Let me preface this by saying if you feel some kinda way about yourself after reading this…good this is for you.
Back when I first started blogging in 2010 it wasn’t for money. There was no money in blogging at that time, it was purely a fun hobby and grew into a way I could meet like minded and creative people. The community was small in New York City and thriving. It was a time when groups of little known bloggers with less than a thousand followers where invited to the showrooms of Rebecca Minkoff and gifting parties thrown by Lulus. It was a time when there wasn’t much competition and it was all fun and games. I was well aware that for a few brands I was working with in those early years, that I was a token. The token black girl. Yes, I’ve always had my own unique style and a way with words but I knew there was more to it than that.
Tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce (or for a brand).
At that time, to be a token made me feel valued. I was the one they’d chosen to represent the black woman. I had a duty to be the best I can be and to put out the best work because I had a whole race on my back. But that just wasn’t enough for me. I started to resent being a token. I wanted to see more women like me afforded the same opportunities. I didn’t want to be 1 of 3 black women at a fashion event or with a seat at the table. I wanted all of us to have a piece of the pie. I really wanted to see more black women and bloggers like myself covering fashion week. Enough that I researched the hell out of how to do it and not only did a 3 part video series on it but later wrote whole ebooks about it. I’ve never had a problem sharing contacts. If someone wants a contact I’m ready and willing to share. I know what I can do for a brand isn’t the same as what the next person can do. We all have our talents. I know that there is enough pie to go around for us all, but not everyone shares this same sentiment. There in lies the problem. Some of us are very content being the token and will fight tooth and nail with another black woman coming for “that” spot. Instead of extending a hand and bringing us along on the ride.
[one_half padding=”0 15px 0 0″]I’m done standing on the sidelines and watching this happen. It’s just amusement for everyone watching. I am by no means perfect. I have in the past felt threatened by another’s success and it took a lot of soul searching and self evaluation for me to really and truly be happy for another women’s success without the Why Not Me Pity Party. Every now and then I still get a wave of jealousy but I know I can’t sit in that. It’s human to get jealous, it’s not helpful to stay in that frame of mind. It’s much easier to lift others up than to try and gobble everything up for yourself. It’s exhausting trying to outshine everyone. It’s exhausting to compete with people. It’s essential to find humbleness especially when you have a huge platform and have the power to make a real change in someones life. I know what’s for me is for me and nobody can take that away. It took all of my 20’s to figure that out but I’m better for knowing that and truly believing it, not just saying it. Sometimes you really have to fake it until you make it. I know that giving credit where it’s due will never dim my light or take away from me.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”0 0 0 15px”] I’ve had instances where I felt another black blogger thought I was coming for her “Token Spot”. She made snide remarks inquiring about how I got an invite to an exclusive whitewashed event and also how she’d turned down a collaboration that was then offered to me and how happy she was they found me. I would have appreciated her recommending me instead. Yes, those things seem trivial but it was her tone, filled with fear and anxiety that tipped me off to the fact that in her mind she was in competition with me. At first I was angry but I realized that she was in a state of panic and coming from a place of fear. I’ve been there and I recognized a part of myself in her anxiety. I know what insecurity looks like. It’s something only soul searching, growth and experience can help to alleviate. Some people aren’t willing, ready or even able to do that work on themselves. So I was able to see past it and keep it moving. I compete with no one but myself and if I find myself a token, I use my position to open doors and bring other people along who look like me.[/one_half_last]
Photography by Rose Lazard || Editing by Monroe Steele
GET THE LOOK
We, especially black women, are so good at standing up for communities, for righteousness for equality in every sense. We can band together and save a whole country, we can band together and birth every fashion trend that’s then watered down and copied a million times over. But when it’s time for us to really and truly see and help each other, we fail miserably. I believe it all goes back to the token mentality we’ve been programmed to believe is truth. The thought that only a few of us can make it. The sooner we stop believing in this, the sooner we can repair the broken relationship amongst black women. The need to feel better than someone or superior to someone or to use a bunch of hashtags suggesting you are the be all end all and that you weren’t inspired by someone you deem beneath you. The need to steal and imitate and step on people to get time in the limelight. A limelight not even meant or designed to promote or help us grow as a people. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. It’s ok to be humble. You can shine without shitting on someone else. You can shine sitting down too.