Sometimes the best way to show up as an ally is to take a step back and allow others to fill the space I was previously occupying with my white privilege.
Today will feature a Guest Editor and a NEW voice! I am so excited to introduce my friend, Kourtney Pope! She has been gracious enough to lend her voice today with a personal essay. She is sharing her experience of being a Black woman in America.
As a white person with privilege, I will never understand whats it’s like to be Black. But I am very fortunate to have friends that are willing to share their experiences.
Scroll down to meet Kourtney!
Please note: It is NOT the Black communities’ job to educate non-people of color about the racial injustices they face. It’s our job to do the work to educate ourselves. This personal essay from Kourtney is to reflect her reality and the reality of Black women in America.
GUEST EDITOR: KOURTNEY POPE
“Hi there! My name is Kourtney and I am a 28-year-old Southern girl who has infiltrated the city of NYC. I am a style lover, beauty aficionado, and a budding product developer. By day I work in social media creating content, managing and executing strategy, and covering influencer marketing. By night I am a writer, a podcaster, and a storyteller.”
While You Were Sleeping, a Personal Essay
It has been days since I was asked to write this piece, and I am still not sure if I have found all the words to describe my experiences as a woman of color in this world. If I am being completely honest, as much as I wanted to be of service, there was another part of me that asked, “Why should I?” For many who are just starting to get it, I can guarantee that the Black women in your lives, whether on a personal or professional level, have all had these conversations amongst themselves on Slack channels at work, in group chats after hours, or at a number of empowerment conferences targeting women of color.
If you are witnessing everything going on right now and are in shock, good. And I implore you not to look away. It is meant to be uncomfortable. For you, these feelings are a flash in the pan, while it is a constant looming presence for Black women on a day-to-day basis. These roots are both systematic and generational.
We are constantly fighting the stereotypes that were planted in the early stages of the growth of our nation. We’ve been taught all our lives to check our language, our mannerism, and our hair to be seen as equals in the world and the workforce. Yet we are diminished when asked if we can twerk while in professional settings. And we are often weary when asked if the hair we spent hours perfecting as a means to assimilate to corporate culture is a weave.
It is easy to scream “feminism,” “love yourself,” or “be you” in all it’s millennial pink glory when you exist in a society completely saturated in a standard of beauty that looks like you, or your mother, or your mother’s mother. My grandmother lived half her life in segregation. I am the great great granddaughter of sharecroppers and I am the first in my immediate family to graduate college.
We love to go to these brunches and pop-up events to hold hands and champion sisterhood. But where is the intersectionality when it is time to show up for your Black and Brown sisters? I cannot tell you how many rooms I have been in where I have been discredited, spoken down to, gaslighted, or the target of a microaggression and the other women in the room have ignored me or simply looked away.
I have had the spelling of my name challenged on the campus of my historical Black college, a place where I should feel celebrated, by a white professor who asked me if it was a family trait to not be able to spell. The support in various spaces is even more minuscule when I am the only brown face. Some say they champion women, but have yet to say Breonna Taylor’s name. In spite of all of this, Black women are expected to, and often do, show up for every march, TedTalk, petition, election, and rally. So for those who say they didn’t know, I call bullshit. It just didn’t occur to you to care.
I share with you a glimpse of my experiences not for your pity, because frankly I don’t need it, but as a mirror. And I write this not as a rant, but as a call to action. Take a long gaze in the mirror and examine where you may have taken part in the problem, whether in your silence or your ignorance. Yes, we realize that it isn’t always intentional. How could you know when you haven’t really had to care how you show up in this world? When your language isn’t questioned. When your culture and your societal norms are the standards.
So the real question is what are the actionables? Everyone wants to know how they can be a better ally. I think the first step is to do your due diligence rather than placing the burden back on those who are being infringed upon to do the heavy lifting. You wouldn’t apply to a job without doing your research, so why not do the same if you actually want to be an ally? There are tons of New York Times best-sellers on anti-racism, docuseries, open forums, multicultural women’s groups, Twitter threads, and think pieces.
Build genuine connections with us outside of popular culture. Black women love art, science, astrology, books, politics, poetry, tech, business, etc. We love all kinds of music. Hell, I listen to My Chemical Romance and Green Day. We are not here to teach you to whip and nae nae. It’s not to say we won’t, but that can’t be the only way you feel that we can connect.
Lastly, stop assuming because something targets black women that it is only a black thing. I say this especially for those working in beauty and fashion. It continues to baffle me how editors of color are expected to show up, support, and report on every beauty launch and PR package received even when the brand knows that their range is not inclusive. Yet, black-owned brands and companies cannot get the same support. You want to know how you can better understand, these events and trunk shows are your opportunities.
I say all this to say, that I am just one Black woman and I do not have all the answers. But I do believe we are on the cusp of great change. You’ve seen the videos, the protests, the outcry, and the Twitter threads. The question is, now that you are awake, what are you prepared to do about it?
If you do want to take action:
♥ Please sign this petition and demand justice for Breonna Taylor: SIGN HERE!