I am not that woman. I am not she.
A few years ago I worked with a Black female academic whose dissertation was about academically successful Black women and the struggles they have merely to be seen and heard as individuals rather than as representatives of their race — while at the same time knowing that no matter what they did, they would always be seen as Black women — either “that Black girl” who fit all the stereotypes (loud, “angry,” “playing the race card” to get undeserved benefits, sexually promiscuous, etc.) or as “an exception to the rule,” proving nothing at all about the very real capacities of Black women to achieve academically and professionally.
The women were always “walking the tightrope” between the stereotype and the exception, never finding room to just be themselves, always being judged lacking according to middle class white standards (“you’re beautiful…for a Black girl,” etc.).
I find myself understanding the prison that puts you in, on a deep, visceral level.
I do not mean to in any way suggest that my own experience of being interpreted from within a false framework is comparable to that which people of color experience.
For my experience was about being invisible as an INDIVIDUAL, not as a member of a class or group. Nothing in an individual’s experience compares to always being viewed in particular ways because of a class of people you belong to (racial, ethnic, religious, etc.)
And yet, I understand invisibility on a very personal level. I understand trying every which way you can to get people who matter to you to see you as you are, and having all those efforts come to naught, because every single act you take is interpreted within a false framework that is so far beyond the truth you might as well be on another planet.
This is the person I am, and that many outside my family know me to be: a woman of deep compassion who has sacrificed for others without concern for what she might receive in return. A woman who loves…