Have you seen this cartoon? It’s been making the rounds on social media, at least among my uber-educated, well-connected circles, and surely yours as well. I ignored it the first time I saw it, rolled my eyes the second, and when a “friend” who I respect and thought knew better added it to her status update and declared herself a “’70s lady,” I finally decided to address it.
Um…. What it implies is bull$#@!. Earlier this year, I was on a 17-hour flight back from South Africa and killed time watching Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” which won Best Original Screenplay at the 2012 Academy Awards. Loosely, it’s about a guy (Owen Wilson) who idolizes the past and (whoops! )stumbles back in time to a period he thinks is superior. There, he meets this woman from that prior time who has also stumbled back to the era before her own and thinks that it is even better. It’s a cycle. By the end of the film, Wilson’s character realizes that there’s no time like the present, and he might as well make the most of the time he has.
That is the same point I’d like to make here. No disrespect to my mother’s heyday, or for some of the ladies reading, your granny’s. I’m sure there were lovely women galore, and I don’t mean to denigrate anyone in any way. But to pretend that the women of one era were so far superior and the values of all black women now have gone to hell in a Louis Vuitton hand basket (because we’re all sooo materialistic) is crap. That’s it. Crap.
I will give it to black women of that era; they had better PR. They didn’t have many images, and when they finally got put on, they presented their best — at first. The Seventies gave us the debut of Essence, the first widely distributed publication for black women, and “For Colored Girls …,” which was brilliance personified. But it also gave us free love (i.e., promiscuity) and Blaxploitation flicks, which prominently featured black pimps and “hoes” and cocaine use as iconic. It wasn’t all gravy.
I’ll join the chorus to say we, black folk, got problems: Piss-poor graduation rates, the number of children born out of wedlock or even into committed relationships, and the number of people incarcerated are issues that need addressing — not just criticizing — by us, even if we weren’t the ones who got that trend rolling down hill. I admit that. But to make lace-front-wearing gold diggers who don’t know the difference between a pot and a pan the face of the current generation of black women isn’t just unfair; it’s also inaccurate. So is linking submission to men as a virtue and labeling “strong” and “independent” women as a vice. Please explain to me how it benefits black women or the black race as a whole to have women who are weak and dependent.
Black women are as varied, contradictory, and multi-faceted as any other race of ladies. But when those other women get portrayed as loose, gold-digging, and otherwise unsavory, it’s presented as one representation of the women their race embodies, not the part that represents the whole. Of course, there are the women among us who could do better, who should know better, or who weren’t taught better (or just didn’t listen). But there are a whole host of us, too, who were raised by those good ol’ days and duly praised women of the Seventies who embody their likeness, literally and figuratively, and still carry ourselves with the best of their values, morals, and common sense. The intersection of our race and gender shouldn’t inherently have us all portrayed as ratchet.
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