And This is for Colored Girls Who Always Seem to End Up Alone

The black woman’s role has not been placed in its proper perspective, particularly in terms of the current economic and political upheaval in America today. Since time immemorial the black man’s emasculation resulted in the need of the black woman to assert herself in order to maintain some semblance of a family unit. And as a result of this historical circumstance, the black woman has developed perseverance; the black woman has developed strength; the black woman has developed tenacity of purpose and other attributes which today quite often are being looked upon negatively.” –Shirley Chisholm, 1974 The Black Woman in Contemporary America Speech at the University of Missouri

As a little black girl you are taught many things. Your position in life as a girl defines how you behave. You are taught what to say, what not to say, how to act, how to talk, to play with dolls, to keep your legs together when wearing a dress, to wear a dress, and so on and so forth.  This is probably not much different from what other little girls are taught.

As a little black teenage girl you get told many things.  You are ordered to stay away from little boys who (as my mother told me) “just want to see how their ‘thing’ works.”  You are advised not to be the girl they keep company with at night, while they won’t dare be seen with her during the day.  You are told when you can date, and your dating is monitored under close supervision.  When you are of an appropriate age, you may get to go to the movies or to McDonald’s with your “little boyfriend”, but you better be home by 9:00.  This is probably not much different from what other little girls are told.

As a young adult black woman, your teachings of childhood have probably successfully ensured that you have transformed into a beautiful female specimen.  The instructions you were given as a teenager have enabled you to enter the world with your head held high, and with confidence that you are grounded in some sense of virtue.  You are a woman.  A female.  This has been made clear to you all your life, but as a young adult black woman, you know that your sex does not define your capability.  You are a black woman and you are proud.  Your mother, your aunts, and every beautiful black woman you have encountered have made sure of this.  With some variation or another, this too is probably not much different from what other young adult women are taught, however, for most young adult black women, this is where the teachings on being a women peak and become reiterated throughout the next few stages in life.

As a black woman, it is habitually instilled in you that you are strong, smart, dependable and completely capable of doing everything on your own.  You are taught what not to tolerate, how to demand respect, how to provide for yourself, to expect to provide for yourself, and to never depend on a man for anything.  You are never taught to expect to be a wife; never taught what that even means.  You are never taught how to give respect, how to comfort, how to care, how to love, who to love, who to depend on and how to know you can depend on them…you are only taught not to because you can’t.  This is the difference for many women of color.  Many of our homes have no men in them, and so most of our mothers teach us, directly or indirectly, that we have to expect to provide for ourselves and for our families alone.  We are taught that even if we do find a man, and even if he loves us, we are still not saved from this fate.  Men leave as often as they come, we learn, and so we are never taught what it takes to keep one.   As a result, we seldom know how to do just that, and are seldom even encouraged to try to.

This is the difference for women of color.

An educated, beautiful, strong, virtuous woman does not “run up behind” a man. He is supposed to see her for all she has to offer and then appreciate and love her unconditionally.  He is supposed to treat her like a queen–give her everything and shower her with commitment, devotion and affection.  As black women, this is what we are told we deserve, but what we are oftentimes not told, is what we are supposed to do for him.  This, we do not know.

This is the difference for women of color.

We are not taught how we are supposed to appreciate a good man, because half of us don’t even know how to identify one.  In our minds, he doesn’t exist.  In our minds all men are the same, and if you give them the slightest amount of power, they will use it against you.  So you don’t give them any.

This is the difference.  

My heart goes out to little black girls who have to grow up believing they are not entitled to the beauties and benefits of being a woman.  My heart goes out to little black girls because we are encouraged to fight our natural desires to be cared for, and to care for others.  We grow up believing we have to fight to be treated right, becaue many times we do. We grow up expecting that no one in this world is going to recognize our strength, our intellect, our loyalty or our capability.  We grow up on a mission to shove these attributes down people’s throats and demand that they appreciate all of them. We grow up on the defense.  If anyone ever seems like they do appreciate our strengths, we half-heartily appreciate their appreciation because we fear that if we let our guard down for a second, be vulnerable for a second, depend on him for a second…he will disappoint us and we will be left alone.

This is the difference for women of color.

We go through life expecting to be let down; expecting to be left alone; expecting to be alone.  We don’t trust men to take care of us and so we convince our daughters that all we can depend on is ourselves and maybe each other.  Tragic, because in the end that is all we get left with, and if you look around, that’s who you see many black women with–themselves and each other.