What if I were to tell you that yes, I know my black is beautiful but please don’t call me “queen”?
I don’t doubt that queens walk amongst us (Bey is a force to be reckoned with), however, the stereotype of the “strong, independent, black woman that don’t need no man” has consequences.
For decades, black women have been the punchline, the negative example, or used as the anthesis of what a real woman should be: pure, innocent, virginal and sweet. When you hear the phrase “America’s sweetheart” you’re more than likely to picture a knockoff Taylor Swift as opposed to Nicki Minaj. What I like to refer to as the current “Neo-Black Revolution” has birthed a 1970s-esque pro-Black mantra to uplift our sisters. African Queens with chocolate skin, an afro stretching for miles, and a strength of survival running through her veins that can only come from generations of oppression.
Sometimes we are not strong, and this “goddess” concept perpetuates this idea that we must be at all times and continue to carry the weight of the world on our backs. What about those of us who feel as fragile as glass? The ones that struggle and can’t get up? The “carefree black girl” who actually cares a lot and cries alone in her bedroom? It’s this stigma that not only desensitizes other races from empathizing with our pain, but removes innocence from the equation itself, and that’s dangerous. We’re displayed as sexy, “bad”, and beautiful, but we’re never shown as cute and adorable. Be it Movies, TV, or the influx of pop starlets in the media there isn’t a black Zooey Deschanel we can look to and say “yes, I also adore peter pan collar dresses and girl you are slaying with that wash-and-go”.
It’s as if past age 13 girlish femininity exclusively belongs to white or white passing women. Adjectives like white & pale pink are examples of the racial dichotomy that exists when addressing the semantics of cute. Dig into Tumblr’s trending “nymphet” sub-culture and you’ll witness this first hand. A cross between childhood nostalgia and an obsession with Nabokov’s “Lolita”, Nymphet culture features slender teens with pale skin and long locks appropriating the aesthetic of the film. There is an openness to experimenting with sexuality in an innocent manner; a privilege black women don’t quite feel belongs to them.
In the eyes of society, we become women even when we aren’t there yet. Sex is introduced at a younger age, and the risk for sexual violence increases. While girlishness is fetishized for white women (an issue in itself), it is rarely a box categorized for black women, and the problem lies in an inability to accept our innocence even sexually. On one side, we have black girls expecting to grow up too fast, and the other, black women who don’t feel they meet the archetypal requirements.
It all goes back to positive representation, not just for black women, but for all women. We exist in so many dimensions, and having that be visible can make the difference between someone thinking a girl is DTF solely based on her skin.
The “carefree black girl” was created as an alternative to what Jamala Johns has identified as “the Jezebel, strong black woman, mammy, welfare queen, and video vixen”. A label aimed to encompass the choice “other”, it has eventually taken on a particular identity. Around the country, there are black girls and women who still feel that despite that, they don’t belong to their race and all the pictures of Solange, Janelle Monae, Amandla Stenberg and Willow Smith in the world won’t change that.
We need to let them and everyone else know it’s okay to not feel powerful. That black women are cute and adorable. That we aren’t queens and goddesses or angelic mystical creatures. We’re human just like everyone else.
Featured Photo courtesy of the author, Randi Butler (Milk and Twee)