Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Race Issues Part 3 Undervaluing Black Women

In part two I tried to focus on the psychological war being waged by some in the black community. I avoided discussing black women; the level of disrespect they deal with is of a different nature. I know black men who have never dated a black woman. They love their grandmothers, mothers and sisters, yet (some) show outward animosity if not downright contempt towards black women. If black men don't value black women why should anyone else? There's a small (and relatively voiceless) minority of men and women trying to refute the lies being told about black women, but their voices are muted by comparison.

Claire Huxtable was one of the most beloved characters on television. She was beautiful, professional and hard working. Although she wasn't your typical black mother she was more realistic than the women who dominate television screens today. Claire has been replaced by Real Housewives, Basketball Wives and a slew of lesser known "reality" show divas. Many of these woman have provided the worst images associated with black women in recent years. Blaming these women won't solve the problem. After their fifteen minutes are up a new starlet will fill the void. The entertainment industry (with help from the viewing public) has successfully commodified black female buffoonery.

Black women (like all women) are susceptible to the physical abuse that's prevalent in our patriarchal society, but they also fight negative labels associated exclusively with them: angry, hoochie, welfare queen and hoodrat. The most pervasive stereotypes associated with black femininity are negative. All of these stereotypes and images have worked to reclassify black women as being less desirable and substandard. Realistic images of black women on television have been drowned out by a fame and fortune chasing minority who have proven that fame and fortune are worth their souls.

We have a First Lady who is often described as unpatriotic, angry and a freeloader. The Ivy league graduate who routinely made a six figure salary in the years before she was the First Lady has been reduced to being an angry welfare queen. Black women have struggled to control their image in greater society. No matter how professional and competent they show themselves to be they still find themselves fighting for legitimacy. Every time a black woman does something outrageous in the public sphere countless other black women suffer. 

Many of the black men I know who exclusively date white women say they would date black women if there were more sisters "on their level"; the reality is: black women are more likely to be college educated than black men. Society has put such a premium on Eurocentric standards of beauty (blond hair and blue eyes) that for decades black women have used skin lightening creams and hair products designed to make them look less like themselves. Black men are partly responsible for this. We have believed the hype that we turned white women into a symbol of success akin to a Rolex or a Mercedes.  

If you go to any church in the black community you'll see black women doing much of the work to keep the doors open. Black women disproportionately fund the missionary and teach the bible school and Sunday school lessons. It's black women who raise the children when daddy decides he's had enough, yet with all they do for our community we (collectively) don't value them. There's a reason society won't respect our women and we've given it to them.