When I was a little girl in the early 2000’s, my sister and I spent hours a day fist fighting over who would control the living room TV. I preferred to watch whatever the Powerpuff Girls were up to that week, and my older sister – with her teenage emotions – wanted to watch whatever whining, emotional movie was on Lifetime. However, our arguing and choking each other came to a halt when The Parkers was on.
For me, growing up a Black and plump bodied girl was made easier watching Mo’Nique hilariously destroy body image boundaries on TV. She was more than just a comedian; she was that auntie who wore what she wanted, said exactly how she felt, and dared people to correct her. Mo’Nique exercised, to me, what it looked like for a person to unapologetically be their imperfect self. That’s why in 2010 when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, I was excited for her and what her winning represented.
Let’s be honest; Mo’Nique is not the typical Hollywood actress. She is loud, opinionated, transparent with her emotions, and has never bowed down and submitted to anyone’s stereotype of how she should conduct herself. She’s the every day black woman; she’s my momma, my auntie, and my grandmother. It sent a strong message of self-love and confidence for her not to conform to the rules of Hollywood, but to remain true to her loving and blunt personality.
Unfortunately, when a person decides not to conform they vanish. Mo’nique’s name entangled with Oprah’s, Lee Daniel’s, and Tyler Perry’s has been reoccurring in the news for the past couple of years, and as of recently has been making headlines again. All of them came together for the 2009 film Precious, but since then their relationships have fallen apart. The center of their breakdown revolved around the fact that Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah were influencing directors and producers not to cast Mo’nique because they said she was “difficult.” Now I am not going to rehash the back and forth between these individuals. Instead, I want to focus on something that Mo’Nique pointed out on her and her husband’s podcast Mo’Nique and Sidney’s Open Relationship.
On the recent episode of the couple’s podcast, Mo’Nique addressed the underlying issues between her, Oprah, Lee Daniels, and Tyler Perry. She didn’t only explain what happened, but she discussed how her experience exposes a historical and crucial problem in the Black community: “I’m only trying to be honest, ya’ll, because I am sick of reading about the stories of how we mistreat and misuse, and we do it to one another, and we stay silent.”
At times, the Black community is its own worst enemy. We have the capability to destroy each other and our own creations before anyone else can. We will pull each other down in order to pull ourselves up to where we believe success is. We not only have to break through institutional racism, but we have to deal with the hurdles in our own community: colorism, sexism, hoteps, etc. We fail to realize and accept that the problems that are consistent in our community, like colorism and sexism, were woven into our history by outsiders to assist us in our own self destruction.
How do we stop a pattern of self-hate that was fed to us for generations? What gives hate power is silence. When we do not speak, we silently participate in our own defeat. The key is to boldly, loudly, and accurately label our own bad behavior towards each other.
When dark skinned women are being bullied on social media by Black people because of their complexion, it is our job to expose that. Since slavery, our minds have been wrongfully ingrained to believe that men and women of darker skinned complexions are worth less than everyone else in society. Black women are labeled by our own community as ghetto, angry, and problematic, but historically are the ones marching and protesting against injustices done against the Black community.
When we expose the hard truths about how we at times fail to love and uplift each other, we can build a better and stronger community.