Interracial Love

Your Spouse May Be Black, But You’re Still Racist

Interracial Love

My former sister-in-law is Caucasian, originating from the trenches of the low-income Russian slums. Her blonde tresses, piercing blue pupils and pale—almost tanned, but not quite—complexion signify her Whiteness when she enters the room. The pompousness of Whiteness is the looming shadow behind her slim hips. But my Black American brother sidestepped the privileges and the centuries of oppression and put a ring on it.

Their union was blissful and two children were bore from their happiness, until her Whiteness rose without warning or provocation. Purchasing a home out-of-their price range and enduring the subsequent financial turmoil was the catalyst for her arrogance. In a simple exchange between man and wife, she told my brother that the crumbs he was delivering to the kitchen table weren’t enough.

Her exact words were, “You need a better job,” as if the fortune of her White brothers and father would be bestowed on him. My sibling has existed as a Black man for almost three decades. He knows the strife attached to his being, and until that moment, he thought his wife did as well.

This exchange was followed with a verbal onslaught about oppression as a forgotten past without a current imprint. She told him his blackness wasn’t a deterrent and that she was “tired of Black people using slavery as an excuse for not progressing in their lives.”

Their marriage ended soon after and so did the cordial rapport she built with her in-laws, including me. Her White privilege – moving through the world without considering the burden of race – prevented her from seeing my brother’s plight.

Their dilemma and divorce doesn’t differ much from other white folks who believe their interracial relationships preclude them from harboring prejudice or sanctioning racism. In fact, my brother’s clash with his former wife sounds similar to the recent comments of U.S. Senate candidate Scott Schaben, a Republican from Iowa.

In an interview with the Carroll Daily Times Herald about his impending 2014 bid, Schaben claimed his marriage to Latoja Schaben, Iowa State University’s assistant basketball coach, will usher diversity into the Grand Old Party. He said his opponent won’t be able to depict him as a racist since he’s married to a woman of color.

“Let’s see Bruce Braley paint me as a racist with a black wife,” Schaben said.

“Republicans are getting painted as these old, rich, white racists. I’m not old – I’m under 40. I’m not rich – I don’t have a million dollars in the bank. And I am not racist. … That’s one angle that you’re not going be able to take on me.”

Sorry Scott Schaben, sharing a bed with a woman of color doesn’t eliminate bias or racism, especially among Republicans. Dating and wedding interracially doesn’t mean you’re not a racist.

There is little doubt that Republicans have a vested interest in oppressing people of color through social policies that place barriers to citizenship. Republican senators in several states are proposing restrictive voter ID laws that most impact people of color. Clinics that serve women of color and their reproductive needs are being assaulted through regressive legislation. Schools in metropolises with large populations of people of color are underfunded, under-resourced and overcrowded.

Schaben exists within a tradition that uses legislation to oppress. His marriage to a woman of color will not prevent him from supporting or authoring laws that are racist in origin and intent.

My sister-in-law is also a tool of White supremacy, even as she raises two biracial daughters. Though I have little doubt that she loved her husband, I also know that love for one individual didn’t shield her from developing preconceived biases of what Blackness is and how it is performed. She may not view men of color through the lens of George Zimmerman. However, just because she was married to a Black man doesn’t mean she’s immune to her cultural conditioning.

She won’t think twice before clutching her purse or locking her car doors when a group of men of color convene in an area. Her love for one black man will never negate her connecting of Blackness with danger, harm and savagery.

Supporters of colorblind ideologies assert that the rising number of interracial marriages prove race is no longer a determining factor in life’s outcomes. The overturning of anti-miscegenation laws has allowed interracial unions to enter our public consciousness, which is beautiful progress. However, infused within integration is a continually-replicated history that never fades, especially for women of color in Black bodies.

We can date and wed men and women from a myriad of cultures and ethnicities, but can never forget how white men raped our bodies without regard for our rights, emotions and sexual autonomy. These historical narratives matter as we navigate a Barack Obama-led nation where interracial couples are as accepted as apple pie and baseball.

But even in the time of Google and JStor, White folks dating and marrying people of color can never fully grasp the impact oppression had and continues to inflict on our lives. Your spouse may be black, but that isn’t a ticket to the land of understanding.

Much time has elapsed since the Loving v. Virginia ruling, which provided an avenue for interracial couples to wed without legal prosecution and cultural persecution. However, four decades later, we’re still too far from equality, and dating and marrying interracially will never be a solution to these persisting issues.

Donyale Luna

Do You Know Donyale Luna?

It’s been almost 50 years since the first black supermodel stormed the fashion world. Donyale Luna achieved the elusive supermodel status after she landed the prestigious cover of British Vogue in 1966. The New York Times described Luna as “a stunning Negro model whose face had the hauteur and feline grace of Nefertiti,” and her queenliness reigned as the premiere model of her time.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Luna was the personification of integration. After being discovered in Detroit by famed photographer David McCabe, Luna began ascending the ranks of the fashion world. Her image was omnipresent in magazines, billboards, movies and catwalks and Luna was considered an achievement for the Civil Rights Movement.

But Luna’s legacy disappeared after her death in 1979 at the age of 33. As Keli Goff, political correspondent for The Root, points out in her ode to the supermodel, “Luna’s name is still a rarity on many ‘black firsts’ lists. And Beverly Johnson is routinely referred to as “the first black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue,” for her turn on the American edition eight years after Luna’s British cover.”

Goff attributes the erasure of Luna to two factors: Her death and the arrival of the “black is beautiful” movement in the 1970’s. I agree, and will also add that Luna’s ascension was marred with tokenism, so her enduring legacy wasn’t as crucial to the fashion world as her presence.

At the time of fashion’s integration, the advertising industry was struggling to appeal to Black consumers due to segregation. Ebony had emerged, stealing potential consumers from other magazine publications, and the fashion industry’s profits were in decline.

Six months after the launch of Ebony, the Johnson Publishing Company approached mainstream advertisers to place adverts within the magazine. In 1952 the head of JPC published an article in the advertising journal .Advertising Age claiming “the Black consumer market—which even in that era of suffocating segregation had $15 billion worth of buying power—was ‘ripe and ready’ for marker exploitation.”

JPC convinced white-owned advertising companies to place supplements in Ebony featuring black models selling products. Advertisers ran parallel advertisements in Ebony and Life magazines, using black models in the former. Segregated advertisements were successful, so agencies began running them in other publications. This caused a sudden demand for black models.

This led to a change in the methods used to target the expanding black consumer market, and was a precursor to the entry of the black woman into the modeling industry as a figure of glamour. The New York Post, in June 1955, reported on the changing image of the black woman from mammy to glamorous model, linking this changing image to the discovery of the lucrative black market. Black consumers didn’t respond positively to products that used racist representations of black people in their advertisements, so advertising agencies knew integration was the sole option.

The United States government also intervened, forcing advertising companies to integrate based on recommendations from the Warner Committee who found only “two integrated ads in the editions of four major magazines, reported last week that 16 companies (including IBM, Northrop, RCA, Equitable Life & Royal McBee) have used Negro models in national media this year while 20 others . . . have issued firm commitments.”

Jane Hoffman, a model of the 1960s, told Ebony there was a succinct purpose for using Black models in the era of the Civil Rights Movement.

“First there was the Negro that looked white. She soothed the company’s conscience. They’d say, “We used a Negro.” ‘Yeah. Where?’ Then there was the Negro girl you’d think of as something else. She wasn’t even beautiful—just a weird creature, some kind of space thing. She had to be so bizarre that no one could identify with her. I had people turn me down saying “Oh Jane! You’re too beautiful!” Now they’ll say you’re not Negro enough! Such ironies are rather a bitter truth for black models who range in skin color from cafe au lait to very black.”

So, modeling and advertising agencies sought “untraditional” models, or women of color with the same features as white models. It is against this historical background that Luna rose to prominence. Luna appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1964 and her “otherworldly features” including her stilt-like limbs, full lips, oval-shaped face and almond-shaped eyes weren’t considered traditional black aesthetics. This appealed to magazine editors and advertisers.

Luna’s emergence was significant because it represented desegregation. However, in order to maintain the privilege associated with landing these positions, Luna had to distance herself from the Civil Rights Movement. She once said, “The civil-rights movement has my greatest support, but I don’t want to get involved racially (Sims, 1979, p. 28).

Luna also adopted a carefree attitude about the Civil Rights Movement, saying “If it brings about more jobs for Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, Negroes – groovy. It could be good, it could be bad. I couldn’t care less.”

So, how could a woman with such promise disappear? It’s simple. Luna was a token, used by the fashion and advertising agencies to protect their profits and reach the black consumer market. Her legacy was an afterthought. Even now, tokenism in the fashion world is a continual issue.

One of the effects of the fashion industry’s aficionado for white skin is the reinforcement of whiteness as superior and blackness as inferior. The lack of opportunities available for black models forces models of color to engage in competition in order to ascend the ranks of the fashion world. Supermodels at the top of the hierarchy are offered magazine covers, cosmetics campaigns, billboards and television commercials and since more of these women are white, it promotes the equation of whiteness with beauty.

Several fashion editors and models have noticed the dearth of color on catwalks and in magazines, but few offer answers. Fashion editor André Leon Talley admits “We have regressed. I often sit at a show and see not one black model on the runway. Can’t they find some black girls?” Talley has mentioned his gripe to designers and editors. Most of them retort with dismissal, claiming models of color don’t fit well into their clothes.

Other editors and gatekeepers are much more frank. One Allure editor said: “Sales are significantly lower when we put a person of color on the cover.” Chanel Iman, a prominent model, told The Times: “Designers have told me, ‘We already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore.”

The insistence on the tokening of one model of color above the others results in a lack of available positions for Black models. One scholar investigated the lack of color on the cover of Vogue and discovered only three Black models had been featured on the cover of British Vogue in its storied history.

Even fashion week is impacted. The fall/winter 2013 collections were the last New York Fashion Week numbers collected and examined. Jezebel found:

  • 151 shows were covered between the four premiere publications and there were 4,479 spots for models to strut the runway or pose in a presentation.
  • More than 82 percent of those opportunities were offered to White models while Black models were hired for 271 spots, leading to 6 percent of the total positions available.
  • Thirteen companies — Araks, Assembly, Belstaff, Calvin Klein, Elizabeth & James, Gregory Parkinson, J Brand, Jenni Kayne, Juicy Couture, Louise Goldin, Lyn Devon, Threeasfour, and Whit — hired no models of color. Several of those brands – Araks Calvin Klein, Elizabeth & James, and Louise Goldin – didn’t have any models of color in the spring/summer 2013 season either.
  • Around 9 percent of all New York Fashion Week shows were completely White.

Demographics from the New York Fashion Week unveil how little progress has been made toward parity in fashion modeling since the advertising and modeling industries integrated in 1965.

Luna was a casualty of an industry that sees black models as expendable. You may not know Luna, but we see her in the models of today, including Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn. She lives on.

This essay was originally published at Clutch Magazine.

Dual Identities

Dual Identities

Dual Identities

I am developing a love/strong-disregard relationship with religion.

I’ll let that confession marinate. Notice the emphasis on religion as a traditional institution, which is a separate notion from spirituality. I have and forever will accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.

Divorcing the Baptist church was draining; but examining the faults in non-denominational Christianity is tipping the scales. Non-denominational identification isn’t working out. Recalling the violent bloodshed, patriarchal ideologies and exclusion of individual adoption in Christianity is beginning to traipse on a sensitive nerve. In response, my conscious keeps encouraging me to disavow from religion and pursue wholeness with God instead. I’m beginning to listen.

When I discovered womanism and began immersing into an unexpected role as a scholar, I vowed to continue embracing God and finding solace in His guidance and love. After all, I had no intention on adopting the “atheist, feminist, liberal” exclamations that often grace Twitter biographies. However, I never anticipated the impact that critical dissection would have on my perspective of popular culture, hip-hop, romantic comedies – and even religion.

It has been difficult to reconcile the rampant sexism within Christianity and the ideologies I’ve espoused as a newly-minted womanist scholar. In an effort to continue existing in these two worlds, I dissected the Bible’s historical context as well as the depiction of women within those scriptures I spew with such indignant passion. What I discovered has left me hurt, puzzled and at a religious crossroads.

I love God and have an inextinguishable faith. I am a womanist and view the world’s ills from that sociological perspective. These conflicting considerations have me considering a return to an existence where life was pleasant and I never considered intersectionality and cultural appropriation and micro-aggressions and sexism within religious texts.

What is most bothersome is when I think I’ve found peace in life as a Christian and a womanist, another news headline, conversation or television episode topples me again.

The Church of England prohibits women from assuming roles as bishops after a controversial vote.

Chick-Fil-A uses religion and the first amendment to promote homophobia and droves of African-American Christians support their efforts.

“Iyanla, Fix My Life” debuts an episode featuring a pastor that was spreading his seed as well as the Word in a church that he’s shepherding. Yet, even after he confessed his sins to the congregation, his flock agreed to keep him behind the pulpit.

Just this morning, I read a piece at the New York Times on the blatant exclusion of women from the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“For more than two decades, women have been making a monthly pilgrimage to pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites in a manner traditionally preserved for men, and the police have stopped them in the name of maintaining public order

But after a flurry of arrests this fall that set off an international outcry, the women arrived for December’s service to find a new protocol ordered by the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who controls the site. To prevent the women from defying a Supreme Court ruling that bars them from wearing ritual garments at the wall, they were blocked by police officers from bringing them in.

After years of legislative and legal fights, the movement for equal access for people to pray as they wish at the site has become a rallying cause for liberal Jews in the United States and around the world, though it has long struggled to gain traction here in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox retain great sway over public life.

This has deepened a divide between the Jewish state and the Jewish diaspora, in which some leaders have become increasingly vocal in criticizing Israel’s policies on settlements in the Palestinian territories; laws and proposals that are seen as antidemocratic or discriminatory against Arab citizens; the treatment of women; and the ultra-Orthodox control over conversion and marriage.

While more than 60 percent of Jews in the United States identify with the Reform or Conservative movements, where women and men have equal standing in prayer and many feminists have adopted ritual garments, in Israel it is one in 10. Instead, about half call themselves secular, and experts say that most of those consider Orthodoxy as the true Judaism, feel alienated from holy sites like the Western Wall, and view a woman in a prayer shawl as an alien import from abroad.”

Absorbing this and hundreds of other instances of exclusion and relegation of women to second-class citizenship within religion impacts me. These realizations keep me ostracized within a religion that was created to promote eternal love, but instead uses scripture to rationalize intolerance and sexism.

I don’t know if it will ever be possible to merge these conflicting dogmas, even though I aligned with womanist theology rather than feminist thought because it included spiritual considerations. It is most difficult as I rejoice in Christmas. As I pen this, I’m staring at a decorated tree lined with presents, dazzling Christmas lights, and a nativity scene, which features a black-baby Jesus and his black parents, including the oppressed and submissive Mary. It is a moving depiction of Christ’s birth and even within it, there are problematic flaws.

Confusion persists, but as I unwrap gifts and share in Christmas movies tomorrow, I hope I find clarity within the love.

Single Black Woman

No Queen Wants a Court Jester: A Response to a “Dating Expert”

Editor’s Note: “Relationship experts” have been preying on single Black American women. The sudden crop of Steve Harvey-esque experts that examine relationships and singledom through the lens of deviance and lack of respectability are harmful to Black women. This response to Evan F. Moore from Kelly Brown (a Black Feminist who happens to be my mother) is reflective of the women that sacrifice so much for Black men and receive criticism in response. Moore penned a piece titled “The Things that Keep a Black Woman Single.” Moore outlines 10 points that will be highlighted in this piece. This is one Black Feminist’s response.

I have a rhetorical question. Why is it that men, including Steve Harvey, write books, blogs, columns, etc. that always give women advice on how to pursue them or act like them but think like us?  These are my responses to Evan F. Moore’s list of don’ts.

1. Your friends and family are poisoning your love life.

Nothing makes a single man cringe like a woman who insists that her bff, mom, big sister take on an active role in their dating lives. Look, we want to date you. Not your FB friends list. No man wants to think about dating a woman long term who can’t take a dump without soliciting advice from the nearest member of the clique. When you invite people who don’t have to live with the consequences of their judgment into your love life, you only are inviting frustration. Their standards or desires are never aligned with yours. How many times has mom or the homegirl told you to stay away from a guy who eventually turned out to be great (for someone else) or loved the alcoholic, habitual liar who still writes you from prison? Be a big girl. Make decisions on people based on your best judgment.

Men and women are products of their circles of influence. These circles include mothers, fathers, crazy aunts, two-sided pastors, society and any other figures that had an input in your upbringing. Our thoughts and actions have a direct correlation to what we’ve seen, heard and been conditioned to believe all of our lives. It’s a wonder there are any successful relationships at all when all some young women hear growing up is “men ain’t sh*t” or “all men are dogs,” and have seen their daddies mistreat their mamas. Friends and families don’t poison love lives. Patriarchal societies do.

2. Get out of your momma’s house.

Look we get it. It’s a rough economy and plenty of guys are still under mom’s roof too. But really, how is that going to work long-term? No man wants to be picking you up from your mom’s house like its prom night. If you are not financially secure enough to have your own place, you are NOT ready to date, and you’re DAMN SURE not ready to be in a relationship.

We’re all struggling. The economy is bad and progresses toward worse every day. However, we must meet our partners where they are. There’s no problem seeking a “financially secure” spouse, as long as you are bringing to the table whatever you’ve asked for.

3. Get in shape.

We know, we know….we are shallow, misogynistic heathens. But guess what, we are men. We are visual creatures. We know what we like. For most of us sans a small segment of chubby chasers, some of us don’t like the biggens. It is what it is. You can’t realistically be pushing two spins and then wonder why the cute guy on your bus stop with the ripped up arms and flat stomach just doesn’t seem to be into you.

It’s funny how a man who has a dicky-do (stomach pokes out more than his dicky-do is always looking for a super model. Sometimes it’s best to stop looking on the superficial level and begin seeking a compatible partner. Shallowness gets a man nowhere. top

4. Tone down the God stuff, really.

Hey, we know some of you ladies love Jesus, but he will be the only man in your life if we think we have to compete with him for your attention. This is a touchy subject and we know faith plays a big part of many of your lives. However, if you go to church more than you go on dates then you are narrowing your pool of available men. We know for some of you that this is a deal breaker and we respect that. We also hope you enjoy your future dates with the closeted choir director.

I have to agree.  You don’t have to preach the Gospel to live it.

5. Shut up and get off the phone.

Women are social creatures. We understand your need to go on and on for hours about….nothing. However, like the rest of this list, we are telling you what a man is thinking when we see this kind of behavior. In this case, we are thinking,”Dear god, does she ever stop?” Much like our gripe with your friends, we want you to show the ability to disconnect from everyone and focus on us. The BFF will live if you don’t call her and complain about the b—h in the next cubicle over.

Why must relationship experts assume that women need to focus on men? Have these “experts” ever considered that a woman is on the phone because your ass is boring? A woman does not exist to be a man’s personal entertainment. Get a life. Take her on a walk in the park. Go to a wine tasting. Do something other than sitting on her couch waiting for her to focus on you.

6. Get out of the club…!

Look, you are not on campus anymore. Being in a club four or five nights per week is not a good look. No man wants a woman that he has to have the DUI lawyer on speed dial. There are many ways to meet men without dressing up like an extra from a Beyoncé video and partying like its 1999.

How do you know she’s in the club unless you were there too? It’s an assumption that women in the club aren’t marriage-material. Sometimes we like to unwind in a social environment. Clubs fits that category. A woman is not DUI material or a Prince fan if she puts on her shorts and heels to head to the club with her girls.

7. Your Facebook page is your worst enemy.

In the social media age, nothing will tell the tale about you as a woman more than your Facebook page. Here are three things that are an immediate deal breaker with the fellas. First, if you have 300 pictures on your profile, and 299 of them are of you, you are basically telling Mr. Right that YOU are the most important thing in your world; I mean damn, you don’t have a dog or something? Second, put some clothes on. That’s exactly what we as men want, a mate where all my bro’s have seen your asscrack. Third, control your emotions. Nothing says potential stalker/drama queen like a woman who lashes out constantly in frustration over the men she dates.

I agree, but not because women should live to appease the male gaze. Living on Facebook is dangerous because potential employers determine the character of candidates through their social networking sites.

8. Carry yourself like someone who actually likes men.

Attitude is everything. The last thing a man wants to add to his life is a woman who is mean, combative or bitter. If you have unresolved issues, get counseling. A man is not a punching bag or a psychologist. You say “He’s not strong enough for me!” No lady, Everclear is not strong enough for you. So many ladies out there have taken the “bad b—h” attitude. Some guys may gravitate to that for a one night fling. Most avoid it for legal reasons….I’m just saying.

Some women are combative and mean because of their past mistreatments by men. Young men that see their fathers as rolling stones that have no respect for their mothers and refuse to meet their child support obligations may develop issues with women. So, how could he assume a woman that’s had similar hurts should be walking around skinning and grinning like she lives in the Garden of Eden? Plus, feminism is sexy. Get hip.

9. Know your role.

One of the primary reasons the fellas will put your ass on waivers is because the woman cannot or will not play her position. I don’t mean be submissive or look the other way if he’s being shady. I mean be a friend if he wants a friend, be a great lover if that’s what it is, be a girlfriend if both of you decide that’s the right thing to do. Nothing will get you put into the “f–k buddy” file faster than demanding or taking privileges designed for someone you are not. If you are not his girlfriend, why are you checking his phone or asking where he was last night? You can’t force a man into anything he doesn’t want to do. Earn his trust and admiration before you earn his ire.

How can a woman know her role when she’s lied to from the beginning? If a woman doesn’t know she’s a side-chick, how can she “play the position?” Create a mutual playbook before forcing a woman into a position she never agreed to play.

10. Temper your expectations.

Let’s be very honest. Lots of men out here aint s–t. We know that. However, just like your flawed ass, men have imperfections that can change over time; maybe they won’t .But for you to demand that Mr. Right should be running a Fortune 500 company, benching 300 pounds, while making your mother giggle from jokes is just downright silly. Be realistic about what you want. Everybody has likes and dislikes, its human nature. But when you create unrealistic and in some cases, bizarre barriers to meeting men, you are only narrowing the pool of candidates. That guy that works for the streets and sanitation crew with a two-year-old son may not be the best option, but he IS an option. The guy living in the shady hood with the beater car that works at Target and goes to school at night may not be taking you to San Tropez anytime soon, but I’ll guarantee he’ll take you somewhere nice every year if you stick with him and build something together.

Relationship expectations are set from the beginning when both parties are honest about their wants and needs. Stop playing games. Stop changing the rules to manipulate women. And most importantly, stop lying.

No man can expect a queen when he’s behaving like a court jester.


Were You Ruined by Princess Culture?

Princess culture almost ruined me. I was reared in the “happily ever after” fables of Disney, so I wore the character-endorsed merchandise and zealously absorbed the fairytales. Ariel, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas and Belle were marketed as kid-tested, mother-approved characters.

Disney assured parents that there was no reason to be concerned with the images being peddled to their children. What harm could cartoons have on a kid who hadn’t even started kindergarten? I was often plopped in front of the television to watch a beloved princess sacrifice without complaint to snag her fated prince.

I was most intrigued with Ariel, star of “The Little Mermaid.” The redhead, mermaid-daughter of King Triton was the first fictional character I was ever drawn toward.

The “Little Mermaid” was released in 1989 – after a 30-year princess drought – and I was fixated with the movie from 1993 through 1995. I expressed my adoration for Arielle by donning clothing and shoes with her image stitched into them. My parents purchased books, pencils and even an expensive comforter-set to satiate my “Little Mermaid” obsession. I also owned the entire princess movie-collection and their accompanying books and Barbie dolls.

The innocence of childhood kept me from realizing how detrimental Ariel and her fellow princesses could be. I couldn’t fathom how their plots would factor into my understanding of femininity, relationships and overall contentment. Ariel, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White and the other doe-eyed, beautiful, passive women were my childhood pals. Their presence then still haunts me now.

All of the princesses were depicted as directionless, oppressed women that were incomplete without their prince. Ariel embodies these characteristics arguably more than her peers.

The mermaid-princess trades her beautiful voice for “a kiss of true love” from Eric, her human crush. She’s left mute and heartbroken. Ursula, the witch Arielle brokered the deal with, steals her voice and attempts to wed the man she loves.

Other princesses face similar obstacles before nabbing their loves. Jasmine, the Middle-Eastern princess in “Aladdin,” forgoes wealth and riches to pursue a burgeoning love with Aladdin. Her decision places them both in peril. Cinderella faces the wrath of her stepmother and stepsisters to get the glass slipper. Their sacrifices are rewarded in their films, but life doesn’t promise blissful endings.

Absorbing princess culture had an unforeseen impact on how I romanticized relationships.  I often envisioned the moment a man would place a glass slipper on my delicate foot. It would be the perfect fit and would solidify our love. We would traipse into our future together and never have a disagreement.

I twirled in the mirror in pink nightgowns that bore the faces of Ariel and Pochahantas and imagined meeting and falling in love with a handsome Prince Charming in knight’s gear.

The princess culture warped my expectations of love and romance. I’m still combing through the debris left behind. This impact is common for girls raised in the land of fairytales.

Princesses offer a narrow view of womanhood through the lens of virtue and innocence. Lyn Mikel Brown, co-author of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes, sees the marketing of princess culture as problematic.

“Playing princess is not the issue,” Brown argued. “The issue is 25,000 Princess products. When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”

Princesses are marketed without dimensions. All of the princesses are nipped, tucked and enhanced to reinforce the patriarchal image of womanhood that the brand should strive to subvert. Even defiant gems like Princess Merida of “Brave” undergo troubling transformations to suit Disney’s understanding of what constitutes princess-hood.

Cultural critic Peggy Orenstein examined the phenomenon of princess culture after her daughter became obsessed with personifying Cinderella. She published her observations in the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, and strives to use her experience to encourage parents to limit their children’s exposure to princess culture.

In her research, Orstein found idolizing princesses strips girls of their ability to create reasonable expectations of romance and sexuality. This defect follows them into adulthood, as it did for me.

“The way that prematurely sexualizing girls or play-acting at sexy for them from a young age disconnects them from healthy authentic sexual feeling,” she said. “So that they learn that sexuality is something that you perform, instead of something that you feel.”

“And that can have implications as they get older in the culture, both because of that, and because that’s increasingly what they’re going to be presented with – the idea that their sexuality is something to perform for others,” she added. “And so starting that at the age of 4, 5, or 6 is troubling for a whole set of reasons that I hadn’t anticipated when I started this.”

Additionally, princess culture perpetuates a performative aspect that dictates how womanhood should be constructed and performed. Princess movies and merchandise send girls messages about how to behave and what’s acceptable for a woman.

Cute dresses and handsome princes are par for the feminine course. Shooting bows-and-arrows and wearing a frizzy, red afro is unacceptable. These cues keep girls trapped in a world that defines their identities before they’ve ever had the chance to explore their own understandings of girlhood.

Orenstein found this problematic as well, especially as girls’ age. She explained, “Once they get a little older and they’re creating profiles online and kind of performing their teenage identity as kids always do anyway, but suddenly doing it in this really public way in front of 322 of their best friends forever, right, and in this kind of disconnected fashion that we don’t know the full implications of, but all of it, for girls in particular, reinforces this idea that who you are is how you perform, and who you are is how you look.”

The real world forced me to disavow from princess culture. Heartbreak made me question if I had unrealistic expectations of romance, relationships and love. I did and still do. I thought love was what the movies explained it to be. This was also reinforced by my parents. My father was my mother’s prince. He was her first love.

I wanted that and didn’t achieve it, so I felt inadequate. Most of this angst could be traced to Ariel and her fellow princesses. I now watch the movies that I loved in childhood with a critical lens. I see the fallacies of princess culture now and strive to renounce it.

However, my two-year-old niece is obsessed with Ariel. She has blankets, books and DVDs that eerily-resemble the adoration I had for the mermaid-princess. I encourage her to sing along with “The Little Mermaid” and revel in the tradition of Disney classics, but I do so with context in mind.

When the credits roll, I tell her fairytales don’t resemble real life. It bursts her perfect bubble, but I am determined to teach my niece that her success isn’t tethered to the princesses of her childhood.

Princesses were designed to be innocent and harmless. Disney excised the violence and cannibalism associated with fairytales, and transformed them into children’s classics. Their intentions were honorable, but the execution of princess culture can ruin a girl. It almost ruined me.

Originally published at Clutch Magazine.


Is It Time to Legalize Prostitution?

ImageThe trading of sexual services for cash is often called the world’s oldest profession. Prostitutes and the johns that love them are as engrained in the fabric of the American flag as apple pie, baseball and slavery. The Prostitutes’ Education Network estimates more than 100,000 American women sell their bodies on street corners and in illegal brothels, but law enforcement would rather incarcerate sex workers than keep them safer and healthier by legalizing prostitution.

There are proponents and dissenters on both sides of the argument. However, leading scholars and legal experts, including law professors and sociologists, claim legalizing prostitution will cut costs for law enforcement, lower the rates of transmitted diseases and keep sex workers safe from violent pimps and rapists.

Prostitution is a victimless crime, according to Sherry F. Colb, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Law. Colb argues prostitution is a one-to-one transaction that doesn’t cause greater societal harm.

“Prostitution should not be a crime,” she says. “Prostitutes are not committing an inherently harmful act. While the spread of disease and other detriments are possible in the practice of prostitution, criminalization is a sure way of exacerbating rather than addressing such effects. We saw this quite clearly in the time of alcohol prohibition in this country.”

Colb also sees a sexist double-standard that criminalizes prostitutes while ignoring the customers purchasing them.

“The prostitutes are harassed, arrested, and sometimes prosecuted, while the johns (and often the pimps, who are far more likely to be engaged in violent and master/slave-like treatment of the prostitutes) are ignored,” she says. “This reflects the view that men who traffic in women are not as bad as the women in whom they traffic. If people are honestly concerned about the wellbeing of women in this profession, then they must begin by removing the status of ‘outlaw’ from these women so that they can come forward and receive help if and when they feel they want to leave a profession that can otherwise be quite difficult to escape.”

More than 50 countries in the world, including Argentina, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Italy have legalized prostitution, setting perimeters for solicitation and regulating the industry.

Regulating prostitution by requiring standard testing for STD’s and HIV and establishing laws to protect them from violence can also keep sex workers in safe environments where assault won’t be prevalent.

Dr. Kirby R. Cundiff, an associate professor of finance at Northeastern State University, finds regulation will allow states to set prices for sexual favors. He approximates a decrease in 25,000 rapes each year if fixed prices are established.

“In the United States where prostitution is illegal, the low-end price for most prostitutes is about $200 and the monthly per capita income is $2,820,” he says. “In Amsterdam, Netherlands where prostitution is legal the price is $30. If prostitution were legalized in the United States it is rational to assume that prices would resemble those in the Netherlands, this would result in… a decrease in the rape rate of 10 per 100,000.”

Regulatory perimeters will also decrease STD’s by ensuring prostitutes don’t have to hide from police and can thus have access to medical care.

Priscilla Alexander, co-founder and coordinator of the National Task Force on Prostitution, says     “health problems associated with prostitution, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and violence, are commonly assumed to be ‘risks of the trade,” but regulation can prevent this.

“Individuals arrested on prostitution charges often modify their work behavior in an attempt to reduce their visibility to the police,” she says. “They may agree to acts carrying higher risks if it means more money, in order to reduce the time on the street, and thus the likelihood of being arrested. As a result, sex workers become more vulnerable to pressure to not use condoms, thereby increasing their risk of contracting STDs, including HIV.”

Regulation may not lessen HIV-exposure, however. Alexander thinks the destruction of stigma can prevent this.

“For HIV/AIDS prevention to succeed, the conditions of risk have to change,” she says. “The context – legal, social, economic – of sex work has to change, with repeal of criminal laws, access to visas and work permits, freedom of movement and association, and occupational safety and health regulations, to reduce the imposition of risk from above. Until then, it will be heroic, strong individuals that can insist on safe behaviors, leaving those who are less heroic, those who are more timid and afraid, to suffer the consequences of the context of risk.”

The legalizing of sex work is a controversial issue, especially for women’s rights advocates that equate prostitution with sexual, emotional and mental abuse. Prostitution has been linked to childhood sexual trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in several studies, including the “Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart” report in the Violence Against Women journal. However, other studies have shown that prostitution has no impact on the psychological well-being of sex workers.

Legalized prostitution may never reach consensus in the United States, but it is a cause worth considering.

Originally published at Clutch Magazine.

Fix My Life

Unraveling Nice-Nasty Christianity

“The Fighting Temptations” is one of the funniest, tongue-in-cheek depictions of the Pentecostal Baptist church. The 2003 movie stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and uses humor to expose the wickedness flowing through some church pews. In the film, Gooding navigates church politics to organize a viable choir for a gospel competition.

His arch-nemesis is a devout Christian and the church treasurer, Paulina (Latanya Richardson). Paulina praises God and His word in the sanctuary and defiles His teachings in her own life. Paulina believes Gooding stole the choir directing position from her, so she proceeds to ruin his life. Richardson’s character resorts to everything from sabotaging the competition’s auditions to revealing Gooding’s deepest secret during a church barbecue.

Though Paulina is a caricature, my then 14-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend how any Christian could be so devious and conniving. Paulina was the polar opposite of what I was fed in church, so I turned to my mother for answers. My mom’s answer was succinct: “All Christians don’t follow God’s word.”

I’ve held onto my mother’s impromptu teaching, adding it to an ever-growing arsenal of lessons about the Christian church’s hypocrisies. Her words to me resurfaced this weekend as I watched the latest episode of OWN’s “Iyanla, Fix My Life.” Spiritual life coach Iyanla Vanzant was offering guidance to the Pace Sisters, a world-renowned gospel group in crisis.

Most of their conflict stems from one sister’s struggle with her sexuality. DeJuaii is attracted to women and is angry because she sees this as ungodly and an embarrassment to her family. Her sisters agree and shun DeJuaii instead of supporting her.

Their lack of love and support led to a major confrontation between one of the sisters, June, and Vanzant.

June left the room and refused to return while DeJuaii was discussing her dilemma. When Vanzant requested June’s presence, she put her hands on her hips and responded, “I mean, we know better,” as if ‘knowing better’ can quell same-sex attraction. This defiant act initiated an important conversation about how June perceives Christianity and what it actually entails.

Vanzant made a stark clarification when she said, “What you need to understand is what that look, that energy, that vibration does to your sister.”

She continued, “That is not a godly energy you’re giving off now! I don’t understand being so saturated in a dogma and a theology that you would not embrace your sister in her deepest need and pain… I just want you to be mindful of how your energy hurts her.”

And …scene.

What June fails to realize is how her negative energy and refusal to embrace a sister in crisis doesn’t align with the teachings of Christ or the spirit of God. Being a Christian entails more than reading scriptures, attending service and attempting to proselytize. Christianity is a politic and responsibility that must be sharpened continually in our lives. The praxis begins by recognizing the core of Christianity as love and attempting to exhibit that within every aspect of our lives.

Nice-nasty Christianity, similar to Paulina and June’s, doesn’t embody God. Instead, it further alienates other religious faiths and creates an unlikeable image of Christians.

Internet personality Funky Dineva speaks to this in a blog post. Dineva writes:

At what point do you challenge some of these nonsensical doctrines and guidelines that have been transferred from generation to generation and perpetuated by ignorance?

It seems as if there is no systems of checks and balances within Christianity for some Christians. The best Christian is the Christian that does not think or challenge anything. Mind you, many traditions, particularly within the African American community were started and passed on by uneducated, illiterate, disenfranchised slaves and former slaves. Back then people did the best they could with what limited information and understanding they had. In 2013 however, WE JUST FLAT OUT KNOW BETTER. Yet many of us voluntarily surrender our ability to exercise our free will to think critically in the name of salvation. Sounds very GODLY to me. Not sure about you, but the Gawd I pray to doesn’t feel honored or get any kind of glory out of me being blind, dumb, or stupid!

Christians must stop wielding religion as a tool of oppression by engaging in nice-nasty religious politics and return to the art of love.


Iyanla Fixed My Life

I penned this piece for UPTOWN magazine in September 2012. I thought it would be appropriate to cross-publish it here in light of the season two premiere of “Iyanla, Fix My Life.” Iyanla Vanzant is who she says she is. I am a living testament to the power of doing my work in order to reap the harvest.

This past weekend we watched spiritual life coach and teacher, Iyanla Vanzant help repair Evelyn Lozada’s life. The fiery “Basketball Wives” star – who is notorious for throwing drinks on her adversaries – was brought to tears as she recalled past hurts. Dr. Vanzant stripped her of the glitz, glam and studded stilettos and forced her to stand in the truth of who she is and how unhealed wounds have impacted her life. That is the power of Iyanla Vanzant. Even the untouchables are humbled by her limitless knowledge.

Dr. Vanzant was a healer long before her triumphant return to television. She was born Ronda Harris to an alcoholic mother who died before she was three and raised by an abusive grandmother who spent as much time ruining her self-esteem as fueling her future. Harris was a broken woman with no understanding of her own power. She buried Ronda Harris in her twenties and resurrected herself as Iyanla Vanzant, an inspirational speaker and author. It was her destined calling.

I was first introduced to Dr. Vanzant’s work when I was a teen in the throes of Agoraphobia. I escaped into talk shows where the issues discussed trumped mine. Their extreme problems allowed me to escape my minor ones.

I stumbled on “Starting Over” in 2004 and was instantly riveted by Dr. Vanzant. It was amazing to watch her work miracles on the lives of women, including Towanda Braxton. Watching “Starting Over” empowered me when I thought my life was the epitome of a downward spiral. The show, along with intensive counseling, a loving family and Zora Neale Hurston’s work helped me overcome that hurdle.

But it was more than my love for talk shows that kept me engaged. There was something about this chocolate woman with a TWA (teeny weeny Afro) that transfixed me. She was powerful. These women came into this house with tears streaming down their faces and left with smiles and energies that radiated. Iyanla fixed their lives.

Suddenly she was gone. Iyanla disappeared from the television landscape altogether. I had no inkling of her reign on Oprah, since that wasn’t my cup of talk show latte, but I knew there was something special about her. Though Iyanla was no longer on my television in the afternoons, she remained somewhere deep in my subconscious. I never forgot how inspired I was watching her as I battled and conquered my mental illness.

So, I immediately enrolled in when a classmate excitedly informed me that the Iyanla Vanzant was coming to Bennett College to teach a course on spiritual psychology. There were only 15 students permitted in the course and the community had to pay upwards of $300 to attend for the semester. So I was grateful to be included in this exclusive class of women. I was a junior in college and learning the art of spiritual psychology from one of the definitive gurus of our generation.

I trekked to her course for the first time on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 6 p.m. It was the beginning of a rare, brittle North Carolina winter, but my numb fingers and toes didn’t bother me. I was anxious to soak up as much knowledge from Iyanla as I could in four months. I could feel the positivity and wisdom radiating off of her demure frame from the moment she entered the room.

Dr. Vanzant forced us to stand in our truths over the course of a semester. She gave us the tools to mend our hearts and spirits. There were tons of tears shed and hugs given as she used the space to teach us the fundamentals of spiritual psychology through sisterhood and lectures. We watched films. We asked questions. We were asked about our own lives.

Dr. Vanzant was in the process of fixing her relationship with Oprah during this time. She was emotionally-exhausted when she returned to class, fresh off that two-day special. But she was transparent and authentic even in her weariness. Dr. Vanzant used her experience to teach us the importance of forgiveness. She was witty, brutally-honest and full of an affirmative energy that emanated in the small auditorium.

With Dr. Vanzant’s encouragement and teachings, I faced the demons that had been plaguing me since I first encountered her on “Starting Over.” I finally let that 14-year-old Agoraphobic free. She was given permission to weep, something I had denied her the chance to do in the past. I sat in a garden of sorrow and cried bitter, painful tears for the teenage girl I had long ago buried.

On the final day of class, Dr. Vanzant told us we were entitled to success, happiness and love because our foremothers had laid the foundation for us already. Now, we had to accept the greatness within us. I took on that challenge with fervor. I left “Spiritual Psychology” with an A and a renewed consciousness about my spirituality. I was at peace.

Dr. Vanzant’s lessons were quick to manifest. I began speaking proclamations about the future into existence. Everything I had ever envisioned and desired was spoken into the universe and the Creator answered me. New doors opened where all old doors were closed. Opportunities flowed in. I began ascertaining my wildest dreams. I’ve been in that prosperous season for more than a year now.

Dr. Vanzant’s nuggets of wisdom are subconscious. Sometimes, when I initiate or repeat a pattern, I can recall on one of her teachings and it will assist me with navigating through it.

Dr. Vanzant has been heralded as a spiritual guru throughout the world. However, she’s still human.

In a March 2012 piece for Madame Noire, Charing Ball, a fellow intellectual instigator, questions whether we should accept advice from a blemished being:

“I’m wondering if I could watch a show of Vanzant playing the archetypal all-knowing Earth Mother fixing other people’s lives when clearly she hasn’t done working on her own?

And maybe it is not an indictment of Vanzant as is it is on the whole self-help and life coaching industry in general. So many of us, particularly women, soak up a lot of this feel good, self-empowerment gobbledygook from folks, who aren’t too good at following their own advice.”

Though Ball’s concerns are worth noting, Dr. Vanzant has never proclaimed to be anything more than human. In a recent interview with EBONY, she said:

“The ‘Fix My Life’ is not what I do; the ‘Fix My Life’ is what [my guests] do based on skills, tools and information I provide. We identify the problem, identify the solution then provide people with the opportunity to implement the solution on their own. I don’t do the fixing, I do the identification. I interrupt the story, I provide them with a new perspective and that is the distinction.”

That is the mark of a spiritual woman. She has moved herself aside and allowed her gifts to be used as a vessel for God to speak to others.

Iyanla Vanzant didn’t belong to the world during that harsh winter at Bennett College. She wasn’t Oprah’s spiritual guru sister-friend. She was ours, unconditionally. She let us do our work. She gave our 21 and 22-year-old spirits wisdom that will take us decades of experience to appreciate. She made us accountable for ourselves and our actions. She broke the continuum of our detrimental patterns.

Mama Iya, as we called her, helped restore peace from my broken pieces. Iyanla fixed my life.

Original published at UPTOWN Magazine.


Stop Fat Shaming Kim Kardashian

I never imagined I’d be penning a piece with this headline or defending reality television starlet Kim Kardashian, but size-positive activists must be indiscriminate in our battles.

Kim Kardashian is an ideal target for collective cultural dislike and paradoxical fascination. The Armenian-American TV personality has parlayed her striking features and adoration for the camera – even in intimate spaces – into a multimillion-dollar endorsement empire. I understand the aversion and have even participated in Kardashian bashings. We watch Kim and her sisters gallivanting through Los Angeles and Miami while we struggle to get Sallie Mae off our backs and bust our asses at jobs that don’t recognize our full humanity and potential. Kim discards men like Kleenex, divorcing her husband of 72 days after cashing a 1.6 million check from People and raking up dough for sexing her ex-boyfriend Ray J on camera. I get the repugnance, respect its influence in cultural criticism and understand how and why it’s wielded at Kim Kardashian and her klan.

However, the new role Kardashian’s assuming as a mother to-be has opened her to a new and unwarranted plateau of criticism. We can disagree with Kardashian’s decision to have a child with beau Kanye West while she’s still married to Kris Humphries, but lambasting her body for reacting normally to pregnancy is off-based lunacy.

Continue reading at Clutch Magazine…


The Core of the Antevasin

I am obsessed with literature. Beautiful words from Zora Neale Hurston, Pearl Cleage and other gifted scribes cause the weeping, but relatable experiences are responsible for the hurt. For the last month, I’ve cried as I’ve read writer and editor Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. Most audiences are familiar with the film, which stars Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem; but after being mesmerized by their performances, I decided to read the experience from Gilbert’s perspective.

Eat, Pray, Love is an amazing recollection of her pilgrimage through Italy, India and Indonesia. After a bitter divorce, Gilbert sells the idea for the book to a publisher and begins searching for balance on foreign soils. She finds pleasure in Italy; connects with God in an Indian Ashram; and learns the art of equilibrium when she finds her king in Bali. Gilbert’s adventures are enlightening and full of lessons that resonate long after the last page is turned.

While meditating at the Ashram, Gilbert finds an ancient Sanskrit term that surmises her life: antevasin. “It means ‘one who lives at the border.’ In ancient times this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not one of the villagers anymore – not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he yet a transcendent – not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized. The antevasin was an in-betweener. He was a border-dweller. He lived in sight of both worlds, but looked toward the unknown. And he was a scholar.” (Gilbert, 2007, p. 204)

Gilbert’s acceptance of antevasin as a descriptor for her life’s experiences immediately struck me. I read and reread this passage, hoping that its impact would diminish. It didn’t. I have existed for 23 years as an antevasin. From fashion to journalism to academia to weight loss to spiritual growth, I have never fully immersed into a world, religion or trade as Gilbert did on her voyage. I’ve always learned as much about a subject as possible without succumbing to it. I’ve always lived on the border as an in-betweener.

Right now that is manifesting in scholarship, but it’s always appearing somewhere. After losing 30 pounds and embracing a Weight Watchers lifestyle, I’ll slowly begin stopping for a McDouble on the way home from class and that will lead to a frosty from Wendy’s. I’ll report on fashion week, meet and connect with industry insiders and then decide that I’d much rather cover politics and gender inequalities than the latest Vera Wang collection.

This consistent indecisiveness has led to a struggle to develop a career trajectory. I imagine that I will have several professional rebirths because it is impossible for me to focus and master a specific trade. Reading Eat, Pray, Love has done little to quell the fear that I will evolve into Denise Huxtable. However, it has reminded me that an antevasin existence is freeing.

I have no fear of moving to Minnesota for three months or considering Ph.D. programs in Australia. I make decisions without consideration of consequences; though this is substantially risky, somewhere in my subconscious I know that fear can’t exist without my permission. I close the door on phobias. Being an antevasin means that it will always be difficult for me to develop research interests or commit to fashion reporting or diet for longer than three months, but at least I’m not alone.

Thanks for the solace Elizabeth Gilbert.


A Dimple Defined

The zygomaticus major is a facial muscle attached to the skin of the cheeks. When that muscle contracts, it causes visible indentations – referred to as dimples – on the face. Doctors assert that dimples are face abnormalities caused by the zygomaticus major being too short. When people first meet me, the first two things physically noticeable are my vibrant pupils and my multiple dimples. I’m blessed with four of them, two in my cheeks and two on both sides of my lower lip. They appear when my lips turn upward to grin, when I smirk at offensively snide comments and even in the throes of food ecstasy when I bite gently into that first bite of tender, oven-baked porkchop or Oreo ice cream with a smidge of fudge topping.

In my 23 years, I’ve often been a societal dimple – positive in the wake of unrelenting circumstance, large-breasted among prepubescent, tall among short, confident in the present of the insecure. I’ve camouflaged those flaws among fellow black women – in church, in school, within other social structures – to maintain a sense of normalcy. I lost that comfort last summer when I spent 10 weeks in a newsroom full of white people that viewed me as the singular representative of a collective. For the first time, I was the other. I, an African-American girl from Queens, New York, with an eastern accent, box braids and large hoop earrings was a monolith for my people. It was the worst and best experience of my life.

After decades of forming kinships with other black folks, I had my first authentic white friends, including one woman who recognizes privilege and even directly addressed it as we watched a lily-white episode of “Girls,” which is supposedly set in Brooklyn, New York, the most diverse borough. But even I as sipped margaritas and listened to Nelly with my newfound sisterfriends, I was abnormal – like a dimple. It was the first time that I took on the burdens of blackness in the face of whiteness.

As a child, I never cared what people looked like.  It didn’t matter if my buddies had colorful bom-boms and barettes in their pigtails like me or wore beaded dresses and turbans.  We still bonded over the Rugrats and performed TLC’s greatest hits for our families.  Now, I realize how different we were and that I was being taught tolerance and colorblindness. But as I’ve aged and experienced the issues that race presents in the life of the marginalized black woman, I’ve realized that the latter of that above sentence doesn’t exist. Colorblindness is an illusion used to depict American culture as “post-racial” because we’ve finally elected an African-American to the highest office.

While attending Bennett College, I was insulated in a bubble of brilliant, black women. It burst last summer and I was left with questions about race and micro-aggressions. But I had no language to articulate these experiences. I’m pleased to report that has changed. This semester I’m immersing in critical intercultural communications studies with critical race theory as the primary framework. It still amazes me that I’ve found what I’ve been searching for as a scholar. It has finally happened after months of shedding an ocean of bitter tears and begging God for guidance. And I’m thrilled that critical intercultural communications provides me with a foundation for examining media.

It never occurred to me until I arrived at Southern Illinois University Carbondale that others thought they were dimples as well. I was surrounded by scholars much more versed in feminism and intersectionality than I was as a journalist and writer. It was intimidating. But what was striking was how their experiences broadened their perspectives of race. Critical race theory asserts that race matters in all situations; it articulates all that I’ve thought, felt and never conveyed. But for the first time, I feel safe to tackle racism and race in everything from reality television to the Civil Rights Movement. And I feel comforted in this figurative and literal space where I am no longer a dimple.