Why I’m Not Here for #WhiteGirlsRock (Participation)

Why I’m Not Here for #WhiteGirlsRock

Posted: 11/04/2013 3:32 pm by Olivia Cole

The Black Girls Rock! Foundation was founded in 2006 as an organization dedicated to the empowerment of young women of color; a foundation committed to helping black and brown girls overcome the myriad of obstacles a misogynoiristic society places squarely in front of them. The Black Girls Rock! Awards are now featured on BET as a way of recognizing role models, encouraging teachings of self worth, and emphasizing the talents of extraordinary women of color who are otherwise unseen in American media.

Let me emphasize that last part. “Women of color who are otherwise unseen in American media.” We need Black Girls Rock! because black girls and women are almost invisible in American media. Because if you were a black girl growing up in this country, watching TV and movies and reading magazines like every other kid, looking for some representation of yourself as something beautiful or heroic, you would be sorely disappointed.

 

    • Black Girls Rock! is necessary because when you Google “beautiful women,” this is what you see.
    • Because Pixar has never made a movie featuring a black cartoon character.
    • Because a black actress has never won a drama series Lead Actress Emmy. (Although Kerry Washington will change that, I am certain.)
    • Because in 39 years, only three black women have been part of the cast of SNL.
    • Because, until Scandal, the only real place you could find black women in leading roles on television was The Real Housewives of _______.
    • Because the “first black Disney Princess” was a frog for 95 percent of the movie.

I could go on. But I think you get the gist. What it comes down to is that black girls are missing representations of themselves in positive contexts. When they turn on the TV, they are missing. When they are looking at the cover of magazines like Vogue and Elle, they are missing. When they go to the movie theater, they are missing. For black women’s faces to appear in mainstream films, it seems they must be either wearing a maid’s apron or chains. So when Black Girls Rock! appears on the scene, ready to uplift and empower the girls who are so tragically neglected in American media, ready to showcase women of color who are smart and fun and beautiful and accomplished and positive, I am so here for it.

But let me tell you what I’m not here for.

I’m not here for #WhiteGirlsRock. The hashtag appeared on Twitter in an apparent response to Black Girls Rock! that aired on Sunday night with typical nonsense such as:

And

How the fuck is there a #BlackGirlsRock show? If there was a #WhiteGirlsRock, black people would fucking riot.

— T. Roberts (@JustKickinIttt) November 4, 2013

Let me tell you something, white folks. From one white person to another.

You are in everything. 99 percent of Hollywood movies feature your faces. 99 percent of magazine covers are covered in you. The Emmy Awards and Oscars are almost entirely you. If you Google “beautiful people” the screen is covered in white faces. Black girls (and boys) are taught from birth that there is one version of beauty, and it is you. Many black girls go their entire lives thinking they are ugly, thinking they need to be lighter, straighter, whiter in order to have value. Everything that you see every day that reaffirms your whiteness; every commercial that has a nice white lady embodying the perfect “mom;” every magazine that has blue eyes and bone-straight hair; every Hollywood blockbuster that has a leading lady with skin never darker than Halle Berry… all of these things are reinforcements of your identity that you take for granted.

You may be fat. You may have hair that curls up at the ends. You may even have acne. But your face is everywhere. Your people are everywhere. What in your heart recoils when you see Black Girls Rock? What bone in your body sees empowerment for black girls and thinks “that’s not fair”? Where is your bitterness rooted? What do you think has been taken from you when women of color are uplifted?

All of the things you take for granted are what you’re protecting when you shout down Black Girls Rock: your whiteness, the system that upholds your face as the supreme standard of beauty, your place in the center of a culture that demands people of color remain hidden in the margins, present but only barely and never overshadowing the white hero/heroine. Your discomfort with black girls who rock tells me that you prefer the status quo: you prefer for black faces to remain hidden, you prefer for America’s heroes to have white faces, you prefer for black actresses to wear aprons and chains.

This is not to say that white girls don’t rock. I’m white. I kind of rock. But this conversation isn’t about you, it isn’t about us. Why must everything always be about us? It doesn’t have to be. And it shouldn’t be. From one white person to another… please sit down. Queen Latifah is on and you’re blocking the screen.

Olivia Cole writes a blog at oliviaacole.wordpress.com.

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6 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Here for #WhiteGirlsRock (Participation)

  1. I completely agree with every point that she makes. Even though I am not black I can see that it is a struggle for black Americans to be seen and for their voices to be heard. Although I do think that Kerry Washington is on her way to changing the way movies and TV shows perceive black actresses. I never really realized until now that you never really see black people playing bug roles on TV and maybe that’s just me being ignorant to the fact. It is funny that this is a participation topic because just the other week I got a magazine in the mail that had Kerry Washington on the front and a huge article about how she is becoming the leading lady in media today and how she is changing the television world by being a leading beautiful black female. One thing that I saw that was surprising was the fact that Pixar had never made a movie with a black person in it. I think/hope that culturally the entertainment industry is changing and we will see that in a matter of years. Responding to the hashtag on twitter I think that while yes, that is wrong it is the naïve, ignorant people that get that trending.

  2. She is completely right.Her argument show cases all the things that we don’t seem to notice in the media. When colored kids see the faces in the media, their first impression is probably that you have to be white or light skinned to have any kind of success. I had noticed before that Disney didn’t have a black princess, they had an Arabian princess, Jasmine from “Aladdin”, but even she was light skinned. When Disney came out with “The Princess and the Frog,” I thought that it was neat they had finally presented a princess of color, but i never notice that in almost the whole movie the princess is a frog. I have seen first hand how people of color, especially girls, think they need to be light skinned to be better. My family is from Mexican descent so my family’s skin tone is not white but not black so kind of in between. I have four sisters and one of them is a little darker than the rest of us, and i have seen my sisters argue all the time about who is lighter skinned and better than the other. My other two sisters tease my darker skinned sister telling her that shes black and was left out in the sun too long, or that nobody likes her because she is dark and things like that. It always seemed to me that they were just fighting like all siblings do but now i see that it is because colored people are never the face in the media, in other words that white always means better. While reading this I also noticed that not only is there color discrimination in the media, but also there is gender discrimination. Even if black or colored actors are the lead role, they are almost always men. Examples of black males that play lead roles are Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Will Smith, and Jamie Foxx among others. However black women actors that i can think of are Halle Berry and Beyonce. I’m sure there are other black women actors but my point is that just by brainstorming I could easily come up with more black males than females that I’ve seen as lead actors in movies.

  3. I never really thought about who plays what I just see an actor and that’s that. I never really paid attention to the fact that most colored actors are dressed as maids or given roles that really don’t even matter. I guess that could just be the ignorant white girl in me cause we are everywhere! When Disney finally came out with a colored Princess I thought it was cool that they were culturally spreading I didn’t really consider that she was a frog majority of the time so it didn’t even really matter in the end. Even then it just goes to show how people still view black people as lower. Considering it was a frog I mean who really cares about frogs.

  4. I had never really thought about how black actors/actresses were discriminated against and not selected for as many roles as white people were until people started freaking out and getting super excited that there would be the first black Disney princess in the Princess and the Frog. But what most people didn’t really take the time to consider was that the black princess wasn’t a mermaid, she wasn’t a part of Greek mythology, she wasn’t asleep in a tower for years waiting for Prince Charming, and she didn’t get to go on any magic carpet rides. Instead, she was a frog. I think that might be enough of an example to represent 90% of Hollywood and their attitude about casting black females for the main character.

  5. Never before have i looked at media like this blog is describing. The past eighteen years, I see people and people only no matter their skin color. I see models as a model and actresses as actresses. Yes, I can say that disney, magazine covers, and movies discriminate towards black females after observing the links in the blog which did disturb me when i really thought about it. However, is it the fact that we are still purposely or accidentally discriminating? I personally feel that our society is so use to discriminating against blacks that we sometimes dont acknowledge our actions. One point however that i do not agree with in the blog id the quote “We need Black Girls Rock! because black girls and women are almost invisible in American media.” The reason I disagree with this is thinking about the many black female role models are on television, magazines, etc. The woman i can think of on the top of my head of course are Michelle Obama and Opera. They are two of the most important female icons in America and the world… I can list many more in regards to music and acting. Also, has anyone paid attention to the disney channel lately? So many of the actresses are black. Yes i do agree that the show is a great idea but I’m always the one to point out both sides. Yes i do agree that disney making their first black female lead role be a frog 95% of the movie is messed up and some consideration needs to start being taken in our society.

  6. I have never thought about the effect of having a smaller amount of black women in the media could effect so many young women. After thinking awhile on the subject, not having those positive role models in your life may make someone feel less empowerment and less self-confident than they could. This article made me want to find out more about Black Girls Rock. I looked on the website to see what it was all about and realized it was a very important program for young black women. Because the media lacks such role models for these young women this group provides them with workshops, camps, and other gathering to talk about concerns, give advice, and gain positive role models. I never thought about how the lack of black women in the media could effect young black women, but I can see now that it may make them feel less self confident if beauty in the media is portrayed by a white women. But through this program, one young woman wrote on the site that this group was important to her because she has gained a sense of empowerment and self-confidence that she previously lacked. I believe this foundation is an important resource for young black women who do need those positive role models and want to talk about issues they are facing in society, and it is also important that white young women know and respect that.

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