One of my sister-friends and I were out for a night on the town. We met for drinks at one of our favorite bars in New York. My sister-friend is what you would’ve called a fly girl back in the '80s and '90s. Everything about her is on-point; she’s a successful attorney (we met when we were both in law school) and she’s one of the most hilarious people you’ll ever meet. It doesn’t hurt that she’s extremely easy on the eyes and always dipped in the “flyest” gear.
All in all, my sister-friend doesn’t have a hard time finding guys to date -- they flock like pigeons. The problem is that she can’t seem to find a man that meets her standards AND accepts the colors of her personality. On one hand, she can’t date just any man because of her socio-economic status. On the other hand, the guys in her tax bracket or above can’t cope with her “realness.” She’s tried to date White guys (who love her “realness”), and it just hasn’t worked with her vision for her life.
Currently single, my sister-friend and I began to discuss all of these books and studies that continue to try to paint Black women as broken and undesirable. She actually hates when men give women advice on relationships and “how-to-be.” Naturally, this column is an exception. “Seriously, Nathan, you are one of the few, because you come from a place of love and not bashing us. I’m quite sick of the hate on the sistahs,” she said. Well, I am too.
She told me the story of one Black guy she dated who is affluent and successful. They’d gone out to a comedy show at a mainstream comedy club in New York City. If you’ve ever been to a comedy show with a Black person, you know we love to get it in and have a great time. My sister-friend said she was enjoying herself, laughing loud and falling out -- as we do. Her date was mortified and told her so.
“Did you have to be so ghetto? Just so you know, I’m not looking for one of those head-rolling, finger-snapping Black chicks. I went to Yale,” he educated her. Now, there is nothing about my sister-friend that is “ghetto.” She does keep it real and she is very authentic to who she is. She has that natural sistah-girl swagger, but by no means is she ever crass or inappropriate. With that said, I’m surprised she didn’t clock homeboy.
Once again, another man discrediting Black women based on generalizations and stereotypes. I told her, “He’s a jerk and will probably not end up with a Black woman anyway. Cause if you love Black women, it is their swagger that distinguishes them and you love it.” I encouraged her not to change a thing about who she is because it was born from centuries of strength, resilience and confidence. It was necessary to survive the oppression of the world and still raise families, work and live.
Now, I’m not talking about a bad attitude. Bad attitudes are toxic and Black women don’t monopolize the market. Bad attitudes come in White, Black, Asian, Latina and so on. I think the commentators confuse bad attitude with something that is pure and in the cultural DNA of most Black women. It’s that intangible thing that we all know Black women own.
Dr. Maya Angelou states it the best in her poem, “Phenomenal Woman:”
It's the fire in my eyes,
And, the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And, the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman.
Oprah Winfrey packaged it and sold it to millions of women (mostly White) every day for 25 years. It made her a billionaire and one of the most influential women in the world. Because Oprah wasn’t afraid to let it flow and let her “sistah swagger” show, she was able to present and discuss topics that had been previously been taboo on daytime talk. She embraced it and celebrated it by just being herself.
Like my sister-friend, I am tired of people trying to strip Black women of that thing that distinguishes them and makes them special. There is nothing wrong with you, you are strength, you are inspiration, you are love -- just the way you are. So the next time some comedian or research study tells you you’re broken and no one wants you, just remember that your essence is wonderful, and by all means please don’t lose your swagga, sistah.