Monday, December 12, 2011

Black Beauty in a Broken Society

America has been a festering hot bed of racial tension for hundreds of years. many try to believe that racism is dead and it is no longer an issue that we suffer from in the United States.
Beauty is defined as, “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind,” according to Webster, true definition means something different to everyone. This is especially true when it comes to the appearance of the postmodern American female. As time progresses, the standards of American beauty evolve. From the flapper, to the pinup, to the disco queen, there has always been an unattainable archetype of what beauty should be. With the ever changing idea of what “iconic beauty” should be, there has been one constant factor, the sever dearth of the desire for the African American woman.
In the 2011 release on “The Maxim Hot 100 List,” there were only 16 women of color. Of those 16, there were only four of the women who are of African American decent (Maxim Magazine, spring 2011). Of the roster for the 2011 Victoria’s Secret fashion show, only one of the 11 supermodels who walked the runway were of African American decent ( Victoria’s Secret All Access website
The standard of beauty for black women in America is impossibly high. Images of beautiful white models flood the media, creating an impossible image for women of color to live up to. The media constantly depicts images of “feminine beauty,” and the desired attributes all favor the Caucasian race. White women flood the media. The women of color who are fortunate enough to grace the cover of a magazine or land a spread, all have attributes that favor the Caucasian race. BeyoncĂ© is a prime example of this.

She is an iconic example of modern American beauty. Many view her status as groundbreaking for the African American race, but it is not. Her long blonde hair extensions and lighter skin complexion are favorable of the Caucasian race. Rihanna is another prime example. She is thin, light skinned, and wears her hair in styles that are not achievable for the natural texture of the African American woman’s hair.
The media does its fair share to create impossibly high standards of beauty for Black women, but it is not the only source. In the African American community, the light skinned girl with “good hair” is most desirable.

Girls of mixed backgrounds are, in fact, quire beautiful, but these expectations create another obstacle for the black girl with dark skin and exceptionally kinky hair. She has to strive twice as hard to just be seen as adequate.
Black women constantly change their appearance to gain approval. According to a recent news article, “In 2005, African Americans accounted for more than 760,000 cosmetic surgeries,” ( This article also states that the most commonly requested procedures among the large client pool of Black women were rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), liposuction, and breast reduction. By nature, black women store more fat in their breasts and buttocks than any other race. African Americans are also known for having full lips and prominent noses. The fact that so many black women are attempting to change the characteristics that are so quintessential to the African American image speaks volumes about the image that is expected of American women, and the effect it is taking on black women.
The hair texture of African American women also sparks controversy. In, Good Hair, a documentary on African American hair, the great lengths that black women travel to accomplish ideal beauty. Women spend thousands of dollars on wigs and weaves. Girls as young as age seven undergo chemical hair straitening processes. African American women literally go without food and neglect paying bills just to get their hair done.
The pressure for African American women to be considered beautiful is extremely high. Expectations from the media, society, and even the African American community create unattainable standards of what black women should look like. These pressures take their toll on black women, and it is evident through their constant struggle to attain attributes that are favorable to the Caucasian race, such as long strait extensions. This just goes to show that America’s racial issues are all but dead. We, as a nation, are still close minded to alternative forms of beauty. Until we learn to accept all skin tones, hair textures, and body types as beautiful, we will remain a nation devided