“I am not your sista”

I’m a Black woman, and I hate the familiarity some Black men who are strangers use toward me.

I had just gotten off the bus to go to work this morning, feeling drowsy and out of it. I see this delivery guy wheeling cartons of liquor into one of the restaurants, and he leans in close to me and says “Ay, girl!” as if we were long-time buddies or something. I am tired and am not in the mood to entertain men I don’t know, so I don’t respond. I stare straight ahead and continue on my destination.

“You can’t speak?” he says. “You too good to speak?” I still don’t bother to respond, and I don’t bother to look back his way either when he continues to attempt to elicit my attention.

He hadn’t bothered to talk to any of the other women of different races who walked by—he only targeted me. I hate how harassers think that being the same race gives them an automatic “in” to bother me. I am not your “sista”—you are a STRANGER to me. I’m just a woman who wants to be left alone.

– “Anonymous Black Woman”

Location: M Street between Wisconsin and 31st, Washington, DC

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9 Responses to “I am not your sista”

  1. mellesherman says:

    I agree with you completely! I am always approached by people because of my race but I have also been disrespected by people of other races who think they can just talk to me any kind of way because I am black. It’s annoying because why should I be disrespected especially when all I ever do is keep to myself and keep my head down to avoid leers and terribly uncomfortable comments from men?

  2. Golden Silence says:

    In a post on Racialicious.com where a Black woman wrote about a Black MTA worker who tried to flirt with her when she simply wanted her fare card fixed, I made a comment in the lines of “Black people need to stop seeing each other as ‘brothas’ and ‘sistas’ and learn to just see each other as individuals.” That’s part of the reason why this overt and forced familiarity happens. Too many Black people assume that by virtue of being the same race they can do and say whatever they want to one another without repercussions.

    I hate it when random Black men talk to me as if we’re lifelong friends or that, even worse, they’re my lover. If I’m in the mood to say such, I’ll say, “You are not my man…so stop talking to me like you are!” I hate how they’ll lean in close to me as well. A lot of them would never do this to a White woman, because they know they wouldn’t get away with it. I highly doubt they’ll walk up to a White woman and refer to her as “Shorty” or “Boo” like they do to me.

    I think another issue that this happens so often, which was mentioned on another blog, is that there are Black women out there who are too afraid to “get a brotha in trouble” or “put another Black man in jail” and don’t report this when it happens. That’s more of that “forced familiarity” going on, which does a disservice to Black women like me who do report it and who do want change.

  3. **BrownEyedBeauty** says:

    I’m with you, ladies…I’m biracial (Black/White) and very light-skinned.

    I feel that the Black men who do this to me either believe that I’m a White or Hispanic girl of a lower social status, or they are simply trying to see if I’m into “brothas”. Two dark-skinned Black men who work at my local grocery store have made me feel uncomfortable because of the way they look at me. One of them persistently tries to talk to me, except on the rare occasions when my husband comes to the store with me.

    I don’t like the unwanted attention, but I’m reluctant to complain. I would feel bad if I contributed to somebody being fired while the economy is down the drain.

    I’m petite with a curvy shape…not skinny like I was in my early 20’s. My curly hair and my figure are the only indicators of my African blood. I’ve never had a Black man call me “sista” but that would be nice compared to the other vile names I’ve been called. I would prefer “sista” over being called “bitch/whore” ANYTIME.

    But I feel you…no one should bother you if you have expressed the desire to be left alone. The guy who tries to talk to me at the grocery store will say hello and I’ll respond, but then he tries to have conversations with me and it becomes awkward. I sense that he isn’t simply being friendly. Why can’t he simply say “good afternoon, may i help you?”

    No…he will take it further than that, even after I’ve said hello in return and continue to fill my shopping cart with stuff. I will feel his eyes moving up and down my body. I don’t see him acting this way with any of the White or Hispanic women, and very few Black women shop at this particular store for some reason.

  4. **BrownEyedBeauty** says:

    Hmm…I don’t find the term “Sista” disrespectful. It depends on the speaker’s intent.

    If said in passing, as in “Hello, sista, you look lovely” there really is no ill will. As long as he doesn’t bother you or make you feel uncomfortable, it’s fine.

    I believe it is all about the person’s intent and how he approaches you. Personally, I don’t find “Shorty” or “Boo” offensive either…but I do not want to be addressed this way. We’re not in a rap or hip-hop video. I don’t speak slang. My husband is White, but I didn’t marry him based on that. It is because he approached me respectfully and didn’t make me feel dirty or devalued, like so many men of color have done. He was nice and polite and behaved like a gentleman.

    I’m not your “boo”. I never will be. My name is not “Shorty”. I will NOT give you my phone number. I do not feel like smiling at you. I do not want to tell you my name. I don’t have an “attitude”. I’m not “stuck up”. I simply want to be left alone. I’m not a “bitch” or a “ho”. It is those last two terms that deeply offend me.

    I also have a problem with people being too familiar, but calling me a “bitch” or “ho” is crossing the line.

  5. Golden Silence says:

    I don’t like the unwanted attention, but I’m reluctant to complain. I would feel bad if I contributed to somebody being fired while the economy is down the drain.

    I think you should complain, because if these men cared about their jobs in this rough economy, they wouldn’t be doing that.

    Hmm…I don’t find the term “Sista” disrespectful. It depends on the speaker’s intent.

    I agree, it isn’t the term that’s an issue, it’s the intent. With me, 9 times out of 10, the men who talk to me like that want more than just a simple greeting. They assume that our being the same race gives them an automatic right to talk to me in any matter, as if I’m their property. And no, they hardly say anything like this to White, Hispanic, Asian or other races of women.

    Personally, I don’t find “Shorty” or “Boo” offensive either…but I do not want to be addressed this way. We’re not in a rap or hip-hop video. I don’t speak slang.

    I just don’t like those words, period. It shows a lack of maturity on that person’s part. You’re an adult, talk to me like an adult. Stop making up slang words and don’t assume that, once again, since we’re the same race that I speak like that and want to be talked to like that. I judge people as individuals, not by race.

  6. Jaylin4dc says:

    Hi – Thanks for the very interesting post. On a sort of related note…I have a problem that is the exact opposite of “forced familiarity”. Because I look “exotic”, some guys have the need to single me out, and think they have an “in” by speaking one phrase of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc. They are -not- trying to practice their language skills, but trying to hit on me (I only know English anyways!). I had a DC Metropolitan police officer try to hit on me in Chinese yesterday morning, at 19th and M st, and at 9am at that! I didn’t say anything and walked past, but when i turned around, he had turned around and was still looking at me, and wasn’t continuing on his way. C’mon! Maybe i’m irked more by racial stereotypes than sexual street harassment, but still…..it bothers me.

    Just because a woman has black hair doesn’t mean you should go up and start babbling the 2-3 phrases you know in a foreign language in attempts to get in her pants.

    The officer was African American, but you didn’t see me bust out some Swahili or “yo! yo! yo! Wat up’ my N*”.

    Grrr…maybe i’m just upset that there’s this whole “exotic attentive asian concubine” stereotype still going around. Or that after multiple lengthy conversations with a strangers at bus stops, people still feel the need to compliment my English pronunciation.

  7. mellesherman says:

    Jaylin4dc, I know this one guy who would download these “Learn Korean” podcasts so that he could pick up Korean girls. He was in the Navy and he was in Japan for about 4 years and had a Japanese girlfriend there. I thought it was so cute because he seemed to love her but when I asked him if he learned Japanese (since she could not speak English) he said, “No, why would I do that?” Like it was some farfetched thing to want to speak to the woman you supposedly loved. But it’s sick because all guys do it. When they see a girl they like they think they are impressing her if they bust out stereotypical phrases or things associated with that person’s race. It’s embarrassing because its pointless.

  8. Golden Silence says:

    Just because a woman has black hair doesn’t mean you should go up and start babbling the 2-3 phrases you know in a foreign language in attempts to get in her pants.

    Ugh. These men are so nasty and ridiculous.

  9. ak says:

    No no no no no NO! Black women are NOT obligated to reply to any man’s ‘good’ comments and compliments just like they’re not obligated to reply to any man’s bad and rude comments.

    Enough already with black men’s ‘you’re my public property’ attitude and perceptions. And on a whole, even when black women are surrounded only by black women, black people are FAR too familiar with other black people that they don’t know or don’t know well. Blacks are just Familiar-palooza! Rev. Lisa on her blog/think tank Black Women Blow The Trumpet said that a lot of black people have to work on setting up boundaries for themselves and making sure that other people, black or otherwise, respect those boundaries.

    This is what a lot of black people just lack: boundaries and a respect for them. This is why black men feel they can use street and public sexual harassment towards black women.

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