As we move into a more, in depth analysis, of the complexities of Black American women’s identity and womanhood, we are forced to go deeper into another realm as it pertains to girls and young maidens of our community. It is no secret that the Black American community has consistently been painted as masculine. Black American men are seen as the sole representatives of the community. Particularly, those painted as alpha makes, or having reached the epitome of manhood. When outsiders have entered Black America, it is often the man’s voice that they have given significance to. Rarely do they acknowledge, honor, or seek the voices of Black American women-the women of these peculiar gardens. And, yes, that includes those non-Black American women, who enter into our communal spaces. As quiet as it is kept, many of those foreign maidens who enter, do so on order to reap the benefits, and rewards of our community. Doing it purposefully, with depictions of seeing themselves as “superior,” to the women, whose gardens they belong to. The majority of them, who enter, do not engage in holistic relationships, with the Black American girls, and maidens, of those gardens. They eat the fruits, enjoy the pleasures, and watch with snobbery, as Black American maidens and girls do the tedious and grunt work. Work that allows the gardens to grow. Work, that births the crops. Work, which creates those peculiar. . .perfumes. Often, these particular foreign maidens have minimal, if any access, to the riches of their own gardens. Some have probably been kicked out. So, they enter into Black America’s domain, using lighter skin color, nationality, religion, or whatever attribute makes them non-Black American. They enter, and they exploit. A number of them even proclaim themselves as “feminists,” while ignoring another population of women. Purposefully believing, and seeking out the lies and untruths projected upon every single Black American maiden, and mother, in the garden. Utilizing those, who perform prominent, negative stereotypes, of Black American women, in order to paint every maiden and mother in the community, as such. Such women do this consistently, in order to justify why they are entitled to benefit from cultural gardens, not of their own. They enjoy the aura of feeling that they are “replacing” Black American women, or have overshadowed them, in their own gardens. Ones they did not create. Ones that do not reflect their culture or herstory. Ones they do not care for. Yet, they are gardens they have “free access” to because something is off, out of balanced, and wrong in Black America’s gardens.
The current state of Black America’s gardens (not every component, but too many of them) are hostile spaces for Black American girls and young women. This is extremely evident in a number of the urban sectors of our communities. Such is not to say that these areas are void of beautiful relationships between Black American men and women. Love does exist, even within this demographic, of Black American soiling. Yet, something is off. Something has been off for quite some time. And, its time to get to the very roots of our gardens.
Looking around at the status of Black American girls, and young women, one views too many negative perceptions (and depictions), of their very existence. Prominent perceptions view them as dangerous, threatening, unfeminine, ugly, sneaky, mischievous, angry, and irrational without any justified reason, and so forth. Black American girls and women are often viewed as “attitudinal,” without any care to address the reasons for those, who are angry. So, while we are working in the gardens, let’s dig to the roots of this problem.
A number of Black American girls and women are not treated with the gentility, care, and softness, that girls and women of other cultures are naturally, given. In fact, for Black American women, their existence (and dark coloring) was (and still is) interpreted as hard, harsh, and whatever other adjectives designed to strip them from the rewards, and benefits, of femininity. This was one of the legacies of slavery in the United States. Black American women worked to overcome these lies. Continuing the development and enhancement of our femininity. Nevertheless, attempts from the outside, are obsessed with projecting these upon Black American women.
Inside of the community, being overworked and undervalued, has programmed many of our young girls and Darlings to be in constant survival mode. Economic inequalities play a role in this, as well. The fact that many Black American girls and women don’t have access to the riches and rewards of their gardens, especially those who do the work, is a crime. Struggling and “working hard” (in a way that hardens our femininity) has been normalized and naturalized for Black American women’s experiences in womanhood’s journey. Forcing many to go into other cultural systems for employment. Systems, which devalue their worth, talents, and contributions.
There are rampant incidents, where Black American girls, and women, are not treated as princesses. At a certain age, they are deemed responsible to taking care of the community, in a way, where they are not rewarded for doing so. This greatly contrasts to the role of the maiden in any culture. For in her tending to the garden, she is allowed to benefit from its fruition. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many Black American girls, and women. Mentally programmed that they don’t deserve to benefit from Black American culture, as Black American women, no matter how hard they work to produce it. Famed Black American woman writer, novelist, playwright, and anthropologist-Zora Neal Hurston-articulates it perfectly, in Their Eyes Were Watching God:
“De n***** woman is the mule of the world
she scowls all the time ’cause her shoulders bow underneath all that work and worry
and get nuthin’ in return, that’s why her feet are planted in stubborn stance. . .”
This particular section of this iconic literary piece is greatly relevant to the current pains and trauma, experienced by Black American women and girls. And, it sums up our experiences, in our own gardens. A mule is a work animal. Strong, sturdy, and reliable for hard labor. It does what it is ordered to do. Weights and machinary are placed upon a mule’s body to carry the things, that humans are unable to carry. This perception of Black American women, and little girls, is still carrying on. The unfortunate aspect, concerning this reality, is that the anger and rage of not being treated with gentility (and care) is being directed against each other. Creating ageism and competition among the women and maidens, of Black America’s culture and gardens. The male-centered dogma, and language, prevents Black American women and girls from reclaiming their femininity and image, as the cultural bearers (and feminine Beings) of Black America. Understanding and viewing themselves as the women and feminine balance of this culture of people. Knowing the responsibilities and rewards for this position. This results in so many wandering aimlessly, angrily, and frantically, within the garden, without understanding their claim and right to it. Being silent when foreign maidens enter to collect its fruits; accepting their defeat. Yet, being combative, and provoking, against those Black American maidens, who are doing the work, and have benefited a little, from some of the fruition, in those gardens.
Those who come to rape and exploit these gardens purposefully ignore this pain. Yes. That includes women. Instead, they continue on with the lie of Black American women being “naturally angry” or “having a chip on their shoulders.” Wanting to see them as unfeminine and undeserving. Repeating falsehoods in order to again, justify their “entitlement” to enjoy, and freely benefit, from another woman’s cultural gardens. Wanting an easier life, at another culture’s expense. Or out of envy and jealousy to not having access to one’s own gardens; or for them to be not as abundant or vast.
That particular, combative behavior in Black America’s gardens, among women and little girls, stems from many of them having accepted their subordination in their own communities. Seeing that they “can’t win.” Having been silenced for so long, in their frustration, psychological turmoil, and anger, at this imbalance, that they (and our foremothers) have dealt with for so long. Being unloved and uncherished, for so long. They, instead, direct their anger at the actual maidens, who continued working, and proudly proclaim (and showcase) themselves as the feminine Beings of Black America’s gardens. Wanting to fight them and destroy what they have created. Yet, again, being mum and silent, when a non-Black American woman comes in to freely benefit. There is also the reality of those Black American women, who when gaining some access to the gardens, do not share with other maidens and mothers; keeping these little gains for themselves. That, too, is a problem. Lastly, there are also those, who exploited, and abused, their femininity and womanhood. Using it for harm, instead of nourishment for the community. Yet, please note, that behavior has been found in every culture.
In too many incidents, Black America’s gardens have even become survival grounds for Black American women. [Note: Yes, I am aware that Black American men have had this same ordeal. Simultaneously, that issue has been given acknowledgement. It has been addressed. This particular issue for Black American women, and girls, has not. Not in the same degree as their male counterparts.] Perceived as violent and vulnerable, much of the abuse and violence, has even been projected onto them by too many of the men, in their communities. That poses another conversation. How Black American men are programmed to see Black American women as “evil,” “unfeminine,” “haggardly,” and the sole reason as to why they can’t achieve the same power and prestige, as the dominant society. Not viewed as safe havens for the nourishment, protection, and honor of their womanhood, but as spaces of war and disdain for their very presence, there. If Black femininity is presented as desirable or “exotic,” she is often from outside of the United States of America; or whose, matrilineal roots, are, elsewhere.
Now, that the truth has been told, where do we go from there? Now, that all of the cards have been placed on the table, how do we proceed? We, as Black American women, and girls, also declare ourselves as women, and not simply as Black American. Re-connecting ourselves to the Earth. Increasing our creation of networks, and how they are being used to strengthen our communities. Yes, those have already been built. Yet, we need more. Spreading and growing, like the riches of our gardens. There should be no shame in proclaiming our identity. We are Black American women. There is nothing wrong with that. We are peculiar flowers in US soiling. We are the blackened flowers of US soiling. Wear our sparkles, our magical sparkles, and wear them well. See each Black American woman, or girl, as a fellow maiden or mother. One who is useful (unless she proves otherwise) in re-creating, re-storing, and re-healing ourselves, in our. . .sparkling, magical, blackened gardens!