Grab some coffee, folks. This is finna be a long one. Black feminists and womanists, don’t come for me. I ain’t send for you.
Recently, I’ve seen black women discuss street harassment here on Tumblr. I’ve been mute about it because I have different feelings, but black women have been going off about “why” black men do this. I’m only reading about one side of this story. I am yet to read an article in which a black woman writes about a conversation she had with one of her street harassers and actually asked him why he behaves in that manner. And it seems as though these black women don’t really care about that black man’s feelings, or thoughts, or emotions. I get “harassed” on the street all of the time. From September of last year to the end of March, I documented every instance in which a man I did not know addressed me on the street. I wrote down the date, the location, and what was said whether it was a simple “Hello, beautiful,” or we had a conversation. It’s for a project I’m working on, and I’m glad I did it. I think this is perfect timing. Do you know what I experienced documenting being harassed on the streets of NYC for 6 months? The times I ignored men because I was too tired or just didn’t want to be bothered, not one of them yelled at me and called me names or said “fuck you!” as I walked away. I know this happens to other women because they have said it does, but this has never been my experience, so I can’t hop on the black men ain’t shit mentality.
What I find most is that a man will address me and whether I respond back with a G head nod, a smile, or I actually speak back, I get love back. The majority of men don’t even ask me for my number. They just wanted to tell me I was beautiful or that they liked my natural hair or that my sneakers were fly. I’m trying to understand the problem with black men being nice, but this is just my experience. What always moves me most is when after I respond to these men, they’ll usually say, “Thanks so much for smiling/talking to me, my day will be beautiful now,” or some shit like that and then go on about their muhfuccin’ business. Yes, a few follow me down blocks and ask if they can walk me home and of course I say “no” and stop and take a detour so that don’t know where I live, but that is not my normal experience with men on the street. That happens like 1 out of 30 times. It trips me the fuck out that some black women rant and rave about not wanting to be spoken to on the street because they don’t want to be bothered, but then I’ve heard black women whine that other black women, whom they do not know, don’t speak to them in public. But I thought y’all didn’t want to be bothered at all? You only want love from your sisters, but not from our brothers?
Rightfully, we as black women call ourselves mothers of the universe. Mankind was nurtured in our wombs. If we are indeed mothers, then we have some muhfuccas to raise. We can’t neglect these grown ass children. That includes us schooling these grown ass black men. I do take it as my personal responsibility to educate my brothers in any small way, so that my sisters and future daughters do not suffer. For example, there is a guy in my neighborhood who is always trying to holla. He’ll call me “gorgeous”, “beautiful”, whatever, and that’s understandable because I’m the shit. I jest, I jest. Anyway, one day I was walking home from the barber and he yelled out “Hey, Sexy!” He got the ultimate side-eye. You know that look your mama gives you and you know you finna get in some shit?
I hate being called sexy by people I don’t know. Just like I hate dudes telling me I have nice lips.
He read my non-verbal cues. He walked towards me and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t wanna keep calling you names when I see you. What’s your name so that I get it right next time?” I told him, we shook hands, and now James and I are homies. How much did that really take out of me? Not much, but now he knows how to act right towards me and my sisters whom he won’t call “females” anymore, because I taught him that, too. He didn’t understand the problem with that before. But I schooled that muhfucca. That’s what family does, right?
But I get it. It isn’t your responsibility to educate your oppressor. Like I don’t discuss racism with racists. It’s not my job to tell them how they’re hurting me but that’s mostly because they already know.
We’re acting as if black men didn’t undergo mental slavery along with us. As if they weren’t taught to hate themselves and take on the characteristics of their masters and colonizers. This shit isn’t innate, y’all. It’s learned. A white man calls at a women of color in the back days and she had to answer or she died. That white man had power. As a slave or someone oppressed on the Continent, you see that shit and you see power. You want some of that, too, so you copy that white man and you learn his misogyny and patriarchal ways. Have we forgotten that in our indigenous religions, the female spirit or energy was divine? We were supernatural before the missionaries came. Look, if you don’t want to be spoken to you are well within your right to feel that way. No man has the right to address you in any way if he doesn’t know you and then demand a kind response in return. He just doesn’t. As for me, as long as I don’t feel disrespected (no “sexy”, “red”, “chocolate” - believe it or not I get both) I will always respond with a nod at the very least. Being friendly is nice, y’all. When I do feel disrespected, I will tell the muhfucca where he crossed the line and keep it moving. But I can’t turn up on a dude for asking to see me smile. I actually wish more of us women took the time out to help put a smile on each others’ faces. Years ago, I was on campus and was so sad because I got into an argument with my dad. A black woman came up to me and asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t articulate it, but she felt it. She embraced me and let me cry in her arms for a good five minutes. We parted ways and I don’t know who she is, but I needed her to help me find my smile at that moment.
There have been many times when I’ve had a bad fucking day and you could see it on my face. A man saw it, told me a joke or said something funny to get me to smile and I did. And you know what? It feels fucking good to smile. Those instances usually turn my day around for the good. And I like to make the brothers smile when I can, as well. What can I say? I like positive energy.
But that’s just me.
I’m sleep, though.
The 6 miles I walked this week through East New York, Brownsville, Canarsie and East Flatbush solidified that I’m more comfortable acknowledging men who don’t look like me. That’s disconcerting as hell.
I’m reblogging this take on street harassment for mine and your benefit. I needed to read it again. I love my brothers, I fucks wit ya’ll heavy. I promise to be more active in my convictions.
I’m still not giving you my number, but I won’t hesitate to shoot you my email address
Allow me to briefly offer up some additional perspective. Alongside the conditioning that came from the slave-owners, I propose that street harassment is currently perpetuated in our “sex sells” culture, in that all a woman is good for is sex according to mainstream media. From both sides, men are generally exposed to exploitation of women for sexual favors and that alone. Whether you’re getting it from the entertainment industry (media, music, etc) the overexposure of women’s bodies, the entertainers/musicians saying what they say - it’s just everywhere and every man doesn’t have the mental fortitude to combat it. It is a crime and a shame & there are some men that make the gender suffer for their inability to rise above that conditioning. I don’t currently have a solution other than to recognize it and ask yourself where you fit. Are you adding to the problem or trying to make a change? Thanks for reading. ;)
P.S: Some of us (
men real men) really do only want to give you a brief moment of interaction & that’s all tho. If it’s beyond you to believe that then look within and see about what’s making you feel a way toward every black man you may come across. Shalom. ;)