A Love Letter to Fat Black Women
I have been fat my whole life. I don’t ever remember a time where my weight was not an issue.
Nope, not ever.
Recently, I learned that folks that suffer trauma repress a lot of memories and protectively forget harmful ones. So conveniently and self-lovingly I can’t remember a whole lot growing up. But, from the time I was about eight years old until now, I’ve known fat to mean something ugly to a lot of people. Fat was always something you called people as a means to demean them, never to compliment.
At eight years old I went on my first diet. I will never forget it. It was tomato sandwiches and grapefruit juice. Then it was the “heart patient diet” on for twelve days off for two. It was always something. Honestly, I can’t ever remember not being on a “diet”. I can distinctly recall violently throwing up from trying to take horse size diet pills before I had even turned age twelve.
Our society tells us that we’re unique and special, but programs us to all want to be the same at an early age. Those subconscious mixed messages have lasting impact. Especially for little Black girls, who never no matter how hard they try to change themselves will look like what’s glorified in the mainstream.
I always thought my life would be easier and better if I could just look like the other girls until I saw Mo’Nique on ‘The Parkers’.
Mo’Nique was the person who taught me how to love myself. Watching her be a bad fat Black woman on TV was everything to me. She taught me that fat Black women could be sensual, sexy and powerful. With every bit of conviction she didn’t just walk when you saw her, she strutted. She taught me how to dress and carry myself and to never be afraid. It was her book, “How to be a big girl in a small minded world” I read in the 9th grade that made me want to embrace every part of me, fat and all.
Then, my grandmother took me to this plus-size store in Miami called Avenue and they had fashionable-ish clothes and my life changed forever. In typical early 2000s fashion, I remember buying this baby blue top with rhinestones, zig zag cut out and denim capri pants with star embellishments, blue colored sunglasses with the fake chanel symbols, and nude colored wedges you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t fine chile. From that moment at fifteen I have been meticulous in planning from head to toe my lewks, I began my days by looking in the mirror and saying, “GD you fine girl”….My friends today will tell you that it’s called, “having a D. Mack moment”. Knowing you look as good as you feel. I learned that when I felt good about how I looked I showed up as my most powerful self. I was intentionally confident until I believed it to be so.
I was body positive before we even had language for it.
I’ve carried that confidence with me for so long, I almost stopped remembering how it felt to be embarrassed or ashamed about how I look until recently.
And I’ve felt muted in a lot of ways to tell you these stories from being policed professionally about my thoughts and how I show up and out in the world. In doing so, I repealed all access to my life. Out of necessity and evaluation, but mostly from protection. Because folks can’t carry a story they aren’t privileged to know. A dear friend said to me during that time, “eventually they would’ve made a story up about you out of jealousy and envy” and even in those words I could not find relief.
Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
People don’t know what showing up into the world as a fat Black woman who loves herself has cost me. What attacks I’ve had to take at detriment to my self-esteem and how I have had to wheel myself back together in knowing no matter what anyone says to me or about me I deserve to be seen as how I choose to not anybody else’s respectable, but appropriated version.
Four times this year alone I have been both physically and verbally assaulted in spaces where I believed I would be protected socially and professionally. These acts of sexual, physical, psychological and spiritual microaggressions have reverberated a message I have known to be true throughout my lifetime: Fat Black women are ugly, unacceptable and undesirable.
And I don’t know if these folks mission is to make us want to hate ourselves or redeem this bad behavior out of desperation to be seen as a valuable or a worthy cause.
The larger issue I see here is Fat Black women are simultaneously oversexualized and desexualized as punishment for existing and not showing up in ways that are comfortable to the white gaze. But, perhaps the most harmful is when Black folks reenact the behavior to the sisters they say they love.
To men touching my body inappropriately, to people screenshotting pictures of me to send to my superior to try to get me fired, to folks questioning my professionalism and my worthiness of a position because I have a fat body in a bathing suit online, to a white male physician telling my five year old daughter she needs to lose weight and go on a diet, the list goes on in how I have to protect myself and other Black women at all cost. This story is not unique and that is the problem. It has been one of the most painful and hurtful experiences of my adult life.
I have learned to stand up and speak up for myself, but I do not have to fight. It is not my job, my charge or my responsibility to correct people every time they harm me. As my sister Chrissy says, you don’t know how much it is the purpose of white supremacy to leave us in a constant state of distress, worry, crisis and exhaustion.
I don’t know where the safe places are for fat Black women who can show up as her whole self with all prowess and confidence and without microaggressions.
But I do know this: She lives inside of me, just like she lives inside of you. This temple. This being. This aura. This is all of me. This is all of you. The soft places may not ever show up in the environment in which you live. But, it is always present in you. Love and protect your being and your vessel baby girl. You may not ever get the external validation you so duly deserve. You must carry her with you. You must reverence her. You must not dilute, diminish or dismantle her.
As our good sister Sonya Reneè Taylor says, “the body is not an apology.”
You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you.
No one gets to dehumanize you.
Touch and love on your body as often as you wake up to it.
Wear all the crop tops, two pieces, bikinis, high slits, body con dresses, lingerie, shorts and whatever else that makes you feel good.
Love your thighs that rub together, they have walked you to this moment.
Love your fupa that sags, it has birthed babies and dreams.
Love your thick arms girl, it has positioned you.
Love your double chin, use it to smile at all your haters.
Love your hips baby, cause they watch you every time you sashay.
I see you and I love you girl.
A Fat Black Woman