Written by Nicole
2020 has been a tumultuous year, and I hate it. But fear not, there are still over seven months left to make something beautiful happen. And when you start any new adventure, it is good to have a baseline set of rules in mind, to keep you on the right track. As such, this marks the latest installment of myTen Commandments series, listing ten guidelines that I believe black women should adhere to as they navigate in the world. With that in mind, here are my ten commandments of black womanhood, that can serve black women of every background and station:
In everything you do, have a plan. As black women, we need to move differently, due to the intersections of sexism, racism, featurism, texturism, and the catch-all of misogynoir. Before you post that picture on social media, or swipe right on that potential new beau, or pursue that degree in the subject you love but with little return on your investment, ask yourself, repeatedly, how does this benefit me? Being strategic in how you approach life’s many challenges is not a guarantee of success, but can definitely make those challenges a little easier to face.
Now, I know not everyone wants a relationship. In fact, I wish black women would just kick dating to the curb for a good four years, aggressively work on self-improvement, and only then re-enter the dating pool, only this time, equipped with knowledge, techniques and strategies to help even her odds. But for those who do want to, dating is hard. And for black women, it is even harder. Between being indoctrinated with race loyalty from a very young age, leading black women to feel like they have to be loyal to nothing but Black Love, and the statistics that are not in our favor, meeting and marrying a man of quality can be difficult. Certain things, such as self-limiting to only one race of potential partner, increases the difficulty level further still. However, even if the going gets tough, even if you feel that hope is lost, never compromise on your standards. Standards of course relates to men, and even more so to relationships with friends and family, jobs, and the treatment you accept. Don’t ever let someone gaslight you into believing your standards are too high, simply because they can’t, don’t, or won’t meet them.
Black people seem to love struggle. Everything is about the struggle. And if you “make it”, and you are deemed to be disconnected from the struggle, then that is held against you as a grievous character flaw. But, contrary to popular belief, black women are not actually SUPPOSED to struggle! Black women are entitled to live their carefree life whatever way we want. And if you don’t want to be down in the trenches, that doesn’t make you any less black, either. Struggle here can relate to any situation that is not good for you, be it a relationship, belief system, or anything that does not serve your ultimate goals, whatever that may be. If it’s not benefitting you, you don’t have to struggle to make it work.
As the Facebook groups say, “Dick is abundant and of low value”. Fighting over a man is silly high school nonsense, and grown women should not be engaging in such low budget activities, in person, on social media, or anywhere else. If you are just dating and you catch him cheating, let him go immediately, don’t go to the woman he was cheating with and end up a viral video sensation on the usual channels. If you are married and he was caught cheating, you should still not fight over him. Make sure you have your affairs in order so you can leave him. There is no such thing as an honest cheater, and no marriage has benefitted from infidelity, even if it was “just one time”.
As a black woman, the magnifying glass is always over us. Whatever we do or don’t do, will be evaluated over and over again. So be sure to make GOOD choices in every way you can, as much as you can. I understand that the definition of good choices can vary according to person and the situation. Additionally, I understand that not everyone knows what a good choice is, or how to make one. However, there is an abundance of free resources available online to help, or cheap self-help books too. If you have time to engage in arguments with strangers on the internet, or watching that YouTube gossip video, you also have time to read some relevant literature and watch more edifying videos too. Adopting an internal locus of control, which is where people believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions, is a great way to start. An external locus of control, which is sadly all too common in the black community, is the belief that life is controlled by outside factors which the person cannot influence, or that chance or fate controls their lives. This thought process only leads to a perpetual victim mindset, evidenced by statements like “I did the best I could” or “[insert boogeyman of the day here] won’t let me be great’.
Therapy is not a cure-all agent to heal the minds of black women. However, it is a tool in the arsenal that can be used to unpack mental problems and other issues that may have been normalized during your upbringing. In addition to struggle not being your birthright, abuse is not your birthright either, and if you were betrayed by the people meant to protect you in your youth, then seeking treatment may help deal with the complicated feelings that manifest in the present day.
Black women have a unique superpower to be faced with unpleasant statistics, and draw a conclusion that she will be the exception to the rule. For example, in the black community, nearly 80% of babies are born out of wedlock. So, there is a 1 in 5 chance that a black woman will have their child(ren) within the confines of marriage. Black women will see that and believe wholeheartedly that she will be the exception.
Similarly, everybody knows that cigarettes cause all kinds of health problems. Black women (and everybody else too, as this example is not unique to us) will point out that their Great Grand-Uncle Joe smoked three packs a day, drank a gallon of whiskey every day, and routinely ate deep-fried butter as a snack, and he lived to be 104. So they too will engage in behaviors ranging from risky to downright stupid, believing that the likeliest fate will only happen to those other people over there.
There is power in outrage. Black women are easy to trigger, and that outrage can earn everyone else but us, millions of dollars. Black women are expected to show up for every injustice, every cause, every single inequality, whether it directly impacts us or not. But when the injustice, cause, or inequality has black women as a focus, the same people who demanded our compassion flat out ignore us, or tell us with a straight face that our plight isn’t as serious or important. You know how I know? Look at the difference in response when a black male is injured or killed by white perpetrators, compared to when a black woman is murdered by her black male partner. The former gets marches and rallies organized, the latter gets a “well, if she chose a better man that wouldn’t have happened to her” or “we will get to your bad situation once we get ours all figured out”. With that in mind, your time, emotional labor, forgiveness and compassion all need to be given at a high price. I don’t take credit for this line of thought; I first heard it from Kendall St. Charles. I’m not saying to be the coldest, meanest version of yourself (unless you want to); I’m saying that all those things you have to offer are not a foregone conclusion to spend on things unless you really want to. The easiest way to determine the price for your compassion is easy: just ask those who want it “what have you done for me lately?”. If their answers are not satisfactory, stay home, donate your marching boots, and roast marshmallows over the cape you have burned. Reciprocity is the name of the game.
Black women are very male identified. It is engrained in the culture, and programmed into us from an early age. I think black women see themselves as a means to make more males rather than women wielding the power to birth creation…or destruction. Before you had your son, before your daddy was a good man, YOU were a black girl who grew up to be a black woman. Seeing yourself as their help mate or their peace does not help YOU or grant YOU peace, so bear that in mind the next time you put their plight above your own.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone is in a different stage of their self-improvement journey, and there is always room for more black women to do, be, act, and feel better. Even if you made that life-changing mistake a few years ago, or got caught up with the wrong crowd, or ended up in debt for foolishness, it is NEVER too late to take stock of your life and move forward towards whatever your ultimate goal is. The only unforgivable thing, is not trying.
This marks the end of my second of the Ten Commandments series. What commandments do you follow? What other topics would you like to see covered in this series? Leave your comments below.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Nicole, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.