This weekend a brother tried to holla at me by yelling out, “Say dark meat, come here!” I was high off the very black vibes at the Cali HBCU Reunion, bouncing in my #BlackGirlMagic as I strutted across the yard, and feeling myself in all my glory after a much needed day with black people. I moved to Southern California two years ago for grad school and it has been a major culture shock for me. Having grown up in New Orleans and living on the East Coast, I was use to tight knit black communities. L.A. is huge and vastly spread out, which makes it feel extremely isolating for people of color. I live outside of L.A. proper, near the school, and it isn’t very black around here at all. Just imagine my pure excitement when I’m finally able to vibe with black folk. So when this brother yelled, “Say dark meat, come here,” as if it was an alluring catch phrase, I stopped dead in my tracks. He was fine as hell and all, but put some respect on my melanin. I mean, I could picture us posing as one of those relationship goals memes with the caption, “This could be us… BUT white supremacy and the patriarchy got your mind.”
His catcall was the perfectly wrong thing to say to a dark skin woman who grew up being called black, burnt, and ugly for the color of her skin; to a dark skin woman who discovered that L.A. can be just as cruel and dismissive of her presence as her past; and to a dark skin woman that maybe has not yet healed from the pain of colorism as much as she thought she had (I wrote a play about my experience dealing with colorism in New Orleans). I stood there mouth open in awe. I had an out of body experience. Part of me wanted to go over there and politely tell him that I did not appreciate how he approached me… And then proceed to give him my number (y’all he was super fine and I told y’all I don’t really be around black people so you already know what’s up). The other part of me wanted to curse his ignorant ass out and shout, “I am not a piece of meat. I am a human fuckin being” (Kendrick Lamar voice). As he shouted again, “Oh she real dark meat,” as if I was the entree and he hadn’t eaten all day (in many ways I’m sure he hadn’t). He continued to repeat, “She real dark,” as if it was a surprise. I took a deep breath to come back in my body and walked away.
The sad part about it is that he genuinely meant well and had zero awareness of his misogynist, patriarchal, and anti-black ways. This was confirmed by my close friend, another black man, whom I immediately told after it happened. His response was “…It’s a term of endearment.” Wow, I know. But if this is the way black men “sho’ love” then we drastically need to confront the trauma that a white male dominant society has had on the black psyche.
Black men and black women have been systematically oppressed NOT to be in balanced relationships with each other. In the Willie Lynch letter, it states that the black woman will “psychologically train the MALE offspring to be MENTALLY WEAK and DEPENDENT, but PHYSICALLY STRONG. Because she has become psychologically independent, she will train her FEMALE offspring to be psychologically independent.” This in addition to the psychological trauma of witnessing each other be raped and tortured during slavery has made it difficult for us to face each other to this day. The trauma is passed down through our DNA and manifest in self-hate practices like devaluing each other based on the shade of our blackness.
Since I’ve moved to Southern California, I’ve met a ton of black men that refuse to date black women. I’ve observed black men with an affinity for beauty that is exclusive to women who appear racially ambiguous (light skin, light eyes, with “good hair”). These are the same black men that overlook me during casual conversations in fear of me being attracted to their self-hating asses. It’s like we’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome for European ideologies. I know this is not all black men in Southern California (or insert a city near you), but with such a dispersed community it seems like these are the most common. For the city where the sun always shines, I’ve experienced a whole lot of shade. And I’m tired of it.
We cannot postpone our healing any longer. We have to change the way we relate to each other. When we live in a time and space were black bodies aren’t valued we must lift each other up and make a radical decision to love every aspect of our blackness. We must develop a mutual respect. Restore the Maat (balance) of our male and female energies to prosper platonic and romantic relationships in the black community. Yes I am VERY BLACK. I am as dark as the deepest point of the midnight sky; dark as the depths of the universe that reflects the melanin within. Although this brother, and the many like him, may hurt my feelings, I refuse to let ignorance steal my #BlackJoy. I left the park still high off the good times and let the bad breeze by me. Praying in peace that one day we will change ourselves to change the world. -Ase
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Shaina is the creator of pursuitofnappines.org. She is an interdisciplinary artist and MFA 3 Acting candidate at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). She recently received the 2016 Theater Grant from The Puffin Foundation for her current work titled AfroFuturo. Shaina’s passion for the black diaspora is prominent in her local, national, and international initiatives. She hopes to honor the covert legacy of black women, while birthing new possibilities of existence for all women of color.