The class discussion this past Thursday summarized my life – losing who I am and changing my hair to try to conform to the European ideal of beauty, thinking that my butt is too wide, bottling up my emotions to try to be a strong black woman. If I write about it, it would seem as though my life is a cliché in the stereotypes that Black women have to deal with in the western world but it unfortunately true. I often damaged my hair and scalp with lye in my quest for straight hair. A random white guy once came up to me on the dance floor and smacked my ass without permission, vocalizing that he liked my big butt. I am now an emotional wrack because of past teachings that emotions make you weak and appearing weak means that people take advantage of you, so you have to hide your emotions and be strong. No one’s life should be a walking stereotype filled with disrespect and not knowing one’s self. After coming to Hamilton, I began to live by the school’s motto, “know thyself;” I transitioned into a natural sister, began to accept myself, flaws and all, and began to learn about (Black) feminism that spoke to me.
On Wednesday night I also went to another lecture that spoke to me. Zadie Smith gave a lecture for the annual Winton J. Tolles lecture series at Hamilton. She read The Bathroom, and Meet Justin Bieber, two essays from her book. I enjoyed both essays but I made a connection between Meet Justin Bieber and the encounters that Black women have in the western world. Smith mentions Martin Buber, the author of the book, I and Thou. In the book Buber compares the genuine reaction of I and thou to the illegitimate one of I and it. In the I and it relationship, the I does not care about its relationship with the it; the it, another human, is made into an object. Instead of talking to it, the I talks at it – not caring about its response, as long as I gets everything it has to say out. The I develops the idea of its relationship with the it, although the realistic relationship might be the opposite of the visualized relationship. The opinion of the it doesn’t matter. The it can be easily replaced by someone else, disposable. The world encounters Black women through the I and it relationship. Substitute the it in the I and it with Black women, I and Black women. Now recall all of the disrespect that Black women face in the western world and ta da, the perfect real life example of the I and it relationship. Isn’t it sad that a book translated into English in 1937 perfectly describes the relationship that Black women are still forced to encounter every day when they deal with the world? Isn’t it sad? The perfect question for the imperfect life. The answer should be no. No, it isn’t sad that Black women are treated like objects to be handled the way one wishes, it is ludicrous, disrespectful, undeserving. If something is sad, then it indicates that the sadness is something you can get used to; one should ever have to get used to the mistreatment of Black woman in this ridiculous world.