Last weekend my husband and I attended a Jazz Festival. It was great to sit out relaxing in the sun for hours with jazz in the background and nothing important to do or no place to go. I brought along a magazine to read as is my habit and one of the articles I read was about how African American sisters hate on each other and constantly berate one another. It was a wonderfully written article that really made me think and consider some things.
The story of one young woman told of how she was always very aggressive with other women and always confrontational. Eventually, she realized that it was her attitude and her posture that brought her into these violent stand offs. I thought about how I’ve known women who have criticized other black women to the point of completely humiliating them. How sad that a race of people that have progressed so far still have so far to go in terms of relationships with one another.
One particularly valid point in the article was cited by a psychologist who pointed out that historically, this was a carry over affect from slavery. I believe that to be true. The article cited several television shows that glorified stand offs by seemingly angry African American women. While I realize, these are just shows and entertainment, perception is a curious phenomenon. Many people who watch these shows perceive ALL African American women this way. Who hasn’t watched an episode of the Jerry Springer show and been totally disgusted by what they saw, but continued to watch it for the “entertainment” value. Watching the shows over and over can made an indelible imprint on your memory and your heart. I began to ponder and think of all of the shows that promote and in essence, condone bad attitudes and bad behavior among African American women. Imagine what kind of thoughts young black boys and young black girls have. The danger is the boys thinking African American women are something to be feared or either completely avoided at all costs and girls thinking, “This must be the norm for all African American women. This is how I will act one day.”
As I perused the crowd at the Jazz Festival, I was very discouraged and disappointed thinking about African American women’s plight. Eventually, I took those thoughts and began to convert them into positive thoughts. Although I am certain that we can do better, there have been enormous strides in the direction of progress, we just need to make sure that we continue to feed positive energy into the things that are already working and develop new things that aren’t. Most of the problems women have with each other were misplaced feelings and misunderstandings. In order to love our sisters, we have to first love ourselves. I learned a very poignant statement a while time ago that goes like this:
The enemy of contentment is comparison.
In other words, many ladies are very happy and content with themselves until they begin to compare themselves to others. That’s when the negative energy is utilized and women become upset and disappointed in their own self- image. This gets the negative ball rolling for criticism and comparison.
Here are just a few suggestion on how to improve relationships among African American Sisters:
1. Love And Accept Yourself Just As You Are
I was asked years ago to develop a curriculum to teach teen- aged girls how to love themselves. The strategy I developed was very effective but a bit awkward at first. I brought in mirrors for each girl to look at herself in. Once she got a good hard look at herself, I told each one to say out loud, “I love you and accept you. God made you and what He made is good according to His word. ” After the seminar they were told to continue the habit daily as they prepared themselves to start their day. Many of the girls told me that at first it felt a bit awkward but after a while, they got used to it and it become a habit. As I prepare myself to start my day, it helps me start the day positively instead of cranky and lifeless. It also keeps me mindful that I am uniquely created and not a clone so I don’t look to others to define me. I define myself as God’s creation. My day starts with purpose.
2. Love Your Sisters
I personally encourage the younger generation, in middle school and high school where all of this “hate” for one another begins, and teach them to be their sisters keeper. When Cain killed Able, he asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God never answered, but the answer would be, “Yes, you are your brothers keeper and he is yours.” Doesn’t the Bible say, love your neighbor as yourself? So now I ask you, “Are you your sister’s keeper?
3. Each One Teach One
The way we as women treat each other is vitally important to all those who are watching us including our children, other women who look up to us, those we lead in our workplaces, those in organizations we belong to and strangers we meet on the street. If we smile, as the article says, it will promote a spirit of love and acceptance. If we frown and look each other up and down, we are sending the message that says, “I already don’t like you,” which definitely causes the receiver of these looks to instantly jump on the defensive end. A smile is disarming. A smile communicates to another person that you are loving, kind and accepting. A frown indicates rejection, hostility and hatred. Let’s begin in our daily lives to plant seeds of spiritual love, growth and acceptance. Let’s teach our daughters how to treat their friends and other African American sisters with respect. Most of all, let’s not allow the media to make money hand over fist at our expense. Take a stand today ladies and be a good role model for all of the people in your life watching your behavior.
4. Now that you know better, Do better!
Refuse to talk about your sister friends behind their backs and vow to be a loyal friend and confidant. Vow to be the kind of friend YOU want in your life. It’s easier said than done, but putting the thought in our minds is what always gets us going. It always begins with one small simple thought and grows into an action. Like our mothers always taught us, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything!
5. Promote and encourage love from our men as well
Men, always treat your women with respect. Encourage your wife, sisters, female friends, and other African American women to treat each other with respect. Don’t allow them to treat each other bad with you as an audience or a supporter of such behavior.
Our lives and our legacies are being built as we speak. What kind of legacy will you leave for the numbers of African American women who are watching you? It’s certain, we will see a harvest come to fruition in the future! What kind of seeds will you plant? Are you your sister’s keeper? Where is the love?