Two Mirrors: Society vs. Self-Image

“Wow, I'm shocked because you don’t really look like the type” I done heard that line so many times in my short 23 years of life. From professors being shocked by my high achieving academic performance to older men and women who are shocked that I actually give back to the black community to niggas that I’ve been on dates with that swear that giving me that backhanded compliment is going to have me wanting to prove to them that I’m actually that “type”. In any case, I’m left asking the same question, over and over again: what is that type?

What defines it? People see me and see a fat ass, a beat face, long ratchet nails, and long weave and automatically assume that I exclusive talk and gesticulate in over-exaggerated Ebonics, assumptions that are only situationally applicable. Compare this to when people see me with my natural hair with glasses and a blazer on; gone are questions about my authority and work ethic. Instead, they’re replaced by positive affirmations and compliments. I’ve always prided myself on never changing who I am and rejecting the notion of respectability politics, which tell me that I only deserve to be respected when I’m dressed like Barbie President edition, and not like a Bratz Doll. Why does society respect one and not the other, why does society think that the first is the sweet girl next door and the latter is a hood rat with an attitude? (There’s nothing wrong with that - Solange did tell us we have every right to be mad in that song with Wayne). We know the answer to this is a rhetoric based in classism, anti-blackness, whitewashing, and respectability politics Of course, living in an era where everyone’s “woke” and gaining thousands of followers and a report from TheShadeRoom from making a video speaking on the topics doesn’t help much either.

Aren’t we all socially aware now and know that these things were implemented into our community as divisive tactics?

Why are people still pushing these notions? Aren’t we all socially aware now and know that these things were implemented into our community as divisive tactics? How and why is it possible that knowing City Girls lyrics by heart or owning a bunch of bikini and thongs is enough to discount the fact that I organize school drives, give back to the community, and work hard in class and school? Why are such insignificant things allowed to be so influential in determining how society perceives me? While I’m not begging for the world to view me as Mother Teresa and accept me with open arms and apologies, I am calling out the hypocrisy within the community.

We’re expected to be stellar role models that give back to the community while we’re young and full of energy, but are quickly discredited because our attire “shows a lack of self respect.” This has always been an entertaining concept for me. The concept of self-respect is largely intuitive; it amounts to however much respect an individual has for themselves, without considering how much other people like or respect the individual.

The concept of self-respect is largely intuitive…

Thankfully, I’ve learned not to let any of these things get to my head. At the end of the day, I know what I do and why I do it, and the rewarding feeling of seeing a smile on the face of a young black child is one that will always force me to keep going more than hurtful remarks and comments may make me want to stop. To all the women out there that don’t look the part, that society refuses to accept that we’re capable of doing more than twerking and beating our faces, you’re appreciated and loved and at the end of the day the people that love to say “Wow I'm shocked because you don’t really look like the type” NEVER DO ANYTHING FOR THE COMMUNITY  but it eats them up outside to know that the women that they constantly bash are doing more than they do. It’s okay though they’ll continue to be salty while we continue to be the bad bitches we are.