Who the Hell Are You? A Narrative

Naomi D. Ritter, Duquesne University 

Think before you answer…Who the hell are you?

I am a black woman. I am tall. I have short, natural hair, and I have no ass. Sorry. Just needed to put that one out there so we all know. When a person asks “who the hell are you?” what the hell are you supposed to you say back?

“I’m a black woman.”

Is that all you are? Does your race define you?

“No”

Okay so then who are you? Who the hell are you?

“Well, yes, sort of…my race does define me”

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Are you sure about that? Is it forced to define you or do you allow it to do so?

“I do not allow it to do so. My job is not to allow something I cannot control to define who I am.”

But that’s not what you said. You said, you are ‘a black woman’, when I asked who the hell you are.

“Because that is what the world sees first, and as my outlook evolves, that is the mentality I am expected to promote”


What the hell does that even mean?

“It means that I am who you see. But you do not see me”


“It means that I am expected to be loud and ratchet and uncontrollable.

It means I am expected to fight with my fists quicker than with my love.

It means that I am the mother of this earth. That I am timeless. That my grace and beauty transcends generations.

(It means that those truths sound differently when outside of your mind.)

It means that all of my daughters are born Queens-not princesses-and that we will always be the healer in a world full of trauma and pain.

Black women are so special, we have come so far. We have been forced to be strong to a point where we literally don’t need a man, or so you’ll assume, and yet can fall so quickly for a man to call our own. As a black woman, I was raised “right”, or so I’ll assume. I am the liberal arts Popping Policy Analyst, degree holding, black sorority sign throwing, baby girl millennial with the puff balls, the pink sunglasses, the choker and coffin nails that can frighten and shrink a man upon an eye lock. It means other black girls don’t like me because I’m too happy or too goofy or “I think I’m cute”.

Black Panther Party, Black Women's March

Black Panther Party, Black Women's March

“Or bougie.”

But is that who you are, or who you portray to be?

“I like to believe that I portray the best version of myself. I went to college and graduated like my mama told me to.

I learned that being black and a woman may actually mean that you are not able to have it all. But such ideologies are to remain in our subconscious. Because once spoken and pushed out into planet Earth they sound blasphemous and naïve. But as a black woman, as a black millennial, whoever the hell I am is seemingly defined by what I am. So when you ask me who the hell am I? I cannot say for sure. I can say what I am. I can say that a quick sift through my short memory will tell you that my family story from my narrative began in Alabama. I can say that whoever the hell I am, I am country in my blood but city in my veins.

But that’s because I prefer bare feet on grass and concrete more than I prefer tennis shoes that I will toss the moment they become off white.

Because I was raised by elders so my perspective has always been respectful.

Because I was raised by women so my opinion has always played outside long past curfew, when she was supposed to be inside and playing nice.

Because I hailed from a neighborhood that I always thought was so beautiful and loving in all of its’ toxic violence.

Because I didn’t realize how disgusted people get when I tell them I’m from that neighborhood. Like I’m supposed to be from the suburbs or a more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood like x or y. Because—“

Wait, you’re from Homewood? I would have never guessed.

“Why the hell does it matter?”

Because the girls from Homewood are so ratchet and you don’t act like that at all.

“I mean I can get ratchet if I need to but I—“

Let’s get back on topic. I’ll ask again, who the hell are you?

“I’m a loud mouth, church mouse, warrior Queen from Homewood, PA. I earned two fucking degrees and I rap about conscious shit like ankhs and black love. I burn incense and my plan is to inject peace and affection into this world through food and gardening, promoting and maintaining healthy relationships, love, and a mutual understanding of a greater good that we must achieve. Who the hell are you?