I simply could not help but comment on this article on HuffPo, because come on. This is pretty frustrating:
However, two studies that examined programs aiming to increase diversity by bussing minority students to primarily white schools revealed an area where black boys reportedly engaged with relative ease. According to an article published last year by Megan H. Holland, a professor at the University of Buffalo, minority boys reportedly have an easier time fitting in with their white peers at suburban schools because of stereotypes about their athleticism or “coolness” that give them greater access to activities that increase positive interactions with white students, like sports and social clubs.
On the contrary, another study conducted by Simone Ispa-Landa at Northwestern University found that black girls were comparatively seen as “ghetto” or “loud” when they exhibited behavior that was usually socially rewarding for their black male counterparts.
Ispa-Landa’s study showed that “as a group, the boys were welcomed in suburban social cliques, even as they were constrained to enacting race and gender in narrow ways.” However, these urban signifiers resulted in the opposite result for black girls, who were seen as “aggressive” and undesirable, with neither the white nor the black boys showing any interest in dating minority girls. In short, playing out racial stereotypes worked in black boys’ favor, while doing the same was detrimental for black females.
This experience was specifically tethered to the context of suburban, primarily white learning environments. An experienceAboubacar Ndiaye recalls in his reflection on the studies in The Atlantic.
Black boys in Ispa-Landa’s study found themselves simultaneously feeding into stereotypes that made them seem “street smart” or “tough” and code-switching their speech and mannerisms to make their white counterparts comfortable. Many reported feeling safer in their suburban schools, as they would not be considered tough in their urban environments. However, while black boys could use these stereotypes to their advantage, black girls in Ispa-Landa’s study reported feeling penalized for doing the same and felt they “failed to embody characteristics of femininity” that would garner them popularity in school.
I shared my thoughts in a private group once I saw this, but now I have other questions.
So, basically, the question becomes… what in the world is an upwardly mobile black family to do? Your boys are encouraged to want white girls (which, that’s not to imply there’s anything wrong with interracial dating, but that is to imply that there’s everyone wrong with them being taught that black girls are not suitable dating companions across the board); and your girls are stereotyped by media coming out of environments they may’ve never well lived in, and are treated like they’re expected to mimic a stereotype they have no connection to. Your girls grow up with stunted dating lives and limited expectations – well, because they grew up for years being unwanted and are finally excited to be wanted by someone – and, before you know it, may find themselves wandering into adulthood feeling desperate for the companionship they were so painfully denied as teens.
You know what else I can assume from this? I can also assume that the people who believe these stereotypes oftentimes never grow out of thinking this way about black girls. Instead, they carry these stereotypes into adulthood, and into eventual employment… where it then colors the way they treat black women in Corporate America.
Wanna know what else I can assume from this? If young black boys are brought up to believe that black girls are undeserving of the same kind of ‘pass’ they were given, then they grow up being used to seeing black women as not needing to be defended or supported. Black girls grow up not expected it, or asking for it. They grow up, theoretically, expecting to need to be able to ‘go at it alone.’ That expectation becomes validated by their actual experiences… and we know how powerful experience is as a teacher.
I mean, anyone who’s spent enough time around teens knows EXACTLY how this plays out – people talk to your daughters with that pseudo ghetto “yo homie g dawg” bull, and enough years of that can eventually turn them directly into that. And, because they got away with it in high school, in dealing with young black girls who often aren’t well-equipped to handle it all, they go on into adulthood, unchecked and, apparently, unsmart.
To take it a step further, what does this teach black girls to believe about themselves? Without the proper guidance and education, what informs them of their worth – especially in a day and age where parents are infinitely more likely to spend way more of their time and energy on work than actual parenting – and how to look at themselves? If you’re a black heterosexual teen girl, what does the following mean for how you value your beauty?
“However, these urban signifiers resulted in the opposite result for black girls, who were seen as “aggressive” and undesirable, with neither the white nor the black boys showing any interest in dating minority girls.”
Should women value themselves by their ability to attract a mate? No. But we all know how thorny that can be, and teens learn a lot from low-inference data, hence the results of this study. For goodness sakes, there are women out here killing themselves for a big ol’ jiggly booty, because they genuinely believe they are nothing without it. Even if it only attracts the dregs of society, or men with terribly unrealistic expectations – six pack abs, no muffin top, 50-inch booty was one particularly idiotic person’s request – it doesn’t matter. It attracts someone, and that’s what counts.
These teens aren’t picking this up from the sky. They’re learning it from the world around them. The world around them doesn’t expect much of black girls. You girls [and guys and everyone inbetween] don’t see it, but the comments that I have to consistently delete from this blog post in particular are mind-numbingly painful, even for me. A painful combination of how ‘unfeminine’ black women are and how we should be prepared to bend over backwards for any man who will take us because of such. Basically, because we don’t ‘perform’ like white women, we should be lucky to even be chosen as a sex partner.
Aside from the fact that partnership and marriage have long been dangled over women’s heads as carrots, this is especially dangerous for young teen girls and leaves young black ones especially open for exploitation.
I’m really verklempt over this, y’all. What do we do? What do we tell our daughters? What do we tell our sons? (And by “we,” I mean all of us, because racism isn’t merely black peoples’ problem to solve.) Did you experience any of this?