Black girls and women have been dealing with a unique problem for a long time.
At least for the majority of my life, and the lives of the women I’ve been surrounded by, black girls have been giving more than we’ve been getting. We give love and adoration to black boys. We grow up, for the most part, with black boys playing ball in our neighborhood parks, sitting in front of us in school, and dancing with us at parties. We are conditioned to believe that they are our counterparts by default with little to no exceptions, and we willingly accept it.
But a lot of the time, we do not get this privilege in return. We don’t get the privilege of being a black man’s only option.
Instead, black girls are entertained for a while because they are what black men are surrounded by. But once they’re introduced to other things, like success, money, new schools and new cities, suddenly there is more out there. Suddenly, our style, our hair, and our looks are not enough. We are not submissive enough. We are too angry, too judgmental, too moody, too needy, too independent, too much of everything and not enough of anything. But the other girls, even with their natural human imperfections, are just enough to push black girls out of the spot of “one and only.”
We all intuitively know that the boy Brandy was talking about in “I Wanna Be Down” and the one Nicki Minaj was talking about in “Super Bass” and the one Salt n Pepa were talking about in “Whatta Man” were the same character: a black boy.
But we don’t have this same confidence in songs by Chris Brown or Drake or other major Black rappers and singers who have a deep influence on black boys’ views and desires. These rappers often brag about having “foreigns” at their disposal: alternatives to black girls. These are girls with softer hair and fairer skin which seems to make them more exciting.
This is not to say that black girls don’t have other options as well; black women do, and are allowed to, date outside of their race. But when we do it, we get a different reaction. We’re sometimes seen as “traitors” and can’t comfortably stand next to our non-black spouse without getting dirty looks from some black people on the street—including other women. But when black men date outside of their race, even when they bring black women down in the process, people still defend their right to have a “preference.”
So once black women notice this, we try to do things differently. We might even try to straighten our hair or lighten our skin. We try to suppress the internal anger we feel from being told that we’re not beautiful, not smart, not good, and not valid. We do this in an effort to be placid, because maybe our fire is what black boys are intimidated by.
I went through it, and if you’re a black girl, it’s likely that you have too. I’m still in high school, so the boys I’m surrounded by have not yet been introduced to a newer, wider world where there are an abundance of “foreigns” to choose from, but I still experience it. I still think that maybe it’s the fact that I’m too slim, and if I wasn’t then I’d be closer to the acceptable form of a black girl, the ones that get noticed by boys way before me. Or I think, maybe if I was more sociable, and not the quiet, reserved black girl, they’d see me more. Sometimes, I think that if I wore weave instead of my natural hair, I’d be like the rest of them. They wouldn’t look at me and see something different and indigestible, but rather see something they’re familiar with, something they could get used to. I hoped that maybe they would just see me at all.
This is the action of denying my validity as a black girl. It is me trying to be something I am not in order to be at least one of their options. And I’m doing this all for a black boy; the thought of another kind never once crosses my mind.
It’s even worse for some of my friends. Imagine a black girl whose skin is three or four tones darker than mine. She is now further from what the typical black boy wants; when you look at her, you see her blackness immediately. You are forced to interact with it just by laying eyes on her, and maybe that’s too much for them to deal with. Unless, of course, she has straight hair and Eurocentric features and is slathered in oil or makeup and has mastered the placidity that I spoke about earlier.
Imagine a larger black girl, who is pounds away from being what a typical black boy—or any other boy—is taught to desire. She has to deal with her blackness and her weight, two things that virtually remove her from the list of options. But she cries at night, and so does the dark black girl, and so do I.
We cry, and we look at ourselves in the mirror with frustration, and we awkwardly walk away when black boys approach our friends who fit the mark. We think about ourselves and wonder what we can do better, what we can change. We know we can’t completely transform, but maybe we can improve this and modify that, act this way and walk that way. We can start wearing this kind of make-up, wear these kinds of clothes, and become that kind of girl. This is all in an effort to please Him, The One and Only in our subconscious minds. Our intrinsic companion: the black man.
But no matter what we do, no matter how light or straight or calm or submissive we force ourselves to be, we will never be the only thing he sees or the only choice he has. Maybe we’re a familiar face he returns to when he’s done with his fun, but never the only option.