I had possibly the best idea in my entire writing career. I have been speaking to my best friend about it for quite some time, and, while my inspiration borrows from a current pop culture juggernaut, I think the current manuscript I am writing may actually get me published. It requires quite a bit of research, but I have the support of my professor and may reach out to my advisor in a few months when I have more of it written. Let me just say that it allows me to loudly and proudly wave my nerd flag while also touting Anthro, Classics, Women’s Studies, and Af Am Studies. It is so so nerdly cool. I am unreasonably proud of myself. I may post a veiled snippet here if I get the yen, but until then – happy writing all!
“Give me hair – long beautiful hair” is a proud declaration in a rather famous song. Of course, The Bible famously references a woman’s hair as being part of her “crowning glory.” But for many women of color, and black women in particular, hair is a four letter word synonymous with every other curseword and derisive insult. As a black woman, I have had more than my fair share of struggles with my hair – it has been curly, it has been straight, it has been in cornrows (which looked awful by the way), it has had weaves of every conceivable length and color. Right now, I have microbraids which look professional, are blessedly low maintenance, and still allow me to express my personality (they have quite a unique color and pattern, which is something many people associate with me). My braids allow me to be playful, and most importantly – they protect my hair and let me celebrate my identity.
The more I explore Af Am History and celebrate the idea of self – almost ironic, since I took a similarly titled class in college years ago – the more comfortable I become with my own body, and the less I care. Ultimately, I have come to realize that others may disagree with my choices, but I need to make them and live my life the way that feels most authentic and organic to me. I no longer have the capacity to care – if someone is offended by the choices I make, the things I do, or anything else – then that will remain very much their problem. At this point, that is likely the healthiest option and best way for me to enjoy self-preservation. And all of this stemmed from a short, introspective reflection about my hair.
I recently started rewatching a pretty culturally significant show, and it occurred to me that my life was essentially the same, save for the locale. So now I’m basing a young adult novel loosely on my adolescent experiences. It’s an entirely new genre for me, and it completely revolutionized my way of thinking. I’m enjoying it, as headway with my other manuscripts has temporarily stalled.
In other news, classes have started again and it is bittersweet – this is probably my last class until next spring, since I won’t have time to juggle work and my apps/GRE prep, in addition to school. I am honestly slightly concerned that my GPA might take a hit this quarter, but hopefully that won’t happen. Well, I won’t let that happen.
I am still vacillating between programs and have resumed reaching out to professors to try and solidify my options. I still think I may eventually attain an MBA, but I need to figure out where and if that fits into my timeline, and how that compares to my desire for a Ph.D. There is some silent part of me that would always like to be a student. I do have a friend who traipsed around the best campuses in the world, perpetually earning degrees. Last I heard she was enrolled in a doctoral program, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that she has plans to continue along the same path.
At any rate, c’est la vie.
The new black is militant. The new black is #blackgirlmagic. The new black is exploratory. And the new black is all-encompassing. All of these ideas are significant, yet do not perfectly encapsulate the movement that has been sweeping through African American communities for the past several years. However, it would be incredibly misleading to apply the same criteria to everyone within a set race. I, for example, despite my extensive knowledge and experience in the field of minority education and having taken a plethora classes in the field of African American Studies, have what some may consider to be an unreasonable affinity for the Oscar winning film Gone with the Wind. Despite my “wokeness,” as the kids say these days, I still would deem myself to be incredibly self-aware, introspective, and analytical – a testament which my close friends, family, and of course my professors would support. However, there are those who undoubtedly feel differently, and they are certainly entitled to their own opinions. It is my personal belief that the new black is complicated, investigative, and vigilant – all of which is to say that there is no set blanket criteria that could define such a group. Therefore, some may ask, almost reasonably, why even try? A fool’s errand, they might suggest. To that I would say, it is imperative to give a voice to those who need one, and give unity where things feel scattered, and lacking cohesion. Perhaps it is necessary to be more attentive and reasonable, while discerning the individuality of such a personal and unique aspect of one’s own identity.
The new black is omnipresent and vocal. Look no further than your own television set to get to the bottom of the most shallow of seemingly complex characters. As I previously alluded to, hotly debated topics like race and colorism are a critical part of the conversation of what it means to be black. Coming to terms with where it is possible to fit in and what it means to honor thyself and personal identity above all else is arguably the most essential aspect of self-acceptance. Speaking from personal experience, this is something that has only occurred to me recently, yet it feels as though I have taken my blinders off and am experiencing life with eyes wide open for the very first time. It is shocking how blatantly offensive comments and inconsiderate behaviors can be recognized. These microaggressions are omnipresent, if only one knows where to look for them. For instance, a previous employer made light of the black lives matter movement by sending me an email with Labradors in all different shades, protesting that “all Labs matter.” It would have been humorous if not for the fact that I am black, and was notably one of the very few minorities on that school’s campus. Making light of another group’s struggles, however trite they may seem, only serves to mitigate – nay, mock – a critical issue. Simply because you, standing atop your lofty pedestal of white privilege, flanked by others whose own thoughts are synonymous with static constancy, does not give you the power, perspective, or insight to cast aspersions on others’ tribulations. Rather, it makes you look ignorant, uncaring and honestly – just plain stupid. And this perhaps is the most offensive aspect of the entire situation. That someone is not even clever enough to offer up true thoughts; they need to crib their own and prop themselves up on the supposed brilliance of others is such a lazy and cowardly shortcut. It is underhanded, cheap, and almost uncivilized. It is pedestrian, unimaginative and condescending. It is miserly, evokes dolorousness, and stands in direct contrast for what it means to be newly black and accepted as such.
Finally, as an animal lover first and foremost, and in particular one with an affinity for Labradors, this struck a nerve. #alllabsmatter looks #ridiculous non? It is not equivalent – indeed, it is inherently misleading and cruel. Minimizing the suffering of an entire group of people by equating them with animals – that should have been the final straw that signaled the end of my tenure. But still I remained, fighting the good fight. Perseverance in the face of shocking opposition and hostility – this is #thenewblack. And yes, overall this experience registered as an eight or a nine easily on the awkward scale of ten for social interactions. In retrospect, I cannot recall the best way to handle that kind of situation – perhaps ignore the email? Or make no mention of it at least? Why is it always that the least funny, most offensive people court the greatest amount of attention? Or did I answer my own rhetorical question there? Intellectual curiosity is yet another hallmarker of #thenewblack.
This new black is taking a multifaceted approach to infiltrating society’s consciousness. Although many people do not enjoy it, I am a fan of the Real Housewives of Potomac. This is true primarily because I see shades of my own toxic family in the women who serve as caricatures for their area. Granted, I no longer speak to most of my family since they have serious issues with respecting boundaries, personal information, and generally adhering to socially acceptable behaviors, but it is still fun to observe, analyze and consume as a non-player. And the drama is delicious, especially since I am not involved.
Ultimately, race and acceptance is not something that can be decided overnight. It is an individual experience with which everyone must struggle until they reach a satisfactory conclusion. I have been forced into uncomfortable categories for most of my life, and it has gotten to the point where I refuse to acknowledge and engage with ignorance – if it is not possible to allow me my freedom and autonomy, than I simply do not want to bother dealing with the offending party. This is why blanket generalizations are inherently problematic – assuming that one situation holds the same weight for all individuals is ignorant and myopic.
Self-actualization and acceptance is one of the most significant indicators of maturity, it is a true signifier of one’s honesty and integrity that it is possible to accept all facets of their own identity, including those which may not make them proud. Arguably, #thenewblack lacks borders, definitions, boundaries and restraints. Rather, it seeks support, thriving as it expands, lessening the burden of the individual as more shoulder its heavy responsibilities. It requires allies, yet does not shrink from the grasp of those who pursue it. It is living, breathing, growing, ever-changing – it is everything. #Thenewblack is #thenewwayoflife.
I am not given to whims. Per the tagline of my blog, I analyze and critique EVERY.SINGLE.THING.I.DO. I am meticulous. And a planner. So imagine my surprise when someone told me otherwise. Or rather, tried to. This is the problem when looking to work with someone – they can turn so quickly. Yet I keep myself surrounded by those who wish me well, and more importantly, truly know who I am and what my capabilities are. So I am moving on from that interaction.
In somewhat related news, I am contacting schools to try and figure out which programs best fit me. It varies greatly from school to school, but I’m trying to keep things around ten possible applications. I’ve technically been working on my essay since last year, if not earlier, so that shouldn’t be too difficult for me. Perhaps the biggest obstacle I’m facing right now is talking myself into applying to the top education schools, because most everyone knows that I’m competitive. I just need to persuade myself.
Finally, one of these days I will post an update waxing philosophically about what it means to be a person of color. I’ve been working on this piece for a couple of weeks, but I really need to find the time and finish it. Therefore, my identity and subsequent discussions are potentially pending.
In light of a momentous decision I tried to make (and kept backing away from going through with it at the last possible second) one of my coworkers has decided that she wants me to toughen up my spine. I believe her – through a series of personal and professional experiences, I agree with the sentiment that I am too nice, an odd assessment, since I was raised not to be that way. At any rate, I am setting boundaries and this is in regards to everything. And once they are set, I am going to adhere to them. I am considering engaging in an anthropological experiment wherein I study the impact of making and enforcing boundaries – this same coworker, who is quickly becoming a dear and trusted friend, made it clear that I will experience discomfort and it won’t be easy for me to reinforce them. I assume it will be excellent training for children 🙂
In other slightly less momentous news, I am continuously making progress on all fronts – graduate school and a gigantic move no longer terrify me. Rather, I embrace them and the future with open arms. And my little foray into higher education will probably make for an excellent case study since I don’t think I could ever find someone who could live up to my exceedingly high standards who would care as much as I do about my own future. Who better than an aspiring business owner?
My future awaits. And the fate of many others does too.
So this year I am applying to grad school programs. It is official – I have been thinking about it for the better part of five years, and procrastinating on it for the better part of ten. I have switched programs dozens of times, and even enrolled in a GRE prep class last year. I think I was too burnt out and angry (yes, a theme, and something I am trying to correct) to attempt it for this fall. However, when I look at my spreadsheet and think of the professors I have contacted, I smile now. And I am blowing away the courses I take at the moment. It is obvious that my writing skills have improved immeasurably – they were never really that bad to begin with, but right now, they are phenomenal. I crave an academic challenge.
My only regret (okay, there are a few but this is a major one) is that my penchant for the humanities makes my interests less practical and more academic. And whatwith the incredible competition for jobs in academia, it doesn’t make too much sense to get a degree that won’t be utilized, even from the best universities. At least, that’s what my more rational and practical side says to me.
Overall, I feel as though I’m in a really great place right now. Last year, everything just seemed too daunting and I thought that I wouldn’t be able to handle rejection and was too fragile to apply anywhere. Now – I just want to start my academic life down a new trajectory.
And on a similarly light note, I need to start posting happier and funnier pieces on here. Reading my blog, no one would be able to tell that I’m in a much better place mentally and actually have a pretty great sense of humor.
Happy Friday all!