[Blackstudies-l] The research findings in DOWNED by FRIENDLY FIRE by Signithia Fordham confirmed

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Jun 27 06:31:53 EDT 2017

We need to bring Prof. Fordham to Geneseo (it will be easy since she is at
the U of R)  🙂

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[image: For Harriet | Celebrating the Fullness of Black Womanhood]
ATTITUDE <http://www.forharriet.com/search/label/attitude> BLACK WOMANHOOD
<http://www.forharriet.com/search/label/black%20womanhood> BLACK WOMEN
<http://www.forharriet.com/search/label/Black%20women>BLACK ATTITUDES

*by Ashleigh Shackelford*

"Ashleigh, you have an attitude problem,” my high school supervisor says.

She would hassle me almost everyday in high school telling me to fix my
face or to lose my attitude. But I didn't have an attitude. I was just a
Black girl walking through the hallways without displaying a vivid form of
enthusiasm for being at school. So of course I clapped back with, "I don't
have an attitude!" And boop, I was in detention for responding with an
attitude that I never had before she approached me with some bullshit.

I found myself caught up in these situations more often than not. My
teachers would say that I either talked too much, or when I didn’t talk, I
was berated for having a poor attitude and subsequently punished. I would
be used as an example for being the poster child for not participating in a
room full of white kids who never talked or contributed. My facial
expressions were policed constantly even though I wasn’t intentionally
saying anything with my body language, I would just be looking at the

Flash-forward to my adulthood work experience, I would run into the same
issue. My boss told me, “People don’t find you very approachable, Ashleigh.
You come off kind of aggressive when you come into spaces.” At first, I
took this very personal and spent weeks going over what I was doing wrong
when I interacted with people – especially due my history of being targeted
for this supposed attitude problem. But I began to realize slowly, but
surely that I am just a Black girl that does not do enough to challenge the
anger and threat my body represents to the world.

This Black Girl Attitude phenomenon lies within the idea that Black girls,
women, and femmes are inherently angry, bitter, unrelenting, and a threat
to functioning institutions and spaces. In understanding that this is how
I’m seen, I do not intentionally align my presentation, navigation, or
performance as a Black girl in a way that embodies the opposite of the
stereotypes codified upon my existence within white supremacist patriarchy.

Darlene Clark Hine defined this alignment as the ‘culture of dissemblance’;
in which, a rejection of stereotypes defining Black women’s sexuality,
agency, and autonomy by becoming the exact opposite of that stereotype. In
reality, most of us do this to survive. But at this point in my life, I
don’t want to stand up straight in a crooked room; I want to dismantle the
whole house.

Thinking back on these experiences, microaggressions surrounding my
presence and demeanor always came up. I would be told that I’m intimidating
at first but so down to earth when you finally got to know me. I would be
called a bitch by people just for walking in the room with my regular ass
facial expression on. Some would refer to this as 'resting bitch face' but
the politics behind the term are applied forms of anti-Black misogyny and
beauty expectations. The reality is that I should be given the opportunity
to offend you with intent rather than the expectation that my face provides
a basis for aggressiveness until proven otherwise.

Black girls are scripted as angry, bitter, ungrateful, savage beings that
are denied the ability to be seen as dimensional or nuanced. So when a
Black girl like me is walking around, existing, not forcing myself to
assimilate to this politicized idea of 'approachability,' I am in direct
affirmation of society's idea of black femininity’s abrasive nature.

To complicate this more, we can easily say that Black girls, women, and
femmes have every reason to have an attitude. In what world do we exist
without trauma, stress, and violence? We’re navigating within a society
that is designed for us to hurt. So when I’m told I have an attitude,
sometimes I rationalize that I my trauma is being recognized because I
carry it in my bones, in my very being. But the limitation of only seeing
our bodies as trauma is a problem. We are so much more than just suffering.
We are power, beauty, resilience, exuberance, and vulnerability. We deserve
to be seen as dynamic human beings without expectation or restraint.Recognizing
how hard it is to exist without conforming has led me to understand that I
can’t actually use my Black girl assimilation toolkit to avoid being
violated. In referencing Darlene Clark Hine's culture of dissemblance, I've
realized that I do not want to be anyone but myself, unapologetically.
Respectability and assimilation are created to force Black bodies,
especially Black femme bodies to conform to standards they can never fit
within. We can fight to sit at the table, but as long as the table exists,
we will always be on the menu.
I have an attitude some days, and some days I don't. My attitude could be
for a multitude of reasons, such as surviving a world that seeks to erase
me. My attitude could be just because. My face probably won't change
regardless though. I refuse to force myself into an uncomfortable smile or
into explaining why I walk into a room with an aura that disrupts white
supremacist conformity. I don’t need an explanation for my agency. I want
to be free to have or not have an attitude. I want to be free to be myself.

*Photo: Shutterstock*

*Ashleigh Shackelford is a radical Black fat femme queer writer residing in
Baltimore, MD. Ashleigh is a pop-culture enthusiast, a community organizer
at Black Action Now, and the founder of a body positivity organization Free
Figure Revolution. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Africana
Studies at Morgan State University.*

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