audience, felt offended, held a door open for someone, had a boyfriend or girlfriend, or used a telephone, you were using/seeking/giving external validation. Validation is such an indispensable part of our existence that it’s an unconscious operation, which is why some of us are delusional/self-righteous enough to think we’re above it.

The key is understanding that we don’t need validation for everything or from everyone. We need balance.

Back to the text message I sent, the act of communicating is also a sign of selfvalidation. We often remain silent because we’re unsure [of] ourselves. Either way, we need validation from ourselves and sometimes from others, and we need to break the silence.

The validation debate relates to an earlier post: 5 Reasons I  haven’t Said Much About Colorism… Yet. Here are two of those reasons paraphrased:

    • People often have the attitude that “If you love yourself, you wouldn’t make it an issue.” I didn’t want to be perceived as not loving myself, so I kept quiet.
    • People often use cliché affirmations as a way of dismissing the issue, such as “You have to know you’re beautiful no matter what anyone else thinks.”

These attitudes are an acceptance of the status quo. They are not used to ease painful realities, they’re used to avoid them all together.

So why am I speaking out about colorism now? I’m writing this series of posts because:

1) I’m tired of being afraid to shout, “Ouch! That hurts.”

Humans are hardwired to feel pain. Pain is either a sign that something is wrong or that something is growing and stretching. Anyone who denies their pain denies their humanity and will probably stay in pain. Let’s not remain in pain.

2) We need to “call people on their stuff.” 

Iyanla Vanzant insisted on this at the Essence Music Festival. So I’m calling the black community out on its colorism. It’s not every individual, but it’s way too many. Whether we show colorism intentionally or not, consciously or not, we need to stop sooner than later.

3) Some young person might need a framework and context for their experience other than, “You’re wrong to even feel that way.” 

I’m not saying my framework is the only framework that works, but it’s more than I had growing up. I had to seek and construct one for myself, piecing together ancient ancestor wisdom. I just want to offer what took me too long to find, so that some child can have peace and joy sooner than I did. Perhaps they won’t ever have to lose the peace and joy in the first place.

4) More than just dark-skinned people can benefit from this type of discussion.

Pain knows no color, empowerment is contagious, and courage can improve anyone’s life. When light-skinned people better understand colorism, they can better understand the dynamics of their everyday interactions. We talk about white privilege, but there’s also light skin privilege. I also know that some black girls take out their anger on other black girls. As Angela Davis says in her autobiography: “It hurt to see us folding in on ourselves, using ourselves as whipping posts because we did not yet know how to struggle against the real cause of our misery.” (This quote inspired one of my best poems.)

5) Colorism is more than who’s pretty and who’s not.

Colorism also judges the overall value of an individual to the point that dark-skinned people are perceived as “bad,” less intelligent, less talented, less professional, more dangerous, etc. (Read Queen Sheba’s story.) Thus the consequences are more severe than they appear on the surface. Researchers have done several studies on the tangible effects of colorism, such as colorism in the “justice” system.

So come back for the follow up posts as I try to unpack colorism. Second post on Media Coverage…

With love, from Sarah L. Webb

Visit ColorismHealing.org