I know you’ve probably seen an onslaught of comments, articles and memes when it comes to Will Smith, Chris Rock and the Oscars. There seems to be a plethora of thoughts on the incident itself but rather than reflecting on the occurrence itself, I thought about the experience of Black women when it comes to other’s holding our vulnerability and pain in a way that acknowledges our humanness.
Last month, for ‘Women’s History Month’ my aspiration was to celebrate the softness of Black women and this moment amplifies the importance of this in everyday circumstances.
In my journey of being a Black woman and holding space for the healing of Black women, I’ve found that it is often only ‘rage’ that tends to capture people’s attention and even in that case, it seems to be more about misunderstanding our emotions of frustration and where it stems from by labelling us as “Angry Black Women” as if we’re overreacting and that our truth is insignificant within the Western lens.
The reality is that most of us have lived with the world silencing our pain, a deep level of trauma that travels many generations. This trauma breeds anxiety, depression, scarcity, doubt, shame and more. We’re constantly being convinced that ‘resilience’ and strength is the only narrative that will be validated.
The Latin root word of ‘resilience’ is ‘resilire’ which means ‘to jump back’ or ‘to recoil’.
To be in a constant state of ‘jumping back’ implies that one is constantly being pushed, prodded and challenged. Any person having to constantly face an onslaught of challenges due to their genetic make-up will soon feel overwhelmed and reach a point of ‘rage’ and ‘frustration’.
We are in an era of significant change and we will no longer accept this type of harmful treatment.
As Bell Hooks once said
“All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm's way.”
So what is the solution? What does protecting Black women look like?
Start by acknowledging your own unconscious biases towards us.
What are the immediate assumptions that come to mind when you see an image of a Black woman?
Be as honest as you can with yourself because without seeing the ugly truth, you can’t move into a space of love.
Notice the common narratives in your environment that shape your perception : social media, your parents, your circle of friends, TV, film, etc
Write these thoughts down and reflect on each assumption. When was it planted into your subconscious? Who is the narrator? (Your mom, dad, grandparents, etc)
Once you get to a state of clarity you can began the journey of dissolving them.
I also find that the best way to replace narratives is by engaging with communities that I don’t have an intimate relationship with or understanding of.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be immediately with Black women (because that’s sort of like wanting to an Olympic swimmer but not building a holistic plan to get there), you can start with just engaging with narratives that differ from your own.
For example, I tend to listen to writers and thought leaders who’s perspective challenges my own understanding of life and certain topics. I find that concepts that challenge my own deeply imbedded belief systems creates an opening where I am an eager learner of all things rather than being set in my ways and unwilling to expand in ways that make me uncomfortable.
As Bell Hooks would say, the stretching of the mind is ‘love in action’.
“I write provocative social and cultural criticism that causes readers to stretch their minds, to think beyond set paradigms, I think of that work as love in action. While it may challenge, disturb and at times even frighten or enrage readers, love is always the place where I begin and end.”
Know that protecting Black women by stretching your own set paradigms is an act of immense love.
Be well magical soul,
Nurturer of Ayune Hair