The bell rang, signaling recess was over. Everyone was in utter chaos, running around trying to catch the last breath of fresh air before we had to return to our studies. We could tell that our teacher was visibly upset because we did not line up in time.
As we entered the classroom and sat at our respective desks, the sister began to lecture the class on obedience and discipline. Midway through the lecture, she singled me out and stated, “Get out of my class. I am so sick and tired of you.” I remember standing in the hall and pondering what I could have possibly done to disrespect her.
She came out of the classroom and said, “Your face and body language are out of control.” I was very confused as to what she meant. Because of this interaction, I received a “B” in conduct, which prevented me from making “A” honor roll. I was in the fifth grade and learned that my brown female body would be under attack and a site for individuals to seek control of for years to come.
Throughout the years, I have heard comments about how I need to control my “emotions” because they are “too expressive,” “offensive” and “disrespectful.” Historical amnesia has stricken the United States regarding the carceral state and women-of-color bodies as objects to be controlled.
Andrea Ritchie, in Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, writes, “White supremacy demands such complete control of Black women and women of color that it takes very little to perceive us as out of control.” Ritchie provides a historical and contemporary analysis of slavery patrols up to current police practices to map how Black and other women-of-color bodies endure sexual violence and abuse and are treated as property to control.
She is not alone in the academic game to do so. Dorothy Roberts, in Killing the Black Body, and Laura Briggs in Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico, expose rape, reproductive rights and forced sterilization at the hands of the United States government. There is so much work to be done pertaining to why our lives are not considered of value.
Despite these harsh realities, there are women of color not holding back. Angela Rye, lawyer and political commentator, and Cardi B, rap artist and entrepreneur, have undergone public scrutiny for being authentically and unapologetically themselves.
Two of my favorite moments of Rye and Cardi B:
Rye and three male commentators were asked to speak on the Obama and Trump administrations. Rye is cut off while speaking with irrelevant information regarding university transcripts for Obama. Without a flinch, she shakes her head, raises her hand, and states: “In this moment I am going to Beyonce you! Boy bye, you are so out of line right now.” That moment was unlike anything I had ever seen on CNN. I became her number-one fan that day. Now I start every Monday listening to “On 1 with A.Rye” a podcast for the woke and “sophistiratchet.” Rye discuss politics and current events with autonomy.
Cardi B, using a live feed on Facebook, confronts individuals who stated she did not deserve to do hip-hop because she is Latina. She responds, “The way I see people discriminating against Hispanic people is not fair. You all do not be knowing what it means to be Dominican or Puerto Rican…people do not know the difference between race, ethnicity or nationality…that really hurts me.”
Cardi B is seen as “offensively blunt,” “vulgar” and “hypersexual.” However, her representation as an AfroLatinx rap artist whose songs speak of poverty, abuse and the hustle mentality to survive is the reality of many Latinx/a/o in the U.S. What many people do not know is that she is the first rap artist to have her first three singles in the top 10 at the same time. Her music is popular, our youth are listening to it and so am I.
What do we learn from Rye and Cardi B?
They are constantly under attack and told they are out of control. Lesson: They are not asking for respect, they are demanding it.
If I were able to go back in time and speak to my fifth-grade self, I would say: “Keep your ability to eye-roll, wear your emotions on your face and say how you feel when you feel it. No one has a right to control your body.”
I may have not inherited material wealth from my parents, but I inherited a face of resistance from my mother. To our Brown and Black girls who are told to “fix yo’ face,” keep on shining bright. Rye, Me and Cardi B got you!
Dr. Nichole Margarita Garcia is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. You can follow her on Twitter @DrNicholeGarcia.