|And we want it...|
Confidence 1011. Figure out who you are. The good, the bad and the ugly
2. Be okay with number one
3. Understand that not everybody else is at number two.
4. Give not a damn about those people mentioned in number three.
5. Leave your house as if you are being filmed. Even if you aren't looking hot, walk like you are rocking the hell out of those basketball shorts and wife beater. Head up, shoulders back, easy stride. Fellas, ladies, it's so not bougie to shuffle along like you're on your way to prison.
6. Smile. I know you don't feel like it. Do it anyway.
7. Speak. Even if you're not spoken to. "How are you doing today?" If they don't answer, nod and keep it moving.
8. Make eye contact. Number 5, 6, & 7 mean nothing without this.
9. About number seven, have something to say in case someone follows up. "Umm" is S.No.S. (So Not Sexy)
10. Never, ever, ever let 'em see you sweat. Your insecurities, your bad day, your baggage from your last relationship needs to stay strapped down and tucked away for private time. As a friend of mine used to say, don't carry your funk on your face.
So who gets your vote? And why? Do share...
I hate discussing Black Hair. Hate, hate, hate it. But unfortunately, I opened the door with the whole LSLHBBNA* thing yesterday so now I must go in. Pardon me if I meander around the point. Stay with me.
I was travelling about 80% of the time then and the thought of carting around a flat iron, two curling irons and a carry-on full of hairdo-right-by-me products was more than I could stand. I decided to try a weave. I kept it in for quite a while and when I took it out not only had my hair grown out very long, it was a completely different texture. So I had a completely different head of hair in my 30's than I had in my 20's. Moral to the story? Me and my hair have been through a lot together but I never thought it defined me. And know that I work from home? Ha! BougieSis called me the "headband queen" on Monday.
Moving on… There seems to be a prevailing attitude that your hair says something about you. Well. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. Maybe the girl with the long braids just wanted an easy hairstyle for the beach. Maybe the girl with a blond fro just thought she'd try something different. Same thing with the fellas. Let's not assume that dread-locked guy doesn't work in Corporate America, let's not assume that cornrows is a banger or square-cut fade dude is preppy. Piggy-backing on yesterday – does Barack get to the White House if he's sporting braids? What if Michelle had dreads – can you imagine the drama?
And let's bury the idea of "good hair"… I beg of you. I've no issue with a hair style if it's neat, clean and flattering to the person wearing it. But others remain obsessed with the ideal of long, luxurious locks blowing the wind as the only standard of good hair. Baby hair, water weave, indian hair, it goes on and on. It's another one of those divisive things we have to squelch early. Chris Rock put together a documentary on black haircare that people seemed to really love or really hate. Here was the trailer:
And of course the classic "Good or Bad Hair" from Spike Lee's School Daze:
*LSLHBBNA: Light Skinned, Light Hair, Big Boobs, No-Ass
I distinctly remember being at a Jack & Jill function at age eight with BougieYoungerBro and having a boy that I thought was a friend ask me why my younger brother was darker than me. I stood there confused (since it never occurred to me that this was an issue) and said, "I don't know he just comes that way". The boy went on to ask if we had the same father. I angrily replied, "Of course!" And followed that up with a swift kick to his right ankle. He retaliated by pushing me backwards and BougieYoungerBro started crying and tried to bite him. Good times. By then, some parents had swooped in to break up the conversation. One of the mothers took me and my brother on the side and said, "Don't pay him any mind, his whole family is passe-blanc. They still paper bag test future mates." I went home and had to ask BougieMom to explain to me what had happened.
Let me pause to explain a few things because I know of at least four readers who have no idea what I'm talking about: Jack & Jill is an African-American organization formed in 1938 to allow black children aged 2 – 19 to have cultural opportunities, develop leadership skills, and form social networks. It has always had the reputation of being a bit exclusionary with only "upper" to "upper-middle" class kids included. (I don't know if this is really true or not). Mothers have to be invited in to join the organization. When I was active, pretty much all the kids' parents were doctors, lawyers or executives. Since we all went to schools where often we were the only black (or one of a few blacks) in the school grade, Jack & Jill and the church were the two places where I was surrounded by other black people and not standing out in a crowd.
Passe-blanc is a term used to describe extremely light-skinned people of color who could "pass for white."
The "paper bag test" refers to a practice that originated during slavery. Plantation owners would place a paper bag next to slaves' skin and those that were lighter than the bag were considered worthy to work in the house, those that were darker were sent to the field. This kind of blatant colorism still permeates our thinking today.
From The Hilltop Online (Howard Unviersity Student Newpaper):
According to an article written by Audrey Elisa Kerr, an associate English professor at Southern Connecticut State University, light-skinned slaves-particularly women-were considered "gentler, kinder, more handsome, smarter, and more delicate" than darker-skinned slaves.
Washington, D.C., once played a large role in the dark-skin/light-skin game. Because slavery did not have such an economic impact in the District, many free blacks preferred to reside in the area. In the mid-19th century, barbershops began accommodating only light-skinned black men.
Not only was race a factor, but skin tone became one. Churches, schools and various organizations utilized the paper bag test for social verification. There were also multitudes of brown bag parties, clubs, and social circles.
With colorism having such strong bearing in the nation's capital, Howard has been accused of utilizing the brown paper bag test.
Inclusion in various organizations sometimes depended on skin tone as well.
Dr. Jennifer Jordan, an African-American literature professor at Howard, doesn't believe much has changed in the overall scope of the paper bag theory.
"Look at the rappers and their music videos," Jordan said. "[Colorism] exists everywhere."
Speaking of rappers, Wale (a DC-based rapper) infuriated a large portion of the Twitterverse by previewing his video for Pretty Girls Monday. Problem? The majority of the pretty girls in his video were light-skinned. Now I don't know if being denied an opportunity to shake your ass is justice denied… really. Add to this the fact that he also has out another song called "Shades" in which he details the dynamic of being a dark-skinned man who had previous issues with light-skinned women and Chrisette Michele (a light skinned-woman) sung on that track with him. Based on all the evidence, I didn't see it as a big deal. Others disagreed. Here's the video, tell me what you think:
The thing that disturbs me is that we are STILL talking about it in 2010. I recall about 10 years ago being a restaurant with some girlfriends. As it happened, I was the lightest skinned girl at the table. The dark-skinned waiter would come to the table and speak directly to me, no one else. After the second time, they teased me saying, "Well at least we'll get good service since there's somebody acceptable at the table." They laughed but I wasn't amused. I said, "Come on, how do you know that's what it is? Maybe I remind him of someone." They all laughed and one said, "Yeah, his future baby mama. If you smile a little bigger, we might get these crabcakes for free, girl."
As the night went on and he got more and more obvious with his blatant exclusion of everyone at the table but me, I was increasingly upset. "I'm going to call him on it." They all said, "No!" I asked, "Why not?" One answered, "Girl, this is just how some folks are. Light bright and damn near white is always right in their eyes. We can get mad and rail about it but they aren't going to change their minds. And if you call him out on it, you go from being some ideal girl in his head to some stuck up chick trying to tell him about himself. We still have to order dessert." The episode unsettled me because to me, they were accepting his disrespect. Later they reminded me that you have to pick your battles. Telling off the waiter at a restaurant we'd never go to again wasn't one they felt was worth fighting.
In Wal-mart the other day, I heard some young girls talking about how happy they were about the way their babies turned out. Healthy? I thought. No. One girl said her girl was light skinned and the other said her boy was dark skinned and that's the way it should be. She did not want her boy to look like "no punk". Uh – has skin tone ever been an indicator of punky vs. thuggy behavior? Back in the day both Ice-T and Ice Cube scared me shitless, now I'd let either of them babysit BougieFam. The one girl said she was glad her baby girl was light skinned with "good hair" because life would be easier for her. For real tho? That baby girl's less than intelligent underage mama is buying glitter to put on her baby's onesie for Mardi Gras but she's gonna have an easy road due to skin and hair?
I could go on and on all day. The guy who told me not to get "too much sun" on vacation because he liked his ladies to "keep it light." The guy who told me if I "darken it up" he could take me out, he only dated "real" sistas. There are so many instances where the words 'color-struck' don't even begin to cover it. And I haven't enough time or energy to discuss the ascension of Barack Obama to the Presidency as it relates to skintone. I'll just ask this question – if Barack looked like Djimon Hounsou, was he electable?
Okay maybe a few more questions, do you think as a race we will EVER get beyond skintone? Has your life been impacted (negatively or positively) because of your shade of skin?
Tomorrow on BnB explores blackness…. Hair. Le Sigh.
*In case you haven't noticed, for Black History Month - I'm talking about blackness. Let's continue.
You know, reading over yesterday's comments about blackness I realized that I left off a whole other subset of the "black enough" equation. I would be remiss in not calling out my OWN folks who openly display their lack of racial sensitivity. Let me shout out a few gems:
- My editor, a sister-girl, telling me that the hero in my second novel shouldn't be a doctor because "my target audience" couldn't (or wouldn't) relate to him. "It would be better," she said, "if he was a delivery man or something obtainable like that." O__o. Just to be evil, the hero of the second book is a delivery driver for the first eight pages. When we see him again, he has a Ph.D. [snuck that Doctor in anyway]
- Bruh who rolled up at the airport, "Are you Puerto Rican?"
Him: "So what are you?"
Him: "No really, are you mixed?"
Me: Black and black, does it matter?
Him: You just have a look about you that's not really black. I mean that as a compliment. [funny, doesn't feel like one]
- Work colleague (a sister) who pulled me to the side to say she admired my earrings. "Are they real?" I gave her a look and responded, "As far as I know." She came back with, "Oh, I never knew another black person who owned real diamonds before." [Le Sigh]
- Blogger who said he prefers "real black women" not uppity, siddity ones. [I didn't realize sidditiness impacted my black status.]
- African-American owned company who interviewed me via phone six times and then when I came in to meet face to face looked stunned that I was black. In fact, the CEO actually fixed her lips to say, "I would have never known you were black from your phone voice." [Is that the black version of 'you speak so well'?]
- When I transferred from private school to public school for grades 10 – 12, the many, many brothers and sisters who told me that I "talked white" "acted white" and "dressed like a preppy white girl." [I now realize my response should have been - And so?]
It's bad enough when you get it from folks outside the race; you can always
pretend assume they don't know any better. But when your "peeps" come at you with it… no bueno. I'm not sure how we expect everyone else to be post-racial when we can't seem to get the hang of it ourselves.
Well, I had created a seriously stupid quiz to go along with today's post but Blogger won't let me be great. If you want to take it, click here. Have a great weekend!
Comments, thoughts? I know ya'll have had similar experiences... do share!
Black History Month has always been a source of panic for me. For some reason, I'm always worried that I'm not doing enough or that I'll miss something great on TV or in theatre. I always get a little irritated that it's the shortest month of the year when there is SO much to cover. This year, I decided to do a little bit more. It was an eye-opening experience. As a favor to a church friend of mine, I agreed to host an online chat session about Black History Month for about 25 of the church youths (ages 14 – 18). After an hour and a half of shock and dismay, let me just say… I weep for the future. And yet, I feel certain that every single generation has felt this way about "the kids" coming up behind them. But this time… they may be right. Witness if you will, some of the gems mined from this session.
I opened with a soft question: What does Black History Month mean to you? Now I had some okay answers but to a person, they all mentioned Martin Luther King. A little narrow in scope, so I decided to ask a follow up question – do you think Black History in America begins with MLK? Most enlightening answer: The history that impacts us began with MLK. This let me know that beyond Malcolm and Martin, these kids were not that informed. So I delved a little deeper: Who can tell me (without Googling) who was Marcus Garvey? Dead silence. Sojourner Truth? "A rapper, right?" Le Huge Sigh. I cried a little inside and then embedded these links about each person:
Immediately, they had questions about what I had sent and wondered why they didn't know more about people like this. The majority of their questions revolved around the fact that they no longer felt that slavery had a huge impact on their lives. In fact, they felt that with the election of Obama, the biggest battle had been won and they were going to sit back and enjoy what one of them called "the new black privilege". <- - Definitely a topic for another post.
So I asked: Who can name a war or battle that contributed to the freedoms you enjoy today? Among many scary answers came: The East Coast/West Coast Rap Battle of the 90s. Instead of scoffing at the child I asked if he knew where the origin of rap was rooted. This boy said Bed-Stuy. I said no. Someone else said church. I said okay and where did those church songs and "call-and-response" cadences come from? Finally someone said slavery and spirituals. They all became highly amused at the thought of slaves in the cotton field rapping. "What kind of tags were they poppin' in the fields? Any bling in the 1800s?" Moving on, I explained that rap was a form of communicating social conditions as were the old field spirituals. That at least registered some interest and they had a lot of questions about the influence of music on Black culture from then to now. I sent them this overview.
Finally, thinking I had achieved a breakthrough, I asked the following questions: What was the Harlem Renaissance, who started the Underground Railroad, who was Mildred Loving, why did Malcolm claim the last name X? A few come up with Harriet Tubman but that was about it. At this time, I was exhausted and told them to look the rest up. I ended by giving a little quiz (which I've embedded below for your good times).
Granted, I wasn't exactly hip deep in knowledge of African-American History myself at 15. But Eyes on the Prize and documentaries like it were required watching in my home. BougieDad spent more hours than I care to think about pontificating on all things blackilicious from the Congo to Calypso music to Stokely Carmichael.
All of this to say, grab up the young 'uns around you and put something other than rap lyrics in their heads. I beg of you. Black History Month should be a celebration of all the rich heritage and culture in each aspect of African-American life. Let's do our part to make sure it's more than just a month of great movies and tribute videos. Reach one, teach one. Join me in passing along knowledge, won't you?
Any stories about Black History Month to share? Comments? Thoughts?
As for why I'm not married yet… Let me share with you my favorite paragraph from an email I received Tuesday evening. The subject of the email being: I know what your problem is OneChele. Not knowing I had a problem, I popped open this bit of wisdom and dove in. Six paragraphs in, here's what I was treated to (leaving in the spelling and grammar errors so ya'll can soak up all this good flavor):
See, the problem with girls like you is that all your live people told you you are better than other black ppl. And you bought into that shyt. So no you think you can tell people how to live. I guess you try to be helpful but really you talk down. I have met so many bougey bitches like you that its really no surprise. You can't help yourself for acting like the world revolve around you. You so caught up in being fake and bougey that's why you don't have a man now and can only talk to them on you page. You say bougey but its really snobby and not a good way to live. I'm not tryin to be mean but someone need to get you to check yourself. I hope you find my words to you helpful not like your blog. Any way I won't be back to your blog and you won't here from me again. Good luck.
Uh thanks and wow. Methinks I ticked someone off. Boo-to-the-hoo. From yesterday's post I get that everyone's blog is not for everybody. But if you spent enough time here in BougieLand to get so wound up as to type out a seven paragraph note… you may have missed my premise. As a refresher course, here were my bouge rules:
THE BOUGE RULES (what puts the bouge in bougie)
- Bougie is more than a way of life, it's a state of mind
- Bougie does not equal stuck-up, siddity & pretty... unless it does
- There's nothing wrong with being bougie if your heart is true to the bouge
- If you are true to the bouge, people will hate on you. You won't care, you are too busy being bougie
- You can be born bougie, you can marry into bougie and you can evolve into bougie
- You can be bougie and hood but not at the same time
- You are no longer bougie if you are completely ghetto (fabulous or not)
- You can be broke and bougie but bouge works better with bank
- Bouge brings responsibility. Do not shame your bouge brothers and sisters lest you be kicked up out the bouge circle
- Bouge is old school people, we don't hate... we congratulate.
Please notice my tongue planted firmly in cheek. J If I've said it once, I've said it a million times… bouge is love ya'll. Okay, thoughts? Comments? Is bouge to blame for the hole in the ozone layer as well? Let me know, I'll apologize. Ever get a crazy flame-o-gram email? The floor is yours…
For those in BougieLand unfamiliar with the play (the Author refers to it as a choreopoem), it is a brilliant work studying the lives of black women as represented by a color. Earlier this year, CNN profiled Ntozake Shange, the author and the interview gives you an idea of what it's all about. It is one of rite of passage things that women of color hold close to their hearts. When word came out that Tyler Perry bought the films rights... well - all hell broke loose. If you think I don't like Mr. Perry, take a gander at the post below by Thembi Ford. Enjoy!
Re-posted from the The Black Snob (guest post) By Thembi Ford
Getting his hot little hands on Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play “For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf," was coup of the year for Tyler Perry. Not only will he produce and direct the upcoming film version, the King of Coonery will also write the adaptation of what may be the most important work about black female identity ever. Ask any black woman, especially the artsy/moody/self-aware type, about “For Colored Girls…” and she will respond with a wistful look and fond memories.
I was Lady in Blue in a high school production and have told more than one sorry dude “insteada being sorry all the time, try being yourself,” quoting the Lady In Red (but playing it off like I came up with it on my own). This is classic material and now we can expect the intentionally stripped-down aesthetic of Shange’s work to be replaced by style choices that only a closeted gay man could make. Even worse, Perry has announced that he’d like to cast the likes of Oprah, Halle Berry, and Beyoncé to tackle the play’s issues, which include love, rape, abortion, and relationships. Beyoncé??? Please pass the Xanax.
How did we come to such a low point in black entertainment? Sadly, money always talks. Did you know that Tyler Perry’s films have grossed about $319 Million in seven years, while Spike Lee’s have grossed $372 million in twenty-three years? When you account for the inclusion of rather mainstream flicks like Inside Man ($88 mil) in Lee’s canon, Tyler Perry is really in black folks pockets at an alarming speed. We’re going to see his movies in droves and I just cannot figure out why. Maybe it’s easy for whole church buses to go see a Perry flick after Sunday service, maybe we’re just happy to see black folks on-screen no matter what they do, or maybe we don’t have the sense of a Billy goat when it comes to choosing meaningful entertainment – I just don’t know. But the end result is the proliferation of a parade of empty, stereotypical characters, humor so dry it could sop up Jermaine Jackson’s hairdo, and the persistent depiction of black women whose lives are not complete unless they can find and hold onto a good black man. When we begged for greater representation on-screen, this is not what we had in mind.
Can I go back to Beyoncé and the meds I’ll need to watch her act again, especially in such a groundbreaking piece? It’s hard for me to even write about it because my thumbs have spontaneously become paralyzed into the DOWN position. First of all, I haven’t forgotten Beyoncé notifying the world that she’s not black, she’s Creole, which is the exact OPPOSITE of the “For Colored Girls...” message. Let’s also not forget that Beyoncé CANNOT act. I’ve given her too many chances to demonstrate that she can, and after watching her try to squeeze out tears while trying not to look directly into the camera I’ve concluded that the only role she’d excel in is an adaptation of Pinocchio – on camera, the girl looks like she’s made of wood. Her clumsy speech pattern is the stuff that gets folks flunked out of Julliard. There’s something about how her tongue sits in her mouth – its too big, its too wide, its too strong, it won’t fit. Why is this happening, again? Greed. Not just greed for money, but for recognition.
Whether or not Beyoncé ends up in the film, Perry has a special talent for creating the illusion that otherwise credible black actors don’t have enough talent for mystery dinner theater, so I have to consider anything he controls creatively a lost cause. However, as executive producer in a joint venture with Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry sat in the audience for Precious, a film highly praised by critics at the Sundance Film Festival (you may have heard the buzz about excellent performances from Mariah Carey and Mo’Nique). As the audience ooh’d and ahh’d at how creatively stunning it was, Perry scratched his chin and said “Hmmm. I want me some of this.” So now what should be a landmark moment in black female cinema directed by any of the renown black female directors out there – Kasi Lemmon (Eve’s Bayou), Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees), Debbie Allen (no explanation needed) or Nzinga Stewart (who was originally slated to direct the film) - is instead sure to fall flat under Perry’s control.
What’s saddest of all to me is that, as much as we can expect Perry to butcher Shange’s work, won’t so many of us feel obligated to see it anyway? Will we bite our tongues and watch, even if just for the sake of criticism and cultural commentary? Or will we consider ourselves lucky to absorb the prose and poetry of “For Colored Girls…” on the big screen for the first time? Should we patronize questionable black films just because they’re intended for us or should we boycott what we suspect is garbage? This is a persistent quandary that those of us interested in thoughtful black entertainment continue to face. Just what is a black woman to do with such a mess? When I ask myself these questions I’m reminded of Shange’s Lady in Green: “bein’ alive, bein’ a woman, and being colored is a metaphysical dilemma/ I haven’t yet conquered.” After thirty-four years at least that much still rings true.
Thembi Ford is the author of the blog What Would Thembi Do?