How to Be a Black Girl in America

Get used to being called out your name; you are a heifer,
a black bitch, a nappy-headed ho

Say nothing when people pet your head.  Smile (and don’t be angry, no
not that) when they do it without asking.  Shrug because you have no
explanation why your hair grows that way

Laugh when you buy that cosmetic firm’s book on Black
Women and Beauty and it offers you tips on making
your (full) lips appear thinner

Excuse those hands on your ass and never call
it abuse what those boys passing you in the school hall
did-- a modern-day hottentot-- how could their touch
not be fascinated?

                             (And don’t question why your natural is only beautiful
                              when it’s bought by a white girl)

Don’t be insulted when your teacher pulls you, the only black student,
outside before class begins to find out who wrote
the first essay you turned in—I have to ask—but only you

Pretend you don’t know why the guy in Algebra kept
singing “Knights in White Satin”

Meet your White boyfriend’s mother.  Act like you didn’t
overhear her whisper, “At least, she’s clean”

Don’t let your education, your degrees, your talents make you uppity
Understand that you are the bottom of the totem

Girl, just don’t get crushed by all that weight



Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is a writer and photographer. She is the author of two chapbooks, Mother Love (Unlikely Books) and Where I'll Be If I'm Not There (Argus House Press).


Edited for Unlikely by Rosalyn Spencer, #BlackArtMatters Guest Editor
Last revised on Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 17:36