Remembering lessons of etiquette from Mothers, Grandmothers and Aunties, I was never taught to say, “I’m sorry,” when someone else said “excuse me” because they needed to move past me or nudged me by mistake – or vice versa. When I really think about it, I was never taught to say, “I’m sorry,” – ever. Instead I was taught to use the term, “I apologize” when I felt remorseful of my actions.
In revisiting moments when I’ve said, “excuse me,” and was met with the response “I’m sorry,” I’ve always thought it quite weird. What were people, mostly white women and girls, apologizing about – being in my way? I also wondered how “I’m sorry” fit as a response to “excuse me.”
Their mannerism of carrying on as if they are in the way comes from centuries of (mostly) upper to middle class white women adhering to, and teaching one another that submissiveness is the epitome of womanhood – as exhibited in the “Cult of Domesticity.” Ultimately, they adapted to a culture of shrinking to accommodate others.
This is a sharp contrast to the cultural upbringing of Black women and girls, where for instance, we were taught to say what we felt; and being bold and unapologetic in our beliefs, passions, and our ability to express them were very important and often emphasized.
Can you imagine if it hadn’t been emphasized? Can you imagine if Fannie Lou Hamer apologized after saying she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of living under Jim Crow laws and Mississippi’s discriminatory voting practices? Or, if Nina Simone had been passive in singing, “ain’t got nothing…I’ve got myself…I’ve got life.”? These phenomenal women never shrunk or apologized for how they truly felt and it’s why we remember them.
Every day, Black women and girls are still fighting to exist in this world without having to deal with the infringement of our rights due to others’ cultural ignorance and lack of humanity. And like the women who came before us, we are the top cultural producers and innovators. Our unwavering passion is rooted and driven by our beliefs – which make people feel something every time we speak, sing or walk in a room.
So, LOUD Girls, stop apologizing! It just doesn’t fit our legacy of being Black and Woman.
Editor, LOUD Girl Movement Blog