“My mama said life would be so hard
Growin up days as a black girl scarred
In so many ways though we've come so far
They just know the name they don't know the pain
So please hold your heads up high
Don't be ashamed of yourself know I
Will carry it forth til the day I die
They just know the name they don't know the pain black girl”
- “Black Girl Pain” Talib Kweli, 2004
This chapter was inspired by Talib Kweli’s song “Black Girl Pain” on his new album “Beautiful Struggle”.
People have tried for years to exactly define the struggle known as the “black existence”. For every black woman the details differ while the underlying story remains the same, all the while the picture remains fuzzy for our male counterparts and completely gibberish for the outside cultures. I am going to attempt to make plain the complicated, trials and tribulations that lead to a black girl’s pain, at least for this brown girl.
In November, I watched the concession speech made by Kerry, I wept. I wept for my sisters. I weep for my sisters because it is us that will deal with the loss of our brothers, husbands and sons. Once again, sisters don’t look now, but it is about to get ugly…
The Barbie Doll Syndrome
In order to understand the effects, you have to understand the problems. Everyone knows that little girls get dolls. These dolls, along with easy bake oven, and tea sets are given as toys to aid in gender identification play that is essential in development. As a little girl being raised in America, Barbie is the universal doll. This little anatomically incorrect 6 inches or so of molded plastic and polyester is the root of so much of the evil that creates the lingering pain. These dolls are given to our daughters as a model of the epitome of feminine beauty, long bone straight blond hair, blue eyes, itty bitty waist and no hips or rear end. Now, this same little brown girl looks in the mirror and realizes that she looks nothing like that. Her hair is black and kinky. Her eyes are the color of charcoal and her nose is nowhere near that thin. So, how does she react? Like every other little black girl that I have ever met, she wraps a towel around her head and pretend that the terry cloth is her hair and she plays house. Think about it, Barbie is being perpetuated as the ideal of what a woman looks like. If we do not look like her, then the next assumption is that we aren’t pretty and if we aren’t pretty, then are we less of a woman?
Barbie had everything, the man, the houses, the cars, and the wardrobe. We knew that she could have anything that she wanted, but it was clear, even in my 5 year old mind, that it was because she was white. So, I started asking for more black dolls. Here was the problem. Barbie didn’t have any pretty black friends at the time and not many companies made very pretty black dolls. All of the black dolls that I could find on the shelf at Toys-R-Us did not look like me, nor did they have any cool accessories. What lesson did I learn? That all of Barbie’s friends that had any pigmentation were her charity cases. (Thank God those times have changed and many companies now produce many beautiful black dolls for little girls. The Groovy Girls being my favorite because they have dolls of every hue and nationality and they ALL have great accessories.)
Eventually, we learn to love our nappy hair, the color of our skin, the width of our nose, and the shapes of our hips. Even somehow managing to navigate our way through the onslaught of commercials, television and print, that are meant to act as basic social programming to indoctrinate us into the idea that the blond princess is superior (i.e. Paris Hilton, Sarah Jessica Parker, etc.). Yet, everyday we are forced to look at some of our brothers and sons as they choose to be with women that look like the Barbie doll enemy. Yet, this isn’t meant to be a slap in the face, but can you see why SOME battle weary sisters would see it that way? I don’t agree, but I understand. I am not trying to excuse the behavior, just trying to figure out the etymology of the disease.
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