…as a black woman.
…as a black woman.
…as a black woman.
Emphasis added here because when I’ve brought this up before, I’ve been immediately rendered invisible by women who kindly connect to the term “uppity woman” and move on. Sure, we live in a sexist world where it is a struggle to succeed in male-dominated professions where our co-workers can be so offended by excellent women that they project their own arrogance onto women and assume they are odious simply for having achieved. There is a sneer in the term “uppity woman,” indeed. I acknowledge those who grapple with the consequences of sexism.
We also live in a racist world. And we must realize that a similar but more dangerous sneer arises when black folks “rise above their station” or fail to show proper deference to white people. To be called an “uppity negro” is to be physically threatened because you dared not to bow down to white people who believe they are superior simply because of the color of their skin. When “uppity” is used in a racial context, it is racist. Don’t believe me? Here’s an article in The Atlantic that spells it all out.
Imagine for yourself for a moment. It can be as simple as being expected to give up your seat on a bus to a white person. It can be as complicated as daring to earn a college degree, running the obstacle course at work, and ending up in a position of influence (or power–oh no!) over a non-black person. ..cough, cough…Obama. Yes, the Obamas were called uppity many many times. Here’s one response quoted in the linked article:
Political consultant David Gergen, who has worked in both Republican and Democratic White Houses, said on ABC’s “This Week” that “As a native of the south, I can tell you, when you see this Charlton Heston ad, ‘The One,’ that’s code for, ‘He’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place.’ Everybody gets that who is from a Southern background.”
The most recent public instance is in the peaceful protests of NFL players who choose to take a knee during the national anthem to bring attention to the disproportionate number of incidents of police brutality against people of color. These players were called “ungrateful.” That is, they are being told that they should be satisfied with having reached the NFL to earn tidy sums of dollars and they should just shut up. Be grateful that we let you live. Jelani Cobb wrote about this, though it was long after I started this project that these protests also inspired btw. He posits that “ungrateful” is just another instance of “uppity negro” just like those on F*xNews who call Obama “professor” and “elitist.”
And then try to consider being a black woman living in a world that is both racist and sexist. It’s not a doubling of issues but a compounding and recombining effect that confounds. Almost exactly a year ago I was working on a project at RealJob with a non-faculty colleague with whom there is no rank-comparison; we are in different divisions of the institution, we are meant to collaborate without hierarchy. And yet, because he is a white man who is older than me, he assumed quite a bit about who was to follow whose orders without question in this situation. I dared to disagree with his assumptions and asserted myself as politely and professionally as I could to try to put our interactions on an equal footing. It was dehumanizing and painful, but not a rare situation. The blend of race and gender dynamics complexify the interactions…I, apparently, am “uppity” to the nth degree.
And so, of course, I made a quilt with cotton and silk and bold words to reclaim.
Title: not showing proper deference to wypipo
Materials: silk, quilting cotton, velvet, corduroy, burlap, monk’s cloth, linen, satin, denim
Techniques: improvisationally machine pieced, hand quilted, hand bound
Finished size: about 46″ square
Started: July 22, 2017
Finished: July 15, 2018