Black Beauty

Thanks to yet another snow storm, I find myself at home with time to kill since with another foot of snow expected on top of the however many feet of snow already piled up in my yard, leaving the house is simply not an option. So it seems like a great day to break my blog hiatus and share some thoughts, after all it is Black History Month which is perfect for what I want to talk about today…black beauty.

Living in the United States which despite all the talk of being a post racial society is a hard place to be as a Black woman. Frankly it’s hard for all women, but today I speak as a Black woman because it’s my experience and I know it. From an early age little brown girls learn quickly they are not valued nearly as much as their pale counterparts. The images that little girls see are primarily that of pale girls with silky hair, girls whose natural body shapes often don’t look like theirs.

Unless caregivers are aware of the damage of what happens when you consume a steady diet of images that in no way resemble you, can do to a little girl’s psyche it’s the rare brown girl who will make it to adulthood not conflicted in some ways about her appearance. Generally for my sistern this manifests itself in how we approach our hair.

Hair is often seen as a woman’s crown and glory yet many Black women have a hard time truly grasping that concept when deep down we wonder why our hair won’t do this or that. I have been a natural haired Black woman for a decade now yet it’s only been in recent years that I had true acceptance of what my hair can and cannot do and I am at peace with it. Yet despite the growth in Black woman shunning chemical relaxers and choosing natural hair the fact remains it takes more than simply not putting the creamy crack in your hair to have real acceptance.

When most Black women first go natural they are excited and in many cases trade the addiction to relaxer for the addition to the perfect products that will cause their hair to have curl definition or waves or some other feature that will make their hair appear socially acceptable. I know when I first went natural and did the big chop I was addicted to using Care Free Curl activator gel because it made my hair look curly opposed to tight kinky curls that looked nappier. Then there was the point when my hair started growing out and then it looked like a frizzy mass and I remember being disappointed.

Perhaps it was because of my own frustrations and eventual realization that my hair is never going to lay down (unless it’s being manipulated in some fashion) which is what made this video interesting to me. Please check it out, now I admit the sista is hilarious in her presentation but what she says actually made me think. In the course of my decade long journey I have had folks make all kinds of suggestions about what to use in my hair and for the most part none of it works. I am at the point that pretty much what works best for my hair and my lifestyle as far as energy I am going to put out is, short fro, dreads or braids oh and the occasional afro puff. I am not a play in the hair person, after 30 mins my hands get tired and I have as my braider says at least 2-3 different textures of hair on my head of hair. For years I had a hard time accepting what looked good on me and really coveted the looser curls that I would see on some sisters but guess what it’s not for me.

Yet the sista in the video while it’s clear she is distressed, at the root of her rant is someone who still needs to do the mental work that is part of truly accepting her beauty. But too many of us are not surrounded by folks who give us that validation we need instead we suffer internally. Ultimately too many do not see the beauty of a Black woman’s natural crown and glory…plain and simple. It’s why we spend hundreds of dollars on products to smooth our hair because we still equate beauty with a standard that is not our standard of beauty.

This brings me to this piece. It was in my local news and what stood out was that the woman arrested was a Black woman, a rather cute one too. Now I am not passing judgment on what she does or the charges against her but in reading the comments online following the article it was clear that not too many others saw her as attractive, instead stealing her person-hood by referring to her in terms that strip her of person-hood. So I asked the Spousal Unit was she cute and he said yes. Interestingly enough I think the fact that she appears to have dreads is what really stood out to me, but overall I was reminded of how very little black beauty is valued.

Never mind the fact that she is working in a profession where her looks are required so that she can earn money. I doubt she would be dancing at a club if the tips/earnings weren’t there so clearly someone finds her attractive yet in a public venue like the paper, people feel they must judge her looks. This is life for the Black woman in America. A place where we will always struggle for acceptance yet to truly be accepted most of us must start the work internally. We also need to start with our kids especially our girls; we must present images that affirm what they see in the mirror. It helps if you are in a racially diverse area but even my house, we hang Black art, we buy books and dolls that mirror back what my girl sees in my, in pictures of family members and more importantly what she sees in the mirror.

3 thoughts on “Black Beauty”

  1. This is an excellent post, BGIM…very moving. I’m a very fair-skinned biracial woman but I can definitely relate to what you said, especially about hair. That is the only feature that indicates my heritage. I’ve been contemplating the switch to natural hair after being relaxed most of my life.

    All women are judged by the way they look, but I agree that Black women seem to receive the most unkind criticism. You only need to look at the Internet or hear some people’s conversations to see how deep this ignorance is.

    Personally, I don’t think that girl is cute but I wouldn’t call her “scary” either. She is just average-looking to me.

    This post reminds me of a post you wrote a long time ago where you talked about a woman complimenting a little blonde girl in front of your daughter, but ignoring the unique beauty of your daughter. I still remember that. It broke my heart. 🙁

    Little brown girls should be told how beautiful, loved, and worthy they are on a daily basis. Everyone should. I believe it would make a real difference in the world. Self-esteem and confidence are so important…especially for little girls who don’t fit into the beauty ideals defined by society.

    As Marilyn Monroe once said: “No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t”.

    This is why Toni Morrison wrote “The Bluest Eye”, a book very dear to my heart. As a Black woman, she knew the pain of living in a country where brown skin and kinky hair are often ridiculed. Your post reminds me of why positive reinforcement matters in the lives of brown girls everywhere.

  2. I think the ‘looks scary’ comment comes from a woman.. can’t see a man going by the name of Sweetie. Why do women have to hate on one another? I don’t see scary; I think she’s cute too.

  3. This post hit me hard! I moved to a predominantly white town when I was 15 and was self-conscious of my looks for the first time in my life. I never felt my classmates thought I was attractive- especially the boys- even though I had thought myself to be very pretty back home (in my mostly Black city). It is such a sad phenomenon and you’re right: we need to steer our girls away from this message.

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