In response to my post about the Jill Scott controversy, a few commenters made the wise observation that there sure do seem to be a heckuva lot of "them po' black women" stories floating around lately. Roslyn Holcomb offered:
...We've been ignored by the media since we've been here, now all of a sudden they can't stop talking about us. Do we honestly believe that they suddenly give a damn? Of course not. They're counter-programming against Michelle Obama and what it means that suddenly we have a black First Lady. That undermines white supremacy and they're in a frenzy to counteract that message and the impact that it can have. God forbid a black woman actually think she's fit to be First Lady.So what do we do? Instead of putting our best foot forward and show ourselves in our magnificence we play right into the media message. That will undermine the marginalization of black women. This woe is me message does nothing to do that. And that's their intent....
I wrote the following post for What About Our Daughters back in 2007. I thought digging it out of the vault would be a good way to end the week. Folks shouldn't get it twisted when they hear us complain about injustice--racism and sexism have dealt black women a host of challenges, but we are no more defined by those challenges than anyone else. Indeed, despite what CNN and NBC and Steve Harvey say, most of us are doing just fine, thank you.
Have you heard the news? Lately, everybody’s talking about how bad it is to be a black woman. Let some folks in the media tell it, we are over-educated, unattractive, unwanted, overbearing, unhealthy and poor. NBC Nightly News recently devoted a whole week to the plight of the sister. You know, whenever I hear the latest “oh, how it sucks to be a black woman” story, I think: They must not know the black women I know.
They say that black women are too smart for our own good. The black women I know realize that there is no such thing–learning is the key to professional success, personal fulfillment and freedom. And the black women I know realize that a mate that doesn’t want a smart partner, is a mate they don’t want.
They say that black women are not beautiful, that our hair is too nappy, our skin too dark, our noses too wide and our asses too big. The black women I know are gorgeous, sexy and strong, more so because they love their black selves–truly and deeply. The black women I know are loc’d, fro’d and twisted, and even if they are not, they understand that black women’s hair needn’t be altered to be beautiful. The black women I know are size 2 to 22, but always fine. The black women I know understand beauty is not foretold by the amount of melanin in their skin. The black women I know believe European features don’t trump African ones, no matter what fashion magazines say.
They say that black women are unlovable, that no partner–black, white or otherwise–wants us. All of the black women I know are adored by their families and friends. Some of the black women I know are married to wonderful men and building strong families. Some of the black women I know aren't interested in men. Some of the black women I know attract the attention of eager suitors of all races and nationalities. Some of the black women I know don't care to partner with anyone. None of the black women I know are defined by whether or not they have a significant other.
They say that black women hate and dominate men. The black women I know lovingly raise their sons, embrace and speak gently to their husbands, and respect their fathers. The black women I know also realize that their gender doesn’t make them second to any man, and that female equality is just as important as racial equality.
They say that black women are unapologeticly unhealthy. The black women I know cherish their bodies. Some of the black women I know work out daily and monitor their diets closely. Some of the black women I know struggle with weight and stress, but recognize how their habits affect their health. The black women I know read about nutrition, try healthy recipes, do yoga, run marathons, and belly dance for exercise. The black women I know understand that good health requires work and vigilance, and they are dedicated to living long and healthy lives.
They say that black women are penniless. The black women I know make money and manage it. They own homes, condos and co-ops. They save for a rainy day, because rainy days always come.
The black women I know don’t represent every black woman. But the character of the downtrodden black woman that gets so much ink and film doesn’t represent the black women I know. It is not true, as many people imply, that it sucks to be us. The black women I know are proud and happy to be black women.
Here’s what is true: black women are often dismissed and overlooked. To use the vernacular, folks are always “sleeping on” the fabulousness of black women. People were sleeping on black women when Harriet Tubman was leading her people to freedom. People were sleeping on black women when Dorothy Dandridge was one of the most beautiful women on the silver screen. People were sleeping on black women when Mae Jemison was rocketing into space. People were sleeping on black women when Ruby Dee was shining on stage and working for black equality. People were sleeping on black women when Shirley Chisholm was running to be the leader of the free world. People were sleeping on black women when Toni Morrison was winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. People were sleeping on black women when Ann Fudge was working her way to the top at Kraft Foods. Ain’t nothin’ changed.
But, you know what? People who dismiss and overlook black women and their achievements do so to their own detriment, and at their own loss. Overlook the black women I know and they keep on going, keep on achieving and keep on living well.