Should a Black girl depend on popular music, social media, or television for her identity, she’ll undoubtedly conclude she’s ugly, “ghetto”, angry, intimidating, silly, or unworthy.
Literature, particularly the sort written by womanists, serves as a shield from such gossip, as a wellspring full of authentic stories, as a reminder that she in fact stands on the solid shoulders of Nobel Laureates, radical poets, anthropologists, and the like.
Good books call rightful attention to a Black girl's true foundations, and ensure that she is able to stand tall in her exact light.
Here are 13 reasons a Black girl must abandon the unloving media and run like the wind into the safe pages of a Black book.
1. Because in songs like RZA's "Domestic Violence" Black men and women address each other like this:
"You ain't shit, your daddy ain't shit
your brother ain't shit, your money ain't shit...
When I first met you, you was a ho.
I tried to reform you, bomb you, warn you, and teach you.
But I couldn't reach you, and you still a ho.
Your father said you was a ho.
And when you leave me, bitch you gonna be a ho."
But in novels like Toni Morrison's Sula Black men wouldn't dare:
"They had genuine conversations. He did not speak down to her or at her, nor content himself with puerile questions about her life or monologues of his own activities. Thinking she was possibly brilliant, like his mother, he seemed to expect brilliance from her, and she delivered."
And a Gwendolyn Brooks' poem just ain't having it:
"when you love a man, he
becomes more than a body.
His physical limbs expand,
and his outline recedes,
vanishes. He is rich and sweet
and right. He is part of the
world, the atmosphere, the
blue sky and the blue water."
2. Because while the memes peppering Facebook denigrate Black babies, even...
Audre Lorde is busy taking Black children seriously, honoring every bit of their growing selves:
"I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his thumb
how come my knees are
always so ashy
what if I die
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed"
3. Because social media's downright religious attacks on Black hair are not only obtuse but simplistic.
And bell hooks knows good and damn well better.
"Since the world we lived in was racially segregated, it was easy to overlook the relationship between white supremacy and our obsession with hair. Even though black women with straight hair were perceived to be more beautiful than those with thick, frizzy hair, it was not overtly related to a notion that white women were a more appealing female group or that their straight hair set a beauty standard black women were struggling to live out. While this was probably the ideological framework from which the process of straightening black women’s hair emerged, it was expanded so that it became a real space of black woman bonding through ritualized, shared experience. The beauty parlor was a space of consciousness raising, a space where black women shared life stories—hardship, trials, gossip; a place where one could be comforted and one’s spirit renewed. It was for some women a place of rest where one did not need to meet the demands of children or men. It was the one hour some folk would spend “off their feet,” a soothing, restful time of meditation and silence. These positive empowering implications of the ritual of hair pressing mediate, but do not change negative implications. They exist alongside all that is negative."
4. Because news' headlines give rapists this innocuous, almost tender language that would obviously better serve the Black women they harm.
But Ntozake Shange takes no prisoners, and paints things in a historically accurate light.
"White men roam these parts with evil in their blood, and every single thought they have about a colored woman is dangerous."
5. Because dysfunction is the norm for Black families in both reality and scripted television series.