Is it just me or does it seem like there has been an inordinate number of attacks on Black women as of late? From our hair to our bodies to our testosterone levels to our ability to just exist in the world as free Black women, it seems like folks from every corner are critiquing, punishing, and judging the way Black women show up in the world, and not just in the United States.
First, there was the comedian Monique blasting Black women for wearing bonnets in public…while she made this public service announcement in her braless bathrobe. She even went so far as to post a picture of an anonymous Black woman to her millions of followers in an effort to shame her for her appearance in an airport, with no context provided. I have my personal thoughts about whether I would choose to wear a bonnet in public, but her widespread shaming of Black women has continued for quite some time. Might someone need to remind Monique that it was the bonnet girls who kept her career afloat when Hollywood turned their back on her.
Second, track phenom and Olympic hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana and it appears her Tokyo Olympic dreams have come to a halt. Richardson admitted to smoking marijuana to help deal with the loss of her mother. Not only has Richardson’s behavior come under attack (marijuana is not allowed in Olympic competition), but her orange hair, nails, tattoos, piercings, and eye lashes have become “fair game” in the attacks against this young Olympic hopeful. There’s a politics of respectability that undergirds these critiques of Richardson (and the women who wear bonnets in public) that warrant a larger conversation among Black people and just why we feel threatened and embarrassed by certain expressions by Black women.
Third, several Black women qualifying for the Olympics have been accused of having higher levels of testosterone and their participation is being called into question. These attacks follow a long historical line of questions about Black women and their masculine prowess. Lest we forget all of the attacks against Michelle Obama and the comparisons of the former first lady to men and even primates. Those attacks have continued and are ever present in the 2021 Olympic trials.
Last, the Olympic jurors have decided that swim caps that protect Black women with afros are banned from Olympic competition. Black women are literally not allowed to protect their crowns with their own swim caps. This somewhat minor ban speaks volumes about global anti-Blackness and what is considered the norm and/or acceptable.
We must remain vigilant and speak out against these ever-flowing attacks on Black women, our bodies, and our behaviors. And for some, this vigilance may need to begin within.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and also the What’s in It for Us podcast.