Note to Self
Not too long ago you and I were watching an online interview conducted by Steve Forbes, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes media and publishing company, who questioned Warren Buffet and Jay-Z about their success and the art of giving. As the webpage finished loading and the video began to play, our cerebral cortex salivated over the exquisite idea of Jay-Z and Warren Buffet shooting the shit—sharing ideas about business and the achievement of the American dream.
Jay-Z, the Marcy projects marauder and New York City public school drop out who slung crack cocaine. Warren Buffet, the Nebraskan billionaire investor, who holds degrees from the University of Nebraska and Columbia University. Black and White businessmen who hail from two different upbringings, yet find themselves equally successful in their respective fields.
While we were watching the video at home in our subsidized housing where we do not have any worries of the neighbors stealing time on our wireless Internet connection because none of them have computers, you wondered aloud what steps were necessary for you to achieve your own concept of the American dream. Somewhere near the thirty-minute mark in the interview, Buffet admirably explained, in an honest non-condescending tone, that had he been born Black or female his talent would not have been nurtured to the same capacity.
At that point I watched you reach over to the MacBook Pro’s sleek aluminum unibody enclosure and press the pause button on the video. You leaned back in your chair. Then you interlocked your fingers and placed the palms of your hands on the back of your head, cradling the idea of inferiority that has been lodged in your brain for as long as you can remember, rocking it to sleep.
I know you so well; I could already mouth the words to illustrate the thoughts that were taking shape in your mind. So I asked you, how do you feel about being Black and female? These two attributes define your existence in this country and on this planet. Until this paradigm shifts, you are arguably perceived to be the most lowliest on the ladder of racist patriarchal hierarchy. How do you feel about this?
You rolled your eyes, started talking out of your neck, making your fingers snap. And you said to me, “It doesn’t matter how I feel about it. Who cares what others think of me? I shouldn’t pay attention to the dismissive magazine editors who detect the stench of a single parent home and public school pedigree in the subject matter of my writing samples. Surely, their perception is that I am too edgy to be the token Black intern at their publications. There is too much Lenox Ave in my lexicon. They aren’t comfortable with my political leanings toward Black Nationalism. All too often I point my phonetic pistol at the craniums of young professionals, intruders who gentrify my beloved Harlem— those who happen to work at these very same institutions. Why should I care that I may never get hired at a respected publication?
Being, young, Black, articulate, and rebellious as a man may get you a mascot status in the realm of academia and the arts—the “cool guy” symbol. But being young, Black, articulate and rebellious as a young lady makes you the flaming angry Black bitch. But why should I worry about that?
Who cares that these perceptions of my identity and professional worth spill over into my personal life? There are also several people who identify with the same cultural groups to which I belong who consider me to be a nuisance. For example, he and his friends don’t think that the length, and kink-to-curl ratio of my hair pattern is worthy enough to run their fingers through. Their commitment to radical and critical thinking comes to a screeching halt when it pertains to their personal beliefs regarding what is beautiful, virtuous and womanly. And never mind that when I try to tell them about the lump I feel in my throat, the flavor of the silence on their tongues tastes like an almost four-hundred-year-old misunderstanding.
This is my lot in life and it’s not a lot to work with, but it doesn’t matter how I feel. In this world there is no room for the intellectually violent, emotionally sensitive, and hyperconscious Black girls who will not compromise what they believe to be right and true as they make the crucial decisions that lay the brick foundations of paths that turn into the roads that lead to young womanhood. So it doesn’t matter how I feel. The only thing that matters is what I do to change it.”
From me to you,
Janine Kali Simon