When I was a child, my mom always told me two very important things:
- Speak up. If something is going on that you do not like or you see something bad happening, speak up.
- Fight back. If someone ever physically lays their hands on you, fight back. Don’t go out looking for a fight but if one finds you, protect yourself.
I grew up with these lessons. Now, as an adult, I find myself falling into the stereotype of the sassy black girl. The fresh mouth side kick that tells it like it is. The one keeping it real. The one they know not to mess with.
The truth is that I don’t entirely hate it. I am sassy and I own it (more about the importance of owning stereotypes). The truth is that I will tell my bosses that they mistreat the employees if it is true. I will tell my boyfriend that he is being an asshole. I will speak up about racism, sexism, ageism, and every other ism at a party or gathering. I will not let people run all over me.
The problem comes in when people assume that me being firm in my beliefs and fearless about expressing them means that I have no feelings. That I am immune from vulnerability. That I am too strong to suffer.
A few years back, when I worked in retail and being a SBG was damn near a requirement to survive, I had a white co-worker that put me on the highest pedestal of SBG. One day, she bumped into my sister and they chatted for a little while. A few days later, my sister calls and said that she’d run into my coworker and my coworker referred to me as “a strong person that never cries”.
I never cry? How would she know that? Being sassy or outspoken or speaking up for what I believe in means that I never feel pain, hurt, vulnerable, or let down. So much so that I might— cry?
That blew my mind and the insane part of it is that a bunch of people view me and other outspoken black women like this.
I am allowed to have a valid voice and protect myself while also being open to emotions and open to expressing those emotions.
This is what I’ve learned in my short 27 years of being a SBG; not everyone is entitled to my vulnerability, my soft and tender spots. I’ve also learned that some people will never get pass the SBG and I’m completely alright with that.