The discussion in class this week was about the role of women in society and the way women are viewed. To communicate this concept and to tie race into the whole thing, we saw a video about African-American women in particular. The video depicted a group of children identified basic character traits based on race using two dolls. The saddest part of this video was when the child was asked which doll was bad and she picked up the black doll and then immediately she was asked “which doll looks like you?” After slight hesitance the child picked up the black doll. This led to a dialogue about African-American women in American society and the gender roles placed on them. There was a lot of conversation in class; however there were several things I did not get to communicate. Honestly, as an African-American women myself, and a southern one at that, I have dealt with a lot of the issues discussed in class. It seemed that many of the non-black students could not understand some of the issues and in my opinion, they never will because being black is an experience; and being a black woman is DEFINIETLY an experience. Many of the ideals that are “public generalization” revolve around concepts or stereotypes that were formed during the slavery era. The idea that lighter skin is a positive attribute or that black women must straighten (perm) their hair in order to fit into society is also a concept that has roots (no pun intended) in slavery. For black people it has been an unwritten rule or notion that the more European or white you look the better. This came from the idea of house slaves and field slaves. In many cases the slave owners fathered children with slaves and often times would move them into the house. This began the battle of light-skinned versus dark skinned within the black community. Although there is a growing population of African-American women who are choosing to “go natural” and not chemically process their hair, there are still seen as an alternative group from the socially accepted norm of straightened hair. Another concept tied to black women and their appearance is the concept of “good hair.” What is “good hair?” Hair that is easily managed, that responds to water by lying down, and that doesn’t get “nappy.” In my family I am the only member who still has a perm. And many days everyone in my family’s hair looks much better than mine. One of my sister’s shirts reads “Happy being Nappy.” Good hair is healthy hair. I feel that one of the most beautiful things about the African-American people is the various shades we have; from deep mocha to caramel to high-yellow or even dirty-red. Black people are very complex and beautiful people whose history continues to influence us today, within our race as well as in society in general. It should not be forgotten that slavery was only a few generations ago. My grandmother’s grandparents were slaves. The social implications of that type of inequality are still ever presence and I would not expect them not to be since my mother dealt with segregation and one generation ago I would not even be allowed in the class or on this campus. They say time heals all wounds…let’s give this wound more time.
September 16, 2011
African-American Women in America