The Need to Feature the Black Woman

The Washington Post recently started a series on black woman, revealing statistics, sentiments, and opinions on what it means to be a black woman today. The publication’s motive behind the series is because of new conversations and new icons in the public image (re: Michelle Obama). Statistical information is supported, and possibly initiated, by the national poll that reveals some key findings.

The Washington Post also posted a photo series of a multi generation (with ages ranging from 16-69) black family living under one household. This female-dominated family affirms some of the statistics and stereotypes that are revealed in both research, readings, and public opinion. Ruth Lawrence Driver, 69, had to deal with segregation, racism, and sexism during her youth/education, and the Post notes that she attends church every Sunday – correlative to the understanding that “because of high levels of spirituality among African American families, the church also contributes to their feelings of well-being” (Olson 9). The national poll revealed that “religion is essential to most black women’s lives; being in a romantic relationship is not” (Thompson).

But now, the perspective on even the need to highlight a black family of women is questionable. Commentator Kathy8 reveals the double standard of black versus white women and the potential racism of the whole series approach:

Kathy8: I really find the whole basis of this survey and this story to be extremely racist. WHY would any reputable organization even conduct such a survey in this day and age? Did the Post and the Kaiser foundation ever conduct a survey with similar questioning of white and black women about how much they identified with Laura Bush? I highly doubt it.

With new rising models of older, wiser portrayals of black women (Oprah Winfrey, Xerox’s Ursula Burns, Condoleezza Rice), The Post emphasizes on how the sentiment today that it is a good time to be a black woman now:

It is a time in which one-third of employed black women work in management or professional jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a record number are attending college. Black women with college degrees earn nearly as much as similarly educated white women. The number of businesses owned by black women has nearly doubled in the past decade to more than 900,000, according to census figures.

It is an age in which young black women see more options for themselves than ever.

Does this give enough reason to single them out? Are we paying too much attention on the color of their skin and potentially adding to the stereotype that they need attention?

Another issue as it relates to aging includes the evident passing down of knowledge and key values. The family featured in the Washington Post emphasizes the importance of education and going to college. Even the oldest in the household fought her way to make sure she got a university education. Because “the aged, of whom a large percentage live in multigenerational households, are held in high esteem,” (Olson 9) this has become a reinforced value in this particular household – thought this may not be the case in other households.

Ruby W. Lawrence, 99, suffers from dementia, is placed in a nursing home for care, and her family visits regularly. This coincides with knowing that “older women tend to live more advanced ages, have more chronic illnesses and disabilities, and experience greater poverty than older men” (Olson 14). Fortunately, the culture and tradition of the black household keeps this family together, encouraged, and supported.

Another interesting insight that truly shows the difficulties of being a black women aging in America is seen in NoCountryNoGod’s comment:

NoCountryNoGod: The oppression that black women experience is unique. They are discriminated against as women. They are discriminated against as blacks. What is more, they are discriminated against as black women. It is a category.

This sentiment coincides closer to the Olson and Stoller readings regarding the challenges that minorities and elderly face. Ultimately, however, there shouldn’t feel the need to celebrate the accomplishments of “black woman,” though doing so shouldn’t be an issue at all. A series of the black women are issues of awareness and celebration, and evidently not a cry for help.

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