Photo of three women by Shanita Mitchell for the Autoethnographer

Am I the strong and long suffering type who will be eternally self-sacrificing for the collective good? Am I the token exception to the rule type Black person that is often used as a weapon against their own community because I “prove” that “making it” is possible with enough hard work? Am I the wild siren bent on luring upstanding men into wickedness with my scantily clad, curvaceous form? Am I the fuming antagonizer who rowdily challenges everyone and everything? I fit none of these personas.

AUTHOR’S MEMO

I have often been lectured that I shouldn’t be concerned with what others think of me. And though I understand the sentiment and reasoning behind the statement, it has never quite settled in as making complete sense. I agree that I shouldn’t let others’ thoughts DEFINE me, but I should be concerned about what they think of me, particularly since those thoughts may be guided by problematic representations of Black women in history and media. Those guided thoughts can turn into actions that are guided against me, and I think it is important to acknowledge that reality. Acknowledging that reality led me to the need to embody and personify some of those more weaponized ideals as a form of autoethnographic catharsis and sharing.

It is hard to describe the peculiar sensation of entering a space and pondering exactly which of the established stereotypes you are battling against in someone else’s mind. Am I the strong and long suffering type who will be eternally self-sacrificing for the collective good? Am I the token exception to the rule type Black person that is often used as a weapon against their own community because I “prove” that “making it” is possible with enough hard work? Am I the wild siren bent on luring upstanding men into wickedness with my scantily clad, curvaceous form? Am I the fuming antagonizer who rowdily challenges everyone and everything? I fit none of these personas. But at moments, I am the fiercely strong woman who is willing to sacrifice…and the college educated Black voice in the room…and the 21st century woman who embraces her sexuality…and the passionate advocate with real emotions. I know these things about myself. I know what to call myself: a complicated woman. But what do they call me? What have they called me? What is the resulting struggle and implication? That is the idea that I wanted to explore with this multimedia autoethnography.

I pay homage to Nina Simone’s already iconic and thorough exploration of stereotypes by setting the project to the song “Four Women.” This version was performed by Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott, and Ledisi at 2010 Black Girls Rock Awards.

About Author

Shanita Mitchell currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Rappahannock Scholars Program at the University of Mary Washington. Since graduating from UMW with her B.A. in 2012, she has continued to pursue her passion for providing underserved and underrepresented student populations with college access opportunities and scholarships by working in and with the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, and serving as the advisor for various multicultural and performance organizations on campus. That same passion recently led Shanita to acquire her M.A. in English from Southern New Hampshire University with the intent to expand beyond the administrative side of higher ed and into the classroom. Shanita also works as a dance instructor at The Courthouse School of Ballet and Umbiance Dance Studio. In her spare time, Shanita enjoys portrait painting, amateur photography, costuming, video editing, and advancing her study of Black feminist thought, Critical Race Theory, and autoethnography as a meaningful expression of self.

You might also enjoy:

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.