Give Us Back Our Things

“Ghetto is nothing but creativity that hasn’t been stolen yet.”- Tweeted by Javonce

I’ma just let y’all chew on that nourishment for your mind right quick while I jump into my feelings. First off, Happy New Year and I hope everyone came into 2018 rejuvenated, ready to do the work and more optimistic than we felt this time last year.

Now that that’s out the way, I saw everyone posting their resolutions which I hope everyone accomplishes but let’s be clear, I don’t do resolutions. My birthday represents my new year and I set realistic and manageable goals at that time.

While I don’t subscribe to New Year’s resolutions, I think there are some people who can benefit from having one or a few and those people would be the Whites a.k.a. Wypipo. I have a simple one for you…Give Black people back our things. I know this is radical and it sounds like I just spoke a foreign language but just try it. Because I believe in manageable and realistic goals, you don’t even have to give us all our shit at once. I understand, baby steps… so hear me out.

I’m not gonna go all Spike Lee on you and ask for 40 acres and a mule but if your White guilt rears its pitiful head and you decide to listen to it, by all means give us that too (I’ll pick out my plot of land right now.) Here are three things you can start with:

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  1. Our Hairstyles

I was just watching a really dope short documentary called Braided: An American Hair Story.

Elle produced the documentary that is based on Ayana Byrd’s book, Hair Story which I read a few years ago. The documentary discusses the history of braiding and hairstyle as status symbols in Africa and the way the tradition of braiding made its way across the Atlantic.

Black hair is about identity, tribal affiliation, beauty,  fashion and survival.

The part where things get insulting is when they show the images of White celebrities like Bo Derek, Juliette Lewis, Kylie Jenner and Miley Cyrus rocking braids and pretending like they discovered it. Wypipo, no one is saying you can’t wear braids but you gotta stop Columbusing shit.

YOU DID NOT DISCOVER BRAIDS!

We all know that when you “discover” people, places and things, you also rename them: Native people become Indians, Kunta Kinte becomes Toby, and cornrows become Bo braids.

History and logic have shown that you can’t discover what is already known to exist. In the documentary, there is a segment where they discuss a federal suit filed by a Black woman who wore braids in the workplace and as a result her job was on the line. She stated that her braids were an expression of her cultural heritage and the judge ruled against her stating that she didn’t begin wearing her braids at the workplace until after the movie 10 with Bo Derek was released. Come on y’all, say it with me:

BOY BYE!!!!!

Who the fuck was this judge and had he never met or seen a Black person wearing braids before? Why was it acceptable for this White woman to be praised for wearing her hair in cornrows but it was grounds for this Black woman to lose her job?

That was a rhetorical question. White supremacy, I know.

Black hair is political for these very reasons and it’s a huge slap in the face to not only steal our shit but penalize us for using our own things.

I know the counterargument. But how is that different than Black women wearing weaves, getting relaxers, blah, blah, blah and to that I’ll let my readers comment. While you wait on those comments, imagine a middle finger because the two shouldn’t even be compared. One of my favorite parts was when a stylist responded to the term boxer braids which was a result of Kylie Jenner wearing some bullshit ass cornrows, and she simply stated, “If you make an appointment for some boxer braids, good luck on your appointment cause you will not get it.” Basically, get outta here with that whitewashed shit.

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  1. Nail Art

Remember when I said Wypipo always fake discovering shit and renaming it? Lo and behold, they managed to come into 2018 with a new conquest…nail art or as White folks now say, manicure sculptures.

Wait, come again?

No, you read that right. Vogue just got their asses handed to them for referring to what Black and Brown women have been doing for decades as manicure sculptures. For anyone who knows me, this is near and dear to my heart which is why I want to immediately have a funeral service and burial for this gentrified ass term.

I have been getting my nails done consistently since I was 16 years old and I have done airbrush, hand designs, 3D designs, corkscrew nails, water in the nails, holiday themed nails, Coco from SWV nails (Google it) and everything else. So here are my main issues with manicure sculptures.

The word sculpture- Again, this is a clear case of Columbusing. As Gabrielle Union said in the movie Bring It On, all White girls gotta do is “sprinkle some blonde hair on it” and whatever Black people have been doing becomes their thing. When people think sculpture, they think sophisticated, elevated and something Black people have nothing to do with and Wypipo would like to keep it that way so by renaming hand designs, it pushes the creations away from the original creators.

The schmoney– Once White folks get hip to something, they’re looking to make a profit. Point blank to the period. So guess who’s gonna get that money? Some White chick who just learned how to use her bejeweled kit while Asian, Black and Latina nail technicians been in the game for decades without that level of recognition from the mainstream. The political part to this is that all of the places where White women are gonna pay $200 for a manicure sculpture won’t be accessible to these nail technicians. I can take you to some of the dopest nail techs in the South Bronx, Harlem and in Newark and I bet you none of them will be seeing any long money for their genius work.

Nail Art as a fad instead of a lifestyle– Everybody knows that you can take a Black woman with $50,000 in the bank and a Black woman with $5.00 in the bank and the one thing they will have in common is that they’ll both have their hair and nails done. This is not a fad for us. Hair and nail salons are sanctuaries for Black women because we spend a significant portion of our lives there. Hair braiding could take all day and if you getting fancy with your nails, that could take about two hours. We are loyal customers and we build community through these past times. So you can’t just put it in Vogue and pretend that this is the future of fashion. Or you see Cardi B rocking her nails and she’s hot in these streets so now you gotta get in on it. Sorry, but y’all late as fuck to this party. I guess Black folks ain’t the only ones on CP time.

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  1. Hip Hop

Eminem been invited to the cookout but some of this shit is getting out of hand. Last month, Nicki Minaj tweeted that White rappers were having a good year as many of them were in the top ten Hip Hop category on iTunes. As a Black, female Hip Hop artist, I’m sure she was in her feelings but the backlash was crazy. I’m not even on Twitter but when I heard what she said, my initial reaction was, “Point me in the direction of the lie cause I’m lost.”

Nicki was expressing what we all know to be true: Black people set trends while Wypipo steal and profit off of those trends. That may not be what people wanted to hear but it must’ve been true cause it struck a nerve and people couldn’t dispute it. We all know it’s not because those White people are amazing lyricists. I don’t listen to Kendrick and then see on my feed, “You might also like Macklemore.” If I did, I’d probably smash my Macbook.

But here are my questions: Why can’t Black people live? Why can’t we be compensated for our genius and acknowledged for our contributions? Why can’t White folks just be spectators? Why do they have to be participants as well? Why do they get twice the recognition for doing a half ass job while we have to be twice as good for half as much?

This is where anger and animosity come from. This is where Nicki’s tweet probably came from and this is the possibility of where Hip Hop could be headed. But not on my watch, not in 2018. Damn Wypipo! Y’all took jazz and I’m surprised y’all didn’t rename that but Hip Hop stays with us.

This is the year where Black folks are sitting outside with our repo vehicles and we’re just waiting for Wypipo to give us back our things. Don’t be afraid. We ain’t gonna rob you the way you did us. We just want our shit and we’ll be on our way.

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Educators, while Wypipo are gathering our things, here’s what we need to do…

Reclaim the word Ghetto. I’m always stunned by the way White folks casually use that word. I’m convinced it’s a substitution for the word nigger but they’ll never admit to that. I know I’m ghetto and I’m beyond cool with that. I’m loud sometimes. I’m ratchet sometimes and I see being ghetto as being resourceful, being a survivor and being real as fuck if that’s your truth. Wypipo, I know y’all like elevated words so think of ghetto as being authentic. But how are we as educators incorporating women like Issa Rae, Angela Rye and Cardi B who embrace these terms and are also very successful into our discussions?

Celebrate instead of punish Black expression. Schools are the first place that you are told to be someone else or wear a mask. Black students are suspended for wearing locs, extensions, braids and colorful hair while White children are just expressing themselves. We gotta change that culture. We gotta make school not only a safe space but a celebratory space whether we’re celebrating hair, nails, dress down days, just ways that students, especially Black students can see that their self expression is validated and valued whether that’s through fashion shows or web series highlighting a student’s uniqueness. I’m open to other ideas. Leave comments below.

Encourage students who don’t want mainstream jobs. I had a student who knew from the beginning of high school that she wanted to do nails. She worked in a nail salon after school and would come into class rocking her own nail designs. She wasn’t the strongest student academically but she understood the importance of getting her high school diploma. She didn’t choose the college path. Instead, she’s doing nails in Washington Heights and posts pictures of her work and she’s a damn good nail technician. We have to encourage our students who want to be hair stylists, nail technicians, barbers, rappers and entrepreneurs the same way that we encourage students who say they want to be lawyers, doctors, nurses and teachers. Regardless to what careers we choose, we all need someone to make sure we step out looking fresh.

Discuss the quote in the opening. I’m curious to hear what students have to say about the quote in the beginning because that was everything for me. Accurate, profound, worth discussing and worth putting on a tee shirt.

As always,
Rise.
Read.
Resist.
Repeat.

White folks this is your year of atonement. In 2017, we reclaimed our time and if need be, 2018 will be the year we reclaim our things.

7 comments

  1. YES!!! This spoke to my soul, to the essence of my being. I remember getting my hair braided every week when I was younger. I also begged my mom to let me get my nails done for my twelfth birthday. She reluctantly agreed and of course I OD’d and got long pink nails!

    Hip-hop is ours! I remember when Nicki posted the screenshot of the iTunes charts and I was so shocked to see the (trash) rappers that were dominating the list. People don’t like to hear the truth. Especially when it’s coming from a woman of color, but that’s another conversation. This year I’m sticking to the advice you gave in one of your previous posts and I’m just gonna be my full, dynamic, ghetto self! #BXallday #yerrrrrrrrrrrr

  2. Here here! Give me back my shit!! Not to mention the raises given to the whites in charge (b/c you know supremacy got them there) on the backs of our work! The praise for innovation for shit they couldn’t crap out if we fed them knowledge and blk magic! I’m gonna need that repo truck to make a stop at my house cause I want back some of my things too!

    Ohh and tweet on Javonce! I agree!! I have a new found respect for the word “ghetto”. Thank you for educating me and promoting my own growth.

  3. I think you hit the Nail right on the Head. We definitely get dealt a bad hand twice with Wypipo taking our culture and then trying to protay to the world they found it. This is a real thief.

  4. Girrrrrrrrrrrllllllll…I couldn’t agree more. Add lessons as well as ass, dark skin, and boobs to your list. Do white people suffer from bulimia and anorexia anymore? Once upon a time white people would kill (themselves) to fit into a size -1 and half. I remember when eating disorders were once a huge epidemic in the white community, because weighing more than 99lbs was just unattractive. I was on a cheerleading team that was made up of white girls, and the shit that they would do to maintain their figure was absolutely absurd. These white girls were dropping like fire flies from starving themselves or eating their food and vomiting that shit back up. Now bitches strutting around with breast implants, skin tans, and ass shots from Dr. Miami. It’s really deep. They’re spending thousands of dollars to look like us, when we were once considered freaks and put on display for the entertainment of whites. What’s even worse is that our black men are eating this shit up (that’s another blog)! But add black men to the list too!

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