By: Bri Tyson
There are many different notions of what a Black woman is or should be. Often it is the unfavorable opinions that are voiced the loudest. These voices are heard by the youth and are particularly detrimental to young females. While there are more positive references available, the line of communication has not been fully established. Black women and Black girls are often held to a contrived and unfavorable opinion formed to support institutionalized racism.
We are being framed. Popular opinion paints us as stupid but sly, a lazy but a profitable resource, disgraceful, and worse. Often times, production companies do not support or promote a healthy images of Black women and Black girls.
There is a very small pond that promotes Black womanhood. The visuals seen by our girls generally portray Black females as aggressors, villains, victims, and my least favorite; one dimensional. Shows like Empire, Power, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder offer an overdue but sought after change.
For a while, Tyler Perry’s great work monopolized the small pond. The variety offers hope for more to come. Representation is important. That’s why we love Zendaya and Skai Jackson and why I watch their shows with my little sister, shows that convey black youths in dynamic lead roles that are few and far between especially for Black girls.
Despite having role models for young black girls to look up to, not all change in media and in popular culture has been to our advantage. The fashion industry has consistently mimicked our looks and pop culture pops because of us. Yet there is an overabundance of lyrics and music videos marketing negative images of Black woman. Our music is being used against us for others to profit at the expense of our dignity. It is not that there aren’t healthy representations but that we lack support.
Outside of the entertainment industry I have also seen the negative way that black women and girls are portrayed. As an adult, I can properly point out how untrue these notions are. Growing up, it was difficult to challenge the attitude held by the public. The established bias held against Black women and Black girls is older than many of us.
There have been plenty of times that I found myself alone in defense of our image in a classroom, a playground, and the workplace. Dark-skinned children were and still are considered to be less attractive than light skinned children. As a child, I recall my bi-racial brother calling me darkie and Crunchy Black. The other day a black hairdresser mentioned to me that she always thought bi-racial children were the most attractive children.
I know their comments come from a system based on the oppression of Black people, since I have experienced the result of a lack of exposure to positive images of Black woman and Black girls. Still, those experiences could not lessen the positive images of Black woman that I maintain. Positive role models are not perfect. My role models are rooted in Black women in the arts. Whitney Houston, Karen Walker, and Toni Morrison are examples of beautiful Black women who overcame obstacles to use their God-given talents to the fullest.
My admiration for Black women and girls continues to grow as our accomplishments are offered accolades that we were once denied. It is my belief that the positive images that include Black women and girls are due to our resilience. We have endured the most inhumane acts while sustaining the opposite race and/or gender.
It is past the time for us to nurse our wounds. I rejoice in the healing I see and the confidence that our youth has because of it. Black women and girls have managed to stand against viable barriers. I have learned that no one can have your back like another Black woman, and it is time we have to get in formation.
There has to be a continued use of media platforms to support our image. Our value has been proven priceless, yet we profit the least.When it comes down to it, the first step to establishing and maintaining a healthy image involves each Black woman and Black girl knowing their individual value and our united worth.