The Black Space
A few days ago, I shared an article on my Facebook that made a strong case for why white women needn’t join the #TeamNatural movement. That article could be found here.
I was not surprised about the feedback that I received through my comments from a few unhappy campers. While I am always interested in varying opinions and outlooks, there are some things that should just be understood before one formulates a response. With that being said, over the next week or so, I will be addressing a series of race-related topics that have surfaced in this debate, topic-by-topic. It is simply impossible for me to formulate a full response within one blog post. Some of these topics will include natural hair, white gaze, culture appropriation, “reverse” racism, etc. Today, I will quickly address the importance and significance of Black spaces, but first, I will share the comments that have prompted the dissection of this topic.
Immediately after I shared the aforementioned article, I quickly commented: Before anyone decides to comment on this, I'll need for you to understand the importance and significance of Black spaces as well as the non-existence of a post-racial society.
Why? Because one cannot completely comprehend the validity of the article without knowing what a Black space is.
Some of the comments that I received:
“That's a funny article considering that Ebony magazine is owned by JP Morgan and had lost their title of being "fully black-owned" a while back. I believe someone owning shares of your company is much more invasive than paying someone to work for you. There are no such thing as Black spaces only Black people being paid by White people to act like they represent Black people.”
“A true Black space would be one that is finance by Black folks to benefit the Black community. I lied when I said there are no true black spaces, I'm part of a few. I meant to say there are no Black spaces in the media because they are all integrated or being paid for by another race. Ever saw The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, she made a video where none of the people that supported her were Black. BET is not Black own just because it has Black in there, it's owned by Viacom. Who is funding CurlyNikki? “
“And why do black people need their own things? (“Our music, our fashions, our foods, everything that is uniquely ours is seized upon until it is no longer uniquely ours.”) So then other races should NOT embrace the black culture? What about Indians? (Native and from India) Should the sounds of music from the middle east also not go into American music? Why can we not be one. Why, if the goal is to achieve unity, are articles such as this one being posted to segregate black people from every other race (not just white, though they appear to be the aim)? Yes, black hair is beautiful and I stand behind the go natural, but I also stand behind it for white people and mixed people. “negate the need for Black women (or Asian women, or Latino women…) to have spaces from which we are protected from the White gaze and able to do and be US. “ – again, why are whites the object of hate? I notice a space for white people isn’t listed here. There are more Asian women than white. So why can white people not be proud? Having numerous friends of allllll races with curly hair, the tone used for “her entry to what seemed like a safe place for Black women, under the tag ‘natural hair icon’ is almost comical (her journey to accepting her hair texture basically involved her going from wearing a bun to wearing her hair down), and certainly sad” is what is really sad. Curly hair is not that simple. Skin pigment doesn’t matter.”
I did respond to a few comments in this way:
I think a big misunderstanding lies within the definition of a Black space. I consider a Black space something like this: an environment (not always physical) where Black people can congregate, feel free from judgment, and speak about relevant experiences, thoughts, ideas, etc. The natural hair community is a predominantly Black space. This article is not at all "whining about a blog/company that hired a White female that was supposedly aim at their culture." This article aims to explain the fact that the natural hair community that exists is one that is for praising all Black women that have made the choice or found the courage within themselves to love their natural crowns. The issue at hand is the fact that a white woman who never faces much adversary for something as trivial as her hair has chosen to take the term/hashtag that we have coined and jump on the bandwagon. Simply wearing your hair down hardly constitutes as going natural. Nope. No. Not having it. Also, the author clearly states, "To be fair to Walton, her site is not about Black hair or Black power. The "About" page states "CurlyNikki.com was created to serve as an online 'hair therapy session' for those struggling to embrace their naturally curly hair." Her mission is clear: affirming those who wish to embrace a certain hair texture. But I think it's worth considering what sort of precedent could be set here if more bloggers embrace an inclusive approach to natural hair." Additionally, the white woman is not getting paid, but she is getting praised and highlighted for wearing her hair down. She is being crowned as a "natural" meanwhile we refuse to highlight my sisters with more kinks than curls. In regards to the rest of your response, I do not believe it directly relates to this piece. This article is about hair, not corporation.
While some of these comments begin to delve into other arenas, I will not be able to address them in this particular blog post. They will be addressed, though. Best believe.
Firstly, to a Black twenty-something at a predominantly white institution, a Black space is an environment where I feel safe. It does not always have to be a physical place. It can also exist as an online community, a work of literature, a scholarly journal, etc. It is a place where I can feel free of judgment and share relevant experiences, thoughts, and ideas with those that identify with me racially. This space does not have anything to do with money. This space has everything to do with support and comfort.
A white space does exist. It's called mainstream media. It's called society. It's called the KKK. It's called by the names of a lot of wealthy communities. It's called predominantly white institutions. I can really continue.
Why do I need this space? I need this space because society has failed and CONTINUES TO FAIL (an article debunking the myth of a post-racial society will be coming soon as well) to offer me this space. I must seek this fully inclusive space so that I am able to mentally deal with issues that many people of other races would not be able to understand or help me through.
This isn’t a form of segregation. Segregation is telling me that I cannot come into your restaurant to eat after you have beaten and dehumanized my ancestors—much of this dehumanization occurring as a result of the difference in physical traits. I refuse to believe that the creation of a space to welcome and celebrate those once hated traits is a form of segregation. I would like to go further by saying that a need for a space like this WITHIN my space is completely unnecessary. White curls and “multi-cultural” curls that mirror the ones of Sarah will always be accepted. (I've learned a thing or two in my Black studies classes focused on women, and I can gladly elaborate on this, if desired.) This issue of discomfort seems to have stemmed from a personal distaste for her hair while the issue of Black natural hair stems from historical and systemic distaste engrained into society. This is why the #TeamNatural space is needed. This is why Sarah isn’t.
Only my experiences of racism and non-inclusion could help one truly experience why Black spaces are necessary. I am not fighting non-inclusion with non-inclusion.
Do you join a depression support group if you are not depressed? Do you join a suicide support group if you are not suicidal? No, you don’t. You don't say "Man, why do depressed people feel like they need their own spaces?" And why? Because you may just never know how those people feel and why they feel that way. Not every experience is a shared one.
Once that is understood, really understood, then perhaps we can become better at supporting one another.