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Do you ever feel that you have to leave your true self at the door in order to placate White colleagues? Do you downplay your abilities for fear of outshining Black men? Do you speak one way in the office, another way to your girlfriends? Is it sometimes a struggle to feel good about how you look -- your skin color, your hair, your body size and shape?
In this arresting and groundbreaking work, authors Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden, Ph.D., articulate with deep understanding what it is really like to be Black and female in America today.
Based on the African American Women's Voices Project, an interview and questionnaire study with four hundred women across the United States and from many walks of life, Shifting reveals that a large number of Black women feel pressure to compromise their true selves in order to fit in to American society. From one moment to the next, they report changing inwardly and outwardly -- Shifting "White," then Shifting "Black" again, Shifting "corporate," Shifting "cool" -- a coping and survival skill that often diminishes the joys of living an authentic life.
Shifting can have a devastating effect on a woman's body and soul. In a culture that is both racist and sexist, Black women are suffering. They are susceptible to an array of psychological problems, including anxiety, low self-esteem, disordered eating, depression, and even outright self-hatred. They may make others feel comfortable, but too often they are left feeling conflicted, weary, and alone.
Yet their revealing voices are utterly cathartic. As Black women talk openly about their lives -- contending with the workplace, mothering, coming to terms with their beauty, forging relationships with men, living their spirituality -- they describe what it takes to "make it" despite everything, and bring to light how essential it is to explode the myths and stereotypes still in place.
With this deeper perspective, Black women will find the path back to their true selves and come to understand how important it is to be aware of Shifting in their own lives. And readers of all genders and ethnicities will gain a heightened sensitivity to the continued damage wrought by bias and prejudice, and an increased awareness of what we can all do to make a difference.