As I walked down the aisle at a local grocery store, I pushed my shopping cart and tried to decide what I wanted for dinner. I hate cooking! I sometimes look in other people’s shopping carts to see what they’re having and to maybe get an idea for something new. I saw a woman approaching me with her cart. She and I were the only two in the aisle. Now, I’m a naturally cheerful and upbeat person who is never far from a brief conversation or friendly interaction with a stranger. It comes very easy for me to make eye contact and smile at someone – I do it often. The woman was black and appeared to be in her 40’s. As we approached each other, I’d already eyed her shopping cart – she didn’t seem to like cooking any more than I did! I laughed to myself and tried as hard as I could to make eye contact with her. But that was impossible to do because she continued to push her cart and never even glanced in my direction. Instead, she looked straight ahead and as she passed me by, she then turned her head completely away from me. Now I realize that we all get distracted and have tunnel vision at times. I would have simply written this off as one of those such times if it hadn’t been a pretty regular occurrence. It was as though I was invisible to her. It was like she deliberately made a point of ignoring me. Unfortunately, I’ve become used to it, especially living here in Atlanta.
I have made a few observations regarding this matter. In my experiences, my eye contact and smiles are usually reciprocated by older black women, sometimes my own age or, more commonly, older than myself. They will usually smile and even speak to me first or eagerly respond to my greetings. I have noticed that many younger black women (20’s – 30’s) will usually avoid any type of eye contact with me, especially if we are in close proximity – maybe to these young women, I really AM invisible – and that’s okay. In all fairness, there are exceptions to these rules, but I’ve been observing this for several years now and I’m pretty much on point about this.
It is not uncommon for me to give a perfect stranger, male or female, a compliment. I will not hesitate to tell a sister that she’s rocking an outfit or a hairstyle and how great she looks. I will also compliment a man on how good he smells if I walk past him at the mall (now if he’s with his woman, I won’t do that!), or compliment a man on his tie. My point is, it’s not about extending false flattery, it’s about paying a genuine compliment to someone who deserves it. It takes nothing away from me, but may be the only nice thing that the other person has heard all day.
Why do we black women feel the need to compete and viciously berate and degrade each other. Surely I’m not speaking about the incident in the grocery store – it goes much deeper than that. There seems to be an undeclared, unspoken “war” that we’ve waged upon each other and I’m not sure when it began or why. If we’re at an event or a party, or just out to dinner and a beautiful black woman walks into the room, immediately we’ve sized her up and have decided that she is competition and we don’t like her. Why not? Is it because we feel that she is going to take any available men away from us? Is it because her beauty threatens our own? Do we feel inadequate or inferior? Are we afraid that our own men will find her attractive also, thereby making us feel less attractive? What is it in ourselves that makes so many of us unkind to one another? Does this instant dislike for each other come down to men?
We always hear how there’s a shortage of good black men in our communities – either they’re in jail, on drugs, gay, married, etc. You’ve all heard it. Is this belief the fuel for our jealousy and insecurities? The thought that there won’t be enough of anything left to go around? Do we feel better about our lives when we make others feel badly about theirs? Why don’t we celebrate each other and our accomplishments and successes? Instead, so many of us criticize, look for faults or failures or we simply say nothing at all. It’s obvious that I have more questions than answers. I can’t speak on how other races treat each other, and no race is without their own issues. However, I suspect that there is less of a “crab in the barrel” mentality and more cohesiveness and support for each other than we display. Haven’t we been through enough already? Can’t we show each other love and compassion?
Try this for yourself. The next time that you’re in an aisle or passing another black woman, make eye contact with her and smile and see if she’ll respond. Notice if she will even look in your direction at all. I hope you’re pleasantly surprised, but don’t count on it! How about we all make at least one resolution for kindness towards each other, especially our fellow sisters. If you don’t know where to start, see my suggestions below.
- Smile at a black woman – she might need it more than you know.
- Encourage another black woman to keep up the good work – at the gym, on the job, with the kids, in her goals.
- Pay a sister a compliment! If she looks fabulous, tell her! It doesn’t take anything away from you to pay a compliment!
- Say HELLO! You don’t have to become best friends, but a hello or a good morning doesn’t hurt anyone.
- Make eye contact and acknowledge a black woman – make sure she knows that you see her.
- Stop bashing other black women, no matter what they look like, their size, their hair, and anything else that is different from you.
- Don’t “hate” on another sister if she’s with a man and you’re not. If you’re focusing on your own self and your goals, you wouldn’t have time to worry about their relationship or the fact that they’re together. Be happy for them and wish them well…and mean it!
- Celebrate a sister! Give her kudos and congratulations when she deserves it. Be inspired by her accomplishments and set some goals of your own.
- Simply show some love to each other. Love is always enough and it’s always the answer.
- Remember – Live your life and let others live theirs. When you decide that your own life is worthy of love and kindness, you will do the work to make that happen – you won’t have time or the inclination to be envious of someone else’s.
Photos: Courtesy of Stock Photos