For centuries women of color have been told who they are, what they are, and what they do.
Black women, in particular, have this unending burden of carrying society’s hopes, fears, and misunderstandings. There are stereotypes and generalizations.. and it all eventually evolves into prejudices and the mishandling of Black women.
The Black female experience is one that has been unfairly decided for us. We’re often looked at as caricatures and not actual people. The idea of the Mammy (the strong Black woman), Sapphire (the sassy, angry Black woman) and Jezebel (the hypersexualized Black woman) are archetypes that I am all too familiar with.
I saw an ad the other day for an interesting T-shirt. It read Carefree Black Girl. I looked at it and thought, wow. wouldn’t that be nice? To be “carefree”…
Upon searching for the shirt and its origins, google informed me that there was in fact a carefree black girl movement. Young WOC are reclaiming their images with the intent of changing society’s mind about who we are.
It’s kinda Beautiful.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that who I am just didn’t fit into the idea of the way others thought I should be. When I spoke it, was with proper English. I enjoyed things like reading and writing. I didn’t come from struggle and trauma. I didn’t live in the “ghetto”. I wasn’t extremely outspoken, not because I felt restricted but because it just wasn’t me. And the biggest travesty of all.. I couldn’t dance well.
I mean, if all of these things mentioned are not associated with Blackness, yet I identified with them, what did that mean? My cocoa brown skin definitely made me a part of the race but my actions and behavior said that I wasn’t a part of the culture. It often left me questioning my world and asking myself, am I Black enough?
Mom & Dad
I was blessed to be raised by two people who didn’t ascribe to these limiting paradigms. So, while the outside world consistently told me that I wasn’t a real Black girl, my mom and dad told me the exact opposite. They encouraged my interests, understood me for who I truly was, and always supported me. I was surrounded by love and reminded that I am Black and should be proud of it.
They made me believe in my uniqueness and beauty.
Unfortunately, I know all Black kids aren’t able to grow up this way. The struggle to resolve their identity to mainstream Blackness and their own conflicting beliefs and interests end up creating an identity crisis and, sometimes, self loathing.
Carefree not Careless
The definition of carefree is free from anxiety or responsibility. So, if we take this idea verbatim, I’m positive that I don’t know many (if any) Black women in the U.S. that has the ability to be carefree. However, the CBG (Carefree Black Girl) movement describes carefree as the ability to be whimsy, eclectic, and authentic. It’s a deviation from the idea that we’re supposed to be heavy or dark.. That we can actually be Happy.
At first I was against the idea of being “carefree” as I simply couldn’t relate. Sure I enjoy yoga, green tea, and my natural hair, but I certainly wasn’t free of worry and anxiety. I live passionately. And with that lifestyle comes empathy, concern, and a deep sensitivity for people and the universe. I’m constantly wondering about my place in this world and how I can be a good piece of its functioning.
I’m also very cognizant of the support that I provide and people I help. It’s been pretty much drilled into my head (and heart) that I am here to take care of others. To simply care for others. And I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not sure that’s not true for all women, especially Black women.
But being carefree doesn’t mean you’re free of these things, it just means you’ve made a choice to be free from the weight of your issues. You’ve decided to not let the sometimes painful realities of life as a Black woman keep you in darkness and dread. You’ve instead embraced yourself as you are and have chosen to be happy.
The Happy Black Girl
So yes, the carefree Black girl does exist… she’s the Happy Black girl.
The CBG is emotional, loving, and positive. She cares about you but not what you think. She likes Ariana Grande, H.E.R., and Cardi B. She could be dressed in long flowing dresses with flowers in her hair or in ripped jeans and converses. Her style is undeniably her. It’s as comfortable as it is a true representation of her idea of beauty–and therefore also a form of artistic expression. Hell, she is Art.
She understands and respects the plight of Black females but is still able to Smile.
So why is it so important to highlight the CBG? Well, instead of explicitly battling the stereotypes we can instead show more images that combat them. We can show that we are colorful, multidimensional, and all shades of beautiful.
I think it’s human nature to want to categorize and compartmentalize things. It helps us wrap our brain around concepts. But I also think it’s foolish to do this to humans. We’re made up of all of these dynamic pieces and it almost seems unfair to identify someone by only one aspect of their personality.