Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why I'm ambivalent about that WaPo/Kaiser survey of black women

In a new nationwide survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a complex portrait emerges of black women who feel confident but vulnerable, who have high self-esteem and see physical beauty as important, who find career success more vital to them than marriage. The survey, which includes interviews with more than 800 black women, represents the most extensive exploration of the lives and views of African American women in decades. Read more...
It's hard to know whether to be happy or dismayed about this survey of black women that has gained so much attention since it's release last week. It is nice that, for once, a major media outlet spoke to black women, rather than at, about or around us. It is disheartening, though, that it requires "extensive exploration" for the broader American public to determine that black women are diverse and complicated beings, like, y'know, everyone else.

I am wary of making sweeping generalizations based on a sample of 800 black women out of the more than 20 million black women in the United States. And, I'm beginning to be of the mind that the last thing black women need is more statistics that people can manipulate and use to "understand" us without even knowing us.

And you can bet this study will be manipulated and misused, because people are loathe to let go of their biases about black women. Already, conservative hack Abby Schachter of The New York Post has penned a column wondering why, since "the results of the Post-Kaiser survey show that the vast majority of Black women aren't married," First Lady Michelle Obama doesn't spend more time telling black folks how important marriage is instead of lecturing Americans to eat healthy food and exercise.
The question that we'd ask is as follows: are thin, fatherless children really better off than obese children of two married parents? Read more...

They do love that narrative, don't they--the black woman unpartnered because she is a) unwanted or b) irresponsible and lacking in moral fiber. Of course, being married has nothing to do with morality. Anyway, the 2010 United States Census is a more reliable source for demographic data than the WaPo/Kaiser study. That data shows that more than 40 percent of black women between 40 and 64 are married, with partners living in the home. And most black women over 35 have been married at some point. But, y'know, why let facts get in the way of your ideas about the "vast majority" of black women. Data doesn't change minds like you think it would.

Now, you may want to ask, "Well, Tami, what is it that you black women want?" Ignore you and you complain. Explore you and you're still complaining. I'll tell you what I want. No, I'll let my friend Sparky tell you. He wrote an awesome post at Womanist Musings about being asked "When will you be happy?" by straight friends.

I'll be happy when our humanity is universally acknowledged (or even majority acknowledged for that matter!) as being equal to that of straight people. Until then, I'm going to be a grumpy gus with my grumpy face and my grumpy activism. Read more...
Read the whole thing. It's a phenomenal post. And, though it isn't about race, it captures how I feel as a black woman. I just want my humanity acknowledged. And so much about the response to the WaPo/Kaiser survey tells me we are nowhere close to that happening.


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