Black Women Self Esteem and Image: Under Siege

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Under Siege: Very seriously attacked or criticized by many people.

If you happen to be a fan of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and relatively engaged on social media; you’re likely familiar with the ongoing beef between former NBA players Matt Barnes & Stephen Jackson and Kwame Brown. All three players had long respectable NBA careers and played on several teams during their time in the league.  The difference is that Kwame Brown was the first player selected in the 2001 NBA Draft by Michael Jordan—right out of high school. And you have to figure that if you were selected first overall to play in the NBA comes with monumental expectations that you will likely be a superstar in the league.

And for those of you that follow pro hoops, you know that It didn’t exactly happen with Kwame Brown.

Instead, he had what many would characterize as a long and average career in the NBA. But for years, because Kwame Brown didn’t live up to the high standards of the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, many considered him a bust. Now, this is where Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, along with other outspoken sports commentators—most notably, Stephen A. Smith from ESPN comes in. Over the past decade and beyond, Stephen A. has been relentlessly abusive to Kwame Brown when referring to his inability to become a superstar basketball player. Enter Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, whose wildly successful podcast, “All the Smoke,” reflected on their years in the league when Kwame Brown was their teammate—and they again brought up how he missed the greatly anticipated expectations as a highly touted NBA prospect.

And unfortunately, Kwame Brown has been keeping tabs…for about two decades.

This led to a riveting, provocative, and curse word-laced response over several days from Kwame Brown, who spared no expense responding and did not hold back anything verbally on social media—and certainly did not regard anything scared with his honest and compelling counter-attacks for his nearly two decades of hearing these insults from his former teammates and Stephen A. Smith. And you can tell by the volume, tone, and depth of his ongoing rants of defending his NBA legacy—that the pain, hurt, disappointment, and outright disrespect for him as a human being came through loud and clear.

We can learn about what our Black women go through on a daily basis by listening to Kwame Brown’s pent-up anger that he’s clearly carried for about 20 years. The overwhelming and outright assault on Black women that threaten to destroy their self-image and self-esteem has gone on for more than two centuries that is still alive and well today.

Let me explain.

Some of you may be familiar with The Doll Test, led by social psychologists Mamie and Kenneth Clark, back in the 1930s, asked black boys and girls a series of questions about comparing a black doll and a white doll. Some of the questions were basic and very simple; here is an example of some of the questions that these black children were asked:

·       Which doll is the bad doll? (They all responded black doll)

·       Which doll is the good doll? (They all responded white doll)

·       Which doll is the nice doll? (They all responded white doll)

·       Which doll is the pretty doll? (They all responded white doll)

·       Which doll is the mean doll? (They all responded black doll)

·       Why do you think the white doll is a good doll? (One response: It has blue eyes)

·       Why do you think the black doll is a bad doll? (One response: Because it’s black all over)

Here’s a video clip of the experiment:

Even as young Black girls are brought up in this world, they are reminded directly and indirectly that their dark natural skin color and hair texture are not identified with beauty. There was an inherent understanding that lighter skin meant nice, kind, and beautiful—and dark skin signified bad, unattractive, and mean. They responded this way even though they understood that they resembled the black doll. We should also note that this experiment has been replicated worldwide over the decades, yielding the same results.

Then our Black women are raised in a world where seemingly their Black male counterparts often time prefer to approach lighter-skinned Black women over darker-skinned black women. The very idea of what is beautiful is determined on the proximity it is to the Eurocentric standard of blonde hair, white skin, and blue eyes.

Moreover, there’s the body types and facial features. Now today it has become somewhat fashionable to have bigger hips, buttocks, and breasts, and many non-white women will have their bodies augmented to create this image. That said, when you look at fashion magazines and fashion shows worldwide, everyone is skinny, and 90 percent are non-Black.

Last, there’s the hair, where many Black women have traded in their natural hairstyles for weaves, extensions, and lace fronts that all mimic a typical European hairstyle. And though many Black women may say that these hair alternatives are “protectors” or an approach of convenience, the longer hair is a standard of beauty that often appeals to Black men—because even we as Black men have been bamboozled into believing that the closer a Black woman is to blonde hair, white skin and blue eyes, the “finer” she is. Not to mention if a Black woman wore her hair naturally or in braids in the workplace, it would be deemed unprofessional. And let’s not even talk about if an educated Black woman gives her professional opinion on something, that it could be characterized as her being combative, difficult, and emotional.

I, as a Black man, will never make another negative remark about Black women ever again—her hair, weight, or beauty.

I, this day forward, will honor and respect Black beauty as it is genetically packaged and I will celebrate it.

I refuse to be part of the problem to perpetuate and stabilize white supremacy that is unfortunately woven into the fabric of our very culture when it comes to determining what is beautiful.

I will, this day forward, shall be your champion, your support, and honor your beauty, Black woman—as I attempt to detox from this virus that causes me to judge you with a European yardstick.

And I apologize for any senseless remark, I have ever made regarding your beauty in light of it being compared to non-Black women.


Picture Courtesy of Black Love Couples

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