Thursday, September 15, 2005

Validation- I want you to want me

Debra J. Dickerson has an article on Salon- June 30th, titled "I want you to want me" that has me thinking she's speaking from my (would-be-way-unfortunate) future as well as the present. I normally don't copy other folks' words into my blog. But just in case "this link" doesn't work... here's a coupla things that struck me.

For reference, she starts with her take on the movie "Wedding Crashers", which came out this past summer.

" ...The crashers seduced their way through every culture and every ethnicity but mine. Why don't Owen and Vince want to seduce me, too?

...Please don't misunderstand. I hate those Negroes who would bean count for black faces in Antarctica so they can get airtime whining about "the lack of diversity" blah blah. Start a school! Take in some foster kids! Run for office!...

...I'm talking about something that grieves black women, that breaks our hearts so much I have never had a conversation with another black woman about it....Our hearts are broken because we are unloved. More than that: Black women are unlovable, or so the world tells us every day. Most often, it's a sucker punch.

...I was usually the only woman and only black around. I'd say nothing as my office mates, the men I partied with and who backed me to the hilt professionally, would grouse about the lack of women. I was smarter and better-looking than they were....When I finally married at 40, it was to the first man who'd asked me out in five years. I had been holding out for a brother but, realizing that was even less likely to happen, finally let that go.

...I'm 46 now and far less full of bullshit. I'm not angry. I'm hurt. It's not that I want white men to want me. I want all men to want me. I want to be seen as desirable, if I actually am. As available, if I actually am. As fuckable, though you should be so lucky. But, because I'm black, I'm somehow seen as a gender crasher, an imposter fronting as a real woman. Liable to get the sexual bum's rush at any moment. No wonder so many of us are bitches. It protects us from rejection if we make it impossible to get anywhere near us in the first place.

A basically sweet, silly movie has me, late in life, reconsidering my impatience with nitnoy black separatism -- black dorms, Miss Black America pageants, "The Wiz." I still believe that true separatism is not a viable option for a group comprising only 13 percent of the population, but perhaps a psychological one may well be required to maintain our mental health. "

She isn't lying.

Dickerson put her finger on something I've observed for a while since beginning my life in Black womanhood. As a Black woman in the USA, my sexuality is either hypersensualized, or ignored. Either/or. And, when searching for a way around the hurt that entails, my options were, either cut back my options to black men, (even though black men, IMHO, do NOT feel that kind of pressure, by the way) and forget about those who are 'other', or act in ways that would subtly negate the effect of my race and ethnicity on men's perception of me as a woman. Thereby denying myself one crucial part of my way of being in order to (maybe) satisfy another.

This just isn't a satisfactory way to live. And why I said so many times as a teenager that I was moving OUT of the US when I got grown. Until Dickerson articulated it the way she did it didn't occur to me that not only is this phenomenon REAL but it AFFECTS me and the way I think, and so often, the way I act. Just as my actions can't be separated from the context- the
reason why I perform them, the way I move in the world can't be separated from context either- which is the state of my being in the world.

I don't think I ever will accept anyone saying that 'they don't see my race' if they were raised in the United States, because I know that's baloney. By virtue of the fact that I was born in this country, Black and female, My entire life is a kaleidoscope of reasons why that is not and cannot be so.

Now that I know the issue, though, I see its scope. How on EARTH can I help my country move toward a place where my daughters can breathe free, without ever feeling a need to be included, based on their automatic exclusion? Dr. King gave his famous speech wishing his children could do the same, and yet, almost fifty years later, the key parts of the dream haven't even been addressed!

I felt philosophical. Holla if ya hear me.


Submitted to the Radical Women of Color Carnival :


  1. Salaam 'Alaikum

    Good post.

    >>I don't think I ever will accept anyone saying that 'they don't see my race' if they were raised in the United States, because I know that's baloney.<<

    I know that's right. Anyone who says that is trying to pull a con game -- with good intentions, no doubt -- but a con game nonetheless, and an insult IMO to boot. "I don't see your race." What does that mean? That the person's Blackness or Asianness or Otherness has been overcome? Is it a way of saying, "I can get past the fact that you are not part of the dominant racial paradigm?" Is being Other such a liability that a person is supposed to be grateful that the speaker is able to overcome it in order to behave with you as an equal?

    Or maybe that's too harsh. Maybe the person's just trying to show that they don't care what race you are, but when people say things like that "I don't see your color," they're negating an essential part of who the other person is, an essential part of their identity. Being Black, Latino, Chinese, whatever has made the person who they are -- the person that the speaker wants to get to know and be friendly with. With one stroke "I don't see your color," they unintentionally try to erase that. Well, that's my thought on it anyway. -- UmmZaid

  2. wa Alaikum Salaam,

    Too often it's a guilt game, as well as an either/or game here in this country, and that's bothersome in and of itself. Now, most people who come out with the "Don't see your race" comment are either responding defensively when accused of racism or trying to justify a move made in some part based on race. When I'm not straight reacting to the comment in the moment, I can admit that a very few people mean, as you put it, "I can get past the fact that you are not part of the dominant racial paradigm". Most were not raised in a diverse environment, actually. Hmm. And the rest were raised in Europe (Scandinavia and the UK, in case someone was wondering).

    But in examining my own reaction, I know that its as you said, erasing or ignoring something that's a very big part of me. So I sense dishonesty in that comment. My otherness shapes so much of perception about me that it is just ridiculous to claim its ignored when the very opposite is true... on a subconscious level. It's more truthful to say you see it and accept it as it is. Which all of my friends, Black and otherwise, have done, or I couldn't call them friends at all.

    The craziness of race- ok, COLOR- and acknowledging, or not, the way everyone in this country acts upon it, comes from the US heritage, because in this country your race DOES mean something. For a long long time it meant your station in life, the possibilities, who you associated with, when and how and where you were educated... color told EVERYTHING about the outward status in your life.
    I will belie my southern roots by saying it still does, in fact- that's why all the brouhaha over the racial disparities in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.

    Know what? I'm just going to take this into a post and continue it there.