"Clearly, they don’t understand what we’re made of"

Black female bloggers...I love you. I love you all so much sometimes I don't even know what to do except hand you the internet.

From Kelly Virella, at Dominion of New York:
...Shockingly offensive headlines sell advertising. Thus, in the past few months, several venerable news organizations have dished out headlines like “Why Black Women are Ugly” in Psychology Today, “The Case Against Black Studies, Just Look at the Dissertations” in The Chronicle of Higher Education and now “Why Black Women Are Fat” in The New York Times.

Every one of these articles purports to be offering black people, and black women in particular, a service. The logic: you need to know that you’re ugly, dumb and fat so you can improve yourself. And the last one — “Why Black Women are Fat” — was written by a black woman who probably called herself “keeping it real.” If like me, you’ve been naive enough to think that the comment thread might be a good place to explain and defend yourself, you know by now just how wedded readers are to these stereotypes of black women. The hate runs deep. It’s a sickness. It’s like they’re saying to us, how dare you step outside the role of mammy that has been crafted for you and handed-down from generation to generation? How dare you think you’re smart, have a positive body image and feel like someone would be lucky to fall in love with you?

Clearly, they don’t understand what we’re made of.

Some people are happiest with black women when we do what slavery and Jim Crow prepared us to do — grin and bare a lifetime of taking care of white folks’ homes and children. If you walk along New York City’s Fifth Avenue during the day, much of what you’ll see is black women pushing strollers containing white babies. I’m not mad at black domestics, nor their employers. I just think it’s ironic that black women are constantly denigrated as bad mothers — single mothers who are breeding criminals, according to Rick Santorum — but good enough to raise white folks children. Mammying is the best role for us. When we stay in it — fictionally or in reality — we win Oscars and recognition for a lifetime of loyal service. Lest we forget: When Oprah Winfrey was nominated for an Oscar for her sassy role in The Color Purple – the role where she said, “Hell naw!” when a white woman asked her if she wanted to be her maid — she did not win.

As black women, we all know it’s a lie that we are fit only to be mammies. If we ever needed proof, just look at the richest woman in the world, the aforementioned media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Queen Victoria is lily white, the apotheosis of Victorian femininity. To amass wealth, her ancestors raped, pillaged and plundered everything that moved, establishing trading systems that dislocated entire civilizations, killing tens of millions and enslaving just as many. But Oprah Winfrey — a sometimes fat, not conforming to white beauty ideals, single black woman — came out on top. So much for putting black women in their places.

The world’s stereotypes of black women are so patently ridiculous that I would argue even their authors didn’t believe them. I think Europeans arrived in Africa, saw some topless, curvaceous women, and went home in denial about their attraction to them. On the plantation, they creeped into the slave quarters and raped, coerced and seduced black women, only to say 9-months later — when the light-skinned babies were born — I find black women repulsive. Nice try. Slow awkward clap. Yes, I’m talking about you Thomas Jefferson.

At the time, the use of this anti-black woman rhetoric was also deliberate and calculated, a tool to reinforce the social and economic order by undermining our self-esteem and weakening our resistance to slavery.

...In today’s climate, less people believe these stereotypes and most of the believers and perpetuators have no idea what their motivations are. A lot of them probably tuned in to watch Oprah in the afternoons and thought of her as a friend.

The propaganda machine that once explicitly tied these stereotypes to black women’s role in the labor market uses different messages and messengers now. Occasionally we get our tongue-lashing from a black woman. Usually, the messengers say they’re just trying to help. Regardless of their intention, the impact on our psyche is the same.

As awful and harmful as their words are, they signal that we must be doing something right. Being in the White House, being in the board room, being in the movies, being in college, while being ourselves — while being all of what we are — must be enough to drive some people crazy. I mean black women are attending college now at rates as high as or higher than whites (Hmmm. Wonder why that’s not in the mainstream news). While we turn coal into diamonds, all they can do is repeat the lines they were programmed to believe, the lines that explain why this can’t be happening.

Mister summed up their attitudes in the Color Purple: ”You’re black, you’re poor, you’re ugly, you’re a woman, you’re nothing at all!” Understandably, some of us cave under this rejection and lose faith in ourselves. But some of us make it. And as long as we march forward with a sense of sisterhood and linked destiny, we will build a better world for ourselves, our menfolk and our children.

Despite the efforts of various arm chair psycho-analysts to malign black women’s strength, it’s good that so many of us are mentally tough. I’ve never met Oprah, but I’m pretty sure she don’t give a damn what America planned for her.
*standing ovation*


  1. ::Standing ovation:: Talk about bringing tears to your eyes...

  2. Sing it loud, say it proud!

  3. On. Effing. Point.

  4. We are not buying what they are selling and the increasing frequency of these negative depictions of black women show their desperation.


This blog is strictly moderated. Everyone is now able to comment again, however, all Anonymous posts will be immediately deleted. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, so try to stay current with the conversations.