America Ferrara’s feminist monologue in the wildly successful “Barbie” movie has received much praise – and deservedly so – from women on the interwebs. But it didn’t fully resonate with me as a Black woman. So, I took its themes and applied them to my experiences and those of the Black young women who attend our programs at the Love Unity & Values Institute. This is for them and for my daughter, Sophia.
It is not easy to be a Black woman in America. You are so beautiful, smart and confident. It kills me that you can be the most capable person in the room and still be made to feel you are not good enough. You must be extraordinary, but that does not guarantee you won’t a) earn less than your equally or less qualified peers and b) get passed over for promotions and advancement opportunities.
Society will body-shame you. A lot of you do not buy it. Good! You are a trendsetter. Your style cuts across cultures and gender. People want to be like you. They just do not want to be treated like you. Do not be fooled by those who call you “queen” one minute but disrespect you the next. Get used to double standards when it comes to being a mother, a leader, a colleague, a lover and a wife.
You make good money but are still followed around the store. You are qualified but not the boss, because they do not want a Black woman telling them what to do. You have to lead but are expected to leave your cultural identity, including your natural hair, at the door. You are a career woman but the token mentality in corporate America is real. Only one of us gets promoted at a time. But that shouldn’t keep you from helping a sister get to the next level when you can.
If you comment on men’s bad behavior and ask them to do better, a lot of them will take offense and attack you, starting with your appearance. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men but can still end up single. Stay away from people who want to dim your light. Be grateful, not a doormat. Never forget that the system was designed for you to fail.
So, find a way to acknowledge that without being discouraged. You are told you are strong but to never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. Aging is a privilege and you’re lucky – Black don’t crack.
This society is full of contradictions. They say “use your voice” but won’t listen. They say “get involved” but won’t make room for you. You will feel invisible at times, but use your voice anyway. It is not your fault if they can’t hear you.
I am just so tired of watching myself and every single other Black woman tie herself into knots so that people will accept us for who we are. You matter. You are brave. You are enough. And remember, every time you win, you will inspire someone after you.