By: Sierra Sawyers
I didn’t date at all in high school. A lot of the boys I went to school with didn’t pay much attention to me. I say “much” because, the attention I received was in no way given in positive light. These boys I remember feeding me this negative attention were mostly black. Of course, it got to me and I started hating myself; my body, my hair, my voice, my personality. I thought, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me?” More so, I thought to myself, “Why don’t the black boys like me?”
Although this may go without saying, I didn’t have many black friends in middle school or high school. This may have contributed to me feeling like my blackness didn’t hold any weight in my mind. I saw the white and Hispanic peers I socialized with and ultimately and, in some cases, involuntarily started to identify with them. These were the people I thought I needed to be like in order to feel accepted by my classmates.
I never went to extreme lengths but, I made sure not to surround myself with people of my kind, as to avoid the feeling of rejection. I had already experienced it and instead of making a change to being accepted by my own people, I gave up and didn’t attempt any effort to identify with my black peers at all.
Instead of going through my adolescent years conforming to the standards of most black girls, or instead, the white and Hispanic girls black boys went after, I regressed. I withdrew and detached myself from most social scenes; those that mainly included dating. I didn’t see the point in turning myself into something that I wasn’t; they all told me who I was and I believed them.
Instead, I spent a lot of times wishing I wasn’t even black to begin with. I thought life would be easier if I was white or Hispanic, that maybe then boys would give me the positive attention I craved; the attention I saw so many other girls receive.
My times in high school were somewhat bleak. Although I had my own albeit, small social group, I still wasn’t satisfied with myself. Again, the social circle included no black people other than me. In hindsight I see how this contributed to my not knowing of my own blackness; the beauty, the excellence, and the culture of it all. It was as if I forgot I was black! These are times I wish I could go back and tell myself, “You are black and that is a beautiful thing to be!”
You would think the moment I got to college, my thoughts on my self-image and negative feelings behind being black would change. But they didn’t. I was still blind to the fact that I was my own beautiful black queen. Like some girls when entering college, I gave myself to boys that didn’t deserve me.
I can’t say if I did it out of lack of respect for myself, the freedom that came with being away from home or if it was to capture that attention I never experienced in high school. I know now that this was in no way necessary to feel good about myself. It in no way changed the views I had about myself being black. I know now that with my own acceptance to being black didn’t need the approval of any boy.
The moment when I could say I started “realizing” I was black was during my first relationship. Of course I thought he was a great guy, but he made me see his and my own complete lack of awareness that I was black. He would say the N-word around me without any hesitation. Of course with my own lack of awareness with being black, I didn’t give it much thought; until one day we both watched a movie that held powerful messages about racism.
After the movie we got into a heated discussion about his use of the N-word around me. It was like talking to a wall. He really did not get it. I was frustrated. I was frustrated because I was black! I was frustrated because he was supposed to know that! I was frustrated because I let this go on for too long! I realized that I was black and it wasn’t a bad thing.
A few years later my mindset around being a young black woman had changed drastically. Growing up black was hard because I never accepted it in a positive light. I let other people determine my worth and value when they had no right to that power. I know now that I hold that power. I own the right to loving myself and carrying the weight of my worth and value as high as I wish. There are many black women that have come into my life and have taught me being black is the most beautiful shade you could ever be.
I spent a lot of my time feeling down about being a black woman. If I could take it back, I would in a heartbeat. But all that time was building me up into the strong, beautiful black woman I am today.
For any woman who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong to their rightful black community, know that you’re not alone and that your journey can start right now. Working on finding your value and worth is the best type self-love for the struggling black woman. It may not be an easy path getting to love yourself but trust me, once you get there, you’ll wonder why you had never gotten there sooner.