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Everything's Not About Your Fat White Body, Karen

I have struggled with my body for my entire life. It's difficult for me to remember a time when I didn't hate my body. Or believed that I was in a much bigger body than I actually was. Or felt ashamed or self-conscious being in my body. It wasn't until the last few years that I realized that I could love my body, each and every part of it, exactly the way it is. And I came to this realization because of black bodies unapologetically existing and sharing their body love with the rest of the world through their fashion, writing, images, and more.

But my struggle is singular in that my larger body is white. Yes, it's difficult being in a larger body. People question whether I can complete basic physical tasks. Clothing stores that serve larger bodies are still laughably limited in their sizing options. Family and friends encourage me to try to lose weight "for my health" and told me for years that I would never find love unless I was in a smaller body. Co-workers have brought me to tears over their insensitivity and blatant discrimination of my size. The media, the government, and doctors have used language such as "epidemic" and "war" to characterize the battle they are fighting against my larger body.

Our lens to the outside world is an interior lens projecting our experience in our bodies onto our external landscape. A shame-clouded interior lens can only project shame and judgement. Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

And yet I do not have to endure the additional micro-aggressions, oppression, and discrimination that are experienced by simply being in a black body. So often (too often), we as white people see something that black people and POC (people of color) are doing and we desire to co-opt it for us - to steal it and make it ours and ours alone. "Look at what we created, other white people! Pay me and praise me for stealing and appropriating!"

We claim it as ours, stripping away and diminishing the experiences, history, culture, and struggle of black bodies. We wipe it clean of the trauma and abuse, closing our eyes to the perpetuation of white bodies stealing and profiting from black bodies. And then we attack black bodies, stomp on their hands struggling to rise to our privileged level and snatch their culture out of their hands. Then we point down to their bodies that we just battered and bruised and tell other white people, "Look what happens when you're in a body we don't like!"

The fear of the imagined 'fat black woman' was created by racial and religious ideologies that have been used to both degrade black women and discipline white women. Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia

We have found excuses and reasons to hate and demonize black bodies. We clutch our bags when a black body enters the elevator with us. We cross the street when we see a suspicious (aka a black) body. We tell our white neighbors that the black family that just moved in across the street is going to ruin and devalue the surrounding properties. We call the police when a black body is walking around their own neighborhood. It seems that no matter what black bodies do or don't do, say or don't say we as white people will tell them that it is the "wrong way" and twist it against them. We tell black bodies to stop grieving, to stop fighting, to stop protesting, to stop speaking, to stop breathing.

It's not enough that we steal from black bodies and diminish their lived experiences. It's not enough that we use their bodies and lives as disciplinary examples for white bodies. It's not enough that we are the cause of the injustice they experience daily. We'll then come up with a multitude of reasons to make it all about us. "It's okay to get upset that yet another black body was murdered but please control your anger and stop blaming me for your problems!" "Ohhh, it looks like I'm going to be seen as racist if I don't say something about this so I'm going to post a black square in solidarity and use all the right tags but then I'll delete it later because - aesthetic, duh."

"Ugh. Of course it's white people's fault. I guess I'll just ask this black body to teach me what I need to know so we can just move on from all this."

As so often happens, it becomes about the plight of the white bodies. The voices of white bodies become louder and more important. Our needs, our voices, our stance, our opinions, our homes, our jobs, our money, our bodies, and our lives. We have been raised in a country that sees our white bodies as better, more important, and more valuable. So black bodies can't possibly be part of the conversation let alone in the picture because white bodies are the only ones that seem to matter. In a campaign advocating for the love of larger bodies, the picture shows primarily large white women with stereotypically curvaceous, hourglass figures and maybe one token POC in the back behind the white bodies.

Arguably, much like the feminist movement, body positivity has become non-intersectional and prioritises/celebrates the thoughts, feelings, opinions and achievements of white women, with a small number of 'token' people of colour to help fill up the 'look at us being diverse!' quota. Stephanie Yeboah, Why Are Women of Colour Left Out Of Body Positivity?

Black bodies have been speaking, moving, singing, creating, dancing, laughing, crying, feeling, shouting, pleading, living, and dying but we haven't noticed. Because all we see is our white bodies. And that needs to stop. We, in our white bodies, need to shut up. For once, can we not make it about us? Can we just listen? Don't try to justify the white body's actions. Don't diminish or ignore the experience and pain and trauma of black bodies. Don't tell black bodies to "get over" the historical trauma that is still effecting their daily lives. Don't invade black spaces and demand to be taught, to be heard, to be paid attention to. Don't show up for a day and then leave thinking that you "did your duty".

We need to stop making everything about us in our white bodies. We need to show up every single day advocating for black bodies - offline in our homes, at our children's schools, at our places of worship, at our jobs. We need to pay black bodies for their work - the same amount of money that we would pay a white body. We need to support organizations who are fighting for black bodies and against systemic oppression - regularly. We need to be using our privilege to raise up other black bodies. We need to thank and give credit to the black bodies that have been doing this work long before white bodies noticed (and then stole it).

Because without those black bodies fighting to exist in their beautiful bodies, I don't know if I would be here. Because of black bodies, I am on a journey to loving my large, white body instead of hating it. Because of black bodies, I have books that teach self-love, accounts that show people existing in and loving their larger bodies, and the language to fight against the hatred of larger bodies. So, thank you. Thank you to these amazing, talented, wonderful, beautiful black bodies.

Books By Black Bodies: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Body Positive Power: Because Life Is Already Happening and You Don't Need Flat Abs to Live It by Megan Jayne Crabbe Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America by Ibi Zoboi All Along You Were Blooming: Thoughts for Boundless Living by Morgan Harper Nichols Fattily Ever After: The Fat, Black Girls' Guide to Living Life Unapologetically by Stephanie Yeboah

The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings

Black Accounts to Follow:

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