Happy Black History/Herstory Month Errbody!!! This is my favorite month (not because of the weather- y’all can have that skin-cracking, got-me-ashy weather.) This is a time to celebrate the brilliance, beauty and blessings that Blackness has brought and continues to bring to the world hunty!
With that being said, everyday this month, I will be dropping a photo of Black women who I admire, who have shaped my thinking and who are just all around dope ass women. Some are family and friends; others are women I gather with in sisterhood and some are complete strangers but are simply giving me life. So follow Black Women Be Knowing on Instagram and celebrate with me.
So I was thinking about Black women (as I usually do) and after watching Amanda Seales’ HBO stand-up I Be Knowin’ and attending a talk with Black feminist thinker, writer and author of Eloquent Rage, Brittney Cooper, I was like, Yoooo, Black women be asking the tough questions. When White folks ask questions, they think in whiteness, asking shit like, What’s the meaning of life? Where’s the nearest Lulu Lemon? To be or not to be? That is the question.
First off, Black folks know that “To be or not to be” is a very real question that we think about damn near everyday for very different reasons. But I’m not here to depress anyone. I’m going to take you through a crash course in Black Philosophy 101 and enlighten you by sharing the essential questions that plague Black women’s thoughts everyday. You’ll thank me later. Matter of fact, just thank me in the comments section. Don’t say I ain’t never did shit for you.
Amanda Seales’ I Be Knowin’
You know I couldn’t have a blog called Black Women Be Knowing and not talk about my big sister Amanda Seales (she don’t know we related.) First off, second off, third off, she’s dope and funny AF. For those of you who are still deleting people from 2018, please cut anybody off who says that women aren’t funny. They don’t get to rock out in 2019.
For those of you who watched it, you know what I’m gonna talk about. The tough question that we ask ourselves every day is:
How black am I gonna have to get today? On a scale from Stacy Dash to Nat Turner.
Now she says so many hilarious things and I’m not gonna fuck it up for all the lames that didn’t watch it. But this question is THE question because it is such a huge part of the Black experience. I always say no one tests our gangsta more than white folks who know we need to keep our benefits. There are so many times when I want to go off on White folks but then I gotta channel my inner Michelle Obama. But then there are times when I wanna play limbo and be like “How low can you go? I said, how low can you go?”
Case in point: A friend and I were at Dallas BBQ about two months ago. For any of you not familiar as it’s a regional restaurant, it’s the BBQ equivalent of an Applebee’s. Food is fairly priced; there are TVs inside and it’s a place to go and talk shit without people complaining…or at least I thought.
My friend and I sat diagonally from an old White couple (I think you know where this is going.) We were just talking about our children who are in college and how they’re navigating adulting- basically minding our own Black ass business when Old White Man claimed he couldn’t sit next to us because we were talking too loud. His wife looked embarrassed and at first we didn’t even know who he was talking about until he started pointing at us and raising his voice.
- We are nowhere near speaking loudly and no disrespect my man, but you know damn well you can barely hear. Plus, you never addressed the issue with us so how would we know?
- You’re not even sitting next to us so why do you need to move? It’s not the volume of our voices but our Blackness that offends you and
- If you want shit to be quiet, you don’t come to Dallas BBQ. It ain’t that kind of vibe.
Amanda talks about this in one of her stories about the white couple who wants the window closed on a flight where she has the window seat. One thing we can both appreciate is that there’s always a brotha who comes and checks white folks for you.
So Old White Man calls the manager (who’s a brotha) and the first thing the manager says is “No one is talking loud but you’re more than welcome to move to another table.” Old White Man had the “caucasity” to say that we aren’t talking loud now cause he (the manager) is standing there. It was then that we had to ask ourselves, How Black are we gonna get? A bitch needs her dental and her checks on the 15th and the 30th. Old White Man and his whole embarrassed wife, who he clearly treats like shit (and who didn’t join the second wave of feminism) went to the other side of the restaurant. So you know what we did. We just side eyed the fuck out of them and mouthed the words white motherfuckers in their direction for the duration of our meal. Please tell me where that falls on the Blackness spectrum.
I recently read a book of short stories called Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. You have to read the entire collection but the first story, “The Finkelstein 5” really digs into this tough question. Black folks are constantly aware of, assessing and adjusting our Blackness. It is as natural and routine as brushing our teeth in the morning but 10,000 times more exhausting.
Kwame demonstrates this when his protagonist adjusts his voice to a Blackness level of “1.5 on a 10 point scale” when answering the phone to confirm a job interview. The character’s clothes, tone, walk is not simply policed by Whites; it’s self-policed. I won’t say much more about it other than the idea that the lowest we can get our Blackness is by not being seen. We are fluent in White speak- for Black women, that’s Beckynese and we have to determine if and when we will demonstrate our bilingualism. Personally, I’m trying to make that shit a dead language but I digress.
The thing I love most about Amanda Seales’ stand-up and about Amanda Seales as a person, is that there is no question about who she represents and creates content for. It is for us, Black Women, and I’m here for the celebration of us.
Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage
About two weeks ago, I attended a talk at the New York Historical Society with Rebecca Traister whose writing is dope and the one and only Dr. Brittney Cooper (gotta put some respeck on her name.) During their talk, The Furies: Women’s Rage, Women’s Power, I could not get over how on point Brittney Cooper was when it came to answering this essential question:
Why are you mad?
Once she started, it was like trying to put a bottle cap on a volcano and I just sat in awe as her anger matched my own rage and how she rolled off her grievances the way someone would recite their home address. Here are some of the reasons why she’s mad that I absolutely can get behind and I’ll pose them as questions:
- Why we still out here putting up with y’alls raggedy ass president? Besides the straight up inhumane, racist, xenophobic, rapey ass 45 we have endured for the past two years, the one thing that has really stayed with me is the way that this president has “normalized lying” as Cooper states. This nigga literally lies about everything: Russia, Mexico paying for the wall, Black people loving him (sorry, the five coons who love you don’t represent all of us.) I get even more pissed by the fact that he has a bunch of equally shitty liars on his team and the taxpayers’ payroll. They’re not just normalizing lying, they’re demonstrating what it means to be blatant liars and defenders of racist policies and practices who can keep their status and position cause whiteness is the best defense. I’ll stop there.
- Why do some Black women continue to support R. Kelly? dream hampton has done a phenomenal job telling the stories of the survivors of R. Kelly and there have been so many Black women who have been the creators, organizers and enforcers of #MuteRKelly. Yet, there are still some women who are in the patriarchal, toxic masculinity sunken place who continue to “cape” for this pedophile. It hurt my spirit to scroll down my social media page to see that women were still at the club celebrating this dusty ass nigga’s birthday after hearing countless victims come forward. Brittney Cooper flat-out states that “we can’t give Black men the freedom to act as White men do.” That is the exact point. When I hear defenders ask, “why they coming for R. Kelly? What about Harvey Weinstein?” all I can say is that you aren’t asking the right questions. This is the point in the discussion where you need to withdraw from the course because as the professor of Black Philosophy 101, I will not allow you to continue for a standard letter grade if you continue to ask dumb shit like that. If you can chew gum and walk at the same time, you should be able to understand that Harvey Weinstein is fucked up and should be punished AND R. Kelly’s cell needs to be right next to that nigga’s. I recently listened to The Black Guy Who Tips podcast and the guest, who’s a social worker, feminist and writer, Feminista Jones, made a great point about folks who say, “Well, R. Kelly was never convicted.” And her response is, “Neither was George Zimmerman.” Check. Fucking. Mate. So FOH cause I refuse to make sense out of nonsense.
- What have White women taught Black women? Answer: “White women didn’t teach me shit!- not about feminism.” When she said this, I felt like Taraji clapping for Viola. She said this in a room that was 90% White women too. I’m not saying that Black and White women aren’t both soldiers in the war against patriarchy but it damn sure ain’t the same battle. Black women have always been on the front lines. My grandmother taught me to value a man but not to depend on one and I watched her work and hold her own. She had male companions but she knew how to send their asses home too because no one was gonna disturb her peace and she wasn’t giving a man her power. More than anything, she taught me that I had choices and all I was expected to do was live up to my own standards. As Black women, we work, hold down families, pass down stories, protect everything that belongs to us and challenge anyone who threatens our existence. That’s what I’ve learned from the Black women around me and that is what I’ve lived. I ain’t never looked to a White woman for inspiration or validation of my thoughts and feelings. I think about Audre Lorde’s words often: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of MY vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
I had to attend this talk because I wanted to hear more about Black women’s relationship with their anger because it has never benefitted Black women to be angry. Reclaiming rage and talking about the myriad ways that Black women are dismissed, violated and silenced is a revolutionary act- one that I hope to continue to be a part of in whatever way I can. Cue Solange’s “Mad” cause we got a lot to be mad about. I’m going to reclaim the term ‘angry Black woman’ because if I’m not angry, given all of the shit I have to deal with, something’s wrong with me. Dr. Brittney Cooper, you did that!
I’m just gonna cut to the chase. This is the final one. Someone please give me some thoughts on this tough question.
Who qualifies as a bad/boss bitch?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Hip Hop culture and reality TV. When you put those two things together, you get a lot of women running around claiming to be the baddest bitch. Hey, I’m all for confidence and self-love but I’m also an educator by trade and we evaluate shit based on rubrics and checklists.
I need answers. Miami rapper, Trina has built her brand on being the baddest bitch. And while it’s a given that Oprah, Beyonce, Rihanna, Ava, Viola and Cardi among others, are bad ass bosses, these words are getting thrown around a little too freely. I’m interested in doing a study and establishing the criteria of a bad ass, boss ass bitch. Cause throwing drinks, fucking with raggedy ass producers who don’t make hits and fighting while the kids are at your mama’s house don’t seem like they would be on the checklist. I’m going to take beauty out of the criteria because it’s lazy. More importantly, it’s not elevating the conversation in any way. I am interested in values, hustle and results but it may be more complex than that or a lot simpler.
I’m also not limiting the references to celebrities cause as I said before, there are some everyday unsung heroines who are trailblazing and making shit happen. So how do they do it?
While this may seem trivial, I’m willing to put this on the list of questions that Black women are pondering. We clearly watch reality TV for the mess but my girlfriends and I struggle with this idea because at least one person calls herself a boss bitch or a bad bitch on every episode and I’d just like to see some receipts. That goes for the dudes on these shows too- acting like they’re making boss moves and at least one of them was filmed sleeping on a mattress on the floor. #NotGoals.
Listen, I want Black women to win but I also want Black women to set the bar higher. This is going to take a community effort so share your criteria below.
Finally, when is the world going to listen to Black women?
That’s actually a rhetorical question. The answer is, should’ve been a long damn time ago. But it seems like y’all like fucking with the losing team.
Ask the tough questions.
Demand the answers.
If you don’t like the answers, provide better ones.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.