I’m a black woman first and always. I take the world as it is while still actively working toward change, toward evolving. For me, that means having an awareness of how the world treats people and operates based on who you are and what you look like. This is the reality even though experiences will vary. As black women, we bring our whole selves to our interactions because our stories, not only individually but collectively, contribute to our experiences. Authenticity is about bringing your whole, beautifully diverse, and complex self into existence.
I was recently in a situation where I had to call someone in (not out) about something they said and did that felt like a microaggression impacted me. It was not about what their intentions were but how the act caused an impact. Even after stating the history and meaning of the act they still lacked understanding of it.
Bringing Our Authentic Selves To Our Experiences
Our story matters and how when we honor that, we are bringing our authentic selves to our experiences. In my situation, my authenticity and honoring of my story as it contributed to what the other person did put that person on the defense. Because of that, I was gaslit, felt unheard, and the impact was not understood. I’m also aware that their own story contributed to the experience. But, was I to sit in silence when discomfort arose or was I to honor my story and speak out? I definitely wanted to stay quiet because I had some idea of what would happen next but I had this pull to honor my story and be authentic.
The world sends these mixed messages to black women about being authentic but not at the cost of other’s discomfort. About speaking up but at the same time sitting down. Be soft but you still need to be strong. The whole experience left me thinking deeply about how black women are gaslit when we call out an injustice or infraction against us. When someone said or did something that caused psychological harm but to keep all at ease, ignore that discomfort arising in you telling you it wasn’t right. Feel it but don’t speak on it.
We Must Be That Much More Vigilant In Our Awareness
Whether that transgression was intentional or unintentional is not the point. The point is recognition of the impact that the issue caused. Owning what was done and that it caused harm by acknowledging the impact is a good start to taking personal responsibility. It’s not easy for many to accept that they may have caused damage, especially if they feel it was unintentional. But isn’t that why we must be that much more vigilant in our awareness and vigilant to respond appropriately when someone tells you something offended them?
We all deserve some grace. I also understand and appreciate that we all have a journey. No one is perfect but starting with awareness and listening when someone says they are hurt or that something impacted them is a good place to try to be. However, what about the person that was affected? What do we do when bringing our whole black womanly selves to our experiences is met with resistance, gaslighting, and lack of acknowledgment?
Black woman, my advice is to remain persistent in your advocacy for yourself. Remain grounded in your identity and right to bring your authentic self. There are many narratives around bringing our authentic selves to what we experience because feeling safe to do so is paramount. For black women, we are mindful of stereotypes and perceptions put on us by society and our environment. We have to choose if we are going to be in a constant state of fighting stereotypes or decide to show up as whoever we are.
…it’s important to know that your story matters. Who would you be if you were not aware of your blackness or womanness…
However, it’s important to know that your story matters. Who would you be if you were not aware of your blackness or womanness? Your beauty, grace, audacity, and whole being? Showing up authentically, to me, means embracing how your experiences shape who you are—acknowledging the intersectionality and beauty of your identities.
Know that you have the support of your ancestors who have done what you are doing over and over and over again. They tirelessly tried to make the world more equitable and just. In my situation, I sat in the conflict and did not let go despite how exhausting, hurtful, and disheartening it was. There was work to do; there was also my own work that I was doing. The ancestors were definitely with me in that experience because even though tired, somehow I was able to stand. Somehow I was able to keep the light going. No matter how dim it felt, I kept it lit. It’s what we must do, have to do.
Keep showing up authentically and honor your story. Bring all of your experiences and complexities to what you do. Even if it feels dim and exhausting to do this work toward reclaiming your story, keep it lit no matter how wavering the flame.