I'll never forget the day I saw it.
It was a Thursday and I was engaging in my normal midday Instagram scroll. The post read:
"I'm somewhere between Coretta Scott King and Cardi B."
For reference, Cardi B is one in the latest of female rapper success stories, who gained her claim to fame as the star of the hit reality show Love & Hip Hop New York. She is now the 5th female rapper since Lauryn Hill to lead the Billboard Top 100 Chart.
And if you don't know who Coretta Scott King is, then you my dear might need your Black Card revoked.
At any rate, I laughed at the now viral meme at the time and even screenshot it so I could have a good laugh for later. However, later on, I found myself in a great deal of thought about that particular concept.
Is it really possible to be Coretta Scott King and Cardi B at the same time?
For many years, Black women have had a hard time navigating between the space of both being black and being a woman. We have been clumped into one set space of existence by society and have consequently been subjected to the misconceptions, misperceptions, and misplaced stereotypes cast upon us.
Whatever ideals and values we learned growing up also only narrowed the space in which we as black girls and women can exist:
Speak up, but not too much.
Speak out, but don't stir the pot.
Embrace your culture, but not like that.
Be confident, but don't be loud with it.
Be this way in order to be accepted, be that way if you want to get rejected.
What the aforementioned tones and ideals have projected is that one particular set of behaviors are what society is willing to accept and the other is cause for ridicule, backlash, and displacement and the two CANNOT coexist.
This however is inherently false.
I have friends who had 4.0 and above average GPA's in high school and college, who aim to become activists, nurses, and engineers and really bring about change in not just their local community but the world in general. They are some of the smartest, caring, mindful, and brilliant women I've ever met. These same friends, however, are the first ones to get up and tear it up on the dance floor the minute they hear “Cash Money Records taking over for the 99's and the 2000's."
But does the fact that they love a good twerk every now and then erase their accomplishments, aspirations, and intellect?
Does the fact that Cardi B is a liberated woman who grew up on the other side of the tracks stop her from embodying the rose that grew from concrete? Does it take away or discredit the name she's built for herself as a hip hop industry feat?
If we later found out that Coretta Scott King frequented the juke joint back in the day, is that reason enough to discredit her intelligence and influence?
Some might say their issue with women that exhibit such “ratchet behavior" is that they lack self-respect. What is interesting to note and remember is the first word of that phrase: self. The whole concept behind self-respect is that the sense of worth, pride, dignity, and respect radiate from the inside out. Meaning that, they themselves are the sole determinant of their own worth and anyone who tries to infringe or demean that worth will hold no bearings.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent right, or is that line of thinking only reserved for those who fit into the mold of respectability?
Who are we to ascribe and project low self-esteem and respect to another woman just because her barometer of worth is different from that of our own? Who are we to try to box in an aspect of another woman's personality because it makes us uncomfortable? Who are we to deny others and ourselves the right to freely exist in all of our many facets, faces, and phases?
In the season 4 premiere of Black-ish, actor Anthony Anderson opens his white collared button down to expose his under shirt that reads “I am my ancestor's wildest dreams."
The sentiments behind the statement is one that we should remember and take solace in. No matter the circumstances, we ALL have the ability to be our ancestor's wildest dreams.
From the loud, ghetto woman working two jobs overcoming hiring discrimination to take care of her responsibilities and put food on the table, to the heavily degreed woman who finally makes over 6 figures in her corporate job who overcame the same. They have all overcome life obstacles and have reached a level of success that once seemed out of reach for people of color.
They all are worthy of respect and deserve the right to be embraced not just for what they achieved, but for who they are.
Every dimension of our personality is what makes us who we are and the presence of one not so favorable trait does not negate the essence and beauty of what we can or have accomplished.
We have become and we are becoming concurrently.
We are perfectly imperfect simultaneously.
We are both masterpieces and works in progress and that my dear is what makes us worthy.
How do you own your duality?
Shanelle Harris is a Southern-based freelance writer & fashion social media curator. Her writings have been featured on Blavity. She's currently pursuing her undergrad degree in Mass Communications/PR. When she's not in class or writing, you can catch her quoting Drake lyrics and spreading #BlackGirlMagic one outfit post at a time. You can follow her on IG: @random__nelle.