Things We Are Taught To Settle For

As a young Black girl, in the late 70s, when I was in 5th grade, I remember one day our teacher gave us a lecture about how they’d done a study and learned that girls, and especially Black girls, were not learning as well because we teachers ignored our raised hands in class. This was an early lesson in privilege. Little white boys learned that if they raised their hands, their questions would be answered. Black girls learned ours would be ignored, and eventually we stopped raising our hands. We were taught not to occupy space.

Mom, me, and my grandmother on the beach when I was a toddler in 1970 or 71 (Los Angeles)

When the society sends out messages telling you that you aren’t to occupy space, and other people have been subliminally indoctrinated to treat you as though you don’t deserve to occupy as much space, time and attention – then you have to counter stereotypes of the “loud” and “aggressive” Black woman, which are designed to double down on the idea that you should be sidelined, less important, and all things should be centered around men and white people, particularly white men, but also white women in groups of women white center.

My Black mother talked to me in my 20s about additional stereotypes white culture has for mixed race Black women, as a Trojan horse hidden usurper who was still vilified even if white people stole the estate she rightfully inherited from her father (Bertha Mason), tragic mulatto, white passing pretender (Imitation of Life). She taught me that the Uppity Black Girl stereotypes also clung to Uppity Yellow Girls, and that the cred checking, and treating me as though I was undeserving were a part of the macroculture, which taught Black women to settle for crumbs from its table.So my parents taught me to hold my head up high and act just as entitled as the American macroculture, doing my best to ignore those who resented me feeling equal.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on November 23, 2020.

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