Dear Sistas, Let These White People Study You
Let me be clear: It’s not the Basketball Wives themselves that concern me, its more so the millions of Black women who religiously watch Basketball Wives, then go online and talk about Basketball Wives and complain about the everyday struggles they face as a result of how we’re portrayed.
Several weeks ago, I tweeted a simple question, “Do you feel like you understand Black Women?”
Within minutes, I was inundated with two consistently different types of responses. The first was from several Black women, upset with me for having asked such an all-encompassing question. Meanwhile, the other type of responses I got were from over 200 (mostly Black) men answering: No, they did not understand Black women. How ironic. While a group of Black women are upset with me over asking the question, a lot of Black men seemed to have been waiting for someone to ask that question.
When Shonda Rhimes‘ new series Scandal premiered earlier this year, Kerry Washington was heralded for her portrayal as an intelligent woman of color in a position of power, but the truth is there are millions of Olivia Popes–a character based on real life Crisis Strategist Judy Smith–we just rarely get to see them. Instead, we’re shown women who’s entire driving force are drama and attention.
It’s clear that in real life, we are being misunderstood, so why are we so eager to participate in the media’s mono-typing of us but unwilling to participate in the discussion about the effects it causes? I’ve met and interviewed several of the Basketball Wives, and while one-on-one I’ve found them to be nice women, it’s their less-than-flattering behaviors being referenced everyday. And it’s making us look bad.
Very few of us have truly honest conversations about race with people outside of our own communities. Most only talk about race with friends and acquaintances, and clearly their thoughts are going to echo the more liberal, but what about the White community that doesn’t have regular, leisure contact with Black women?
Even if you’re annoyed by the question or tired of being topics of study, the truth is that we are being misunderstood. If Black men are saying they don’t quite “get” us, then what are the odds that others have us pegged wrong as well?
I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to lunch with my home girls where a fight has broken out at the table. That I know of, none of my friends have leaked or suspected anyone of leaking nude pictures of us. Our taste in men varies and tends to skew outside the entertainment industry and professional sports arena, and we have our own professional goals that include other things than the patented “reality show then charity then clothing/handbag/accessory line” formula. Now, I’m not knocking these things, but if this is the majority of what’s being shown, then remember we’re not the only ones watching. Be willing to keep the lines of communication open.
The next time someone asks you who doesn’t understand black women, don’t get defensive. Thank Tami and Evelyn and the rest of them, and be willing to answer the question with: “What is it you need help understanding?” –@JasFly