Snob: Why do you think that every couple months the mainstream press discovers a new malady, new tragedy, some new horror that has befallen black women? Why do you think there is this fascination...?
Nelson: I think there's two things. I think, one, we kinda help perpetuate that. When you watch Basketball Wives...when you watch Celebrity Apprentice...when you watch Nene attacking Star...when you watch the Braxtons...and a myriad of shows I'm unfamiliar with...Bridezillas...they seem to find the black women who are most egregious in terms of depicting the very stereotypes that someone like me and you and other women are out there trying to fight against. We have some culpability in how that all goes.
But I think though, as I talk about in the book, what's important is people have to understand,, black women have been defined in ways that are negative for a very long time. And every once in a while we get a spurt of something new. We get Clare Huztable. We got Michelle Obama in the 21st century. We have Oprah in the 80s, 90s and the 21st century. Of course we had the civil rights era with Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. But it's almost like we separated ourselves from that and now we're in this new age of...the hostile, angry, "b-word" black woman is the standard...it's the norm. And when I talk to young students in particular I'm always very concerned about how they embrace "the b-word." And they find it to be a badge. It's not something to be ashamed of. So, the reason the media has these flare ups of studies and dissections is because a) we allow it and perpetuate it, and b) they've been doing it for a very long time.
Snob: What's wrong with young African American women who want to embrace the angry...They think it makes them look tough?
Nelson: I think there is a real problem...I like to say stereotypes are not funny when they follow you everywhere. These young girls think this is cool...and it's okay when you're with your girls...We all have girls and we all have banter. But when you get into the workplace and people see as the angry "b word" that's a problem that's going to hurt you in your track up. when you're in the church house and you're being treated in a way that marginalized you...most of our churches are 80 to 90 percent black women...we're the heads of household...we're the bread earners...so when you think about that...I think young women have decided if you can't beat 'em, kind join 'em thing...well if they're gonna call me this, I'm going to answer to it, but what I'm saying is that's not a good answer to you, because when things follow you like that, they hurt you economically, they hurt you socially, they hurt you relationally. And you're going to wake up at 40...when you get my age...tough shit. You think this is funny now because you're 20, 25...maybe it is...but it's not going to be funny when you're 35, 40, when you don't have the things you want, because you defined yourself in such a way that people now see you as the negative, angry, hostile, "b word," tough girl. Men aren't attracted to tough women; they like women.
(Watch the entire 10-min. interview above)
Well...not all men like women, nor do all women desire men, but I digress...
Saying that black women are culpable for the way we are denigrated for our gender and race, as a whole, in the media and in our communities, is victim-blaming. It is buying in to tired "credit to your race" ideology. Unlike Nelson, I have not experienced any rash of black female bitchiness or any indication that these women have become the norm anyplace other than the TV set. There will always be loud and aggressive black women, but no more than there are white, Asian, Latina or Native women of the same sort. (And for that matter--men.) And though those women are not me, they have every right to exist.