Don’t Call Me ‘Sis’: Black Women, White Women and Boundaries

It was the social media post heard all over TikTok.

User Bratt4U made a simple post, a video saying this: “If you’re white, don’t call me sis. Point blank period.”

Their request was met, not with understanding or respect, but by immediate backlash, hatred, and racism.

Numerous people, the majority of them appearing to be White women, responded in Bratt4U’s video’s comments or with their own TikToks, finding some way to disrespect Bratt4U’s request, call them racist, or find a way to ignore their boundary and call them what they asked not to be called.

After enough of this treatment, Bratt4U shut off the comments for that particular video. It hasn’t stopped the video from reaching over 1.5 million views and counting.

Finally, in a now-removed post, the user takes Bratt4U’s sound from their video and places it over a video of an ape. (In case you don’t know, referring to Black people as apes or monkeys is racist.)

Rather than taking the opportunity for free cultural education by asking them why they didn’t want to be called “sis” by White people, these individuals decided it was better to be flat out racist.

Turns out Bratt4U has a very valid reason for not wanting to be called “sis” by White people, and it has everything to do with the word sis itself.

Sis, when used in the context of African American Vernacular English, or AAVE, is short for “Sista” or Sister. In AAVE, sis, bruh, fam, and the like are all used to show some form of kinship, a collective connection and widely-embraced idea that Black folk are united somehow as family. Bratt4U doesn’t feel that same kinship with White people. There are few shared experiences, few cultural connections, few collective understandings between them and White people. Therefore, as part of their boundary, she simply doesn’t want to be called sis.

The desire for some White people to use AAVE is at best, uncomfortable for most Black folks, and at worse, a form of hateful expression.

Sure, White people can use AAVE, but often when they do, it is used in jest, as a joke, as a trend or to make fun of Black people. AAVE, and in a larger way, Blackness, is trendy and fun to someWhite people. At best, it’s a way to look cool in front of other Whites. It is also a way to let one’s own inner anti-Blackness fly free.

As a Black person who has been on the other end of this, it has never felt like kinship when a White woman has called me “sis.” It’s felt like a passive aggressive attack. Same with “girl,” especially when said while trying to imitate AAVE, where it sound more like “guuuuuuurl,” where you almost expect a stereotypical finger snap and neck roll to follow. Same with any variation of girl, sistagirl, or girlfriend.

It’s uncomfortable, not inclusive.

Back to AAVE in general: clearly all Black people do not speak the same way, nor do all White people. Black People can and do reserve the right to request what they do and do not want to be referred to. And that right should be respected.

What happens instead is what we observed in Bratt4U’s situation, rather than taking the person seriously for how they wish to be referred to and respecting that boundary, racists choose to belittle that person, often using the very thing the person asked not to be called as a weapon.

Regardless of how one feels about AAVE, slang, cultural vernacular, one thing is abundantly clear: if a White person is more concerned with their right to say whatever they want more than respecting a Black person’s boundaries, the problem does not lie within that Black person. The problem is with the person who identifies as White.

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WALKER'S LEGACY IS A GROWING GLOBAL WOMEN IN BUSINESS COLLECTIVE FOUNDED TO ESTABLISH NETWORKS OF EMPOWERMENT AND ACCESS FOR WOMEN OF COLOR IN BUSINESS.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.

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