frowning black womanBy NIKEYTA ROBINSON

Recently, I came in contact with a woman whose ignorance aroused a rant out of me so dangerous that the ears of bystanders were bleeding and steam was visibly escaping my person.  Was I mad?  Ha, I was livid!  Let me explain.

This woman, who I shall hereafter refer to as “Helpless,” was a customer at a retail store that I had the misery of managing. As I rang her up she said something along the lines of  “Girl, stores is busy today, but you know it’s the 1st.” My mind was elsewhere so I was paying only half attention, but I caught enough to get the implication. “What does that mean?” I asked.

Helpless looked at me in disbelief.  “Girl, you know what that mean standing up there wit dat weave in yo hair.”

I can assure you at this point I came to:  “Excuse me?!”

Yes, I understand now that Helpless was referring to welfare. However, I was more than bothered by her ridiculous insinuation that having a weave is synonymous with people who wait on government checks, or at least people who know the details about when benefits arrive and how and where they’re spent.

As a single Black mom, I’m always subject to stereotypes, but it never ceases to amaze me that the majority of ridicule will come from others in my race. Sometimes it makes me want to hand in my Black Card, or maybe just wash away the rich tones I’ve grown so fond of so that I can just be done with it already.  Alas, dealing with the foolery that comes from our own isn’t so simple.

I hate to think that my kids will go through the same thing—that based on their color, someone  who shares their color will, at first look, expect ignorance.  How do I prepare them for this inevitability? How do I explain to my children that self-hatred has caused us to become so cruel to one another that we assume the worst about one another—based on color alone?  Will they understand that some people would rather tear you down than be uplifting?  Our collective mistreatment by other races has caused too many of us to embrace inferiority, and worse, expect it of each other.  I’m both broken hearted and angered by this.

At the risk of sounding like just another nagging Black woman, I’m going to say that if I were a white woman with weave—or should I say “extensions”—that conversation would’ve gone differently. I see evidence of this every day.  I have seen countless white babies in restaurants without shoes on their feet; the reactions are always polite.  Those same people, however, would scream “ghetto” if those babies were Black.  And it doesn’t stop there.  When a white woman wears cut off shorts they call it “fashion.”  When a black woman wears cut offs they call it “broke!”  A Black woman is caught shaking her butt for a camera and she’s widely dismissed as nothing more than a slut, while a white woman can spark controversy and is crowned “The Queen of Twerking.” Richard Sherman, a Black football player expresses extreme emotion after leading his team to the Superbowl and he’s a thug. Justin Beiber gets pinched for driving while intoxicated and drag racing, and he’s a “wanna be” as in, wanna-be Black guy who stays in trouble.

Mess like this puts me on edge.  Makes me wanna holler—throw up both my hands.

But I temper my anger for the sake of the little eyes that watch me.  I want to teach them to stand up for themselves, but I don’t want them to feel compelled to “act a fool” every time someone gets out of line.

Now, I know there are tons of bigots who will forever stare at me with hatred because of the Black skin I was born in. But I will never understand a Black woman or man who makes the same judgement. In some instances, no matter how well I teach my children to dress or speak, my own people will still dismiss them as “ghetto.”  I hate that I have to remind my own people that I’m a “single mom” and not the “baby’s mama.”  Society pressures the Black family to be overachievers in order to receive the same respect as their white peers, but should we have to “perform” in the same way for Black folk, too?

That woman at the store had no idea how much she pushed my buttons that day. In an eager attempt to prove my professionalism, I smiled, handed her the merchandise and sent her out the door.  And then I unloaded, unfortunately, on every co-worker, friend and family member who could hear my voice. Poor guys. But I decided quickly that if I’d yelled, it would only have proven her point. Must we forever smile and whisper, “Please excuse my brown face?”

Nikeyta Robinson is a freelancer in Atlanta, GA. The longtime writer, who has penned stories for Yahoo and blogs at Sunshine & Lipgloss, is currently working on her first novel. She is a single mother of three.

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19 Comments

  1. the only stereo typing you because weaves look very stupid on black women. But that’s all.

    • By saying “weaves look very stupid on BLACK women ” you have proven the article’s point. That’s all.

    • Your comment is quite ignorant with poor sentence structure, that is all!

    • Your comment only justifies the article. I guess if she was white with an extension it would look or be better? What about people with Alopecia areata or cancer who can’t deal with hair loss? Someone’s hair or any other characteristic doesn’t make them Read the Article or at least the last sentence.” Please excuse my brown face”…

    • I think you are saying this because unlike white women, the weaves we wear are not the texture of our natural hair. I think that using the word stupid is harsh, but do understand your sentiment. Very few black women are born with hair that is the texture of most weaves we see.

      • That’s a great point. Most weaves are not the texture of black women’s hair but that takes us to a deeper point. We are not taught to embrace our culture or the natural things that makes us distinctive as black women. Society has ripped our image to pieces and told us we are not beautiful that many women strive to compete with their white counter parts. What’s not acceptable about us is gloryfied on other cultures. Which I find mighty ironic because they imitate us to the extreme. Its a color complex that steams deep into our roots. I was once told by a white women that I was an exception to my race of black people because I was educated, I spoke fairly ‘proper’ English, and I dressed well. I must admit that I am a victim to this belief sometimes not fully wearing my skin proudly because of the judging faces from all race of people. I can’t be to black and yet I can’t be to white like either to succeed and fit into society. So as Nikeyta said how long will I have to excuse myself for the skin I was born in?

  2. Great read. The article is much deeper then the title suggest. Looking forward to more work from Nikeyta Robinson.

  3. I loved this article. Thank you.

  4. I have an American friend, who is black single mother by the way,who has Alopecia and wears a weave. She is very beautiful and has a reason to wear it, there nothing black about it. We really need to Stop judging people.

  5. Great read. Much deeper then the title implies… Looking forward to much more from Nikeyta Robinson,Thank you.

  6. Great Article. Loved it

  7. Great article Nikeyta . So on point.

  8. I hope I’m alive to see the day this stereotype is non existent. I hate it happened to you and I could hear a voice while reading, that’s how much this article spoke volumes. Good way to channel that energy into a well written reminder on how we need to do better.

  9. The author needs to get a real grip. There’s too much anger, too much foolishness for a grown woman with children. At what point do you grow the hell up and not allow the opinions of others to bother you? And those black and white stereotypes of how others are perceived in the media? Really? There are more than enough media outlets criticizing Bieber and Miley Cyrus to compensate for the lukewarm positive ones. It seems that black people love being the victim. The author seems so comfortable in her outrage that she justified and wrote an entire article about it. Really? By the way, black women do need to let the weaves go.

  10. Great article – and the comments of the ignorant folks who took issue did point up the reason for it. The entire discussion about weaves was just…..you know. Keep up the great work Ms. Robinson!

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