5 Seemingly Harmless Remarks Black Women Are Tired Of Hearing
Let's dismantle these microaggressive comments
As black women, we encounter an abundance of remarks that are clearly offensive to us as a whole. However, society doesn't realise that some of the remarks they make towards us are derogatory, when they may think they are harmless in effect.
From my personal experiences, I can account for why these are disrespectful and wrong. It may be simple to say "just ignore it'' or ''it doesn't matter, they didn't mean it like that'' from an outside perspective, but as someone who has heard these remarks first hand, it is far more damaging than that.
As a society, we should call out when these remarks are made and assess why they are harmful so that we effectively dismantle the normalisation of these remarks in our society.
1. ''But you’re not like other black girls!''
Growing up having to attend predominantly white institutions I have gotten this said to me countless times. I can tell you it's offensive because it makes you feel as if you are being compared right off the bat based on your body and the colour of your skin without verbally announcing yourself. Alongside that, it's disrespectful because the person saying this will usually have a one-dimensional view of a black girl. For instance, that all black girls are loud, aggressive and rude. These tropes and stereotypes have been perpetuated by mainstream media and are completely based on the racist history of the hatred towards black women.
Also, this statement suggests that there’s something exceptional or special about me, that black girls aren't characteristically known for having. Pushing the idea that I am an exception by your standards.
Another vital part of understanding why this is wrong is to simply recognise that we are not a monolith. In order to deconstruct and tackle racism, we can not take a one size fits all approach as it restricts our individually lived experiences.
2. ''You mean you don’t wash your hair every day?''
Someone actually asked me this question when I was in 5th grade. I was telling my friend that I was planning on taking down my braids, washing my hair and getting a new protective style done that weekend. She then proceeded to ask me this question quizzically.
First of all, we have a different and wide-ranging hair texture that we take care of differently, in comparison to the way you may do. Generally, black hair doesn’t have to be washed as frequently as other textures of hair because it doesn’t retain moisture as much. As a result, most people tend to wash their hair once a week or once every two weeks.
3.''Is that your real hair or a weave?''
This question is extremely invasive, rude and unnecessary.
Yes, it could be either my real hair or I could have in a weave. You wouldn't ask a person of another race the same question, therefore the same attitude should be applied to us. It shouldn't matter whether we have a weave in or our natural hair out. We all have the freedom to choose whatever style we want to wear in our hair, so Black women also deserve the same treatment.
4. ''I bet you sing and dance amazingly.''
I mean really not all of us can sing and dance. It's a blanket stereotype that has been perpetuated in the media, and it's just not true. Assuming that we can all sing and dance very well puts us into a box of what you think we can do. We have talents outside of singing and dancing too, it's just not widely represented.
5. ''You don’t sound black.''
Firstly, what does black sound like? society has set a standard as to what black people are supposed to sound like. Black people are incredibly diverse, we are all over the globe, and consequently, we are going to all sound very different depending on where we live and where we are from. Therefore, it is rude to set one way we are supposed to sound.
Secondly, one thing I have noticed as I’ve grown up is that when a black woman is well-spoken and articulate they are immediately told that they sound white. If we look at the connotation of this, it implies that speaking with eloquence is restricted to whiteness. This stigma needs to be broken once in for all, it puts us in a box and society don’t think of us as being well-spoken people.
Where do we go from here?
As black women, we are exhausted and we are tired of constantly hearing these expressions each and every day. We deserve to be treated equally and we shouldn't have to undergo these rather unnecessary remarks.
You need to consider the connotations of these questions you may ask and statements you may make before you express them vocally.
I encourage you to continue to educate yourselves on our history and listen to our experiences so that you can better understand yourself and spread your new-found knowledge to others.
About the author
I am a Race, Society and Culture writer. I write opinion pieces and personal essays on the Black experience in our society. My articles provide readers with actionable takeaways they can take to aim for change and progression.