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ylvia, the principles of French correction. Paris, 1969. By Jean Paul Goude for Esquire
PHOTO: Sylvia, the principles of French Correction. Paris, 1969. By Jean Paul Goude, a photographer with an obsession and history of fetishizing and playing up racial tropes about black women's bodies.

You know them when you see them. They have long, stringy hair. They might be sporting unkempt locs for some unknown racist reason, a button up tee, a supreme hat, khaki pants, a pair socks adorned with marijuana leaves, topped off with a pair of classic Vans. You can almost smell the potent stench of their “oh no, I swear I’m not racist, though” mentality as they proudly walk through the room with their entitled air, scanning the scene for their next conquest. Yes, I am describing the basic aesthetic of the 2016 young white male supremacist, the somewhat conscious male “bro,” who uses the word “lit” unironically and much too often, who never leaves his house without his trusty companion, his longboard. These men are the sexual colonialists of our time, and their conquest is the black female-identified body. They hunt, fetishize, and hypersexualize black womxn, as if our bodies exist for their consumption, as if our bodies’ purpose is to be experienced once, then discarded by white men. As if we’re as disposable as condoms. These modern-day colonialists love to use thinly veiled racist insults disguised as compliments when they pursue and try to persuade us. Those “compliments” include but are not limited to:

-You’re pretty for a black girl.
-Nice ass.
-Are you mixed?
-You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.
-Pretty hair (which he then proceeds to touch without permission)
-I’ve never fucked a black girl before.
-Have you ever fucked outside your race?
-Chocolate/cinnamon/any other variety of creepy black or brown food names.
-Can you twerk for me?
-I’ve heard that black girls like to ride and suck, is that true?
-You’re hella light-skinned.
-You look so exotic.
-Ebony is my favorite porn section.
-I like my girls thick, like you.
-Mixed and light-skinned girls are where it’s at.
-I went black, and now I’m never going back.
-You’re so sexy, I’ve never seen anything like you before.
-I don’t see color, so you’re safe with me.
-Black girls have the biggest, juiciest features.

You might be wondering why these toxic modern-day colonialists feel entitled to speak to black womxn this way. But, it isn’t difficult to understand how centuries of colonial, racist reinforcement, approval and privilege works. Since the onset of racism, white men have conquered and fetishized black womxn for status, power displays, pleasure, a sense of ownership, or out of sheer ignorance. They see a black female-identified body and simply see a body to be used, abused and fetishized, then disposed of. Most of us have experienced misogynoir and sexual racism from white men in some way, whether it’s the disgust of black womxn or the other end of the spectrum—the hypersexualization of black womxn on the other side. Both are equally painful, traumatizing, and marginalizing.

While the mistreatment and blatant misogynoir is difficult, disgusting, and wholly damaging, the problem that many black womxn are facing (including myself) is paranoia within their interracial (and sometimes in the same vein, but in a slightly different way same-race) relationships. Encountering these preying white men in our everyday lives causes us to be hyper aware, paranoid, and frustrated in our own relationships. I constantly find myself questioning not only my white partner, but myself. Do I trust him? What if this whole time he has just been playing me, and is suddenly going to mistreat me? Am I just a disposable body to this person that I actually care about? Is he with me because he has an internalized, colonial mindset and goal to conquer me? These questions make me question myself. Do I trust myself enough to choose the right partners? Am I strong enough to handle the pressure of this kind of relationship?

These are the scary, frustrating questions we as black womxn ask ourselves multiple times every day as we hope to find partnership and genuine connection in a world that has done nothing but conquer and mistreat us. So what is the answer? Aside from working to dismantle racism, sexism, and misogynoir, how will we keep our sanity in our everyday lives, surrounded by predators and scared of mistreatment? The answer varies for different black womxn, but I have found hope and vitality in self-love, self-defense, and self-care. This means calling out these men when they offend me, choosing to love and respect myself by staying away from environments that may breed this sort of toxicity; keeping healthy, cherishing non-toxic vitalizing relationships with other strong black womxn, and taking time for myself to stay invigorated. I like to meditate, color, journal my experiences, and get into nature to help neutralize any colonialist negativity and aggression I often encounter.

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