A co-worker of mine sent me something called The Lemonade Syllabus. When I first saw the cover, which featured Beyonce and her signature blonde cornrows and furry top, I thought about how even though I am a Beyonce fan, this is just overkill. I always think a lot of the things involved with Bey are just too much until I really look into it and discover that it’s usually not. I think lots of people have associated her name with over the top-ness. Truthfully, she has one of the most recognizable faces in the entertainment industry, so usually it’s just a nice bait and hook. The Lemonade Syllabus is basically a composed list of artworks (novels, literature, music, film, etc.) that are about the subject of black womanhood. In the introduction, the writer ended with “To glorious healing!” which is reference to a line on the Lemonade album, a line that I found quite problematic.
When I looked at “healing” I immediately thought ‘to heal’ means that something is broken. I’m not broken! Or so I thought. When I thought of brokenness, I thought of a battered woman who has been beaten to the lowest physical and mental level of being. I thought about women who have been abused at the hands of a lover or a family member. I thought that brokenness stemmed from the hands of a person, brokenness is cut and dry. I was wrong. Upon further thinking, I realized that becoming/being broken is more than just being torn down at the hands of another person. It’s also being broken by a system, a belief, or a society. I am broken.
When I was younger, I would tell my mom that my skin tone was caramel. She would say “No, you’re black” and I would retort with “No, I’m caramel.” We didn’t argue and she didn’t seem to be angry, she just seemed to drop it and I continued to call myself “caramel colored” for a long time. I never wanted to deny my blackness, I just wanted to deny that I was dark-skinned. I had an uncle who would constantly remind me that when most babies come from the womb, they’re really light colored or fair skinned, excluding me. He would always tell me how black I was even as a newborn. He would say it jokingly, but it affected my psyche. I didn’t want to be dark, why was I so dark? Even though my uncle ridiculed me for being dark, he didn’t break me. The idea that lighter is better or prettier has been reinforced for centuries. The media is set up to highlight lighter skinned women and worship those European features. We’re making progress but the damage has already been done.
In addition to colorism, there are other things that break black women including violence, lack of adequate healthcare, rampant black male incarceration, homophobia, lack of adequate resources, antipathy, anti-blackness/white supremacy, micro-aggressions, and the list goes on and on. Every negative issue that black people have to deal with falls on the shoulders of black women. We are the support systems, the mothers, the daughters, the aunts, the grandmothers who carry the burdens of everything this society throws at us. Black men often face the brunt of these damaging things but we are the ones to pick up the pieces and keep pushing. During most of our existence here in America, strength was the only tangible and valuable thing we had. Strength made us neglect ourselves to be strong for others. Strength made us self-harm, made us go to extreme lengths in order to have some sense of control and purpose.
All black women are (or were) broken in some way or another either from the hands of a lover or at the hands of oppression. We’ve always had to be three or four steps ahead of the losing game. We are resilient but resiliency can take it’s toll. No one is above being broken, the system founded by their fathers have us set up with dilapidated foundations. As a collective, we are all healing from things that have broken us whether it’s personal healing or from being broken by the heavy burdens we’ve been carrying all along. Let’s try not allow the struggle to continue make us bitter (easier said than done), let’s treat ourselves as if we are whole and nurse our wounds in the beauty of the glorious sun.