Are You a Self-Identified Black Woman?


Are you eligible to partake in academia? Question your acceptance letter? Not writing the other perspective? Missing the point of the assignment? Do you get Tarantino’s postmodern intention? Are you misunderstanding the function of Flannery O’Connor’s Negroes? Do you wonder if your colleagues are looking for the competent color in the room? Are you the only one in the room? A performance of soft shoe? Are you inventing privilege? Are there any side effects? Do you self-isolate? Self-medicate? Suffer from heavy sighing, eye-rolling, weight loss, friend loss, hair loss, laugh loss, self loss, loss loss, silence? Did a doctor call your wounds superficial? Did a stranger spit at the sight of you in a dress you thought you wore better than the smile you wiped off with the back of your hand? Did you spit back? Did a man at the bar say you were too ugly to rape?  Did you imagine what the sound of your glass against his head would make? Are there problems with your resting bitch face at parties? Is your face ever really resting? Are you tired of being cute because you’re trying not to be threatening? Do you wonder if white girls’ tears are worth more than yours? Compare your heaviness to someone lighter? Was there ever a time when the faces of magazines pushed against the walls of your stomach when you were thirteen, sixteen, twenty, and your finger belonged to your tongue? Did you try to purge the light from haloed faces? What did you face instead? Pieces of undigested meat? Were you ever a phase? Something he had to get out of his system? Do you remember the clamp of a white boyfriend’s jaw on your thigh? Do you remember what he called you when he took you from behind? Do you cry when you think of the way he treated your love like a bad taste? Did he spit you out? Do they ask why you don’t write about your joy? Why is it hard to trust them with that? Do you wish they’d stop telling you to write around what goes through you? Wish your voice as strong and dismissive as your mama’s swollen laugh? Do you cry often in this city? Do you cry at the noise of young girls swinging their lamp-lit lives against the sway of train cars, stringing their racing voices inside you? Do you cry because there are those who want to bury these breaths, smother these names, this anger, this pain, call it defensive, non-compliant, threatening, unresponsive?

Do you cry at the sight of other black women with their hands up?


Image: ” self portrait” by jenny downing , licensed under CC 2.0

Krysten Hill
Latest posts by Krysten Hill (see all)


  1. Your initial reaction to these absurd scenarios might be, “Well that’s just stupid. No one would do that.” And yet you’re already wrong: We have a white woman in Spokane, Washington who claims to be black. We also have people living right now who honestly believe they are specific animals, such as the Dennis Avner example mentioned above. We simultaneously have all sorts of people choosing to be different genders than what they are genetically. You response might be, “Well those are not all the same thing. Gender is different.” And you’re correct, these aren’t the same thing. What I’m exploring is where are society’s limits along the spectrum of embracing or rejecting people who choose to self-identify with labels that contradict their genetic reality? Are there any limits at all? Should there be any limits at all? It can’t merely be “whatever people BELIEVE they are should be accepted.” Caitlyn Jenner


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