I cannot think of another time during my lifetime when labels mattered quite as much as they do now. As our world does the best it can at being progressive with the embrace of people of all colors, orientations, sizes, ages, and so on, more and more groups are compelled to raise their collective voices to place the spotlight on their cause, even for a brief time. It’s beautiful; the process through which a group of oppressed people gain enough attention to have official means taken to correct the bigotry or discrimination against them is a bright point along the timeline of humanity. Yet, it also has a residual effect of becoming such a feel-good that it trends, and once a cause becomes trendy, the free-for-all begins.
It’s what compels many non-black women to put on blackness like a costume to elevate themselves in certain spaces. It’s what many politicians are doing right now to secure minority votes. It’s what many men seem to be hiding behind in an effort to “come out,” all while insisting that they are still in fact heterosexual. You might also call it a biproduct of political correctness because we’ve become so fixated on not offending anybody that identities have now become fluid. People can be queer when they want, Latinx when they want, or identify with any political party they want, when they want.
For heterosexual black women, this fluidity is threatening. Our identities become undermined by the pressure that gets placed on us to invite everyone into our spaces. These same “guests” then seem to replace us in spaces where we should have no competition from those who are not like us, and the slippery slope of substitutions does long-term damage to the image of dark-skinned black women.
The fluidity also creates a unique set of obstacles for all of us that no one seems to want to acknowledge. If we can’t be honest about how to define ethnicity is defined, how does that change what our population gets identified as? If we cannot agree on what a sexual orientation means, how does that change things for singles wanting to date? Our world seems to be willing to sacrifice order for the sake of making everyone feel welcome, but how many of us will still feel welcome in a world where the identities we once knew have been minimized by imposters?
I think black women now, more than before, have a serious choice to make when we decide to lend our voices or our image to causes that will not directly benefit dark-skinned black women. Many groups are looking at us like fuel for their rocket, but will not reciprocate the action of making our causes a priority, even opting to replace us altogether if the conditions are favorable. Even electing to deceive the public by living a lie. All of which ends up leaving dark-skinned black women further marginalized and misrepresented.
I do not believe entertainers or celebrities should be leading the conversation on social issues, political issues, or the like, but I do not hear many others who are willing to have an honest conversation about identity and its importance at this time. Black women should not feel intimidated or strong-armed to abandon any part of themselves in an effort to be more flexible and welcoming. Black women have always been welcoming, even when we’re being gaslighted. Acknowledging the identity of one group should not erase the identity of another one.
Antoinette is a consultant, author, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. Her personal development courses are centered on helping women realize their potential from the inside out. When she is not advising clients, teaching, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.