In one of the most important pieces of literature in the 20th century, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston brilliantly captured an unfortunate truth about Black womanhood in the following passage:

So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. Ah been prayin’ fur it tuh be different wid you.

My mind wanders to this passage- written in the 1930’s when I think about the constant attack of Black women in the media. The vilification and debasement of Black women has a long, troubled history in America that lingers with its rotten stench into our pseudo post-racial society.

Michelle Obama’s presence in the White House has invoked a plan of sorts, by certain individuals and entities, to defy her image by reinforcing all things negative about Black women.

Every week there is a new study focusing on how and why Black women are at the bottom of the totem pole in the land of the free.

Psychology Today is the most recent culprit participating in the campaign to demean Black women. Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa deemed it appropriate to write an incredibly flawed article, using equally flawed science titled, “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” In April it was Cassandra Dorius, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, whose study found that 59 percent of Black women have children by multiple fathers. Before that it was the abortion ad in SoHo claiming the most dangerous place for a child is in the Black woman’s womb. Prior to the SoHo ad there was the study that found Black women’s median wealth to be $5. And of course, there are the ambiguous studies, articles and broadcast segments that will have you believe Black women, especially successful ones, are so undesirable they cannot find Black men to wed.

Let’s not forget the attacks on Michelle Obama early in her husband’s campaign and inauguration into office. A segment of our very ill and racist society hated the idea of a loving, supportive and intelligent Black woman so much that the erroneous Fox News Network reduced her to a “baby mama.” Her senior thesis at Princeton garnered her the label of a racist. God forbid someone write a thesis on if the Black alumni of Princeton will be “more or less motivated to benefit the Black community.” And her infamous statement, “for the first time in my adult life I’m proud of my country,” where sound bites conveniently clipped “adult life” from the speech, was used as some sort of litmus test to prove how unpatriotic she was.

The image of both President Obama and the First Lady in the White House has been a triumphant victory for Blacks. Not because his policies will essentially pull our community out of its rut, but solely because Barack and Michelle’s image, globally, awakens the world to the multiplicity of Blacks in America. They represent what is far too often ignored.

It is painstakingly obvious that far too many people consider a beautiful, intelligent, elegant, Ivy-league educated couple devoid of scandal as dangerous because it challenges the very depictions of Blacks that support people’s unchallenged biases.

Michelle’s image, in particular, has defied the effects of Regan’s “welfare queen” campaign. Whenever she speaks, her words dispel the idea that we are somehow intellectually inferior. Her very existence is contrary to all of the misguided boxes Black women are placed in–attitudinal, hypersexual, loud, inarticulate and uncouth. And because she represents the countless Black women who are none of those things, dubious forces are operating in overdrive to counter her positive image.

Be very clear about what is happening and what will continue to get worse as idiots, racists and sexists are given platforms. bell hooks eloquently describes it better than I ever could:

So what we see is that the mass media, film, TV, all of these things, are powerful vehicles for maintaining the kinds of systems of domination we live under, imperialism, racism, sexism etc. Often there’s a denial of this and art is presented as politically neutral, as though it is not shaped by a reality of domination.

America cannot comprehend a country where Black women hold advanced degrees; a world where we are more qualified than our White counterparts. It is beyond comprehension for the ilk of the Bill O’Reilleys of the world to imagine a country where not all Blacks were raised in the ‘hood. Our racist nation cannot fathom the legions of Black women who have some of the shared experiences as our First Lady.

As long as Black women are getting ahead of ourselves in thinking we can achieve anything, futile articles on why we’re less attractive will continue to be published. Our reproductive practices will continue to be viewed as a spectacle for everyone to see, and the attacks on our personhood will continue to flourish.

What we must remember is that the media does not define us. They do not understand us, and have no desire to. Know that this is deliberate.

But we must not grow weary. We must continue to uplift one another. Use our voices to tell our multifaceted stories. Our mere existence is a testament against an oppressive system that would rather we continue on as the mules of the world Zora noted decades ago. But like Zora, we must not “weep at the world.” We should be “too busy sharpening our oyster knife.”

233 Comments

  1. Laila Apples

    Very encouraging words and it puts a lot of things in perspective.BUT… as a black woman I really believe we don’t use the power that we have to have more peaceful lives, free from the daily assaults, that we want.

    In order for us to be successful there are a few things we must first come to grips with.

    We need to know that there is a war against us.
    That ,of course, the American media is a tool that is being used against us.
    That the majority of black men in America are either our enemies or irrelevant to anything that would include the advancement of black women.
    That many black women are actively supporting things in the media that are against the best interest of black women and that many black women are also supporting people who clearly hate us.

    We need to counter these attacks.

    We could start by absolutely NOT supporting ANYTHING that demeans or dehumanizes black women.This would include not supporting films, television,music,networks that don’t portray us in a positive manner.This would also include not supporting actresses that play roles that are meant to demean and dehumanize black women as well.

    In recognizing that neither black men nor anybody else are automatic allies,we begin to put ourselves as black women first and foremost.We save our protesting and marching only for causes that affect us.We form alliances with one another and with other people,could be any race religion gender,who are valuable to us and our causes.

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    • ruggie

      @Laila Apples – “the majority of black men in America are either our enemies or irrelevant to anything that would include the advancement of black women.” I can’t go there with you. Next.

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    • Justsaying...

      @Ruggie

      What did see say that you can honestly dispute???? I don’t see any massive evidence that black men are not black women’s enemy.

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    • Before someone can be a black woman she has to be a black girl. A black girl that may have a black father. Should she consider him her enemy? What about her black brothers? Her future (if she so chooses) black husband? And of course… What about her black son?

      Whenever I hear black women or black men talk ill about their counterparts my head hangs low. Think about it… If we work on bettering black boys that would lead to better men and better fathers which would ultimately lead to better daughters. Same for bettering black girls. You cant have one without the other.

      “United we stand, Divided we fall”

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    • Laila Apples

      “Before someone can be a black woman she has to be a black girl. A black girl that may have a black father. Should she consider him her enemy? What about her black brothers? Her future (if she so chooses) black husband? And of course… What about her black son?

      Whenever I hear black women or black men talk ill about their counterparts my head hangs low. Think about it… If we work on bettering black boys that would lead to better men and better fathers which would ultimately lead to better daughters. Same for bettering black girls. You cant have one without the other.

      “United we stand, Divided we fall””

      @Kema my answer to your first question is it depends on how her father treats her and her mother and black women as a collective he can be considered her ally or an enemy or not valuable to her and her life.

      My answer to your second question is depending on how her brother treats her,he can be an ally or an enemy or just not valuable to her.

      My answer to your third question is depending on IF she marries a black man and depending on how her husband treats her he too can be considered an ally or an enemy or not valuable to her life.

      Too many times black women have black men in their lives, family members and others, who fall into the enemy pretending to be a friend category or just being of no value to that individual black woman or black women as a whole.This needs to stop.

      Most importantly more black women need to know how to be valuable to themselves and not their own enemies.

      Furthermore,Kema there is no proof that if “we work on black boys”,something their fathers should be doing,that they will grow up to be allies or of any value to black girls and women.Many black boys ,who had a black mother who” worked on them”, grow up to reserve anything good they have to give to non black women and girls.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Laila Apples

      Before I even go into this topic I want a formal apology from you for having lied to another poster stating that you read on another blog that I supported those boys/men who were arrested and accused of the gang rape of the 11 year old girl in Texas. Now you either provide the link to the blog post that you mentioned or you apologize for slandering me.

      I will be reporting you to the blog host for abuse/slander. You can disagree with me all you want on the things I say but dont LIE on me or any other commenter on this blog.

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    • Laila Apples

      WTF are you taliking about ?
      Please post where I claimed you supported those texas 11.

      I won’t be apologizing to you for ANYTHING in this life time i can guarantee you that.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Laila Apples

      http://clutchmagonline.com/2011/04/suffering-in-silence-mother-drowns-herself-and-3-kids/comment-page-1/#comments

      “Laila Apples
      APRIL 16, 2011 AT 4:22 AM
      Ignore queen of new castle.I saw it in another thread saying people should take it easy on those eleven black dudes that raped that little girl in Cleveland Texas.”

      “Lavish
      APRIL 18, 2011 AT 1:26 PM
      Thanks Laila for the 411 on that.”

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    • @Kema

      That was beautifully stated. Gender wars are counter productive. My black mother helped make me the man I am today. In turn, I am helping to raise my daughter into a strong, intelligent and loving black woman. I needed a woman. My daughter needs me, a man. It’s all full circle. However, some people’s minds don’t allow them to understand that principle.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Kema

      “Think about it… If we work on bettering black boys that would lead to better men and better fathers which would ultimately lead to better daughters. Same for bettering black girls. You cant have one without the other.”

      Misandry is especially frightening if you are the primary care giver.

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  2. so yeah you know

    Great piece! Kudos to the writer. And I couldn’t have thought of a better author/book to contextualize this piece, especially since Hurston, herself, did not receive the respect and praise that she deserved during her lifetime. Off to sharpen my oyster knife…

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  3. This is an amazing article! It is a shame that even though we are “free” I feel as if I am still in shackles. My husband and I are educated, at the same time we cannot get the advanced jobs in finance. My husbands interviewed by white men and they try to pick him apart. Things have gotten worse since Obama became president. White America and all the others cannot handle this. I dont know whats going to happen in life with the hatred against us. Brown women are beautiful, sexy, intelligent, strong and every man wants us, no one is as amazing as a Brown woman (tired of the term “black”). These others try to copy our physique, hairstyles, features (lip injections, too much tanning). So it is very obvious that these articles making us appear as the worst beings on the planet is to bring us down. But you know what whitey and everyone else: YOU CANNOT STOP US! WE HAVE TRIUMPHED AND RISEN AGAINST ALL THE ODDS, SO KEEP TRYING IT ONLY MAKES US STRONGER!

    Sick of this racist country!

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  4. All black women need to do is stay positive, and try and lift each other up because nobody else will. We know we are beautiful, and they know it too! If you find a black man who is down for you (very rare), and treat you with respect… then lift him up. If not, then do not be afraid to find someone who will. Keeping us oppressed is the only weapon they have, oh yes and knowing that most black men are not going to defend us. Once the black woman is broken, then everything else will be smooth sailing for them. So… be strong because our day is coming, and when it get’s here… (sorry for sounding dramatic), we will own this world, or at least this country.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      May I ask why you have black men in your mouth on an article about Michelle Obama and black women being reamed in a largely white media in a largely white society on the heels of an article written by a Japanese Psychologist at the London School of Economics on the unattractiveness of black women according to the perceptions of largely non black people?

      I swear you women see an evil black man hiding behind every corner. Get help!

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    • Laila Apples

      @QONC or maybe she saw black men co sign the Japanese dudes “study”.You even said yourself in so many words men all over the world,of all “races”, look down on dark women and don’t cosider them attractive.Maybe that was her way of saying f*** every last one of y’all?

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Laila Apples

      Now I have to go through this elementary step with you again. Men have had a historical preference for lighter women. This isnt to be confused with light skinned women because being light skinned is very relative depending on what your race is and where your people have evolved on this planet.

      Lastly,

      Laila Apples
      APRIL 16, 2011 AT 4:22 AM
      Ignore queen of new castle.I saw it in another thread saying people should take it easy on those eleven black dudes that raped that little girl in Cleveland Texas.

      This was on the article about that woman who murdered her children.

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    • Laila Apples

      Yep I said that because you did tell people in so many words to take it easy on those criminals after they taped what they did.Someone suggested they be hung killed raped or something and you came in and showing plenty of sympathy for them.At which point people basically disagreed with you and you left the thread.

      Furthermore the only thing elementary is your dumb ass thinking that you or other black men can come here and spew your bile and black women won’t say anything.Dawn was just telling you all to go straight to hell.Get over it.As I have said you have stated very similar to what that Japanese dude has said yourself about darker skinned women and now you are angry that Dawn basically says f*** y’all?Again,get over it!

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    • Laila Apples

      Also QONC you post at other sites that I read, but don’t post at, from time to time.I saw you there lending support for those criminals when they were being roasted.In fact I have seen you at many sites geared toward black women spewing your bile.
      Again I will not be apologizing to you any time soon.And good luck with that whole reporting me for slander thing.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Laila Apples

      You need to POST any response that I have ever had on that case in texas as I have posted what you said about me. Unless you can produce the post than you owe me an apology and I will be going to the editors of this blog and reporting you for slander and libel.

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    • Laila Apples

      @QONC I tell you what.The editors here have access to their own archives and the editors at other sites that you have spewed your slanderous bile have theirs.You were worried for those criminals to get a fair trial after they videotaped themselves in the act of raping that poor little girl.The thought of those guys being a victim of racism and somehow getting an unfair trial after taping themselves in the act was more awful to you than that little girl being raped.

      I will not be apologizing to you at all EVER.I am laughing AT you for trying to play a victim on this site after all the slanderous shit you say about black women everyday.

      So I’m giving you permission to go ahead and push the button.Tell the editors what EVER you choose to tell them.

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    • @QueenofNewCastle…. well maybe you should take a page out of your “Elementary” handbook because it sounds like you just read the title and not the article. Also, you’re either a black mother of 3-4 black sons, with 3-4 white daughter n laws. Or maybe you’re just white. My guess, with this line “I swear YOU WOMEN see an evil black man hiding behind every corner. Get help!” If I had to guess…. I choose white woman!!! We are not condemning every black man, but you and they know who they are.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Laila Apples

      So basically you cant produce the posts? You’re a coward and a liar. Now everyone here can read it for themselves and I will be making a formal complaint to this blog against you.

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    • QueenofNewcastle

      @Dawn,

      Wow. The two boogeymen for black women: black men and white women. Indeed, you do need help. Presumably if the black man is hiding behind every corner the white woman is behind every bush just waiting to sabotage black women. Jesus be Occam’s razor.

      “well maybe you should take a page out of your “Elementary” handbook because it sounds like you just read the title and not the article. Also, you’re either a black mother of 3-4 black sons, with 3-4 white daughter n laws. Or maybe you’re just white. My guess, with this line “I swear YOU WOMEN see an evil black man hiding behind every corner. Get help!” If I had to guess…. I choose white woman!!! We are not condemning every black man, but you and they know who they are.”

      Unfortunately I am not the mother of 3-4 black sons. That would be an honor if I were. If they had wives regardless of race who loved, honored, and raised up my grandchildren properly, I would be doubly honored.

      I’ve read the article.

      The original title was, “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other WOmen, But Black men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?”

      He starts off by saying men and women are attractive for different reasons. Add Health not Kanazawa rated the respondents on their physical attractiveness over a seven year period. Then it was Kanazawa erroneously trying to hypthosize why those respondents responded the way they did.

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    • Arjeri

      @QueenOfNewCastle:
      “Wow. The two boogeymen for black women: black men and white women. Indeed, you do need help.”

      NO, YOU NEED HELP, QueenofNewCastle (or should we call you Trash ofNewCastle).

      The boogeyman, as you call it, for Black women is the same boogeyman for Black men – WHITE PEOPLE, including white female hags like you. The difference is that Black women have never forgotten or chosen to kiss their ENEMIES ass like Black men, to help them in their agenda against ALL BLACK PEOPLE.

      GTFOH with your “defend Black men to the end” and at the same time defending “white women as the ish”, which they are not. You are not the ish and never will be.

      Go back to hanging on some Black man’s d*ck and take your bullsh*t with you.

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    • Arjeri

      @QueenofNewCastle (a.k. a. TrashofNewCastle)

      There is no slander or libel going on in what anybody said, GTFOH. They just gave their opinions, truthful ones at that!

      LOL at your ‘I want a formal apology from you for having lied to another poster”. Ridiculous, she can post what she wants, nobody has to agree with you.

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    • Laila Apples

      Hi Arjeri.I thank you for your standing up for my freedom of speech and of an opinion.QONC is sometimes here and at other sites defending black men for behaving badly.How can someone be concerned with some rapists,at least one of the accused was related to a police official or sheriff, experiencing some sort of racism, an unfair trial,or lack of evidence to convict the criminals when they taped themselves in the act of rape?They also made phone calls to others to come and participate in the rape.Where was the sympathy or support for the child is what I want to know?

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    • Tomi-chan

      *sigh* I don’t think you know what the word opinion even MEANS. It’s not an opinion if you’re stating it as a fact. There is a difference between saying “So and so has a history of sympathizing with rapists” and “I think so and so is a rapist apologist.” The latter is what you would call an OPINION. And if you can’t differentiate between those two sentences… well, I thank my stars and garters this is only an internet forum. Otherwise slander and libel WOULD be valid defenses. Which they are not.

      QONC, I may disagree with you sometimes but I would advise you step away from this… It’s useless to argue fact with someone who is immune to reason (not directed at anyone in particular…). The same goes doubly for cattiness over words exchanged on the internet. Let’s not derail the conversation further. There are better things we can be discussing, please don’t reduce Clutch into a petty after-school “beat-em-up” forum. Take. It. Out-side.

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    • Laila Apples

      @Tomi Chan I am stating both as a fact and an opinion that Queen of New Castle is a person who sympathizes with and makes excuses for rapists and/or black men behaving badly.The reason is because I have seen where Queen of New Castle has explicitly stated his support for these individuals.And other times the support is not explicitly stated but implied in many of it’s other comments on the internet.I find it very odd that this incident occurred some time ago and yet he is just now coming at me with this.

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    • @QueenofNewcastle…. sounds like you need a little counseling yourself, from what I have read… conversation closed!!!!

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  5. Quell

    Great article. The best thing Black women in this country can do is just try to live a healthy life and keep striving, because these attacks are not going to stop anytime soon. I used to get so enraged when I saw articles and other things in the media attacking and dehumanizing black women, but I know the stereotypes aren’t true, and I can’t drive myself crazy worrying about how other people view me as Black woman.

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    • a lot of people do not see us in a negative way, and I wish those people were black men, but unfortunately not. We have a few who respect us, and that few think they can vouch for all black men. I can handle the racist remarks and the negative comments about us, but what pisses me off more is we have no one to watch our backs. Dare we complain… then we are considered bitter. I AM MORE DISAPPOINTED IN THE BLACK MAN FOR NOT HAVING OUR BACKS…. PISS ON YA, AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

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    • Quell

      @Dawn
      I Totally agree with you. It’s extremely annoying when as a black woman you can’t even react when you’re disrespected without being labeled an “Angry Black Woman” and I too am upset that we don’t have more support from black men, but unfortunately that’s something I’ve learned to live with.

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