Is that a Black person following me on Flickr? No? Oh. Okay. Hey is that a Black woman in a feature on a Mind Body Green article? Oh. no. Hey, is that a Black person following me on IG? Oh cool! I look them up, check out their profile, look at their images, etc.
When I got married in June of this year, a trusted adviser (A woman of color if you haven’t gotten the gist) recommended the magazine New York Weddings to me. When I finally found a copy at Barnes & Noble I noticed that, like New York Weddings, every single wedding magazine had a white woman on the cover. Flipping through one or two of these magazines didn’t reveal much diversity in ads or feature articles. Wedding dresses are white enough! I needed to see some color and variety in shapes in these dresses. I never bought one single wedding magazine during the months of planning leading up to my wedding. I just couldn’t. This was too important. And with things that are this important in my life, marriage, art, health and more, I get excited when I see Black and Brown faces representing. And as a Black woman I am always aware of the fact that I have to go looking.
We have to go looking.
With dolls, we have to looking, with hair products we have to go looking, with children’s books we have to go looking, with photography we have to go looking. Quick! Name a famous living Black Photographer! No, not Gordon Parks! I said living. I said famous. Not too easy is it? Is it because they don’t exist?
Carrie Mae Weems exists. I don’t mean to be condescending. I know you all knew that.
Getting back to my point. When I was getting married I found a site and Web Magazine called Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, the only one I’ve found so far which featured Brides of color in all phases of nuptial and post nuptial planning from engagement photos to wedding ceremonies to mommy to be images. And that was one of my most primary references for ideas about my own wedding. I was so happy too see Brides of color in my IG feed every week and not just the standard stick thin models but actual real women of color with real bodies getting married all over the country and sometimes the world! There is where I stayed.
About a year ago, Life as I Know It told me about a nail shop in my neighborhood in Harlem called Bed of Nails. B.O.N. is owned and run by a young Black woman who hires Black nail technicians. I had my own reservations about going there for the first time, the kind anyone would have about a brand new place of business. Would they know what they were doing? What would the ambiance be like? Would they be nice? I made my appointment, showed up one afternoon and the minute I walked in I was greeted by a sister who took my coat and offered me a choice of tea or a mimosa.
HUH? YES PLEASE!
Exposed Brick on one side and a wall of designer nail polish from Christian Louboutin to Deborah Lippmann on the other. Six velvety Black high back chairs set up in the back for pedicures have a very inviting and royal to them. A large purple sofa in the waiting area with natural light streaming in from the window behind you. It’s a very warm atmosphere, not just because of the layout and design of the place but the treatment, professionalism and yet laid back casualness of it all. No one is rushing you in and out. They want to be there and they want you to be there as well. Plus they play the best mix of hip-hop/R&B up at the front desk while you’re getting your nails or feet done. It’s so relaxing. And there I stay. I never go anywhere else to get my nails done. This is the experience I want. If there was a Black owned, Black run Bed of Nails chain in Midtown Manhattan I would go there.
The reason I bring this whole subject up is that there are certain white people who like to pull the Racist card whenever Black people manage to organize or build anything of their own or patronize Black owned businesses exclusively that cater to the people in their community. Listen. If I didn’t have to go looking so hard for representation of Blacks in the areas of life that are most important for me in the first place, this wouldn’t even be an issue. It’s not my fault that dominant culture has tipped the scales in it’s favor for so long that any logical attempt towards filling the needs which are not met by this culture will be interpreted as “Reverse Racism,” a term whose definition I will not even dignify with a discussion because it is a fiction.
The idea that you get to fuck with descendants of African people for this long, tell them to get over it so that you can absorb them in a culture that is defined and built on a foundation of theft, genocide, appropriation, assimilation, and gentrification of native and indigenous spaces is what’s really sick and racist.
If I decide I want to go away to an island where only Black and Brown people exist (and sometimes I really do), I damn well have every right to. After all, White people do this all the time.
It’s called a vacation.