Yes, I’m a Black Woman in the Echo Chamber

Written by: Jenn M. Jackson on October 22, 2015.

Growing up, I was socialized to believe that other people, especially men, had a right to invade my personal space. Men were constantly commenting on my gender representation as if to say that my body being in public was inherently about their appeasement and consumption. Men were concerned about how I styled my hair. Some of the most ardent ridicule I faced was from men, Black men, seeking to manipulate my personhood into something they could exploit. But now, as a grown ass woman, I recognize that shit for what it is and I have effectively locked them out of my personal space altogether. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still actively seeking a way in.

As a scholar, I am concerned with the mediums through which Black women choose to represent themselves. The important word there is choose. As a Black woman, I have often found that the safest ways for me to engage in public dialogue and representation is through private and intimate spaces with others who share similar phenotypic or experiential characteristics as myself. This means, for the most part, I have chosen to live in an echo chamber.

My friends are woke like me. Most of them have natural hair like me. We enjoy the same things. We watch similar movies. I think they’re dope. They feel similarly about me. And, while I see this as a positive, many people, Black men in particular, see deep issues with this.

This year alone, I have been accused of “group think” because I railed against Bill Cosby on social media. I have been told that my “new friends” aren’t as important as my “old friends” because (insert completely illegitimate reasoning here). I have had so many men trying to crowd my space, my thoughts, my various timelines, my text messages, etc. all pressed because I wouldn’t allow them to water down the reverberating sound of me and my friends speaking truth to power.

First, let’s make something clear here: having people around you who affirm you, who have an investment in your happiness, who love you and are not afraid to show it, and who genuinely want to see you reach your full potential is not “group think.” A logical person might just describe them as good friends. But, oppressive people (think White, heterosexual and male) find innovative ways to tell people of color, and often women in general, that this is wrong. They say it’s dangerous and it isn’t making the world a better place. In fact, I get that feedback at least twice a week because I write about myself and my people and am perpetually unbothered by the concerns of White people when it comes to working against oppression.

The funny thing about this accusation is that White people spend an inordinate amount of time with other White people. They spend their entire lives reading books that tell them White people invented everything and started the universe. They learn that they discovered every continent and everyone already living there was just borrowing the land or keeping it warm for Whites. Literally, US History is the story of how White people saved us all from ourselves.

The same goes for men. For these people, the entire world is their echo chamber. Literally every president and vice president of this country ever have been men. Women are written out of history as the “backbone” that helped men do everything. We are described as “ribs,” and the “wind beneath wings,” and various other nods to our purpose to prop up men.

But, when do we get to be the body rather than a singular (and potentially unnecessary) bone? When do we get to spread our own wings rather than propel someone else’s?

Once you introduce the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality, these accusations seem even more poised to erase the lived experiences of the people on the margins. I don’t have these issues in my echo chamber. I step out of these morbid ass predominantly White and predominantly male spaces into safe spaces where I don’t have to worry about being relegated to someone’s afterthought. In the echo chamber, I’m the star.

Second, I worry about people who can’t or don’t make new friends. I know there is this “no new friends movement” but that concept is entirely stupid.

If, over the course of your life, the only people your failure-to-launch ass can still stand to spend time around are people who knew you when you were a pimply faced high schooler or a bed wetting toddler or a rosy-cheeked tee-ball star then that says something terrible about you and them. We all have to grow up. Sometimes we grow with our friends and sometimes we don’t. For me, I have very few friends from my childhood. I cherish the ones I still have but all the misogynist, racist, transphobic, queer-antagonistic, and problematic ones had to go. I’m okay with that.

Old friends don’t get to stick around if they are harmful or dismissive of gendered-oppression. They can’t hang around if they wield Christianity as a sword against all the infidels (and, by infidels, I mean literally everyone who doesn’t agree with them). Old friends are not guaranteed a seat on my train because all these seats are reserved for royalty and this train is chugging out into the future. My future is magical as fuck.

Luckily, attempts to guilt me for making space for myself and guarding it ferociously no longer work. I can clearly see when people are centering themselves in the pain they cause me in an effort to relinquish responsibility. Living in this echo chamber for the past few years has helped me to clearly see what healthy relationships look like. It has enabled me to stop living out of obligation to others. It has empowered me to be a better version of myself every day.

So, no, I won’t be letting any harmful people in this bubble any time soon no matter their ethnic or racial background, the length of time they’ve known me, or their assumed right to my time, space, and attention. This is a gift I have given myself. And frankly, it’s a gift I deserve.

Photo credit: Pixabay/Public Domain

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Originally published at watercoolerconvos.com on October 22, 2015.