No, Perez, I Am Not the Black Woman Inside of You2/26/2014
As a black woman, I am constantly fighting to have the many parts of who I am acknowledged. I, like...
As a black woman, I am constantly fighting to have the many parts of who I am acknowledged. I, like every other Black woman I know, am multidimensional, and that often presents a problem for those who would like to crush me into a narrow mold.
For some time I found it easier to comply with expectations that did not reflect my truth. When I was trapped in the confines of suburbia, I often succumbed to the pressure to be the "strong and sassy black friend," simply because that designation was preferable to being deemed the "ghetto, loud black chick" -- a moniker I'd seen given to the other girls who looked like me who could not, or chose not to, engage in my type of performance.
Fulfilling a prescribed role reaps benefits but also frustration, and when I became an adult and found Black feminism, I made a decision to be honest about my desires and motivations.
This week when celebrity blogger Perez Hilton's tweeted, "Inside of every gay man is a fierce black woman!," he received immediate push back from those of us who have grown impatient with the arrogance with which those who know nothing of our experiences spew their faulty understandings of Black womanhood.
Black women, at least those of us with a shred of dignity and self-awareness, are not flattered by compliments based on stereotypes.
Hilton's words were a show of benevolent racism. Reducing Black women to caricature is not a celebration of our "fierceness." It is an insult to our humanity.
Hilton, of course, doubled-down on the statement insisting that his intentions were not malicious and that should be our focus.
But he failed to understand that the stereotypes that he finds so entertaining have actual consequences for those of us who inhabit black, female bodies. It's not all neck rolls and finger snaps; it can also be alienation and humiliation.
There seems to be a special sort of racial deafness among people who experience any form of marginalization. While they expect empathy and solidarity with their own struggles because of a shared experience with oppression, many, like Hilton, fail to take it upon themselves to do real work in unraveling their personal prejudices. The result is expectation without understanding.
When Black women and our allies refused to let Hilton off the hook, he hurled vulgarities and compared them to Adolf Hitler.
That's right. The black women he likes are fierce. Those he doesn't are Hitler. And that is precisely the problem with viewing any group, including black women, as cartoon characters rather than fully expressive human beings. The flattening leaves no room for nuance or complexity.
Aside from the improbability of a man with millions of Twitter followers and a media platform that's made him rich claiming to have been backed into a corner, Hilton's accusation that he was being bullied is an easy slander toward women who are already cast as "unreasonable" and "angry." When we express our frustration we are expected to make ourselves non-threatening, but the catch is it doesn't matter how sweet your tone or cogent your argument. Simply expressing anger makes you a nuisance.
Before you presume an alliance, you should actually learn something about those with whom you claim to be in support. There is no "fierce" Black woman inside of Perez Hilton. At his core, he is a privileged white man, and his behavior on this issue is proof.
Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster