Essays

Ceejai vs The ‘Real’ World: A Observation in Black Womanhood

Let me start by saying this: I am no fan of The Real World. I don’t think, even as a child, I’ve ever sat down and watched a lot of it, minus recaps and one infamous fighting scene. I’m not an avid watcher of MTV as a whole, except that one semester my freshman year. That being said, like the season of the Bad Girls Club with the Clermont twins in it, I decided to watch after seeing an overwhelming amount of videos and screencaps of the most endearing and supportive castmate, Ceejai.

Ceejai, a black girl from St. Louis who currently resides in Atlanta, is one of the several castmates chosen to live in an apartment with six other strangers for this season of the Real World: Go Big or Go Home. She’s much like a lot of other black girls her age, fun loving and supportive. Under any normal circumstances, Ceejai would probably remain as cool as cucumber. But after enduring racist remarks for weeks at the hands of her roommate, Ceejai reacted in a way that many of us find understandable. Here’s a video of the altercation that ensued after Jenna and her friend provoked Ceejai using racially motivated insults.

This stirred up feelings in me about black womanhood and the way confrontations are handled when you are a black woman. Here’s several things I noticed in that video.

  • There are constant neverending trials for black women, both microagressions and blatant. Ceejai was tested time and time again.
    • To be black in America is hard. To be a black woman in America (or in any Eurocentric society tbh) feels backcrushing. There are black women who are forced to prove their calm, to rise above all the noise and all the pointed spears to keep a self image that radiates competence, hard work and patience. Perpetuated by the trope of the “strong, independent black woman”, this image is extremely damaging to the psyche as there is no room left for mistakes or humanity. In the scene, Ceejai clearly walks away from the issue and tries to calm herself down to not seem ‘ratchet’, deflecting the fact that the angry response to that level of ignorance would probably be the common one.
  • Black women understand the game white supremacy plays and many times choose to rise above. 
    •  Constantly antagonized and clearly hurt by many of Jenna’s remarks, Ceejai either kept quiet about the astounding ignorance or confronted her directly.  Ceejai was patient, kind and understanding toward her roommate, even opting to keep her in the house after she failed a challenge. As a black woman, the first instinct is rarely to react but to explain or attempt to understand. There are many black women who are forced to endure various degrees of racism and for the sake of preservation, try to react in the calmest ways possible. It’s all too common.
  • Often times when black women are struggling to maintain composure, they are often alone without aid. 
    • Despite their best efforts, Ceejai was alone that night. Instead of aiding her and comforting her the same way she did for Dean, Ceejai was alone when she walked out the room. Not a single person followed or attempted to calm her down. In fact, the same black man she had comforted after his run in with Jenna sat RIGHT there, rather than intervening. Even though her roommates were clearly on her side, they could have both stopped antagonizing her with the comments made and had enough time to stop her from fighting. The two roommates I believe would have stopped her were not present at the time. But either way, Ceejai was alone. Black women should find comfort in their friends or allies, not more animosity.
  • Even though the action could have been perfectly justified, black women are almost always made out to be the aggressor, never the victim.
    • There is only so much a person can take. As a person with a shorter fuse, I can truly say Ceejai endured a lot prior to the altercation. First, Jenna provoked the argument with her, having clearly attacked Ceejai prior to the fight. Her racial remarks were one thing, her threats toward Ceejai were another. The moment she physically put hands on Ceejai should have resulted in her ejection. But it didn’t. The threats Jenna yelled at her should have gotten her ejected as well. But it didn’t. Ceejai was the victim of bigotry and violence but no one identified her as such because of her black womanhood, adding to the abuse she suffered. MTV and the producers took a different route, waiting for her to ‘pop’, in which case she FINALLY became the aggressor, backed into a corner after all the abuse. This is common in most White dominated environments. Any person would have cracked under the pressure of that abuse; Ceejai’s response was extreme but by no means wrong in that sort of situation.
  • Sometimes, blackness doesn’t equal complete support.
    • All skinfolk definitely ain’t your kinfolk. Ceejai was far from a loner in the house. She was also not alone in her blackness. Jenna actively antagonized Dean, the other black roommate so badly, he was drawn out his character. Ceejai saw his struggle and comforted him, in a way only black women can. She acknowledged his struggle to be seen as a human being, capable of being vulnerable and having human emotions. Yet in her time of need, he was as silent as a mouse. He should have risen to the occasion and aided Ceejai, either by calming her or separating her from the argument all together.
  • Black women are often forced to take the high road to act as ‘examples’ of an entire community while their abuser continues to taunt them with racial insults.
    • Ceejai said it herself; she explained, walked out, ignored and just flat out refused to bend to Jenna. Despite all that, Jenna still called her ratchet and let her friends tell her to ‘Go Pick Cotton’ and allowed them to call her ‘nappy headed’. Meanwhile, Ceejai realizes that she cannot react as that is not the person that she is and she doesn’t want to let down the image of the black woman. As black women, when we walk down the street, when we talk, when we laugh, we are simultaneously made to be role models, most times without our permission. If we speak in AAVE, we’re Sheneneh. Confrontional? Nene Leakes. Angry? Tiffany Pollard. Matronly? Mamie.  Ceejai knew her appearance on this show meant more than an appearance on a show and tried so hard to avoid becoming a ‘bad’ example. We can’t win for losing.

Do you have anything to add about the altercation between Ceejai and Jenna?

Comment below!

XOXO,

Dream

 

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