By Tanya Steele | Shadow and Act August 29, 2013 at 3:32PM
I reside in Brooklyn for a reason. Black women run Brooklyn. There are wed mothers, unwed mothers, black women with the fiercest natural hairstyles, permed sisters who let it fall just right, well-educated and high school educated black women. I see an array. Black girls who are partnered up with hipster black boys, Black women who are partnered with hipster white dudes. Lawyer and Doctor black women, fast food working black women- the range. Black women populate the streets of Brooklyn like flowers blossoming in a well-manicured garden. This I love. This is Brooklyn.
So, when I saw Miss Miley & 'the black music thief' bring their circus to Brooklyn, I thought- nope, not here you don't. The backdrop that is Brooklyn was the backdrop for this performance. People were able to see through the charade because of where Miss Miley was. I immediately saw this performance as the end of the "white girl". This was a feeble attempt to resurrect the shallow, vapid white girl-ness that america has paraded before us for decades. It is clear to me, it is not working anymore.
Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and now Miss Miley illustrate that it is not enough to be a "white girl", you have to come with something else. See, even our white girls and women in Brooklyn don't parade their whiteness as a badge. The white women of Brooklyn are understated. The ones who do try and parade their vaginas as the center of the universe, vintage their vamp. The idle, cute blonde who simply has to toss tits or vagina Marilyn Monroe style- isn't working, anymore.
The black women, women of color and white women in Brooklyn are some of the fiercest women on the planet. Other than parents visiting from out of town, I have yet to see a white woman relying on her "look" to part the seas. That's over. It's a new era. The era of 'Sex In The City', where black women have to look to Carrie Bradshaw (for heaven's sake) as a model for life in NYC are over. Even 'Girls' hints at a culture of white womanhood that leans toward thoughtfulness and not window dressing. I say "hints at" because, no, they aren't quite there either.
"Orange Is The New Black", although disliked by many women of color, illustrates the fact that black women, when placed alongside white women, point out the vapid and frivolous life of the lead character. The women of color on that show, bring the white character into the reality of their lives. A reality that requires gravitas and thoughtfulness. A reality that is plagued with mistreatment, dehumanization and violation. Piper, the lead character, can no longer exist in a 'do whatever', 'be whatever' world. She has to acknowledge that she is a part of the human family. She is not above it. Some days, she is beneath it. But, she is no longer separated from it.
For this and other reasons, I appreciate that show. The argument that 'but if it weren't for the white woman, this story would never have been told', is true. However, the white woman loses center stage in this show. And women of color and low class white women dominate. As the show evolves, they have to lessen the black characters as comic relief (all characters, at some point, provide the comic relief). This is a gripe. But, I will say, the storyline of some of the black women has been layered and interesting (the execution, sometimes, is quite superficial, but that is a writing issue).
As the show evolves, I expect to see deepened storylines.
The show works because it is about a community of women of all types. It is not about white women or white womanhood. Netflix seems to understand that people of color watch them, also. So, they populate their shows with people of color. Although, I don't remember seeing a Black woman on 'House of Cards' (please correct me if I am mistaken). I want to see more shows that aren't threatened by black womanhood- as 'Friends' was. As 'Sex In The City' was. And, as 'Girls' is.
I look forward to Issa Rae on HBO. I am so excited about her show that it gives me chills. This could be a bellwether moment in TV for black women. A black woman possessed of intellect, humility and thoughtfulness. No pressure, though. Her voice is solid and it will be refreshing. I am so happy she will have a broader audience. Her character cuts through the 'downtrodden, weathered, bruised and broken' black womanhood that we are accustomed to. Although I do not watch 'Scandal', I understand why people do. Olivia Pope is not run down and singing a song of victimhood. She is, superficially, sharp. The 'Awkward Black Girl', however, is more resonant for me.
Once television and cinema begin to understand that people are hungry to see black womanhood in its various shades, things will improve. We are getting there, slowly. As Black women continue to share our voice in social networking (which, I believe, played a large part in the success of 'Awkward Black Girl'), black female representation will change. Social networking changes outcome. It allows autonomous and varied voices to have a say. As black women continue to be empowered via social networking a la #solidarityisforwhitewomen and #smartblackwomenoftwitter, the cultural landscape will change.
Miss Miley tasted the power of black womanhood and was overwhelmed by it. She attempted to place herself in the center of black womanhood and she failed miserably. She and the 'the black music thief' learned that they need to take their dog and pony show somewhere else. In Brooklyn, we don't play that sh**.