I was sitting down discussing the plight faced by women of color with a few friends of mine and it seemed that we could all agree on the fact that no one aside from us truly understood the things we deal with daily. No one, including black men, understands what it is like to be a black woman in the United States. No one can comprehend the eggshells that we walk on daily that we have to pluck out of our feet when we arrive home. No one understands the nervousness that envelops many black women as we stand before a crowd of people – many of whom do not feel we are worthy of standing in front of a crowd at all.
Almost of second of every day, I have to watch what I say, my appearance, the way I walk, the way I approach members of the opposite sex, the way I dress, and even the way I think in fear that those thoughts can be read outwardly. Black women are constantly walking on eggshells so we do not trigger any discrimination by fitting a particular stereotype. I often find myself speaking very quietly so I am not referred to as “loud”. I often find myself dealing with unwarranted and rude behavior from others in fear that someone will call me “aggressive”. As a middle school and high school student, I straightened my hair in fear that someone would refer to it as “nappy” or “bad hair”. I walked standing straight forward and compact in fear that if my hips started to sway from side to side, I would be called “fast” or “loose” and it wasn’t until middle school that I realized I was under much more scrutiny than the girls of other races.
If only other people could walk in our shoes for one day – just ONE day, maybe the taunts and inappropriate comments would cease. Maybe the world would understand what is is like to live in a supposedly “free” society, but have to carefully select everything you do and say. That does not sound too free to me. Many of us are trapped inside our own bodies, unable to break free because if we do, we’ll be labelled. And many people may feel as though we should not care about the opinions of others, but the opinions of others sometimes shape our well-being. Your reputation is everything and black women must guard theirs every second of every hour of the day.
I commend those who speak out freely and live carefree. I am currently on my journey to that place and hopefully I am there before I bring a child into the world. Oh, how I dread the day I have to tell my child that they are unable to behave a certain way even though other children do simply because they are a different color and come from a different culture. However, my plan is to avoid that conversation at all costs and to let them know that their personality, despite what anyone thinks, is beautiful and if someone calls you “aggressive” for being outspoken, there are plenty of other people that will call you a LEADER.
Until then, I am still walking on eggshells, but my feet hurt now. These heels are pinching my feet. I’m uncomfortable. Walking on eggshells is not something that a leader does. A leader takes charge. A leader walks around the eggshells or better yet, kicks them aside or stomps on them. It is virtually impossible to be a leader by jumping up on the tip of yours toes and hopping from your left foot to your right foot, carefully monitoring yourself, unable to focus on your surroundings because you are too busy fearing how the world may treat you. At this point, what do we have to lose? The best way to win this war is to better ourselves, educate ourselves, and BE ourselves. If you are naturally loud, be loud. If you’re naturally outspoken, speak up. Let us no longer live in fear, let’s live in self-love.