I’ve read often about the silencing of women of color, experienced the displeasure when I say or do something “inappropriate,” seen the all-out efforts to keep us in our place. Today, I am wondering what role women of color play in that silencing, once we’ve accepted that invisibility is our rightful realm. Why am I wondering that? Because of a little girl whom I’ll call Alyssa.
Alyssa will start the second grade in the fall. She is a smart little girl, with a sweet, round face, and a truly infectious giggle. She’s in my best friend’s class in our summer program. We all like Alyssa, but she makes us pull out our hair.
She’s too loud. Too bossy. Too opinionated. Too grown. Too much of an attitude. These are our regular complaints. There is regularly a chorus of, “Keep it down,” “Be quiet,” “Hush,” “Indoor voice, please,” “That’s not your concern,” and—the most common—“Please stay out of grown folk’s business!”
It has become a mission of sorts, to “correct,” to “quiet down” this little girl. Today, my best friend told her she needed to act more like a lady. And yesterday, another female visitor to the program told her she’d “be so cute if you stayed in a child’s place.”
That’s what got me to wondering. Someday, will “a child’s place” become “a woman’s place”? And why is it that all of us, the women who coordinate, teach, fix lunch, etc. for the program, are so heavily vested in “teaching” Alyssa demure-ness, of holding her tongue, of soft-spoken-ness. We are all black, and I am beginning to suspect that we’ve internalized all those messages, subtle and not so subtle, about why we should be quiet.
The value of invisibility.