On “Light Girls” and Using Positive Thinking When Fighting Systemic Injustices

This post was inspired by a lot of the controversy surrounding the Light Girls documentary that premiered on the OWN network January 19th. I still haven’t seen the actual documentary (I know :-\), but I’ve read a few articles and blog posts about it. I saw the film’s predecessor Dark Girls and was really moved by it.

#teamAllSkinIsBeautifulSkin

#teamAllSkinIsBeautifulSkin

There was criticism surrounding Light Girls before the documentary even aired on OWN. There were people who believed that light-skinned women of color didn’t deserve to have their stories told because of light skin privilege or privilege towards blacks with “whiter” features over darker skinned blacks. However, after the documentary actually aired, judging simply from the articles and blog posts I’ve read, it seems like the criticism ranged from the documentary not addressing the key issue of white supremacy to it reinforcing stereotypes about dark-skinned black women. I believe that these may be valid points (I say ‘may’ only because I haven’t seen the film myself). The aspect that I want to focus on specifically is influenced by a blog post that I encountered called “Light Girls, When Documentaries Get It Wrong” by Jessica Ann Mitchell that stated “colorism cannot be changed through positive thinking.” The author seems to go on to say that positive affirmations and other positive thinking tactics reduce the very real and important issue of colorism when referencing portions of the documentary where positive thinking/self-help ideas were brought up.

Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree that systemic racism, sexism, and colorism exist in America and we must fight against it. When statistics show that dark-skinned African Americans are less likely to be hired for jobs than light-skinned African Americans even when they have better qualifications, we have a HUGE problem and this problem must be addressed. The problem I have is stating that positive thinking/self-help has no role in addressing the problem of colorism or other injustices faced by people of color. I believe that positive thinking must go hand-in-hand with (never in place of) peacefully fighting against systemic injustice because it is self-confidence that will get that person up and out of the door for the job interview in question whether he/she is light-skinned or dark-skinned. With the weight of racism and sexism, I believe it is that much harder for black women of all shades to be confident in their abilities and autonomy.

While I agree that positive thinking won’t solve the problems of colorism or racism, I do believe that positive thinking is key to taking back our power to reach our fullest potential. This issue goes beyond any individual experience but of course I have to bring up my own.

When I think about my past of growing up with an alcoholic father that was a great provider, but wasn’t so great at making me feel valued as a young woman, I believe that my lack of self-esteem held me back from stepping out and taking advantage of the many opportunities available to me. There was one particular time when I had a job interview with Jewel-Osco at their Itasca, IL headquarters during college for a management-in-training position at my local store when I felt tension with the white female job interviewer. I felt like she looked at me like I was nothing and with so much disinterest that I wondered why I was even called for an interview in the first place. This tension could have been because of my race or because of my skimpy resume; I will never know since there was nothing blatantly racist stated. However, I do know that I botched the interview before it even started because I didn’t believe that I had a real chance. I didn’t believe in myself and if I didn’t believe in myself, how could I sell my skills and experience enough to get a recruiter to believe in me? How could I stand a chance fighting external and internal forces working to keep me behind?

I believe without a doubt that low self-esteem held me back from achieving and doing some amazing things. Does this mean that racism or sexism couldn’t have been at play as well? Does any personal experience I have invalidate hard core statistics suggesting colorism is a legit issue? Of course not. However, I believe that while we ensure that systemic injustices are confronted and addressed, we must also address ways that we hold ourselves back because we feel defeated before the  game starts.

All women struggle with self-image and self-worth. Yet, black women also have the added battles of racism and colorism. As we fight the long, continual battle for equal treatment of all people, why not also work on building ourselves up and encouraging ourselves to make bold moves to achieve little successes until that big success is won?

Share any thoughts you have in the comments or on our Facebook page. I love a friendly debate! Be sure to “like” the Popped Black Woman Blog Facebook page!

Happy New Year!!!

imageHappy New Year from the Popped Black Woman Blog!!!

There are so many really good articles/blog posts about new year resolutions. One that really made me stop and go “yassssssss” several times in my head can be found here.

However, I still want to leave you all with just 3 of the things I want to see less of, if at all, in 2015 and what I’d definitely like to see more of.

1) Less competition and more edification
I chose the word “edification” because of the spiritual component of it.
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (‭I Thessalonians‬ ‭5‬:‭11‬ NKJV)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭11-12‬ NKJV)

The Merriam Webster online dictionary links the word “edify” with “uplift” or “build.” The term usually means build up in moral or religious knowledge. Here, I simply want to encourage everyone to build each other up as we pursue our own individual endeavors instead of talking smack behind your brother or sister’s back. Or even feeling like you have to out-do someone else.

We weren’t all meant to do the same things. We each were born with certain gifts. Instead of competing with our brothers and sisters, let’s focus on how to make each other reach our fullest potential. Let’s help each other be the people that God intended us to be. Isn’t it true that when our brother/sister gets their blessing, ours is right around the corner? 😉

2) Less negative self-talk and more self-love
Yes, it sounds kinda hokey but if you’re anything like me, you could treat yourself better than you do now. I have to admit that when I look in the mirror, I usually see the things that I don’t like about myself before I see the things that I like. In 2015, this has to change.
When you really think about it, are the people we find attractive whether it’s because of their appearance or personality without any flaws? Is that why we like them? Or is it because they carry themselves with love, boldness, and authenticity? I think it’s more of the latter. I pledge to first love myself before letting that hypercritical voice in my head make me feel less than I am.

3) Less “yes” and more “no”
We all have a lot on our plates. Now and then, people will ask you to do things that either you don’t have time to do or simply don’t want to do. We would be a whole lot happier and less fake if we simply refuse to let people guilt-trip us into doing things that we can’t give 100% of our best selves to.

That’s all I have folks. Embrace all this new year has to offer and keep the momentum up the whole year long, not just until February. Stay p.o.p.ed people 👊

Colorblindness is Dangerous

For a time, I was a special education classroom assistant at an elementary school with students that were mostly Mexican American and Polish American. There were a few African American students but not many. One day, I was sitting at the back of a 7th grade classroom and I overheard a conversation between a couple of nonblack students (I say nonblack because I don’t know their specific ethnicities).

One of the boys said, “I axed you to give me the book.” His friend said, “It’s asked, not axed.” The boy replied back, “It’s axed cause I’m black for the day.”

After I heard that, a million things popped in my head (and wanted to pop out of my mouth), but my blood pressure went down and I eventually realized that everybody makes or has made (before being born again of course) distasteful racial jokes at some point, including myself. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s the truth. black man pic

America is experiencing a lot of racial tensions in light of the killings of several unarmed black men (and women, although not talked about as much) that have been killed by police. I just listened to a TED talk featuring diversity advocate Verna Myers called “How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them,” in which she addresses these current events. She talks about the need to acknowledge our biases and confront them head-on in order to create better relations between black men and the rest of America. I completely agree with her, especially her belief that denial about biases can be dangerous. I would go further to say that believing that you don’t see race or any other ways that someone is different from you is dangerous.

While I used to say, “I don’t like other people’s kids. Kids are mean.” I no longer feel that way (completely). Kids say what they think and often lack the tact or political correctness that most adults (hopefully) have. Even though I felt like turning over every desk in that classroom when I heard the “I’m black for the day” joke, I realized that at least this kid is not in denial about his ignorant stereotypes about black people. In this day, many people assume that we now have a post-racial society because we have an African American president. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This type of thinking will only lead to more dead unarmed black and brown people in the streets at the hand of an inherently racist law and justice system. Yet, only once all of us acknowledge that we are different from one another and actually EMBRACE those differences instead of fear or loathe them can our children live in a better America than we do today. If we try to act like race has nothing to do with why unarmed black men and women are being killed at the hands of police or while in police custody, we will never solve the many problems influenced by our collective racial history in America. I don’t believe that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant for us to deny or ignore race, but called for us to not be judged by it.

Definitely take a look at the TED talk featuring Verna Myers and as always, stay P.O.P.ed 😉

I’m Not Sorry No More

mellodyhobsonccEarlier this month, my husband sent me an article by Beth Kowitt from fortune.com featuring two videos about a woman that I really look up to, Mellody Hobson. Hobson is the President of a Chicago-based mutual fund company and investment management firm known as Ariel Capital Management, LLC and is pretty much a boss in every conceivable way. One of the many things I love about her is that she isn’t afraid to discuss the challenges caused by race and gender in corporate America.

In the first video (found here), Hobson boldly proclaims that she has stopped apologizing for being black or for being female. I’m sure that any black woman that has been in either spaces where you were the only black person or the only woman or maybe the only black woman, you can relate to not wanting to make other people uncomfortable by pointing out your otherness. When I first saw this video, I nearly cried because it made me realize how I’d been apologizing not only for my race and gender, but for every part of me that made me different from those around me.

Growing up, I loved to read and write, and I simply just loved the sound of the English language. Certain black people would say that I talked too “proper,” or talked “white.” Certain non-black people would say, “She’s so articulate” as if I was not expected to be articulate. The moment that I got POPPED (positively optimistic and powerful), I stopped apologizing or feeling guilty for talking in a way that felt natural to me because of someone else’s insecurity. I realized that living in purpose and on purpose is about being bold about who I am. No one can happily reach their version of success by apologizing for who they are. Simply, “I’m not sorry no more.”

In the second video of the article, Hobson talks about something that everyone can relate to, no matter your race or gender, which is the company you keep. Hobson talks about how the people around her make her want to be better, work harder, and think bigger. Everyone can relate to having at least 1 person (or several) around you that always has something negative to say whether it’s criticism of what you’re doing or complaining about their situation (without taking any responsibility for their own hand in it). For every two steps that you take forward, these type of people will pull you one step back. When I decided to be positively optimistic and powerful, I made a pledge to myself to be the type of friend that I want to attract and to put myself in social environments with people that I want to be like. It is up to us to become the type of people that we can be, but we can’t do it surrounded by people that want us to stay the same.

My (imaginary) mentor talked about a host of other things in this article so I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but that’s all I got so until next time, stay POPPED and hold it down.