Last week Black Girls Rock was shown on BET. The show was hosted by Tracie Ellis Ross and Regina King. Apparently some folks, i.e. white folks have a problem with the phrase Black Girls Rock.
Black Girls Rock was created by Beverly Bond to lead, motivate and serve young black women and girls.
Since 2006, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! has been dedicated to the healthy development of young women and girls. BLACK GIRLS ROCK! seeks to build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons, and helping them to empower themselves. Since 2006, we have enjoyed the opportunity to enrich the lives of girls aged 12 to 17 years old through mentorship, arts education, cultural exploration and public service. At BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, young women are offered access to enrichment programs and opportunities that place special emphasis on personal development through the arts and cooperative learning.
Nothing wrong with that. I agree with Beverly Bond. Our society does nothing but belittle black females. So if we don’t do something to uplift young black women then who will? If we live in a society where the First Lady Michelle Obama can be trashed and demeaned by certain media types because she’s a black woman, then we are living in one screwed up world.
In 2013 Beverly Bond responded to the backlash of Black Girls Rock. Someone created the #whitegirlrock hashtag.
When I heard about the “#whitegirlsrock” hashtag that trended on Twitter, my immediate reaction was, “Well, duh! Of course white girls rock. Are they unaware?” White women’s beauty, talent, diversity and worldly contributions are affirmed everywhere: on billboards, on television, in magazines and in textbooks.
However, the breadth and depth of the beauty, intellect, work and legacy of black women is often marginalized. The cultural, intellectual and social contributions made by women across the African Diaspora are a part of human history and should be valuable to all people. The participants in the #whitegirlsrock hashtag, who heralded accusations of reverse racism, fail to acknowledge the history of racism in media including the perpetual absence of diverse stories and representations of black women. They also fail to recognize that this absence impacts the way women and girls of color, around the world, see and value themselves.
As a humanist, I believe that we all rock. My issue is that the commentary that followed the “#whitegirlsrock” hashtag was not even about affirming dynamic white women. Instead, it was about critiquing or even punishing black women for having the nerve, the audacity and the unmitigated gall to love and affirm ourselves!
Beverly Bond also mentions a column written by Olivia Cole who is white.
In an article in the Huffington Post, Olivia Cole, a white girl who most certainly rocks, points out the exclusion of black women in various public spheres. In response to the white community that was offended by “#blackgirlsrock” Cole writes:
“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.”
In 2013 I published an article here on The Huffington Post called “Why I’m Not Here for #WhiteGirlsRock.” In it, I posed a question to my fellow white Americans who were upset about Black Girls Rock!, insisting that a program centering the self-worth and self-love of black girls must be “reverse racism” at work and taking to Twitter with the hashtag #WhiteGirlsRock to “reaffirm” the value of white girls. The question I posed was:
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?
Now I’m afraid I must ask again, because very little seems to have changed since 2013: Black Girls Rock! is again being criticized. You see, Michelle Obama spoke at this year’s Black Girls Rock! celebration. She said many beautiful things, among them:
No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful. I am so proud of you. My husband, your president, is so proud of you. We have so much hope and dreams for you… I know there are voices that you are not good enough. Each of those doubts was like a test that I either shrink away from or rise to meet. And I decided to rise.
Her comments (somehow) have prompted outrage and anger, like this bit of… something by Amanda Shea, who claims that Michelle Obama’s beautiful words of love and kindness send the message that “white girls don’t matter.” Let’s think about this.
Ms. Cole continues
As I said to fellow white people in my original article about Black Girls Rock:
“[White people] are in everything. Ninety-nine percent of Hollywood movies feature your faces. Ninety-nine 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.
Check out Olivia Cole’s entire column here.
Black women and girls have been demoralized, demeaned, bashed and told we don’t matter by American society for centuries. So when Ms. Bond comes along and creates something that is positive for black females some folks have a problem with it. They’re hollering All Girls Rock. Well our society hasn’t always thought All Girls Rock. Where were all the complainers when all the most beautiful women lists are dominated by nothing but white women? The list might include one or two black women but it’s usually Beyonce and or Rihanna. I don’t have anything against those young ladies but there is more to beautiful black women than those two. And beautiful black women come in multiple shades, not just light brown. Are the creators of those lists only comfortable with light skinned black women? And it wasn’t until recently that a woman like Lupita Nyong’o was considered most beautiful. We’re talking a year ago. Why did it take so long?
Why is the phrase All American beauty only used when it comes to white women? Aren’t black women born in America All American? When have black females ever been placed on a pedestal and considered the ideal when it comes to female beauty standards? We’re living in a society where now non black women can copy what we have and they are considered beautiful and the originators. Blond hair and blue eyes has always been the ideal beauty standard in this country. To many in this country just white skin alone is the ideal beauty standard. What black woman can live up to those standards?
And let’s not forget about how some black men, not all, but some have fallen for the white woman are all that beauty standard. How does this make black women who have supported black men for centuries feel when some men who look like them bash, demean and make them feel like nothing?
So what is the problem with Black Girls Rock? Is it because the focus of attention is on black females for a change? Focusing on black females is not taking away anything from other females. Our society has always acknowledged white and some Latina women especially. So when Black Girls Rock acknowledges black females some folks go batshit crazy. If our society had focused on all women and not just white women from the very beginning maybe we wouldn’t need a Black Girls Rock. Just like blacks creating our own organizations because we were excluded from mainstream organizations. Black Girls Rock, black sororities and fraternities, black social clubs and other organization aren’t going away just because some folks want them to disappear or because we’re living in more modern times. When people of color feel excluded or left out we will create our own. I’m happy that Beverly Bond created Black Girls Rock. Because we do!!!
The encore performance of Black Girls Rock will be shown on BET Wednesday April 15, 2015.