Dethroned: The Life of a Teenage Black Queen

Your hair doesn’t move with your head as you turn it. Easy fix, press it flat. Burn your scalp and feel the tight, kinky pattern hiss away from the heat of the iron until each strand is as straight and perfect as the girls that have already been picked first. But wait, yours isn’t long enough. Easy fix, get some inches. Spend $100 on a nicely sewn-in weave, careful to make it look seamless and effortless, even though it never could.

Not like those girls.

But hold on just a second. Your voice is too loud. Easy fix, just pipe down. Your tone and diction may be the same as the other girls, but something’s different, something’s off – it sounds too hostile coming from you.

Now one more thing. They have your acrylic nails, your hoop earrings, your rap and trap, your men.

What do you have? A thin, tightrope to walk, while juggling and balancing a spinning plate on your face.

It’s quite the act black women have to perform – knowing it is just their black feminine culture that is attractive to men and not the young black woman at all – while pretending to be oblivious in order to not seem jealous or desperate.

Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is painfully obvious, what with the abundance of black culture being plastered throughout the media and throughout day to day life. Hearing the sharp, loud beats of trap through the AirPods of the kid sitting next to you in class or the dance crazes that blow up all around social media and let’s not forget the surge of kids that grew up in Oswego and Aurora suddenly developing accents overnight as though they were raised in the South side of Chicago. However, with all of these clear gravitational pulls towards black culture, it is rare that black women are chosen to be in relationships, especially in high school.

I’m skeptical to believe that it is due to our skin, because #blackgirlmagic is always appearing through Instagram and Twitter. I’m wary to think that it is because our hair is too big or too curly, because natural-haired models are beginning to resurface in magazines. I’m suspicious that it is due to the way some of us dress and look, since trends that derived from black fashion – ripped jeans, big earrings, slicking baby hairs – are being adopted all around.

But there is a pattern here.

The things that we cannot change are only hyped and celebrated by our own. Trending hashtags like #blackgirlmagic or #blackout day were created in order to provide a support system for black women, a community that is open and appreciative to the way in which their fellow sisters look. More often than not, outside of the constrictive box of social media, natural elements from black women are complimented only by their fellow black women.

What actually branches out is the culture.

Black women aren’t desired. The attributes that other people can apply to themselves is what is desired. You don’t need to change your skin tone or your hair texture in order to wear chunky earrings, get acrylic nails, style your edges, or listen to rap. It is those qualities that are desired and have shown time and time again to be held at a higher value than the ones who created them.

Let’s take a look at the Kardashians. Kylie Jenner posted pictures on her Instagram, sporting dreadlocks with a headwrap. The non-black celebrity was praised on Fashion Police for being “edgy” with the hairstyle by Giuliana Rancic. But when it came to Zendaya wearing the same style, Rancic had different views.

“I feel like she smells like patchouli oil … and maybe weed,” Rancic stated about the black celebrity who wanted to celebrate the beauty of her culture.

It creates a harmful stigma for black women: the idea that your traits and background are more preferable on another type of woman. The message translates into saying, “We love your culture, but we don’t love you.”

High school clearly depicts the honesty behind this mentality. Take a look in the halls. Couples walking in tow, holding hands, even hiding around the corner of the stairwells. Relationships are not uncommon, especially not with social media so that everyone can see when Billy asked Becky to Homecoming or see if John and Sara are on another date … again.

But what you don’t see are black girls in these situations.

It creates a harmful stigma for black women: the idea that your traits and background are more preferable on another type of woman. The message translates into saying, “We love your culture, but we don’t love you.”

Thankfully, there are programs that are shedding light on the subject.

Within the television show Grown-ish, the producers focused on the topic of black women often being picked last in the episode entitled “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp.” The episode delved into the way in which women of color are often seen as hostile or demanding when asking for something, highlighted when one of the main characters, Jazz, was told that she was being difficult after asking for a change in her drink. However, when a white girl did the same, there was no issue.

The episode continues to pan to a group of black girls along the wall at a party, while everyone else was able to find someone to dance with for the night. The scene captivates the closeness that black women are able to have, which unfortunately, stems from the understanding nature of being picked last. A bond is able to form for the shared experience, making the commonality of the issue that much more prominent for the women that face it.

The episode ended with the girls deciding that they do not need a man or significant other to determine their self-worth. The message is all well & good and one that every woman should come to understand; however, it also punctuates the normalization of that black woman are the ones that are undesired.

We teach young black girls to have confidence and resilience at a young age, not from wanting them to grow up to become strong women, but because we already know that they will experience rejection and isolation at an early age.

We constantly remind young black girls that their natural hair is beautiful, not because they were born with it and should have no trouble embracing it, but because they will undoubtedly be scrutinized for it and told that it isn’t necessarily appropriate for “an occasion such as this one.”

We advise young black girls to be polite and act proper, not out of common human decency, but because we know that what they say and do will be scrutinized, viewed through a microscope.

And all the while, other girls are able to take what they want from our culture. Pick and choose as if shopping out of a friend’s closet, with no cost, with no right to ownership.

With no sacrifice.

So it leaves us standing alone. Alone with heat-damaged hair, colored contacts, hushed voices. Alone with no experience in the dating world, not knowing what it feels like to get asked to Homecoming, not knowing what it feels like to watch movies late at night under a blanket, not knowing what it’s like to go out on a date at a nice restaurant.

So unfortunately, we grow up and enter college – even the real world – without a meaningful, intimate relationship to speak of — like we were coerced to attend a formal function and we are not dressed for the part — forced once more to find ourselves when in some measure, we’ve already found ourselves in the hallways of high school.

Even if we weren’t valued for being ourselves.

You call us queens.

You don’t treat us like them.

Jayna Dias is the Personality Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

Leave a Reply