On Being A Chocolate Woman
The Backbone of Many
The backbone of many; carried on the backs of few is a phrase I hear when I speak with other dark women of color. Ultimately, we are the ones in the background encouraging, pushing, pulling, building up, lifting up, helping others realize their dreams. You know, we’re those riveting voices you hear but can barely see standing well behind the lead singer. When all is said and done, we’re 20 Feet from Stardom, making it all work from the shadows.
Don’t let us dare show our strength and bring attention to our efforts. If we do so we hear that we’re needy, insecure, aggressive, mean, loud, threatening, trying to make it about us and always complaining. If those words aren’t dismissive enough, we face the inevitable, “why you always have an attitude?”
And don’t let us be physically strong, show some muscle, and, God forbid, have short hair, because you know our sexuality will be brought into question. And when the breakup happens and we fight for what’s rightfully ours, that’s when they roll out the knockout punch, and call us gold diggers.
Don’t forget, we’re just talking about happens within the context of our own race. Do I need to share the number of times we are asked THE question by women outside our race? When we finally give expression to the feelings we’ve been carrying around forever about the daily injustice we experience, we hear “Why are you attacking me?”
Attacking you? Please! Welcome to the world of a Chocolate Woman.
Making Our Own Freedom
Yet, given those realities, we see daily examples of non-chocolate women trying to be just like us. They try to look like us, act like us, sing like us, identify as us and their men treating us like their dark little secrets. We’re the prize they secretly covet, always the fantasy female of their dreams.
If you don’t believe me, ask the Founding Fathers. Or better yet, ask the women of color they enslaved and raped. Thomas, George and too many others to name share a deep truth in their race privileged exercise of manhood that never made them man enough to set us free.
No, the truth of being a Chocolate Woman is that we make our own freedom.
The truth of being a Chocolate Woman is that despite not being honored as the image of brains and beauty in a culture we helped create. We know our own value and strength. We live it. It’s found in the depth of our love, in the lives our children, the survival of our families, the history of our struggles, and in the triumph of our spirit.
Now tell us that Chocolate Women are not the essence of womanhood. I dare you.