This is not a political review(I hate politics), but a review of words and what connotations that hold for every word and syllable for every American. Besides, words can hurt and sometimes kill but they begin as small seeds and they grow in minds, hearts and eventually the spirit and what grows in these places becomes our truth.
This brings me to Melissa V. Harris-Perry’s profound and intelligently researched book “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America”- a work that is timely and honest for some and too vile and “needs to be forgotten” for others.
The book hit on several good points, too many to place here on a blog post. There are a few terms Perry uses that forced me to slow down and reflect and remember. Misrecognition, rooms, and anger.
Black women desire the one basic thing a human needs next to water, food and air: Recognition. In 2012 it should not be a discussion at all about the validity of a black woman’s right to be judged as fairly as whites and men in general, but Perry uses statistics, past history, and recent history to show us that black women are still misrecognized as something else.
Even when America first learned Obama had a black wife, I am sure many(including black men) went “Uh oh, she can’t be good for him. Will she submit to him? Will she be a mammy? Will she be the angry black women we loathe?
Turns out Michelle is none of that. She is herself, but we can’t change how others feel when they hear the words black and woman.
Secondly, Perry points out that black women live in crooked rooms. The ”Crooked Room” is based on a study of field dependence during post World War II when individuals were asked to try to stand upright in a crooked room. Some perceived themselves as straight while others considered themselves perfectly straight because they were aligned with the crooked room(Perry, 2011, pg. 29)
What does this mean?
According to her research of how African-American women have been treated in America and quite frequently by their own men, these women somehow feel that the room must be right and they are wrong. I thought about this room and I thought about media images affect African-American women’s look and outlook: they wear wigs. They perm their hair. They may even feel they need to lighten their skin and submit to bad men in order to prove they can be just as feminine as their white counterparts. Sad.
Could it be that black women already feel that America see them only as angry baby making machines and not as feminine women who are also human? Or could a black woman have tried for a shot in certain positions in business and entertainment, only to be watched like an eagle in case she *gasp*– reacts like a human being?
This brings us to another word: Anger. When Obama got into office, many people both black and white probably expected Michelle to be angry and unsupportive of her husband. And like I mentioned before about words and their connotations, they grow and grow and become our beliefs. America’s collective belief is that black women are angry all the time and so whatever Michelle says in emotion or in jest or just her being normal is readily under the big microscope of judgement.
Other black women suffer from this as well. Perry digs deep into the dialogues and documentaries of black women during Katrina in 2005, the Duke 88 Case, and even how comedians feel about black women not obtaining a man-comedians as experts??? Yes, Perry exposed this as well.
So were there any solutions offered in the book?
Not really. This is why I enjoyed the work. In reality, no matter how many blogs, videos, companies, or honorable things achieved by people of color in general. Once something is planted, it takes root. Perry does mention about relying on other “strong sisters” and how we turn to God for our help or just continue to have strength pulled from nowhere, but no one knows that at the end of the day, the black woman can go into her private place, curl up like a little girl and cry her tears. She can finally take off her superwoman cape and armor, she can finally look into her mirror and see a staining blush upon her dark cheeks and say softly: I really am a human woman. Huh? W ho would’ve thought?
For more about Melissa V. Harris-Perry and her research please visit: www.melissaharrisperry.com