An Uncomfortable Conversation

Hi, My name is Alea and I am a black woman. You might not notice from far away because my skin is perhaps a lighter shade but the roots run deep, I am a black woman. I have other blood lines that run through my family lineage such as a great great grandpa that is from Ireland, a great grandmother that was native American, my grandmother’s father being Sicilian, etc. But everyone else in that mix was from somewhere in Africa. To America, I am a black woman.

I was in a group of people recently  where I had an uncomfortable conversation about race with one person. They said ” Well you’re not all the way black ” as if it was a compliment. It reminded me of the times I was told ” Wow, you’re really pretty…for a black girl.” What does that even mean?  For a black girl?  What does that say to the rest of the world of black women? That they aren’t also beautiful because they a black? It was a weird start of an interaction with someone. ” Not all the way black” is a weird statement in it of itself. The first things we talked about were race because it was the very first identifiable box they could put me in. In America I think that is par for the course, not just with race but other things like job or where you’re from. How many times have you been asked “So what do you do for a living ? ” It’s the way we relate. In this case however, my job was never asked about. We spent about 30 minute talking about my black or non blackness.

I’m not flattered that you see me as someone “not all the way black.” While some people think that may be a compliment, it sure doesn’t sound like one to me. This uncomfortable conversation , in the same breath they said to my husband ” So now you came all the way from Poland and got yourself a black girl, how does it feel? ” So first I wasn’t all the way black but now, I was just a black girl someone came and got 1. Inciting that my husband had some kind of fetish for black women and that was the main factor in deciding to marry me- completely offensive to him, but 2. He got me? Was I some kind of property he was able to acquire? Was it some kind of “experience” to be with a black woman?  Not my brain, or my heart but my race. Stuff like this is why race is very much still an issue in our country.

I kind of hate talking about race. The topic itself for me has led to feelings being hurt and friendships severed. So it’s not something I bring up because I don’t assume people will understand. Some of the world already looks at me as someone ” not all the way black ” so my opinions seem to be diluted from the beginning. And the rest of the world views black people “whining” about being black as something they need to “Get over” . So no one is trying to hear the struggle anyway.

I was talking to someone a few month ago that said ” They [ blacks in america ] just need to move on , black people are completely equal in the country.” I’m sure without even thinking you read this and knew that person wasn’t black.  The term “races wars” was brought up but I found that it was only used when the minority wants to stand up and pursue fairness for themselves. It’s only a “war” when the oppressed says no more. It’s uncomfortable to look at someone else’s painful experiences and acknowledge them. I do understand that part. But when my sister gets followed in stores when she wears her hair more “ethnically”to make sure she isn’t stealing anything, my other sister constantly “randomly checked” by TSA every time she had to go into work as a flight attendant when she wore her little afro but not when she wore it straight, don’t get me started about my uncles ( very tall black men ) who get stopped for driving too nice of a car, it’s hard to ignore it. You’d be shocked at the number of times I’ve been called nigger ( yes with a hard R at the end).Or how often people ask ” Is the check separate?” when my white husband and I are at dinner, or the stares we get from older non-black couples. It’s hard to get over what is still very much happening. It might not be noticeable for most but it’s sure notable when it happens in your own backyard.

In college going to a small christian college where I was one of the 7 black people at a school of 1200, I dealt with a professor that graded me more harshly than my colleagues and almost caused me to lose my scholarship. I had never gotten a D in my life and almost every assignment I turned in was C-/D/D-. I was getting graded full letter grades down because of missing punctuation. Whereas one of my friends had completely misspelled words, even missing assignment completion and still got higher grade than me. this happened for months, so I sought help from counselors at the school, where they verified the bias and he was let go. That taught me something very sad about the world I lived in at 19 years old.  Now 31, As I’ve grown up I’ve learned to be proud of my heritage, and not to try to cover up who I am to make someone else more comfortable. But it’s been tough when situations bring up those tensions of feeling like I’m being treated differently or looked at at certain way because of the way I look before I have a chance to make my own impression with my words.

I chalk it up to ignorance because as an eternal optimist I have a hard time believing that people say this things out of malice. I could be naive but it’s better for my heart to believe “They don’t know no better” than “These people are trying to hurt me” but to say I’m not “all the way black” negates or invalidates my struggles that comes with being black in America.  To say ” You’re pretty for a black girl” is to negate the many beautiful shades of women around the world that are black and says that I’m not just pretty on the full scale, I’m still under whatever other race you deemed as actually beautiful. It’s backhanded compliment.  To say ” They need to move on” is being blind to what’s been hurting us for years. I hesitated to even write this for fear of being deemed as ” angry black woman” or ” making a big deal out of something small” because people don’t like hearing about this stuff.  Slavery is over ( for Americans) but racism is not, even in it’s very small and ignorant ways. I usually don’t speak up but that really bothered me, and it made me wonder how many other people that kind of stuff happens to and they don’t say anything. ” I should probably say something”  A small ignorant conversation over a fire with a stranger like this one, happens more often than you would imagine because… I am a black person in America and stuff like this happens to us. It’s not a race war…it’s our life.



Fat Shame

So I had a very large unexpected response from my last post “4 big reasons you look fat in photographs.” With 450K + views, I felt pretty proud of my marketed title, but then instantly nervous that more than just my friends were reading this and seeing these (what I felt) God awful photos of myself posted up online. Oh well, hopefully it was helpful. I got a lot of positive responses but when the negative responses started coming in, I don’t think I was prepared for those. I had merely just posted something I wrote on Facebook for my friends and suddenly I had not just a few people getting on there to tell me ” Why don’t you put down the fork, then you wouldn’t be so fat” or “Women in the photos only look fat for one simple reason – THEY ARE” and another ” Why don’t you eat healthy and start exercising!” A WHOLE can of worms opened simply because of the word FAT. Maybe if I had titled it ” How to pose better for pictures” no one have had the balls to say those things. In fact, maybe then no one would have read it and I would have gone about my day. But they did and they in fact don’t know me. The “start exercising” comment made me laugh because I workout 4-5 times a week….maybe they meant I should be doing everyday? or the “put down the fork” commenter likely didn’t know that I suffered from bulimia from middle school through college and ruined my endocrine system. 
I largely disagreed that these comments where related to taking better pictures and they protested saying that standing ideling by was going to make us end up in some type of diabetic, atery clogged death. ” Are you telling me that you are not overweight?” one girl says ” I have a real problem with people not owning up to having agency over their own bodies” Assuming that I don’t ” I’m tired of our culture making excuses stating that we should love ourselves no matter what we look like, or how unhealthy we are. ” Now this is where it got interesting for me. That loving yourself somehow was tied to what you look like. That your value resides in your weight and your looks, not in your head or heart. I stand in complete opposition with this view as she continued ” I don’t think big is beautiful …So you go girl, you and your friends cheering your fat acceptance on.” She ended her comment. Burn.
Wow. At first I got mad and puffed up my defenses but that didn’t last because all my old triggers poured in. The mean words I used to tell myself, were swirling around in my mind while the tears hiding behind my eyes, I could no longer hold in.  I looked in the mirror and no matter how much confidence you have , it still hurts when someone calls you fat.  Having 10 people that day go at it telling me who they thought I was, really hurt. “I’m going to shut down my blog…” I thought for a millisecond but realized It’s the price of exposing yourself and making yourself vulnerable. ” Wow, this must be what it feels like the be a Kardashian (except they have millions of dollars to cry into.)” But when I stopped crying and put a layer of thick skin on, I was sad – but not for the same reason. This comment told me a lot about her and anyone else that felt the need to post something mean. I felt bad for them. I felt sad that a some point they felt like I did because someone else called them names or made them feel less than a person and that insecurity they now have has manifested in this type of poison. I felt sorry for them.
Some believed my post about how to look more flattering in pics was somehow a secret mission or reason to circumvent health bizarrely I don’t know the logic that goes into that. That skinny or fat, you can take a bad picture. That even if you are working on your fitness at SOME POINT you WILL take a picture. That no one waits until they are their ideal weight, to be in a picture. So how can it hurt to learn how to look better? But still the argument was simply put “Fat people need to know they are fat and someone needs to tell them!”  Now lets think about that. The conversation would go like this ” So you are telling me I’m fat , for my safety because you care? Wow how nice and kind of you. I shouldn’t have reacted defensively instead your ‘advice’ should have been appreciated, because I know that you – a complete stranger , really care about my well being.”
That makes sense ( if you can’t tell that’s dripping in sarcasm ).
Someone argued the fact with me that it should be socially acceptable to call someone fat because it would actually motivate them into better eating and working out. However the rest of us know, that isn’t true. Hurting self esteem only perpetuates the dysfunction, not improves it. How could this post about taking better pictures spike such an interest in people, feeling it was their duty to let me know I ( or anyone else) was fat? It brought out a much larger issue.
So lets turn the tables. Would it be socially acceptable for me to call you ( or anyone)  an idiot? It hold about the same insult weight in connotation. That your stupidity and ignorance is going to ultimately lead to your death and that your lack of REAL concern about people’s well being is largely whats more wrong with this country, a even further leading epidemic than obesity. Would that be ok? Would you feel like I cared for you, and that your best interest was at heart? NO . See how that works? It’s super convient to justify being incredibly rude to someone based on the fact that we lived brainwashed in a society that thinks ” fat hating” is ok. Well it’s not. Not for women, men , Hell I won’t even call my dog fat because it’s not nice.
Going back to the whole looks thing – Beauty and weight are largely separate. Society interprets it to be the same thing. I can think I’m beautiful and fat – because my weight holds no merit on my beauty and it shouldnt for anyone. People protesting that big women can’t be beautiful is simply ignorant. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and just because someone has been brainwashed by the industry to believe that weight and beauty are the same things doesnt make it true. I personally believe that someones INSIDES makes them beautiful and that is my right to decide just as it was the girls right to decide that big wasn’t beautiful to her – I can’t argue with that. But what I can argue with is that we are SO much more than what we are on the outside.
Now let me get existential real quick. We are all made of energy. We all have the same atoms that make up the matter, the vibrating energy that makes this bag of bones a person. A human with feelings that loves , feels, hurts. What is physical is merely a shell of our true beauty. What we wear, what we look like, has nothing to do with what is on the inside. Now what you look like can affect how you feel on the inside and I know that is why everyone is so consumed about how they look with good reason. But everyone has qualities on the inside that can make them extremely beautiful, healthy or attractive and or unattractive, unhealthy or ugly. You can be thin but a stressed out, high anxiety, vengeful mess and the fat girl happy eating her ice cream is going to be more beautiful. (Anyone seen Shallow Hal?” Some of the ugliest people I’ve encountered  I’ve never seen – but there words on a keyboard tells me more about their thoughts that lets me know exactly what they might look like on the inside.
You don’t know someone’s life from looking at them. It’s like looking at someones Instagram’s without acknowledging that they only post an edited version of their life. Be kind to people, because Karma can be a real bitch if you are.