So… this appeared on my radar last night:
In a couple of weeks my mother turns 65.She takes yoga and Zumba every chance she gets and if you sneeze more than twice around her, she’ll cook you a pot of collard greens. My mother believes her collard greens can fix just about anything.
She has a fiery personality that can rub people the wrong way. But those who know her don’t mind, because it was that same fire that helped her overcome poverty, beat cancer and protect her five cubs.
My mother is a black woman.
And she is beautiful.
So to the editors of Psychology Today who thought it was a good idea to post a blog item calling black women ugly, I suggest you watch your back… my mother’s cubs are looking for you.
And we are not happy.
Satoshi Kanazawa’s post, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” appeared Sunday and quickly circulated around the blogosphere. It drew a great deal of criticism, which I suspect led to the post being pulled, though you can still find it elsewhere on the Web.
While it’s not quite as bad as Golfweek magazine putting a noose on its cover in relationship to a story about Tiger Woods, it is still rather disturbing that Psychology Today’s editors needed public outcry to clue them in that the post was offensive and irresponsible.
It’s challenging enough to see popular culture publications such as People and Maxim struggle to include black women in their annual most-beautiful listings, but at least their editors don’t try to justify their choices under the guise of science.
“Because they have existed much longer in human evolutionary history, Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races,” Kanazawa’s post read. “And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness.”
I do not dispute Kanazawa’s credentials as an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, but I do wonder why he even approached the topic.
I question a methodology that asks random people to judge the attractiveness of other random people without taking into account the influence of background and culture. Without taking into account a Westernized standard of beauty that has not only haunted some black women into buying cream to bleach their skin but prompted some Asian-Americans to undergo surgery to make their eyes more European looking.
That’s not to say white skin or round eyes are necessarily unattractive. Rather, a system that declares one set of physical attributes as the standard to which a multiethnic society must adhere is destructive.
And yet as much as I detest Kanazawa’s post, I do recognize it as just another chapter in the ongoing assault on black women in our culture.
He says they’re ugly.
The statistics say 42% have never been married.
Some rappers say, well, we know what they say… and apparently we don’t mind, because they keep topping the charts.
If you comb through Donald Bogle’s book “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films,” you’ll find a long celluloid history of black women being portrayed as anything but beautiful. Their sass is a constant source of comedic relief, but rarely are they seen as complete human beings, to be romanced or capable of being vulnerable.
Nowadays the most popular black female characters in film are not even played by black women. Tyler Perry’s “Madea” and Martin Lawrence’s “Big Momma” characters are unflattering caricatures of figureheads who for generations on top of generations held the black community together.
Fair, definitely not.
His write-up continues on the CNN website, and is worth you clicking over to check it out, if for no other reason than to make sure he and his post get credit for bringing CNN that kind of traffic. Maybe they’ll see it’s worth posting uplifting commentary about Black women. Giant hugs go out to Granderson for using his platform to get this message out (and if only he could manage to also moderate those comments, but I digress.)
I’ve no desire to get into a “woe is me” parade, here, but the perception of Black women is affected by a lot of things… all of which make it difficult for us to exist the way we want in our day to day lives. We are always assumed to be the “lowest common denominator” (do we automatically assume every white woman is a single parent, poor, and moves her head and neck around like crazy whenever she’s upset?), always assumed to be promiscuous, and must always be “strong like bull.” We can’t be who we are – or work toward being who we aspire to be – without being told that there are reasons to focus elsewhere. We can’t even walk down the street in peace, in most cases.
It’s difficult to be us, but we still do it. And according to that faux-study – the only thing that was interesting to me about the entire “study” – we still think highly of ourselves despite it all.
I saw someone comment on the study and state that “we” – meaning Black women – are the only ones who continue to consume media that denigrates us. I disagree. We’re denigrated as women – something we share with all women, and that plight shouldn’t be minimized – and then we’re devalued as Blacks, something we share with all minorities, regardless of race. And we all still consume this media because many of us still feel like we have no other choice. I’ve always felt like the problem isn’t, so to speak, the consumption of media. The problem is what we do with what we’ve consumed.
Something awesome happened the other day. We all consumed, so to speak, the horrific post by Kanazawa, and what did we do with that? We complained. We wrote letters. We tweeted (twote?) about it and called it to the attention of others. We e-mailed our contacts. We shared with our peers – Black, white, Latina/o and otherwise – what foolishness was passing for science, and we built up among our collectives a very strong stance that we wouldn’t tolerate this from outlets to whom we extend credibility. If Psychology Today were going to maintain its credibility and respect, it would need to address this matter.
Needless to say, all that tweeting, facebooking, emailing and whatever else (carrier pigeon?) we were doing got the attention of the right people. Sent to me this morning by @YoungFlynMommy:
Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa stooped to new levels of awfulness in his post claiming “black women are significantly less physically attractive than women of other races.” His racist remarks could cost him his job at the London School of Economics.According to the Guardian, many LSE students lodged complaints after Kanazawa’s offensive post made the rounds. Said Sherelle Davids of the LSE students’ union, “Kanazawa deliberately manipulates findings that justify racist ideology. As a black woman I feel his conclusions are a direct attack on black women everywhere who are not included in social ideas of beauty.” And Amena Amer, the union’s incoming education officer, said,
We support free speech and academic freedom, but Kanazawa’s research fuels hate against ethnic and religious minorities promoted by neo-Nazi groups. Not only does he use the LSE’s credentials to legitimise his ‘research’ but this jeopardises the academic credibility of the LSE.
The union has voted unanimously that Kanazawa should be fired. Now the school has launched an internal investigation that will evaluate his claims and decide whether to punish him. They’ve already issued a public statement saying he doesn’t speak for the LSE: “The views expressed by this academic are his own and do not in any way represent those of the LSE as an institution.”
Amer is correct that Kanazawa’s comments are an embarrassment to her school. Even if his views are his own, as long as they continue to employ him, they’re implicitly vouching for his merit as a scholar. And unless they’re prepared to say that his bar graphs about black women’s supposed ugliness are actually good science, it’s time for them to let him go. [source]
So no… the problem isn’t consuming the media. The problem is choosing to do nothing about it. We did something about it… and not only did we send a message to Kanazawa that his poor standards are a problem; not only did we send a message to evolutionary psychologists everywhere that a social construct – like beauty – cannot be explained through genetics; not only did we send a message to racists everywhere that their imperceptive attempts to sneak in racist “studies” will always be sniffed out and justice will be metted out for it; not only did we all speak out against such foolishness together?
There was an outpouring of reminders that there is love and support for Black women out there. We just have to be more judicious in surrounding ourselves with it.