When I was in elementary school my favorite thing to do was go up to the chalkboard and show off my right answers in any subject, but by fifth grade I loathed & refused to do it. By then I’d hit puberty & every moment spent with my back turned to my classmates was another moment of snickers, mockery, & body shaming. I could hear it while I was working, “why is her butt like that?” So it was no surprise when the tiniest & palest of my all white classmates came to me & blurted, “you’ve got a huge butt & it shakes when you erase. Why does it look like that?” Having been the resident pancake ass in my family, I never considered myself to have a big butt, nor was I ever self conscious about it. But the consistent teasing & shaming at the hands of my non- POC peers resulted in me hating my butt & my curves. From then until high school I wore loose fitting jeans or long skirts and boxy shirts and sweaters to hide my shape. Now fast forward to 2015 where white women are bending over backwards & physically harming themselves to look remotely close to what natural features Black women have. But Black women aren’t credited as the trendsetters, The Kardashians are. We’re praising Kim for paving the way for wide hips and curvy shapes, as if Black women haven’t had fat asses for centuries, but I digress.
In conversation, there are some who seem to feel that my anger is misplaced and that I should be glad that white women are emulating Black women’s appearance, rather than mocking it; but what I’m seeing is far from a celebration of the Black body. As a woman of color it is incredibly frustrating to watch non-poc teen girls obsess over features that they have taunted Black girls about for years. The same features that were enhanced in caricatures of racist propaganda, the full lips that were drawn red and wide across charcoal Black faces modeled to look like monkeys. The same round, large behind that made Sarah Baartman the Hottentot Venus her caged as an exhibit, an attraction for the pleasure and intrigue of white eyes. So no I don’t feel that my frustrations are misplaced. More than anything I’m truly tired. I am tired of Black girl magic being selectively bottled for redistribution into the hands of everyone but Black women. If it’s not non-poc women who want our lips and butts, it’s the gay community believing that they are channeling their inner Black women, when they whip out the sass.
This is not the grocery store or Burger King, you can’t have it your way with Black women. Society cannot continue to pick and choose which parts of Black women they would like to use for themselves. Those full lips and wide hips come with a receipt, but the ones WOC are born with come with the burden of fighting your way through a white world as a POC. It comes with loud comments and lingering looks, assumptions that because we were born with curves we’re inherently sexual beings. Our features are a gift that come with a price that we don’t choose, but with which we have learned to maneuver this world, so the frustrations of Black women who are subjected to the streams of #KylieJennerLipChallenge on their timelines and newsfeed are justified. When we were shamed by society for years about our God given bodies, how are we supposed to react to the news that apparently our features are in style, just not on us. But it’s all good, because long after this trend fades, Black girls will still have full lips and fat asses and kinky hair and chocolate skin and intellect to boot. We’ll still walk down the street like we’ve got diamonds at the meeting of our thighs. Because we are treasures and try as you might, Black Girl Magic just cannot be captured.