By TeKisha Rice
Within the first few minutes of reading, I was already sucked in. If you loved Gabrielle Union before, you will love her even more after reading her book, We’re Going to Need More Wine. You may even need something a little stronger as you read this one… go ahead and reach for the whiskey!
Gabrielle’s composition of short stories integrates humor to depict her compelling and relatable experiences of Black girlhood and womanhood. Gab wastes no time tackling the systemic oppression all too familiar to many Black women – all while owning her class privilege. Most notably, Gabrielle discloses her experiences with racism, sexism, and the one we hate talking about the most…colorism. I don’t have enough space to tell you about all the gems in this book, but I will briefly dive into two themes from her stories that represent two sides of the same coin: Black Pitfalls and Black Bombs.
“You can either be Super Negro or the forgotten Negro” -p. 7
This was not the first thing that stood out to me but it was the first thing that punched me in the gut. In the first chapter Gabrielle discusses her family’s move from Nebraska to California where she became hypersensitve about any and everything that would make her appear blacker – or what she calls “Black Pitfalls.” These are all the ways we may hold ourselves back to make people around us more comfortable. For Gabrielle, this included the detrimental level of self-sacrifice associated with being everything for everybody all the time. You don’t have to be superhuman, you just have to be superYOU. The underlying message here…stop it! It’s easier said than done but minimizing yourself for the comfort of others is a disservice to your most genuine self. Be your beautiful, bold, black self. So…What are the things you self-monitor? Set yourself free.
“You can love what you see in the mirror, but you can’t self esteem your way our of the way the world treats you” – p. 111
While the Black Pitfalls represent potentially destructive ways that self-monitoring manifests, Black Bombs refers to the protective ways that we self-monitor. In chapter 16, Gabrielle discusses her transition to being a step mother and all the joys of parenthood. But her enjoyment of step-motherhood was not exempt from the responsibilities that accompany parenting a Black child in America. Gab explains how she’s had to drop “Black Bombs” on her step sons. These are “…the inescapable truths of being a black person in this country, the things you do you children a disservice by not telling them about…things to keep them alive” (p. 206/7). Although she only refers to these as Black Bombs in chapter 16, they are littered throughout the book. Gabrielle is clear that success, however you define it, does little to combat the presence of discrimination. Moreover, no attempts to supersede the constraints of identity can alleviate the burden. The goal may be to view people for their humanity, but “humanness doesn’t insulate me from racism or sexism” (p. 223).
“I know what I can accomplish. And anything I have accomplished, I did so not in spite of being a black woman, but because I am a black women” – p. 223
Navigating the duality of black pitfalls and black bombs can be stressful. We must fight for black pride in spaces that continually undermine our value and among people who insist our presence is due to blackness rather than merit. Gabrielle’s book is a refreshing reminder these are not mutually exclusive, our blackness is our merit.
TeKisha Rice is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Projejct, LLC. TeKisha is an Alabama native and current PhD student at UIUC, Her life centers on Christ, family, friends, food, and her dog JoJo.