I live in a unique world. A world where my curly hair is praised, where dark chocolate skin is equivalent to gold, where Black expression is chart topping, and where respect for the Black woman pumps through the veins of campus. Howard University is my bubble of Black excellence, support, and strength. It has given me the will to stand up against injustices and be confident in my own beauty and power, but spending three days out of my element affected me.
It brought me back to where I was before I stepped on Howard’s campus. Letting comments pass because I don’t want to be labeled as the angry Black woman, not correcting Black men when they say or do harmful things to Black women, allowing other races to poke fun at me, existing in my silent phase. During this weekend it became apparent that my bubble was masking reality.
Labor Day weekend would be the last chance my friends and I would all have to attend Made in America 2017 together and we were beyond excited. We think of ourselves as the friend group from the hit movie Girls Trip except there are five of us and we go by The Tea Room instead of The Flossy Posse.
As we scanned our wristbands to get in, I could feel the excitement of the crowd. Unfortunately we got separated and I was with one friend who was determined to drag me to the front of the stage like she was threading a needle with my body. As the shower-like-rain began, The Migos started to perform and we were smiling ear to ear.
Then I heard it. I looked around to see who was standing near me but couldn’t tell who said it. Then I heard it again. “I tell that bih to come comfort me, I swear these niggas is under me.” As I looked around again I saw a group of White teenagers jumping, grinding, making out, and boisterously screaming nigga.
I knew this was going to happen and considered saying something. Then I thought about what would happen if two Black women got into an argument with some White teenagers and who would get kicked out if security came. It wasn’t looking good for us in my scenario so I tried my best to tune it out.
A while later we were making our way to the front to watch Solange perform and my hoop earrings got caught in my hair. I took them off and heard, “Uh oh! It’s about to go down!” as if I was about to fight someone. I knew exactly who said it and chose not to say anything again, but this time I was furious. The nerve of him to not only think, but to say some stereotypical mess about me and to feel like I couldn’t use my voice enraged me.
We stood in the rain for a few more hours and watched J. Cole blow the crowd away with his closing performance. On our way out of the venue a group of young White men stopped their car in the crosswalk right in front of us. They turned to me, laughing and said, “Hey look its Raven Symoné!” I immediately scowled at them and they laughed even louder. Being compared to a celebrity is not an insult, but the need for these young men to assert their privilege to taunt two Black women for no reason is what made my friend wish she had a bottle in her hand to throw at them.
The next day started and the Tea Room traveled as a unit to listen to Jorja Smith and Maleek Berry perform. As soon as we got there a Black man approached one of my friends and talked to her for thirty minutes in adoration. The first thing he said to her was “If I were to test your DNA, what ethnicities would I find?” She responded with Black. He was certain that she was lying and couldn’t be just Black because she is beautiful and has light eyes. He finally hounded her so much until she got to her grandmother who happened to be one-quarter Native American. Upon hearing this, his eyes lit up because he found the answer. He found that one-drop of something other that made her beautiful in his eyes.
As I watched this man continue to put his foot in his mouth, I began to hear screaming. I turned around to see a young Black woman and a young White woman arguing. We all tried to get out of the way because it looked like they were about to fight. As they were screaming at each other a young Black man, whom we later learned was the White woman’s boyfriend, jumped in and began yelling at the Black woman. Then the Black man forcefully pushed the Black woman and sent her stumbling backwards. More people stepped in and the fight ceased immediately.
I have no context regarding why these people were fighting and if it was race related at all. But the comments throughout the weekend put me in the place where the only person I could empathize with was the Black woman. To see her almost fall to her feet at the hands of her brother hurt my soul. I looked around and saw the Black woman talking to her friends, noticeably still upset. My one regret is that I didn’t say anything to her. I was silent, again. Regardless of what happened or the reasons behind it, I should have supported her. My sister, I apologize for not standing in solidarity with you.
These little moments built up to remind me that I live in a unique world. I love my HBCU and how it has helped me grow, but Made in America 2017 showed me that if I’m not conscious and diligent, I can let everything I have treasured during my Howard experience go to waste. Respect the Black woman. If not for love or decency, do it because I am not a joke. I am not here for your amusement, your judgment, your contempt, or your ignorance. I am a young Black woman who demands reverence and has been reminded that I can’t simply wait for it, I must take it. Respect the Black woman.
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman. “ – Malcolm X