Lately, many media celebrities have gotten in trouble because of anti-Semitic or racist rants, jokes, or slurs. Many whites think the days of racism are over and so they think they can make racial jokes. They consider these jokes harmless, but many blacks still remember grandmothers blinded by lynchers and uncles and grandfathers hanged by racist bigots. It’s still not over for us.
The sad fact is America is still racist and that includes many liberals in the media including disc jockeys, editors, actors, and TV hosts. They just don’t seem to “get” us, and this often has to do with the darkness of our skin and the quality of our hair.
Racism often appears as a subtle cruelty toward black women’s beauty. This cruelty often seems to focus on dark skin and kinky, nappy hair. Other times the racists imply there is something vaguely immoral about us. They seem to imply that we are out-of-control gluttons who aren’t moral enough to know when to stop eating. In addition to assuming we are morally dirty, they also imply we are physically dirty in some way.
Okay okay, hip-hop lyrics and certain black comedians have contributed to a media atmosphere where people feel free to joke about certain black traits. But we have to focus on the brainwashing about beauty out there. Because of the power of the American media, and because of historical and imperialistic causes, everyone in the world thinks true beauty must come close to some Nordic Ideal. I recently heard that cosmetic surgery is on the rise. Up 70% among Asians (changing their eyelids) and Hispanics (changing their noses.) Folks, ethnic heritages are not beauty flaws.
Hip-hop videos have contributed to making certain black women sexy (and making others unsexy.) Movies too. We know a white character in a movie is hip and “edgy” if he’s got a gorgeous black girlfriend on his arm. Now it’s neat to have a nice bit of junk in the trunk, but when I was younger, the white kids mocked my ample buttocks calling it my “mumba butt.” In the old days, black lips were considered too big. Now many white actresses are getting lip injections. However, dark-skinned women still haven’t arrived at full beauty equality yet. Even on black-owned television stations and black-produced movies, light-skinnedness reigns. For instance, many black rap artists and actors are often teamed with light-skinned black women or Hispanic love interests.
Black Hair issues
Ah nappiness! White folks still have problems with black folks’ hair. Recently a famous white DJ, Don Imus, called some black women athletes “nappy-headed hos.” For those who don’t know, “Nappy” means kinky and tightly-curled hair. Whether this man is prejudice is not for me to decide. Much humor nowadays is cruel and he might simply have been trying to be cool. Saying nasty cruel racist “funny” things about other people is very popular nowadays, and Americans still seem to think afros and natural black hair that has not been straightened is somehow incredibly humorous. Ah, the funny clown in the afro! Indeed, I remember one talk show where the elderly white host kept asking to “touch the hair” of her black female guests.
Racism towards black women also shows up in the way we are often deemed physically dirty, as if black women do not wash) and morally corrupt (as if we do not know how to be moral like fine-upstanding skinny white women.) I even stopped watching a weekend television show because many of their jokes about black shows seemed downright racist. For instance, although there are a lot of reality shows with skanky white folks having skanky sex , whenever this particular program talked about skanky black folks having sex, they got downright clinical and seemed on the verge of calling the Center for Disease control. They never did this with the white shows, yet on one of their shows, they did a skit about industrial cleaners coming to clean up the black show’s set and to remove disease.
I recently saw a news show on television in which the reporter stated that obesity was rampant in America, especially among black women. He pretty much hinted that black women were gluttonous and would die sooner than “their white counterparts.” White counterparts? I won’t argue that many black women are overweight. But that doesn’t mean we are morally-corrupt people who have no sense of self-control. Personally, much of my overeating occurs when I feel overwhelmed with powerlessness, isolation, self-loathing, and a feeling that I am being silenced because I live in a world where the powers that be are racist. But there are also genetic issues. The American diet evolved from a European diet and I suspect black genetics are not compatible with much of the diet. In addition, because of evolutionary climactic reasons the African body may have been trained to hold onto fat as a way to protect our ancestors in time of starvation.
Benefit of the Doubt
Black folks are used to giving white racists the benefit of the doubt. We humor people a lot. We are an understanding lot. I remember a time when I visited a white doctor and he called me morbidly obese (I was two hundred pounds and had just had my son.) I was very hurt and I went to my three-hundred pound white friend who had recommended him. Amazingly, he had never called her morbidly-obese.
In another instance, an editor from Kansas deigned to lecture me on how to write a proper essay. She knew I was black. I had to decide if she was as rude and as patronizing to all her writers or only to the black ones.
Recently I read a blog written by a black person in which the statement was made that certain black contestants on American Idol are just plain ugly.
Frankly, that blogger should examine his definition of ugly. I know this generation has been trained to mix lustfulness with admiration but shouldn’t this black blogger be more knowledgeable about how standards of beauty have been created and recreated by society? In some countries, a rounder woman would be deemed quite pretty, thank you! In some countries, a round face does not necessarily connote an ugly face
We black folks are always making excuses for white people. We always tend to divide our racists into ignorant ones and malicious. But what are we to do with the hurt feelings caused by people in power, people we would expect to be somewhat more enlightened? I mean: shouldn’t black men be less prejudiced in the way they depict black women? Shouldn’t liberals be less prejudiced than conservatives? Shouldn’t those in the media such as editors and DJ’s be more aware of the hurtfulness of their comments?
Of course, if I get so upset at the racism I see and experience, if I drown my self-loathing in chocolate ice cream in order to comfort myself because some racist white editor or racist white doctor or racist black producer has upset me, I only contribute to the stereotype by fattening myself up for the kill. Life is complicated. But we have to be strong, and we have to speak up. Hopefully, even the small things we do will change society.