The Motley News

How I Finally Learned to Be a Black Woman

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(I must thank Evelyn for turning me on to this book, a few month back in her post How to Be Black. I’ve read it and here are my thoughts, packed neatly in a rare book review for The Motley News. Here at The MN, we read a ton of books but are a little too busy to ever write about them. So enjoy!)

If you’re a Black person, have a Black friend or you have occasional run-ins with a Black person, you should probably sit down and read this book:

I heard about this book when my Black friend, Evelyn, told me: “You need to check out this book about being Black.” I said: “Whaaa?!”

Being Black is a full time job that I sometimes do half-assed. There are days I wake up and completely forget that I am a Black woman in America. I go about my business drinking coffee, reading the morning paper and it’s only when I leave my house, I am confronted with the reminder: “Holy fuck, I am BLACK!”

At work, someone will ask if they can touch my hair. When I tell them no, they will ask: “How do you get it like that?” When my white husband and I order chicken sandwiches at Wendy’s, the cashiers always asks (no matter how close I stand next to Noah. His arm could literally be draped around my shoulders clutching my right boob) “Are these orders together?” When I’m standing in the shampoo aisle of a Target for too long an old White woman will inevitably ask me: “Could you tell me wear I can find your denture adhesives?”

In reading this book, I have discovered that I need to take my job as a Black person in America seriously. I can quite honestly tell you that I’ve learned valuable lessons from author, Baratunde Thurston, a full-time black man, that I will carry with me forever. Such as:

  • How to be a “Black Friend”— I had no idea how important my role as “Black friend” is. I am the bridging peacekeeper between my White friends and Black America. If my White friend asks me why we love eating macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving, I will give her or him an honest, thoughtful answer that will ensure she or he won’t get slapped by a black person who is not their friend. I’m keeping lines of communication open, while saving a life!  
  • How to be the spokesperson for all Negros— This is a tough one, but I feel like I’ve had some preparation. In fifth grade, I and one other student were the only Black students in the entire school. He was an “Angry Black” student who had more than one race related conflicts with the White students in our class. On the one day Adam was absent, our teacher made the class get together to have a pow-wow about angry Adam. Mrs. Hoffarth turned to me and said: “Charish, you and Adam are friends, can you tell the class what’s wrong with Adam?” I’m ashamed to say that I dropped the ball for all Negro-kind and said, “I don’t know.” Where ever you are, Adam, I’m so sorry.
  • How to be a “Black Employee”— I’m still working on this.
  •  How to be an “Angry Black”— This is especially difficult for me since I am so afraid of conflict, I avoid it entirely. In fact, while writing this, I just let a complete stranger sit at my four person table just because he asked and because I couldn’t tell him, “Step off, chump! I found this fuckin’ table three hours ago and I’ve been hording the surrounding space since then.” Oh man, he smells weird. But I do look forward to appropriating phrases like these, into my everyday vernacular: 
    • “I’ll get that memo to you when I get my forty acres and a mule!”
    • In reference to President Obama: “What’s more frightening than a black man? A black man with all the power and NOTHING left to lose!”
    • “Why are you trying to colonize my proud African body with your European beauty standards?”
  •  And so much more!

As you can guess, I came away from reading this book, a more well-rounded, aware black woman than ever before. Hopefully the same results can happen to you!

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Author: Charish Halliburton

Writer and Editor for The Motley News

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