I was at a salad bar in New York City recently – that was so trendy there was a line salivating for chopped greens, cheese and chicken that extended down the street. As I stood in line watching the mating ritual between young blonds and brunettes, I could not help but wonder where the sisters were. We eat salad. We take lunch breaks. But when I looked around Manhattan (not everywhere but as far as the eye could see), I saw very few of us representing the well-heeled corporate work force.
Oh I see more of us in Carroll Gardens cast in leading roles as “The Help” — strolling down Court Street with our noses held high. Haughtiness is sometimes a coping mechanism for those who have the decent but thankless task of caring for white babies who will likely grow up to remember “the help” while refusing to hire the brown children left to raise themselves. (I’ve heard one — which was one too many — say that the only thing we can do for them is clean their houses.)
My mother and a good many mothers and grandmothers were “the help,” so that we could get advanced degrees and earn the right to good-paying jobs that gave us the opportunity to contribute the “book sense” education gave us and the “good sense” our parents gave us – informed by the “God-sense” the Holy Spirit gives us. But when I look around, I see fewer of us in the big city at the big company holding down the big job. So what happened?
Well The National Women’s Law Center says more black women lost their jobs than any other segment of society since 2007. Even during the so-called economic recovery period (2009-2011), the unemployment rate for women actually increased rather than decreased. Black women, the Women’s Law Center reports, who are at the head of the black workforce and at the head of most black families, continue to lose jobs. At least 475,000 sisters have lost their jobs since 2007 and those are only the ones who had one in the first place. Few of us went to go work for Oprah. Even the one who was hired to run OWN (meaning Oprah’s own network – not yours) was kicked to the curb. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming O for not doing for us what we can do for ourselves. She’s a living testimony that we have the power to build our own empires.
The surveys indicating no job growth for sisters never give a real perspective as to whether we fell on our behinds, got pushed to the edge or kicked to the curb. It seems to project the behavior that one white male New York Times writer urges: use the “recession” as an excuse to do what you never had the courage to do in the first place (e.g., fire people you want to get rid of and perhaps never wanted to hire).
But God is a Brown Girl Too is not about what other folks can do to help us. It teaches that we have the power to help ourselves. So the challenge this current dilemma blesses us with is figuring out how can we “help” lighten our load, help ease our burden, help enlarge our territory and help step into our greatness. The question carries within it the assumption that whatever we do for others, we do for ourselves – and vice versa. I help everybody; it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is. But my sisters and brothers are definitely at the top of my list because I know that we need help the most.
This is the first part of a seven-part series on what we can do to “help” ourselves: help us reach our goals, help us recreate ourselves, help us build the empires that we are destined to build.
This is not about semantics. It’s not even about religion. There will be different religions as long as there are different personalities. I don’t argue religion; it’s a losing proposition. But I do urge us all to realize that we are here to love one another.
If you call yourself a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, or affiliated with any other faith, you should know that God is Love. We have to love ourselves because in so doing we realize the presence of love as us, reverberating through every aspect of our being. We can only be as loving to others as we are to ourselves.
Love is the only thing that will heal every wound, ease every pain, and conquer every enemy.
This means that we can’t be hard on ourselves. We have to love every inch and every cell of our beautiful bodies – every delicate hair on our heads. We have to love our minds and all of its attention to detail and memory.
We have to love our souls and our mission, our purpose here on earth. This sounds more simple than it is. But if you see, hear or read anything in the media, it does not support our love of ourselves. Black women are marginalized or even demonized rather than celebrated. We are not cast in most television shows or movies. We are seldom in books. And most of the images of us are not flattering. We are usually denigrated as less than, unworthy, lusty, nasty, addicted, assimilated beyond recognition, or just “the help.”
That’s why I love what Toni Morrison said: write the book you want to read. Tell the story you want to hear. Make the movie you want to see. Otherwise, you won’t be starring in it — unless you’re The Help. (Footnote an exception to this is my all time favorite Halle Berry kicking butt as Catwoman and making love to Benjamin Bratt — I know why some folks didn’t like her strutting her stuff, for the same reason I watch it everytime it comes on — cheering Halle on through every powerful butt-kicking scene.) We suffer from fibroids and high blood pressure and diabetes and so many other ailments – because society has blatantly kicked us – the “help” to the curb and we are so busy celebrating our starring role that we fail to realize the joke is on us.
We kick ourselves to the curb — repeatedly foresaking our own power rather than embracing ourselves with so much love that our uniform falls off. We need to love ourselves enough to at least realize we don’t need flat butts or skinny thighs or blond hair to be beautiful. We were all born as beautiful children of God.
We just need to start loving one another — as well as ourselves without a single ounce of contempt. There never has been any room for hatred — especially in this so-called enlightened age.
If you don’t love yourself – with all of your imperfections and your hopes and your wish lists, you cannot love your sisters, brothers and all humanity.
[To be continued in Part Two . . .]