Geneva S. Thomas' Letter to Every Black Woman

August 03, 2011

By Katrice

I used to watch Basketball Wives. And then I realized one day that I had stopped tweeting about it while watching and was extra careful to steer away from any fb comments associated with the casts' folly. Why? Because I was embarrassed for anyone to know that I was a viewer. So, I literally stopped. 

I stopped watching because I didn't want to support it {"it" being yet another show that depicts African-American women as attitudinal, shallow and frivolous -- prone to bickering, backbiting and even physical altercations}. I've also stopped engaging in discussions about the show with people who do enjoy it as those talks generally amounted to both parties {me and whomever} being at ideological odds. My position: I have a responsibility to the young women that I mentor to rise above the stereotypes and misconceptions that have plagued African-American women in American society {even upheld and perpetuated in our own communities}. I have a responsibility to my elders who, in the face of unthinkable tribulation and disrespect, conducted themselves with the utmost dignity because they knew that doing so would prepare a place for me. I have a responsibility to my sisterfriends who sometimes are the only ones who can speak life to me -- understanding what it's like to be disrespected and misunderstood and even invisible in a society that continuously brands us monolithic and indistinguishable. 

When I was in the 4th grade, I learned a very striking lesson. Girls who didn't look like me generally found me a bit scary; and I knew exactly why. I didn't take just anything from anybody. I would step to anyone at any time for any reason that I found reason enough. Interestingly, I'm not really sure where I learned to be that way, but I thought it was how every black woman was. So, I embraced and cultivated that behavior. However, over the years, I have come to understand that behavior as a survival socialization that black girls learn young {a topic for another day}. Over the years, I've made a concerted effort to re-evaluate myself and my habits because I don't want negative tendencies to become who I am. I don't know how many times I've heard "it" shrouded under the guise of someone 'just being real.' Augh! We need to do better. Period. 

So today, Geneva S. Thomas' Open Letter to Shaunie O'Neal for Clutch Magazine was a welcome change from the usual BBW commentary streaming in my Twitter and FB feeds. I appreciate when another black woman thinks enough of me to challenge me to be better, and though this letter was directed to Shaunie -- I receive it as a charge. We must all take responsibility for how we represent ourselves in society and in the media, if for no other reason than our girls. It really is all of our responsibility above all. 

Thank you, Geneva.

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  1. Finally! I thought I was odd for not being attracted to the show. I have literally only seen the show once and was so turned off. We have to do better with how we present and see ourselves as a culture.

  2. No, you're not the only one. It's a bit much.

  3. I have never been drawn to the show. For some reason I just couldn't relate & realized that was a "good" thing to not understand all of that drama. I have enough to deal with publically as a black woman than relating to the media's definition of who I am.
    S Nicole

  4. I have never watched the show and by no means consider myself flawless, but i have never had interest in watching simply from what i heard others saying when talking about it. I personally feel i am maxed out with reality television. After a long day at work and life's responsibilities, the last thing i want to see is a bunch of rich women argue over expensive clothing or witness back stabbing....or whatever they may do. That's just me.....
    I agree with the letter, we must be attentive of how we are portrayed as black women.


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