Excuse me, y’all, but I have to get deep for a minute.
The title of this post is inspired by Erika’s recent rant over at Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. The content, however, is inspired by a recent cover story from The Washington Post and the outrage that erupted in the blogosphere. What was the problem? Well, according to a recent study conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 66% of African-American women who are “overweight” or “obese” report high levels of self-esteem. This is a full 25 percentage points higher than the self-esteem levels reported by “average” or “thin” white women.
So, in other words, fat black women have the nerve to think well of themselves, even though their slim, white counterparts do not.
*long slow blink*
Now, to be fair, the outcries in anger and disgust were not limited to the ladies on the above-linked site. Just check the comments section of any of the other articles posted about this topic – like those at Oh Hell Nawl, The GRIO and the original article from the Post – and you will see that there is venom to spare. And, judging from the comments, it seems that no one hates a fat black woman more than other black people.
As I poured (briefly – because that’s all I could handle) through the pages and pages of responses to the Post article across the net, one singular thought kept popping into my head: Why does MY self-esteem as a fat black woman bother you so much? I’m not going to debate whether one can be “fat” and “fit” (although the size 14 aerobics instructor featured in the article certainly proves that one can be). It’s already well established that obesity is linked to diabetes, heart disease and a host of other ailments. But, let’s take health out of the equation for a moment. Because I don’t believe for one minute that those who declare fat hatred in the name of “health” truly care about the well-being of those who are overweight or obese — otherwise they wouldn’t inflict such cruel mental and emotional assaults upon them.
It seems I’m not the only one who questions why high self-esteem is a “problem” for overweight black women. Check out Demetria Lucas‘s coverage of a different study with a similar outcome in her essay, Real Talk: Curvy Girls Should Be Proud.
Instead, let’s return to my original question: Why does MY self-esteem as a fat black woman bother you so much? I mean, honestly and truly, people seem *offended* by the notion that a fat black woman could have self-confidence and a positive self-image. I pondered and pondered this notion until a lightbulb went off in my head …. Yes, of course! Slim fit black people railing against fat black people is pretty much the equivalent of Bill Cosby going off on the black underclass. Or, if you prefer a more in-your-face example, check out this clip from the HBO movie First Time Felon. (Due to the strong nature of the language in this clip, I strongly advise you to watch this at home. And, if you’re offended by the N-word or the F-word, then, uh, you might not want to watch at all.) The basic idea is summed up in this simple statement by an older prison guard to a young inmate: “White people look at me and see you . . . and that kills me . . . .”
It seems to me that the reason slim black people are so hard on their heftier brothers and sisters is simply because we represent that stereotype we are all fighting so hard to overcome. For black women, in particular, it’s the Mammy Figure. As I mentioned previously, this is why I gave Michelle Obama the semi-side-eye when she announced her anti-obesity initiative. In the same way that I, with all of my middle class values, might turn up my nose at the antics of Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj because of the perceived ignorance they display on a global stage, slender black women feel threatened by the proud existence of someone like me.
But you know what? I made peace a while back with the fact that it takes all kinds in the world. And even though some uninformed person might look at me and see a Mammy or a “Mary”, I know that as soon as I open my mouth I will dispel such beliefs. So, I no longer get offended by the nonsense displayed on reality television or in hip-hop culture because I know that neither the Basketball Wives nor Young Money represent me. Instead I’m able to sit back and enjoy it for what it is – entertainment. And I ain’t gonna lie. I have been jamming off of “6 Foot 7 Foot” for a minute.
So, what do I say to those who have an issue with MY self-esteem? Why don’t you spend some time evaluating why you care so much about how *I* feel about *my* body, hmmm?
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