CHAPTER EIGHT

YOU’RE THE ENEMY TOO

 

Rest assured that this is not traditional bullying. No, it’s much worse. It’s psychological bullying and black women are the primary victims of this psychic warfare and it will continue unabated unless black women discover a way to combat their low self-esteem issues.

Granted, there is nothing fascinating in the tale of how black women are the victims of low self-esteem. It’s a well-documented fact. But what is fascinating is how black women are so ingeniously inventive at turning their self-hatred outward to lash out at other black women. Sometimes it appears as if one sista will not pass up any legitimate opportunity to pull another sista down. The over-exuberant passion and unbridled enthusiasm with which sistas employ to degrade one another is sickening.

There was a time not too long ago when black people wouldn’t dare air our dirty laundry in public, but this is no longer the case. Our self-hatred as well as our hatred for each other is now common knowledge. Black men exhibit and act out their hatred by killing each other while black women’s display of hatred is nothing short of “mental genocide”. Sistas oppress sistas, somehow finding psychological profit in profiling and pointing out the assumed weakness of another sista. Neither  pride, respect, nor self-esteem can be recaptured in this sordid fashion, but it is nevertheless astonishing how many black women thrill in the pursuit of this awful trend.

What qualifies this behavior is the need to lift up one’s own spirit by stealing the joy from someone else. And it’s such a simple pleasure to indulge in. But has there been a hidden cost to this type of foolish behavior? Even though there has never been a headline that confirmed it, it would still be my guess that a few of those suicides mentioned in an earlier chapter were due to this exact type of mental cruelty. How horrible would it be to think that a sista has emotionally bullied another to the point where the bullied sista would commit suicide? Who’s to say that it hasn’t happened? Maybe this is the best-kept secret in black America. But I am getting a little too ahead of myself as there is no evidence that suggests that such bullying has led to the suicide of anyone in the black community. Yet the cruel taunting and snide off-the-cuff or behind-the-back remarks are devastating nonetheless.

No other people on the planet participate in such behavior to the degree that black women do, and the behavior is encouraged at an early age. Well, it may not be actually encouraged, but it certainly is not discouraged. In any event, it is accepted behavior and it is nothing unusual to hear and see little sistas engaging in harmful, spiteful putdowns of one another. This is learned behavior. Every culture has its own set of behaviors that is passed down via songs, story-telling and other verbal or non-verbal cues. Usually such cultural behavior is life-affirming ,and champions the culture and heritage of that people. With black folk, it is different.

Even in play, young sistas jump rope to rhymes that are culturally negative. Black babies learn how to say “bitch” or “ho” before they learn how to say “thank you” or “please.” No matter the species, whether in the animal or human world, play is a primary investment in the survival of that species so in the elements of play are found the fundamental elements of self-preservation. Young girls play “house”. Young girls play Mommy and Daddy. Young girls make mud pies. All of these offer specific cues that they will or can use in later life, but what if real life does not imitate “play”? What if there is no house? What if there is no daddy? What if there is no food?

Even in childhood, children seek to connect with the adult world, and like the other very important things in life, the message the children receive are absorbed whether good or bad. Just yesterday, I was visiting a friend who was ranting and raving about Erykah Badu getting naked during a video shoot. Throughout the entire course of her negative, obscenity-laced rant, her 5 year old daughter listened intently as her mother spoke disrespectfully about another black woman. Did it matter that the victim was someone the daughter didn’t know? No.

So, yes, black woman, you’re the enemy too. Any time you give your daughter the license to deny another black women her due by openly disrespecting her, you are being a cultural traitor. It is said that one of the primary bonding experiences between a mother and daughter occurs during breast-feeding, but how many sistas do that. In the hood, the primary bonding experience between mother and daughter is “hair time”  What should be a transforming experience usually is anything but that because this comfort zone between mother and daughter is so easily converted into a war zone.

Any time a mother has the opportunity to bond with her daughter nothing should be left to chance since each such encounter will impact the young girl’s life dramatically. This is true because it would be harder to conjure up a relationship more representative of a young girl’s future aspirations than one where her own mother’s current aspirations are embodied. What could be more dynamic for a young girl than to bask in the wisdom of her mother? This “maternal revolution” is what it is all about because a young girl gets to experience for herself the acquired knowledge of the person closest to her…her mother.

What should be the greatest word-of-mouth event in a young girl’s personal history usually ends up being a traumatic experience. Can you imagine how confusing it can be to a young girl to hear her mother discuss how much she hates a particular no-good nigga, and then to see that same no-good nigga sitting at the dinner table?

Oftentimes during these sessions, rather than getting a lecture on self-reliance, the young sista comes away with the notion that  “a man is the plan.” So often, mothers will sagely tell their daughters to find a man who will take care of them, but will fail to mention what she must do to keep him. Hypothetically speaking, finding a good man is not nearly as difficult as keeping him.

But what is even worse than these so-called lessons of “peddling hate” is another event that demonstrates the power of these mother-daughter get-togethers. To highlight what is speak of, I’ll offer this story. This should really get your attention. I know of a beautiful, very bright sista who is in her early thirties who told me some years ago that as a result of her hair-braiding sessions, she grew up with a complex about her hair and, by extension, her looks. Since her hair was very coarse and demanded a lot of combing to detangle, her mother would constantly berate her for having such nappy-hair. Her mother would scold her for making her have to work so hard and the daughter would feel guilty because her mother had to work two jobs (her regular job and then the job of combing her hair).
The young woman confessed that she would cry during these sessions, but it was not because her mother hurt her physically. She cried because her mother hurt her emotionally. She also admitted that she grew up feeling very unattractive ,and that her low self-esteem issues led her to spend thousands of dollars in hair care products to soften her hair.

Now, here’s the best part……..if you’re part of the hair care and cosmetics industry. Low self-esteem sells better than sex!