Why Are Black Women’s Bodies a Constant Target?

From Punch lines to partisan attacks black women’s bodies are consistently placed on the world’s stage for gawkers to poke and prod. In the 21st century some 400 years removed from the auction block it’s amazing that society still hasn’t evolved from this type of voyeurism and ridicule—instead thanks to social media the virus commonly referred to as racism is even more widespread.

Yesterday, countless media outlets covered Caroline Wazniacki’s “impersonation” of Serena Williams at a tennis match. Of course the tennis pro wasn’t imitating William’s dominating skills on the tennis court—because she lost her match.  No, instead the “pro” (and I use this term loosely) pranced out onto the court with her uniform stuffed in the front and back—supposedly to “poke fun” at Serena.

Now, if it wasn’t disturbing enough to see the image of this white woman mocking a black woman’s physique, media outlets added to this egregious act by running several polls for their readers, asking them if they thought Wazniacki’s actions were made in jest or were racist. Once again making it OK for others to tell us what is or isn’t racist. Clearly, we as black women are unable to decide for ourselves what we find offensive so we need a poll to tell us to relax or react.

What’s interesting is that during the Olympics Serena was ridiculed by countless conservative outlets for doing the crypt dance after her tremendous gold medal win—calling her inappropriate, yet yesterday these same outlets were the first to tell the rest of us who took offense to “not to be so P.C.”.

So, it’s OK for others to use their bodies to pass judgment on black women but when WE use our bodies on our own accord we’re chastised or fired for defending ourselves?

Rhonda Lee a meteorologist from an ABC affiliate station in Louisiana was recently fired for standing up to a troll on Facebook that posted a derogatory statement about her short afro on the station’s Facebook page.   The commenter wrote that Lee needed to “wear a wig” or do something with her hair because he felt it didn’t look “good on TV”.  Lee then responded with what I thought was a very thoughtful and professional rebuttal, “I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice.”

Although the rest of her comment was written in the same vain her station fired her.  It wasn’t enough that she had to publicly defend her hair and African American heritage but then instead of coming to her defense she losses her job.  What message does that send? That it’s OK for others to dismember and distort our bodies for their amusement and that when this occurs we are to remain silent?

I for one am tired of black women being a constant target that society gets to take out their frustration and foolishness on.  We deserve better. We ARE better! Our hair, physique, and our womb are our business and ours alone. The media doesn’t get to dictate how we should present ourselves because unlike 400 years ago they don’t own us—we create our own stories, move our own agendas, and will continue to express ourselves as we deem fit.

Let your voice be heard and your life be a lesson!