There is a great African-American proverb that goes, "It's not that deep." It's a curt, succinct saying that precedes my existence, gets straight to the point and is usually applied to folks who are believed to be taking the topic at hand too seriously or, in other words, being fake deep.
I go back and forth with this saying, mostly because in my experience, it has been used to dismiss a legitimate concern. But this past week? Well, I found myself repeating the saying when I came across a tweet from Good Morning America (from ABC News) about Megan Markle's engagement giving Black women “hope.”
My mind went in a few different directions when I first read that tweet (and accompanying article). And to be clear, there are so many reasons that both are just fundamentally wrong. Starting with this one:
The article assumes that Black women have incredibly low standards and expectations.
When I decided to subject my eyes to this misguided article, like the masochist I will one day find out that I am, I was hoping, no praying — which is serious, because I am fairly godless —that I didn't see a Black femme's name in the byline and, when I did, well, my heart sank and looked like this:
Sure, while I disagree vehemently with what that article states, I can't ignore the author's desperate sentiment that jumps out to me when I read it.
Namely, that our expectations and standards on how we should be treated and [especially] love is so LOW as Black women that seeing one of us getting hitched to some Euro-prince is apparently enough to satisfy our hopes and dreams as a collective...forever.
Meghan Markle is cool. She seems like a fly person and I'm happy she gets to experience love from someone, but her receiving said love shouldn't be shocking nor appalling. And the fact that it is apparently says a lot of things — mostly that we expect the opposite, so in turn we must celebrate something that is not that remarkable.
Of course, some of us would not be compelled to celebrate the most simple and base acts of love, respect and affection that are shown to us if we weren't used to being treated badly. If that was not the status quo that we existed in.
And what is the status quo, dearly beloved? Well:
The status quo is misogynoir and how that affects dating.
I know you all are probably sick of seeing me write that word in print, but until it stops being relevant, I will continue to scream it from the rooftops.
Definitions of misogynoir aside, it is the biggest reason we are hyping up this engagement more than it should be.
The world hates Black women. This is indisputable. And while this hate shows up in a variety of ways (lack of pay, our high missing persons rates, rates of assault that go ignored, ignoring us as a voting block, etc.), seeing this article reminded me of how potently present misognyoir is in dating and desirability politics.
You don't have to be an astrophysicist to come up with all the stats that have been aggregated over the years by popular dating apps who have noticed that Black women are "chosen" less often and approached less often by men than other women. And we are perpetually told how we fall short or don't measure up to more desirable women like White women or non-Black women of color. These stats get dicier when you include other aspects like sexuality, disability, colorism/shadeism, weight and the like. And if you think we're spared such from our community, you'd be deadass wrong too. Because when you break down those stats, it becomes very clear that Black men are not checking for us either.
Even in the off chance that we are "chosen" in that latter situation, the world's disdain for us dictates that we are supposed to accept all flavors and colors of struggle love thrown at us — just by the mere belief that we wouldn't find any better because we are "desired" less. And mind you, while Black men are most certainly on the hook for this, Good Morning America and these tough truths about dating as a Black female remind me of how strongly these same attitudes and beliefs are perpetuated by non-Black men — particularly White men.
Which brings me to my final point:
The only people who are getting "hope" from Markle's engagement are mediocre White men — which already augments their sense of entitlement fueled by societal misogynoir.
A year ago, I was casually scrolling through Tinder when I matched with a white dude who looked cute and benign enough. We'll call him Generic Chris.
When Generic Chris and I finally got to chatting, I find out I was wrong about him being benign. Ol’ dude posted Shakespearean stanzas about how hot and smart I was right away (some references to chocolate were definitely used). And while it was super uncomfortable, I managed not to immediately display how horrified I was by messaging back "I know, lol. Thanks *prayer hand emoji*"
Man. By the time I inserted that emoji, homeboy switched up real quick, telling me what a cocky b***h I was and how I should be absolutely GRATEFUL that he was talking to me to begin with because he could have been talking to someone else. Before he could go even further and probably eventually call me a n****r bitch. I told him he was saying a mouthful for someone with no lips and promptly blocked him. And as wild as that was and as unstable as Generic Chris seemed to be, that's not the first time I was treated like that for knowing my worth — and it wasn't the last time either. While such transgressions vary in degree of severity (being called a chocolate queen and invited to "swirl" versus being referred to as a n****r bitch), Black femmes experience all of these things and then some more often than we like to admit.
I mean, let's be real. White men already have an inflated sense of self. Their egos are grizzly sized and they can justify it by the mere fact that they are on top of the privilege pyramid and can employ their White male privilege however they see fit. Unfortunately for the rest of us in this pyramid, but particularly Black femmes, White dudes often see fit to exercise that privilege over us, our space, our time and our bodies. And this is exacerbated by misogynoir.
In short: because society says we are worthless over and over again, we are expected to accept any and all advances by white dudes — no matter how mediocre.
I'll put it this way: Generic Chris only said nice things to me because he thought I would fall all over myself to thank him for even looking in my direction. He thought society constantly finding ways to put me down as a Black femme would have whittled away any sense of self-worth that I had already and made me willing to accept any haphazard display of affection thrown my way. He thought that by him being White and male and offering absolutely nothing else, that would be enough for me to crown him my chief Snowtep and White Kang! So, of course, when that did not happen, he threw a b***h fit.
This kind of thing is what made that article so goddamn dangerous. Because despite everything society has dumped on us or at least tried to, Black femmes are a proud bunch. An extremely proud bunch. And we should not be in the business of accepting scraps in our careers, love lives and interpersonal relationships just because someone told us to or believes that we should. And well-intended or not, that's what the article was implying. It took our elation about Markle's good news (hell, we are happy for anyone who can find love!) and spun it into us being "hopeful" about our own ability to be loved. It made it sound like all Black women are waiting to be crowned as princesses and carried into the sunset by some OK-looking prince that belongs to one of the oldest colonial powers known to man. Since there's only one prince left, and he's taken, what ever will we do now? It made it sound like being "chosen" by some mediocre White dudebro is something that we should all aspire to, or worse, is something that should be the highlight of our lives if it were to actually happen.
It's not that deep.
(Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
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