“Bougie” and Never Being Black Enough

Recently, my job started serving Pepsi products instead of Coke products, which none of us were too happy about. I only drink diet pops, and I prefer diet Coke. We still have diet Cokes for our guests, but only in cans, not from the fountains. One morning, our barista brought me diet coke in one of our to-go cups. The next day, I asked my coworker if we still had diet Coke in the fountains, and she told me we didn’t. “Oh, I thought we did because [barista] brought it to me in a cup yesterday.”

“He probably did because you’re bougie like that.”

“I didn’t ask for it in a cup. I wanted the can.”

This isn’t the first time she’s referred to me as bougie, and honestly, I’m not even sure she knows what it means, nor where it comes from. I have another coworker that calls me bougie for everything I like or dislike. I’ve only been in Dallas for a year and a half, and since my parents lived in the Uptown area, that’s the only area I know. Uptown is affluent, so if I talk about going anywhere, bougie is the name I’m given. If I say I don’t like something, it’s perceived as me being too good for it. “You wouldn’t go there, that’s in the ‘hood.” Or “you’re too good to leave Uptown?” I always feel disconnected with my own people for no apparent reason.

I speak differently than most of my friends and family. It isn’t on purpose, and I wouldn’t want to change it. But I’m surrounded by people that have a problem with it. I went through school with classmates telling me I talk like a white girl. I’ve even worked with people, in professional settings, that told me I didn’t act black. I’ve always viewed it as racism, coming from white people. I’m not surprised when some of them are surprised with how I speak and act. However, how am I supposed to view it coming from black people?

There are now rumors circulating that Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is viewed as not black enough by his teammates, and the question I have is, what does that mean? What is black enough? There are jokes about his hair, his ex wife, and his barber commercial. Maybe he doesn’t talk the way he’s supposed to, or maybe he doesn’t carry himself a certain way, but who is saying he isn’t black enough?

Of course, we’ll never know which player feels that way, or if the rumors are even true, but as someone that has been called not black enough, I would like an explanation. We complain when the media and the news portray us a certain way. They view us as animals and a threat, like the protestors in Ferguson, for example, and we all have a problem with it. However, we have our own people telling us we aren’t enough. We’re too dark for one side, and we aren’t black enough for the other.

Where the hell do we belong?

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Angry Black Woman

I recently became a fan of The Walking Dead, and while watching Sunday’s episode, I realized that we still have not moved past the Angry Black Woman syndrome of TV show characters (and black women in general).

Maggie was distraught and trying to find the bus Glenn was in, and Sasha was angry that her focus wasn’t on getting to safety.  “We should be looking for food!” was a statement she angrily uttered to Bob, the third member of their tiny group.  Sasha’s brother, Tyreese, is also missing.  However, the character isn’t written to show any fear or hope that he may be alive or dead.  She does make statements towards the group being separated after the incident in the prison, but afterwards her only focus is her.

The first black woman of the series, Jacqui, didn’t make it past the first season.  She was one of the members of the first camp, that held Rick’s wife and son, and she had no family with her.  She wasn’t necessarily “angry” but she also wasn’t important.  When she and Andrea decided to die within the CDC, no one tried to save her.  T-Dog did react to her saying she preferred to die that way, but he put up no fight.  Dale fought with Andrea, and even threatened to stay with her to get her to leave.  Jacqui was disposable.

The 2nd (and most famous) black woman of the series is Michonne.  She arrives at the end of the 2nd season, and befriends Andrea.  She has a harsh and cold demeanor.  In the beginning she doesn’t talk much.  She’s stronger than most of the female characters of the show, and she hardly ever smiles.  We did see a different side of her in After, but it was quick (and also a dream).

These three black women, like most black women in movies and television series, are given an independent “I don’t need anyone” nature.  Although this can be viewed as a good thing, it does gives us a negative light.  Why are we never portrayed as loving, unless we are playing an elderly mother/grandmother? And even then, she has a harsh demeanor.Our characters are hardly complex, and there is a never a variety.  In a TV show with so many dynamic characters (Carol, the former wife of an abuse victim, has been shown as loving, hectic, violent, and many other ways) and different story lines, why have there only been three black women?  And why do they share the same personality?

Even Grey’s Anatomy, a show praised for it’s mixed cast, uses the Angry Black Woman.  Bailey, one of my favorites, was nicknamed The Nazi at the show’s start.  She was angry and every surgeon, including her superiors, feared her.  The Chief of Surgery’s wife (played by Loretta Divine, who is wonderful), was an angry woman.  Mind you, her husband had had an affair with a coworker, and stayed with him through that and his alcohol addiction.  But, she was still shown to be a harsh woman on many occasions.

The idea of Angry Black Women is a stereotype given to real live black women, too.  Comedians often tell jokes about not wanting to go to a black woman in customer service.  As someone that works in customer service, I can see the looks on people’s faces when they realize I’m the only person available to help them. There are bad customer service representatives of every race, but why is that stereotype solely given to us?

We never get to foolishly fall in love.  Our romantic comedies revolve around a man calming down a mean and fiercely independent woman.  We never get to cry after a lover (such as Maggie cried over Glenn), but we struggle as single mothers that may have an addiction.   We aren’t viewed as soft beings. We’re cold, we’re irritated, and the idea of someone speaking to us causes eye rolls.  Yes, this does happen, but after awhile, one gets tired of being viewed this way.  Instead of Pretty Woman, we get Deliver Us from Eva, and instead of trying to search for our last remaining family member or mourning his (possible) death, we bitch and whine about the other girl searching for her fiance.