10 Learned Behaviors of a Black Girl

Editor’s Description: Growing up as a Black girl, my parents lathered me with the sort of rules and expectations that we, in the Black feminist community, now call respectability politics.

I often felt like my parents were teaching me to be a complacent, extremely hardworking robot-woman (i.e. the mammy archetype). I now realize that they were doing their best to teach me how to survive the intersections of being Black and a woman in a world that hated both.

They weren’t doing that to teach me complacency; they were doing it to ensure my safety to the best of their ability.

It’s poems like this that help us understand just how pervasively universal misogynoir is and how frustrating it is that so many Black girls have to learn survival at the expense of the integrity that comes with authentic self-expression.

Black women should not have to live their lives in a state constant apology for other people to feel safe.

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Andie Berry is a poet, playwright, and second-year student at Washington University.

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