One Small Step for Me, One Giant Leap Backward for Womankind

You know the saying every little bit counts? If everyone would donate such and such amount to such and such cause, then an organization could do such and such?  Although there is no realistic expectation that everyone will donate to the cause, the point is to encourage people not to focus on the fact that they’re only donating a small amount but to see their contribution as a necessary piece of the larger pie that, combined, will have a huge impact. Lately I’ve been thinking about this interconnectedness on a more interpersonal level and frankly feeling like I have the weight of black women on my shoulders. 

Recently I came into my apartment building and a black guy from the neighborhood was talking with one of my neighbors in the hallway. My bag got caught on the outside door so it made the door accidentally slam closed. He remarked, “Somebody is in a bad mood.” Truthfully, I wasn’t in that bad of a mood, but did I smile, did I correct his statement, or even acknowledge it or him? No. I walked past him, went into my apartment and shut the door. Afterward, I sat thinking, “he probably thinks I’m just another angry black woman,” which I’m not (most days). The point is, I couldn’t tear myself away from thinking about how that one small action may have negatively influenced not only his view of me, but black women in general.

So often, we talk about perpetrators of crime on a national scale and the misogyny of women in our music and the detriment that this has on the image of the black community, but I wonder how often each of us thinks about how our little day to day interactions affect the perception of black women within our own community.

I know how to act in the office, I realize that the man is watching and I have to represent for my people, but somehow when it comes to the black man, the same rules don’t always apply. I realize at work we have to be “on” so to speak and sometimes after that 9a-7p is over, you just want to be at home in your bed, but is that an excuse to be “off” with one another? Is it that we expect the next black person to understand the unspoken frustration of white supremacy in corporate America that is written on the scowls of our faces, or are we just plain rude and nonchalant about how we interact socially?

Recently, an ex of an old friend of mine (and friend of one of my past ‘interests’-complicated, I know) approached me with a level of interest that I’m almost certain was beyond friendship. Initially, I brushed off the advances, but at some point I began to engage him, still on a respectable level, however I found myself wondering, how am I affecting men’s perception of women by even entertaining this man? Am I adding to the already-skewed mindset that all women are scandalous, sneaky, and down for whatever? Or if I accept unacceptable behavior from a man from whom I should be demanding more, am I providing men with permission to treat us all any kind of way?

Of course, my behavior has no true global impact, but it could be significant enough to sustain previously held notions about women in general. The reality is, most of us aren’t famous, what we do won’t go beyond the conversation of maybe three to five people, but when your negative behavior matches the stories of  others in the group, then we’ve got a global perception crisis. The minority that behave a certain way come to represent the whole and then statements like “all black women are like this and all black men do this” become dogma and the way that we engage one another begins to change based on these assumptions that get proven true every day.

Perhaps each of us should look at it as our personal responsibility to represent for the perceived minority of our minority. In the same way that we “put on” for black people when going up against other racial or ethnic groups on a national scale in business, media, or any other venture, we should put on for one another and not be so lax about the stereotypes that we perpetrate amongst ourselves.

A lot of people talk about feeling the weight of their ancestors on their shoulders as they face life’s challenges, but I think it’s also important to feel the burden of womankind as well. It may not feel good to immediately resist whatever urge you have to frankly not care and do whatever it is you want to do in the present moment, but if we all could think about one another before we do such and such to and with such and such, our social interactions might really be a little bit easier to navigate.

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