Media, Please Stay Outta Black Women’s Hair and Relationships

August 25, 2011  |  

by Charing Ball

It is estimated that 40 percent of African American women, before menopause, will develop and suffer from fibroid tumors. That number almost doubles after the age of 50. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow within the wall of the uterus and can be accompanied by anemia, infertility, miscarriage, and early onset of labor.  There have been some advancements in the treatment or removal of fibroids including uterine embolization however Black women are still three to five times more likely to have their entire uterus removed, through a hysterectomy than their white female counterparts.

On January 8th 2011, Christina Voltaire, a 22-year old Haiti American college student, disappeared from her Winter Haven, Florida apartment. A friend, who was borrowing her vehicle at the time, was the last person to have seen her. When he returned, Voltaire was gone. However, her robe, which she had been wearing, along with her purse and laptop were still in the apartment. Police have few leads in the investigation but consider Voltaire to be an endangered missing person.

Recent research released last year suggest that Black women are more likely to experience a qualitatively different form of racism, which has contributed to them not being recognized or correctly credited for their contributions. The two studies, which were first published in the Journal of Social Psychology, examined both the memory for Black women’s faces and speech contributions. The conclusions of the studies reveal that 1) Black women were least likely to be recognized and 2) statements made by a Black woman in a group discussion were least likely to be correctly attributed.

You might be wondering how all these items fit together.  Well the first two topics will rarely be discussed in the mainstream media and the third provides the why as to why topics featuring Black women are ignored in the press – unless of course we are talking about our hairstyle choices and our dating habits. By now, we have all received word about the dismal marriage rate among black women.  And by now, we’ve all been treated to the umpteenth article and roundtable discussion about the dynamic nature of our hair. It feels like every mainstream, and even black, publication and media outlet are churning out at least five articles a day on the subject.  It is like there aren’t enough dead horses to beat to make these particular stories go away.

What this suggests to me is that Black women, for all intents and purposes, are still having their images defined by outsiders. Because of it, we spend endless hours debating “facts,” writing blog posts and over-analyzing “issues,” which for the most part, none of us were thinking about until we were told it was a problem.

There is something to be said for the sinister nature in which these stories are published ad nauseam.  Not only do they fit the narrative of a larger structure attempting to keep women constantly dissatisfied and questioning themselves but also reflects racial indifference in which discussion around ‘women’s issues’ are generated.  For example, the disappearance of a white girl in Aruba is used as an example to discuss issues of safety for women worldwide, yet we ignore the countless black women and girls who go missing everyday and fail to draw the correlations. Likewise, many articles cite the Yale University study of marriage rates among women, particularly noting that 42 percent of African-American women have yet to be married, compared to only 23 percent of white women. Because Black women, for whatever reason do not engage in the sanctimony of marriage, we are viewed as uncharacteristic to the correct, or white, reflection of womanhood.

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