I have always been the type that watches and observes things as they unfold. Over the past few weeks, I have noticed an increase in the amount of shots that black people take at themselves over social media. What tends to fascinate me the most is that, often times, they do not even realize it.
We are living in a scene for the history books. Race relations are simmering; a new generation of African Americans have a voice that can reach the whole country. A voice, a safe space, called Black Twitter. Black Twitter, and the users that give it its reach and driving force, was not only identified but validated as the push behind a nation wide movement known as #BlackLivesMatter. On a site that is meant to give voice the random thoughts that come into one’s head, it’s hard to envision the things you tweet having an effect on anyone other than yourself. This has been proven wrong time and time again, though. It is time some of the users, who echo certain ideas across the world wide web, recognize this. Because the relationships we have with each other are not the only ones affected. Right now, the relationship that black people have with the entire country is at stake.
To begin picking at the sentiments that pick at us, let’s start with everyone’s favorite…
“Natural hair is not for everybody !”-
Growing up in the south, I’m no stranger to ignorance about natural hair. I heard about “good” hair all my life. When I decided that I would no longer use chemicals or heat to manipulate my hair, “When are you gonna do something with that hair?” became a common question. My personal and all-time favorite was “What the hell is going on with your hair?!”, at my job.. where I was a lifeguard.. and my hair would inevitably get wet, doing whatever it pleased. Even after being shamed for my hair on multiple occasions, it still baffles me when I see things like the original tweet above in safe spaces like Black Twitter, where hashtags like #BlackGirlsAreMagic are prevalent and celebrated.
The sister who quoted the original sentiment of natural hair “not being for everybody” does a sufficient job of conveying the way I feel. She not only conveys how I feel about the tweet but also the way I feel about my own encounters, as well. What her sarcasm does not necessarily convey is that sentiments like this tear us down from the inside out, as individuals and as a movement. How can we move forward if we cannot accept the way that God made us?
As Malcom X so eloquently put it..
These sentiments may have been furthered by our elders, but that is not where they originated. The movement cannot go further with such sentiments still being perpetuated. We, as individuals and a collective, must begin changing ourselves. We must love our blackness before we begin to ask others to do the same.
“Those who are poor, are poor because they choose to be.”-
Since I do not have the help of a quote to aid in explaining my sentiments, let me just begin by saying…
As previously stated, I have been exposed to some pretty conservative, baffling ideas in my lifetime, but yet again, I am perplexed. The argument is supported with the fact that we all have the same opportunity to go out and make something of ourselves. So, if one has a fast food, retail, or similar job, they should blame themselves not inadequate pay for the inability to live comfortably or support their family.
Myself and this young woman live in a country where the only thing that can cost you opportunity faster than being black, is being a black woman. In America today, the black woman will earn just sixty four percent of what a white man will earn. Is this wage gap because we, as black women, do not work hard enough ? Is it because we did not take the opportunities available ? No. By this line of thinking, all the white people who feel as if affirmative action “took” their spot in their dream school, are exactly right. Diversity scholarships ? Unfair. Where’s the Caucasian scholarships ?
This particular instance is not one of instilled self-hatred but ignorance to the system of inequality in which we live our everyday lives. We want black lives to matter, but we refuse to acknowledge that the inequalities we face, in regards to police brutality, are separate from our economic struggles. The same way that we cannot ignore the plight and pain of the harassment of our black men, we cannot ignore the struggle of our families. We cannot ignore the struggle of any family caught up in the cycle of oppression. The movement will only move forward if we tackle every area of injustice.
#Mizzou: “Well if you guys went to an HBCU..”-
Though this picture oozes sarcasm, and ironically enough satire, it reflects the actual sentiments of black people around the country as we watched the students of the University of Missouri fight for their rights. Students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities voiced that their peers attending Predominately White Institutions had called them sub par and token students, but now those same peers were having to fight for their ability to utilize the education they paid for. The statement in the picture above was initially meant as a “Ha !” in the face of being told we, as HBCU students, are not good enough.
What these students did not realize was that this particular situation was not about licking our wounds. The #BlackLivesMatter movement thrives at HBCUs. It is cultivated by our history and the black voice our professors are allowed to help instill in us. We should have been the first to applaud and weep with joy. What happened at Mizzou was only a sub-movement of #BlackLivesMatter. It was not separate, as life and black lives extend farther than our hearts being allowed to beat. The success there was a success for us all. The terror that was caused by fellow white students was not a chance to mock or look down on the black students of Mizzou or any other PWI. It was a time for us to stand together, to heal together, and to continue fighting for justice in the many other places that it has yet to prevail.
Our generation, with its voice so loud over the intercom that is social media, is the generation of change. Change in our societies, change in ourselves, and change in the system that caused us to speak out in the first place is inevitable. What we tend to forget is that, when one has the microphone, everything they say is felt. The damage we inflict on ourselves from the inside is not only felt by those fighting to change, but it is also heard by those we are fighting to change. It is simply something to consider the next time your social media activities marginalize others.
Until next time…
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.