" If your love for me requires that I hide parts of who I am, then you don't love me. Love is never a request for silence.”- Deray McKesson
There are few positions as precarious and conditional as being the exception to some else's prejudice. A lifetime teetering on the tightrope of respectability is one I wouldn't even wish on my enemies.
Don’t believe the lie that respect should be earned, no one should have to work for respect. That’s a cruel lie that we are told by people who want the power to bestow worthiness on a select few individuals, and it is a fallacy that I lost myself in.
Few things are as cruel as the concept of selective respect. I should know, I used to live for it. Tokenism is a fancier way to describe what that is like. All a token truly is is the recipient of a respect with terms and conditions. A love letter with stipulations in the fine print. This is not to say that I do not understand the allure of exceptionalism, there was a time when I embraced that borrowed crown. I once welcomed tokenism, thinking it was a way out of what my body means in this world. Like I'd somehow managed to escape the harsh lens through which Black womanhood is held under.
But, plot twist: you are just like them. You are them. Meaning you are disposable in their eyes. You too can be discarded at a moment’s notice the second you stop molding yourself to their desires for your existence. You are them. Meaning you are denied your God-given nuance far more often than anyone ought to be.
I’m not going to insinuate that this was a simple journey. Divesting from toxic ideology is a process one must actively engage in and fight for. It took some time but eventually I was able to shed the protective skin of internalized misogynoir in exchange for one of self-love and an openness to sisterhood. By doing this, I have allowed myself room to grow and live on my own terms, to embrace the very people who I share the most with.
Now, I know that I am not here to be palatable to anyone. And I refuse to ever live my life trying to be respectable again. It'll never be enough. I’ll never be enough. And I am done begging for a crown that will only weigh me down. There is much more freedom without it. Freedom to travel the expanse of black womanhood and locate myself in the vast tapestry of identity, under no gaze but my own.
Written By: Jordan McDonald