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Colorism and misogynoir in the Black community

Colorism and misogynoir in the Black community

The “Colored” Girl Campaign (Joey Rosado)

When you are a Black woman, it’s almost second nature to love Black men unconditionally, even when the love isn’t reciprocated with that same ferocity. You naturally try to understand your Black brother even when you have every right not to. You’re constantly giving but rarely receiving.

Black women fall victims to police brutality and are either ignored or forgotten, but still demand that Black men are seen and heard. We never hear of Alexia Christian, an Atlanta resident who died mysteriously after being handcuffed and put in the back of a police car. We never hear of Mya Hall, a transgender woman murdered by the National Security Agency—who made no eff ort to use non-lethal force. As of 2015, 48 Black women have been killed by police, and there are only two cases where officers were charged with manslaughter or murder. The list of unrecognizable names and unfulfilled justice goes on, demonstrating how Black women are constantly giving, loving, supporting and trying to understand their brothers but rarely receiving the same.  

The never-ending list of police killings, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain to name a few, protests for racial justice and instances of police brutality created an exasperated population of African Americans, who are tired of falling victim to injustice and violence. The United States, however, is not the only entity that faced unrest this summer. Police brutality also forced the Black community to address its hatred for Black women, an issue that the community has ignored for generations and continues to perpetuate despite cries from the afflicted group. Black revolution and worldmaking will never happen until we address the treatment of Black women and their foundational role in the community.

Perhaps the most important outcome of this summer’s analyzation of the Black community was the reemphasis of the word “misogynoir,” created by Black feminist scholar Moya Bailey in 2010 after she saw how medical yearbooks stereotyped and miscategorized Black women. The term refers to hatred of Black women, and Bailey says she created the term to achieve clarity, as “once you’re able to name your oppression, I think you’re better able to address it.”

Two things helped construct the perfect environment for reminding both society and Black men of the hurt they cause Black women: the killings of Breonna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson at the hands of police and the Megan Thee Stallion shooting on July 12. The former issue stems from seeing Black women as superheroes, meaning the burden is placed on them to protect Black men. The latter, yielded one of the greatest examples of misogynoir on social media.

 “Most of the misogynoir I see is on social media,” Ellisya Lindsey, Medill sophomore, says. “ You’ll see a Black woman and she’s celebrating that she achieved something, and some Black man will come out and try to humble her, and it’s like, ‘Why are you doing that?’”

After leaving a party together in the Hollywood Hills, Tory Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion in her foot twice.

Chloe Porter, a first-year in Weinberg, says Black men’s overwhelming support for Lanez infuriated her. On Twitter, predominately Black men tweeted in support of Lanez, writing that everyone needed to wait to hear both sides of the story instead of condemning him for his violent action against a Black woman. “If it were any Black woman, Black men would have come to his rescue,” Porter says. “Just general hate toward Black women.”

 Along with misogynoir, the Black community and the greater society mistreat Black women by being colorist and favoring individuals with lighter skin over those with darker skin. This concept plagues the Black community and serves as one of its biggest contradictions. Black people that will say they “prefer” women of lighter complexions, but they and their family members are darker.

Joelle Moore, a first-year at Weinberg, says as woman of lighter complexion, she has benefitted from colorism in multiple ways. Rather than her hair being called “nappy,” a harmful term used to denote tightly textured curls, Moore says she receives compliments on it. Besides never getting called names as a result of her complexion, Moore notes, “A lot of actors that are well-known that are Black women typically tend to be light-skinned women. When I’m looking at Black people on TV, I’m seeing people that look more like me and are more representative of me.”

Darker-skinned Black women don’t experience that same luxury. Rather, they experience a plethora of stereotypes, like associating darker complexion with masculinity, ultimately painting them as undesirable and harmful remarks like getting called them ugly, “tar babies,” the list goes on.

Lindsey says that she witnessed colorism against Black women firsthand when she attended a predominantly white all-girls high school. “The few Black guys that went to my brother’s school would definitely only date girls that were lighter, had longer hair, that sort of thing,” Lindsey says. “You would always notice the darker girls were always single.”

A common argument Black men use when excluding dark women from the dating arena is that they just have “natural preferences” for lighter women.

“You don’t just ‘prefer’ girls that have long, straight-ish, ‘good’ hair,” Lindsey says. “You don’t come out the womb like, ‘This is the only type of person I’ll date.’ It’s definitely a socialization thing that I don’t feel is ever considered.”

Black men who engage in this argument need to read about the creation and impact of their so-called “preferences,” because they aren’t natural. Black men use the “preference argument” as another way to absolve themselves of doing any self-introspection. The Black community cannot begin to embark on the journey of revolutionizing society until we reckon with the hatred of Black women. However, it is a question of whether the community is ready.

“A lot of Black men don’t really want to tear down the patriarchy, they want to be included.” Porter says. “They see the white male patriarchy and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is so bad because we’re oppressed,’ when in reality, they want to be oppressors, too.”


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