Collateral beauty: The realization of being a black woman

Even when I was a little, high-yellow 4-year-old running around with Shirley Temple curls in some random, hot pink tutu when I didn’t even take ballet, I complained that there were not enough black people on TV. I’ve always been vocal and fought for what — in my mind — I thought was right. I filled in the people in my coloring books a variety of colors in order to make the world more equal. I liked my black Barbies and white Barbies and especially Teresa and Kira dolls because they looked the most like me. Maybe I can say that I knew from an early age what my mission in life was, or at least that I was supposed to spread some sort of truth even though people denied mine and others’ truths.

Growing into a young adult woman, that never changed. Of course, if you follow previous entries of my excursions traveling through trial and error, you’d know the different speed bumps I had to hop over and obstacles I had to dart around in order to find myself. Between getting bullied for good grades, or “acting white,” or being too light, or having too long of hair, or whatever was the bullshit-ass excuse for other black kids to not like me, I always had a comfort in my own skin. Always. Despite my self-consciousness in any other area. Despite not feeling pretty, despite doubting if I was smart enough, even if I thought someone else had prettier hair, or prettier eyes, or a bigger butt, or nicer voice, I still found a safe haven in my skin.

I remember thinking as a first-year in college how it never fully truly registered how fair I was. Yes, I heard it time and time again from black peers. And, yeah, I did look in the mirror. But the confidence in my blackness was that of a brown-skinned girl. I never felt like less of a black woman or less of a black student or less of a black advocate. Rich hues ran through my veins, and I felt them warming my body, warming my temperature, warming the passion and fire deep inside of me to churn the fuel that I needed in order to become the person God wanted. Nothing could not deter me from the destiny I was pre-empted to have.

As I grew older, I understood the duality of my world: Black enough to fill a void but fair enough to make white people comfortable. Naturally, it affects the psychological stability of any person to know that they are not truly wanted for who they are. So, they start to seek out other possibilities of who they could be.

It’s a maddening effect to literally live in multiple worlds at once, as if you’re living in multiple universes simultaneously but without the advantage of acting out fun moments of the future or the past or removing existing mistakes or blights on the history of mankind. Instead, as a black woman, you are constantly living across separate planes but stacked on top of one another. As if you never thought that an X and Y or even a Z axis would exist in the real world after junior high algebra. But in our triple-consciousness, and sometimes more, we end up carrying on multiple lives and are expected to live each exceptionally well. It’s no wonder that some women choose to give up or life just forces them to stop caring. It’s tiring, confusing, and you have to remember to maintain the correct coordinates on the appropriate plane.

In the chaos that is today’s society, those axes have become more complicated. It never was black and white, but now we’re being told that those graphs never existed. As black women, the rules that we had to abide by for years, our entire lives, bred and brought into a world where we knew nothing else. We were groomed to survive the racial hierarchy of the graphing system, multiple axis lines, several parts to play, and now society tells us to forget about it. Forget all that we’ve dealt with, forget the hurt and pain and being forced to take alternate directions because our race and sex just didn’t correlate with what everyone else was doing. We were taught to get over it and move on.

Meanwhile, we’re still expected to voice our opinions and feelings — because no one likes an unemotional robot. But we can’t be too emotional because then we’re just a little too militant. And we feel guilty about our “overt blackness,” but we don’t know why. So, we try to accept it when white women culturally appropriate our genetics while our natural genetics are still being denied. But our black men fall from the grasp of our fingers for the imitations without the baggage that life and history has ingrained within us for survival. Everything we were taught to eat and breathe and live the next day is yanked and taken away at our expense. And we wind up in a culturally confused society where we are the trendy ideal, but just on the outside looking in. Never from the actual inside.

And throughout all of this damage, how have we succeeded? Still chasing dreams just to be “token“? Chasing our dreams while forgetting the burning passion that initially ignited within us? Or being complacent, steadily picking the cotton until the good Lord calls us home?

Fighting as black women is probably one of the biggest fights to encounter. We are placed at the bottom of the social totem pole and considered last for any equality or equity. However, we have come to accept one another and provide hope in a variety of ways to keep each other pushing past the sugar canes. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s not just a fight for us individually, but we all collectively deal with the same war. As will our daughters, and hopefully their daughters will fight a little less of a burden.

And that’s the strength of it. As a black woman, I’m fighting the fight for three people who reside within my body alone: Brooke, Brooke the woman, and Brooke the black person, with a number of combinations that could add a cocktail of other social handicaps that I didn’t choose when screaming into this world. As others sometimes just have to succeed in one lifetime, I have to pass with flying colors in three lifetimes but in the time span of only one. I have no other choice. The women before me had no choice, and the women before them had no choice. It is our duty and spiritual gift of life to do and breathe the unthinkable when it just seems absolutely impossible.

And the collateral beauty of all that pain, discourse, heartache, and turmoil? The strength of three and their punctual organics can always complete a job to a more satisfactory, complete, fulfilling note with more vigor, hunger. There are so many more options and choices, desires, tastes and sounds, variety, uniqueness and individuality. Life as a black woman is a group project that we are just bred to manage ourselves. We’re made to conquer and dominate as CEO and as associates. Who else could manage the strength of three times the average to operate an entrepreneurship? It’s all that we were taught. It’s all that we will ever know.


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