Countdown to 25: The Year I Embraced Being A Black Woman

I wasn’t going to write this.

As I often times do, I had another idea for today’s post. I was going to write about my past five birthday dresses and the years they represented, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the many ways in which I have grown up (along with my wardrobe). But, as I’ve said before, sometimes you have to table your ideas in favor of writing the things that matter most.

I could not turn a blind eye to Raven-Symoné’s recent comments during her interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now?” My best friend was the first person who brought the comments to my attention.

“Have you seen this recent Raven clip? ‘I don’t like labels. I’m not African-American. I’m American. K, girl,” she said during a Gchat conversation on Monday morning.

We pontificated for all of a minute and a half about labels and not disowning your race before jumping into the next conversation. But, later on, I dug further into Raven-Symoné’s comments. I sat in bed the following morning watching the short clip from the Oprah interview (a clip that affirmed why I so desperately told the cable guy recently that I had to have OWN, no matter the cost.) I spit out some expletives while watching the video, but I’d rather not devote this blog post to a diatribe about Raven-Symoné’s relationship to race. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to reflect on my own relationship to race, one that continues to evolve, but has irrevocably shifted after this year.

Up until a few months ago, I swore against writing about race. I set out for Twenties Unscripted to be a platform for young women, independent of race. I even once wrote a paragraph that included the sentence, “My blog has never been some racial platform and I don’t think tonight is the night to start.” I went on to say that “backpacking the weight of my race has never been my cross to bear.” Now, I read that paragraph and I feel a lion roar in the middle of my stomach. I even considered deleting that post or making it private, embarrassed that I would write anything of that ignorant ilk. But, writing is about ownership. It’s about looking back and saying, “Hey, I said that, and now I no longer believe that, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t write it.”

bougie black girls teeA lot of shit has happened this year. Shit that I have written about, shit that I will write about and shit that I can’t ever write about (publicly). In sorting through that shit, I emerged with this visceral and inescapable awareness of and pride in being a black woman. I know. That sounds really lofty, revelatory and ambiguous as hell. But, I don’t know if I can pinpoint an exact moment when I stepped into that pride. I can’t classify the point where the tide turned and I changed my relationship to my identity.

For so many years, I didn’t know how to own my blackness. I didn’t sit with the other black girls in the cafeteria in middle school. They poked fun at me for “talking white,” a bullshit belief that I later went on to write a series of papers about during my freshmen English course. My hair isn’t natural and for awhile, that felt like an automatic penalty against me as a black woman. For so many years, I let other people’s beliefs about my identity as a black woman influence who I saw and what I thought when I looked in the mirror. This year was the first year when I decided to stop giving a fuck. I grew up. I stepped into my own. And, I stopped thinking that my brand of blackness needed to look or feel any other way than how I thought it should look or feel. This is me. Lean with it, rock with it.

Earlier this year, I wrote “To The Beautiful Black Women Who Read And Support My Blog” and that post was my way of dipping my toe into the proverbial water in terms of writing about race. But, really, black women don’t need permission to write about race. We don’t need to dip our toes into the water; we need to dive into that motherfucker. If we do not tell the stories, who will? If we do not create the spaces to represent ourselves in ways we feel are authentic and accurate, where else can we go? I am now incredibly aware of how my being a black woman informs everything I do, say, think, create and produce. I am now incredibly aware that if I sit idly on a platform that I’m beyond fortunate to have, if I cower at discussing the heavyweight issues, if I “don’t backpack the weight of my race,” then I have pissed all over my opportunity as a writer. I have let my tribe down. I have fucked it all up.

I now trust my readers enough to know that they know me, I know them and we are beyond introductions and pleasantries. But, beyond that, I now trust myself enough as a writer to believe that what I write on Twenties Unscripted will reach the people my work is meant to reach. I don’t have to stress over lost messages and mixed signals. I now trust myself enough to know that writing about my experiences as a black woman does not isolate anyone who is not a black woman; instead, it exposes my story to those audiences. And, whatever that exposure entails is the cross I am willing to bear.