My name is Ashley; Ash for short around this time. I’m between the ages of 4 and 17. The 29-year-old Ashley would rather not be bothered by you. Being a scholar of Black studies where she spends countless hours reading, studying, and sorting through Black pain and Black positivness, she is weary. When she sees you, she sees a mountain of theories, articles, and books from scholars such as bell hooks (“Madonna: Soul Sista or Plantation Mistress”), Edward Said (Orientalism), David Mariott (“On Racial Fetishism”), and Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth). After the semester she’s had, the truth is she tired.
But the little girl within her (me) is both intrigued and confused by you.
Contrigued, I supposed.
What I’m contrigued by is how you thought you could just assume the identity and experience as a Black woman without any connection to me, the Black girl. The experience of the Black girl is critical to the becoming of a Black woman. It shapes how she thinks, sees, and deals with her in society, be it positively or negatively.
I know that the #AskRachel thing is a joke, but there are some serious things I want to ask you. Throughout your White childhood did you ever have the following experiences:
- Holding on to the moment of joy you felt at 4-years-old seeing at least one Black girl character on a cartoon (even if she had no speaking parts or was an extra) because you knew you would probably never see another one again?
- Having your ear singed from the heat of the hot comb (or the hot comb itself) at 6-years-old to get your hair to look as straight as possible because there’s this social idea that your kinks and coils are “unmanageable”?
- The pain of having to sit through your first perm at 7-years-old, picking scabs from your scalp every six weeks for years because again, your hair is perceived as “unmanageable”?
- Wanting to let those natural kinks and coils go free at 16-years-old but not getting that opportunity to have that kind of freedom and confidence in your image until you were 24?
- Wanting to be as happy as the White girl on the package of a dollar store toy beauty kit at 5-years-old, but being disappointed it’s not realistic for you to try to use the brush and comb on your hair?
- The anxiety of picking a doll at Toys R Us at 8-years-old because while you knew you should pick one that looked like you, you weren’t convinced you would look or feel as happy as the scores of White girls in the magazines playing with their dolls? Even if there was Kenya?
- Worn big clothes from 13-years-old because your body was changing and based on the countless music videos and attention you got walking down the street minding your business, the more your clothes fit, the more sexual you were perceived as a Black woman and you did not want that kind of attention?
- Never having a desire to play with your Addy American Girl doll at 9-years-old because although you could not verbalize it, subconsciously it felt weird to play with struggle of your ancestors (was there ever an Anne Frank doll)?
- Having the struggle of your life trying to self-identify a sense of pride in yourself as being Black and female when White men, Black men, AND White women are constantly are either speaking of you negatively or ignoring your existence altogether?
Now let’s be clear. My specific experiences may not have happened to all Black women, but the concept is the same. Having to navigate through a society that tells you constantly that you are less than does not suddenly happen at 27 (the age where you reportedly started to assume this persona) as a Black woman. It starts very early when you are a Black girl in the toy store, in school, in your living room watching cartoons, in magazines, and in life. Unless you had some sort of past life experience (which I don’t believe for a minute that is the case here), I fail to see how you cannot connect with me and peg yourself as a Black woman.
It is for this reason, Rachel, why despite your commendable contributions to Black advocacy, I refuse to let you, your jheri curl hair store wig, and golden tan Bare Minerals blackface just rock. My experience is not a costume nor a fabrication. There are levels to Black womanhood. Considering studies like #BlackGirlsMatter, the outcry against My Brother’s Keeper, and movements like #SayHerName, we are slowly realizing that Black girls are largely ignored or harshly criticized in society. Accepting you as only having ten years of being a Black woman would be a slap in the face to the many years of serious soul searching I did in order to be Black women. Others are still searching, even well into adulthood. Some may never get there.
To validate your version of Black womanhood would invalidate and erase the necessity of Black girlhood. That the essence (and in your case benefits) of Black womanhood without going through the experience of Black girlhood is easily bought and sold through a few good works, a disguise. It says that my journey to get where I am does not matter. It says that my experience does not exist. That’s troubling. If we are this dismissively accepting of a White woman pretending to have a Black women’s experience, it makes sense why we have so many hurt and damaged Black women around today. When they were little Black girls, they did not matter. They still don’t apparently.
In closing, I think that I can speak for both the Black girl within and the Black woman becoming that this was beyond not being cool. For the umpteenth time, you seriously did not have to lie to kick it. But you did and now to me, the Black girl Ashley, we can’t be friends.
The Black woman Ashley simply says, “Fuck you.”