Published in partnership with the Black Women’s Media Collective.Cross-posted with permission from jasmineburnett.com.
It is my hope that at least, every Black woman who sees these “Mammy” earrings is going to say they are racist without a second thought or question in their mind. I say that because, the fact that there have been “polls” to prove how racist it is, further indicates that “Post Racial” is only real in the definition of the word, not in the lives and conditions of Black women and girls. I have no patience to tell you why this among many other structural and institutional things that society profits from is racist, nor, will I ever become immune to society’s constant disrespect of Black women and girls. What should have happened as those designs were being sketched was a simple consideration, who is harmed by this luxury product created for profit? Of course, its Black women and girls and our dignity but again, no one asked us what we thought or how we felt.
I imagine what bores black people about the racism of well-meaning white people is watching them struggle with this shroud and entangle themselves in it and blow at it and touch it and ignore it and disown it, all the while remaining rapt in the drama, the spectacle of our own anxiety, at the expense of the encounter itself.
–Naomi Wolf, “The Racism of Well-Meaning White People”
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Yet, I’m clear that society still only sees us in one way, those fantasies that percolates in its DNA: Hottentot, Jigaboo, Mammy, Sapphire and I could name more. How do I know this? Because I and millions of other Black women walk in the legacy of that experience every day. Due to the lessons taught by my ancestors and our collective lived experience, I am hyper-aware of what that means and represents in every setting and interaction. But, I also understand that society must be taught to acknowledge and respect the level of empowerment I embody—for that acknowledgement is certainly not something Black women and girls can simply expect from a society that has evolved little, despite what we’ve been told.
Let’s just demand what we desire and require to live healthy lives. Let’s stop expecting too much only to receive the same minimum amount from this stagnant society. Let’s stop being disappointed about something that we know this society is acutely familiar with, the ability to package our identities for its sick and barbaric consumption. When you know the idea of the thing you’re far more clear about how to handle it. Within that, we can’t expect much from an industry where many Black women still do not reflect, nor are represented our self defined standards of beauty.
Let’s stop being surprised by the ignorance of this country and challenge ourselves to be proactive about our images. The exploitation will continue if we don’t provide an alternative. I personally plan to make Dolce & Gabbana an example of the ongoing racial ignorance in society and a non factor to how I work to strengthen and empower Black women and girls.