In the politics of cultural war, score one for Black women
A few weeks ago (May 15, 2011), a regularly controversial blogger who got paid for his writing, published in Psychology Today a piece on why Black women are uglier and less sexually attractive (except for exotic, freaky prostitution purposes) than any other ethnicity (his exact comparisons were with White, Asian and Native American women).
The article was yet another pseudo-scientific polemic which insulted a group thought to be incapable of doing much more than harping a few vulgar replies before slipping back into the shadows. Hmmm.
Mother said to be careful of underestimating and carelessly humiliating Black women.
For those who’ve been asleep for a while, Psychology Today is a leading national publication and is well known in both academic and everyday circles. In response to the demands of news media, it had recently created what it called, a space within its publication where “leading academics, clinicians and authors in our field (could) contribute their thoughts and ideas in the form of blogs.” Satoshi Kanazawa, a tenured professor at the London School of Economics, was one of the most discussed of those authors.
Without going much more into Professor Kanazawa’s background, suffice it to say that in his blog, called “Scientific Fundamentalism: A Hard Look at Truths About Human Nature,” he regularly demonstrated a sharp skill in disguising rank ethnocentrism, bigotry, and misogynistic attitudes through pseudo-scientific obfuscation.
In the particular case of his article, “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?” The good professor negated any real criticism by Black men because he flattered them. Most of the flak he has gotten, true to form, has been from highly articulate sisters.
Data from a huge U.S. government-funded longitudinal study, 1994-2008, designed to examine adolescent health outcomes and which had surveyed and interviewed thousands of high school students from seventh through 12th grades, produced conclusions about factors that may influence youthful health and at-risk behaviors, including family histories, personal traits, circle of friends and associates, peer group pressure, plus romantic, neighborhood and community relationships.
Indeed, there was a treasure trove of useful information available, but Professor Kanazaw focused instead on what could be considered outtake material—the collection of what he called objective and subjective evaluations by the project interviewers of the physical attractiveness of the teenage respondents to whom they talked. The data collected included comments made by at least three interviewers for every respondent who participated in the survey and interview, on a scale of one to five, one being the least attractive and five being the most attractive, over a period of seven years.
Using this subsidiary data without ever disclosing who the interviewers were—anti-feminine, gay, Black, White, etc.—the good professor writes that “even though women on average are considered more physically attractive than men, there are marked racial differences in physical attractiveness among women, but not among men,” and “Black women rank as the ugliest and least attractive compared to White, Asian and Native American women.”
He then couches that conclusion in scientific-sounding t-test and quantitative analysis terms, saying that he can measure “latent physical attractiveness by a statistical factor analysis, giving physical attractiveness a mean score of a zero with a standard deviation of one.”
Needless to say, he got a response. Not being blown away by the bombast of the technical terminology (after all, “scientific racism” has a long pedigree in this country), more than 75, 000 messages overwhelmed the Psychology Today blog site, and the publication’s phones rang off the hook for two straight weeks in protest. Probably the largest African American political organization headquarters on-line, the ColorofChange.org., barked loudly and unceasingly at Psychology Today, in a how-dare-you format.
While it has not always proven itself true, my Mother was right. When Black women collectively aim and focus their considerable spirits on a problem, it gets taken care of and the good professor’s writings qualified as that. He has now been fired, as of June 7, and his blog has been taken down from its formally hallowed place. Numerous protesters are even howling at the University of London to terminate Professor Kanazawa from his teaching post. The latter will probably not happen, but punishment for messing with the sisters has been rendered, Ph.D. professor or not.
And remember 2010’s Jawn Murray saying he was tired of nappy-headed, angry Black women who just needed a good man and a perm, dissing Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” movie?
After relentless blasting from Black women, he lost his AOL Black Voices job this April. Don Imus, of “nappy-headed hoes” fame referring to the Rutgers University women’s b-ball team, also lost his television gig, after tremendous outcry from Black women and their numerous allies.
This is a very important lesson not to be overlooked. Think of the possibilities of ending such insults in commercial Hip Hop, in sports commentators’ jokes, in media cartoons and mainstream Internet sites. Black women united for a common purpose work wonders. And no, such wonders don’t ever cease, when necessary to restore the balance of justice and respect.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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During the 40 years or so of the modern evolution of the Black Studies movement in America’s colleges and universities, we have made major progress in research, writing, teaching and authorship. We have also sometimes accepted the stories we’ve been too often told as true without critical examination. In fact, there is much to be said for providing people who have most often been taught and told relentlessly that they have no worthwhile history and contributions that they actually have much, much more than anyone knows.
OK, for those who read last week’s article and who stopped me in Albertson’s, or on campus, to ask when we were going to get something going on, in the aftermath of the MLK Day 2013 celebration.
Around Jan. 20, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., the Council of Black Political Organizations (COBPO), KJLH’s Frontpage and, most likely, Our Weekly newspaper, will co-sponsor a California Town Hall on a Black American agenda.
One sustaining strength of Black America has always been African American culture. As Black American culture goes, so goes Black people. Unfortunately, Black culture is dying a slow, tortuous death currently. What happened to those very effective devices we once had to transmit our own cultural strength to our offspring? Even though most of us think we know what’s not Black culture, and we’re very quick to point it out, listen to all the stammering when someone directly asks, just what exactly is Black American culture, anyway? Here’s an answer:
Within most cultures, there are repeated patterns of behavior and character types that help to perpetuate those cultures. So it is with Black culture, which is at once a living crucible of the Black experience, in all of its finery, genius and foolishness. There is both exquisite beauty and profound ugliness in being Black in America and elsewhere, and that has been the case since our American origins.
May brings us holidays from May 1 (May Day) through Memorial Day, May 27 (originally, Decoration Day), the preeminent celebration of loyalty and courage in America’s Civil War. In between May Day and Memorial Day, there is also Cinco de Mayo and the always adventurous Mother’s Day.
In fact, May hosts more than 25 distinctive political observances, including the annual Malcolm X birthday gala and festival (there’s also another Malcolm X festival held annually in April), held in most major urban areas in America.