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Don’t Shame Your Sister: The Hierarchy of Consciousness

By:Rebecca Blanc

There are various groups of black women. Among us, we’ve got our organizers, our young folks, our old folks, our doctors and lawyers, our educated women, non educated women, and our everyday women. All these ladies regardless of status, so long as they oppose injustice, are conscious. We all see the societal wrong-doings and want the same liberation from them.

Unfortunately, we tend to create a hierarchy of consciousness between each other based on our different backgrounds. I always wondered why there was an innate need to establish superiority over another sister, then caught myself doing the exact same thing!

This is a habit I’m interested in discussing and peeling out. Being that I consider myself a conscious woman, I’ll reflect on times I was on the giving and receiving end of this issue.

During college, I was constantly learning both inside and outside of the classroom. That, along with a spiked ego, led me to believe I was superior to women who were not as educated as I was. In the instances where I would talk with these black women, I would notice myself talking over them, undermining their understanding of a topic and being straight up arrogant.

Instead of appreciating the shared concern of an injustice, I took the opportunity to stroke my ego. There was no need to “sophisticate” the conversation; ultimately I just exercised poor communication skills and self-righteousness.

Reflecting on this behavior, I feel ashamed and embarrassed that I behaved that way. Looking back at it all makes me realize how insecure I was in those instances. While trying to validate my education I undermined another woman’s valuable insight. When I had opportunities to actively listen to other women who shared similar concerns and passion, I made it about myself, and belittled these other black women.

Why was my consciousness so fragile? Whether these women acknowledged my behavior or not, I know this didn’t make them feel good. Someone making you out for stupid never does and looking back on when I felt dumb after talking with other black women affirms that sentiment.

I recall a moment when  I proclaimed to be a feminist; equality between women and men socially and financially was the definition I had for the term, and that sounded great to me. While I was expressing why I knew I was a feminist, a couple of women started asking me whether I had read works by famous feminists. After telling them that I had not, they then went away and jeered at me. Once they returned, one said, “you can’t just call yourself a feminist”. This hurt because they overlooked my care for the movement and concerned themselves about my knowledge on Bell Hooks and other great feminists.

Looking back at that incident, those women could have taken that opportunity to encourage me to read up on influential feminists. If I appeared misinformed or ignorant on the matter, they could have explained what feminism meant to them. Instead, they exploited my presence and make me a laughing stock. They wanted me to shut up because I wasn’t as smart as them. After that whole encounter I kept quiet due to fear of “looking stupid” again.When there was a chance for black women to nurture each other and allow room for growth, it was seized by selfishness.

The need to appear better than the next woman was more important. Shutting each other down is not what we should strive for, yet for some odd reason we do. This is unfortunate, but this doesn’t occur ambivalently.

So why do we do this? Is it because black women are stigmatized as society’s lowest class, which leads us to build a hierarchy with each other? Do we urge to feel some sense of power? Is it because of subconscious insecurities that reveals doubt of our self-worth? Maybe it’s due to the misconception that other smart and noble women are a threat and we must compete with one another. There is definitely social and personal influences as to why black women conduct this behavior.

Every black woman will answer differently, but these questions can only be answered if we ask them. We’re all in the same movement. We want the same things. Let’s not hinder community building by playing into this façade of a hierarchy of consciousness.

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[…] identity has been questioned by those who are more vocal or more political than me. It’s not a competition on how ‘woke’ we each are. This is something Rebecca Blanc discusses in this introspective blog […]

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