There’s Only Room For One: The Ongoing Tug of War Between Successful Black Women

August 23, 2012  |  

blackfilm.com

There’s this wicked little rumor that has been floating around for decades. The rumor implies that black women are incapable of supporting one another. I call it a rumor because I highly doubt that we are unable to support each other, I just believe that we have allowed ourselves to be fooled to an extent. We’ve fallen victim to what Rene Syler refers to as the “there’s only room for one” phenomenon, which she explains as “the idea that whatever the field, it’s a zero sum game and another woman of color is competition.” Although this sounds like a very foolish and simple way of thinking, it is an ideology that has been subconsciously embedded in our culture. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, though. The black woman is the poster-child for oppression in America. Taking history into consideration, we were not only oppressed because we were black, we also had to fight for our rights as women. Decades later the scars still remain and we still walk around with this idea ingrained in our subconscious: I gotta get mines, good luck getting yours…

The latest cat fight erupted in the form of Twitter beef a couple of weeks ago between Nicki Minaj, who is undeniably the dominant female presence in hip-hop right now, and rising star Azealia Banks. As Banks tweeted about her competition, ““I don’t believe ‘Rap Game’ hierarchy …….. Sorry. Studio !!! Just wait until I drop this album…..LMFAOO just wait !!! You b***hes are gonna f**king GAG!!!!!!!!!!!” Prior to that it was Azealia and Lil Kim, Nicki and Kim, and so on. Of course, female rappers are infamous for going at each other’s throats, but what about Lisa Raye and Stacey Dash? Or the blatant shade that Keri Hilson has thrown at Beyonce and Ciara in the past? Or better yet, the other black woman that works in your office who has been going out of her way to slight you all year?

I understand that many industries are male-dominated, which can make it difficult sometimes for women to get ahead, but tearing each other down certainly is not the way to change that. It may help us to make progress in our own current situations, but what about the little black girls coming up behind us? If we are constantly at war with one another because we carry the “there’s only room for one mentality,” it will continue to be just that. We will be leaving them to duke it out for the position that meets the “one black woman quota.” But, imagine if we decided to become allies in the workplace instead of enemies. What if we chose to support and empower each other to get ahead? What if we took the Dominique Dawes-Gabby Douglas route instead of the Lil Kim-Nicki Minaj route? Imagine how much further we would get.

I’ll never forget the day I finally got to speak to one of my absolute favorite authors. As I sang her praises she sucked it all in. Once I spoke of my own goals and aspirations to be a writer as well, she threw me shade. On the flip side of that, I’ll forever remember my first real interview. One of my interviewers was a black woman who had my absolute dream job. As we neared the conclusion of my interview, she looked over my resume once again and gave me a few pointers on how I could make it better. A few weeks later I received a phone call from her. She had called to let me know that one of their interns also applied for the position and they had to give her a chance since she had already paid her dues, but told me how well I had done during my interview and referred me for another similar position within the company. Many would say that if she really wanted to help me she would’ve pushed for me to get that job, but honestly, her feedback and encouragement was one of the best things she could’ve ever done for me, the reassurance that I was on the right track. Support. As a young woman on the come up, I cherish every pointer and encouraging word from other black women as if they are rare jewels. I realize that everyone will not take the each one reach one route, but we can all help each other by choosing not to behave in a derogative manner towards other black women. Trust, there’s enough people doing that to us already.

Sound off, ladies: Do you think black women struggle with supporting one another?

Jazmine Denise is a freelance writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise

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