African-American Beauty

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What Is Beauty to the Young Black Female?

There’s more to me that the human eye can see.

I’m a woman of purpose and destiny.

A perfect design, I’m special and unique.

I won’t be identified by the parts that make up my physique.

My beauty is not defined by my skin or my hair and my soul has more value than the clothes that I wear.

I’m not a symbol of pleasure or sex appeal; I have the natural ability to comfort and the power to heal.

When God made me, He created a gem because He fashioned me in the likeness of Him.

I refuse to do anything that will put God to shame.

I deserve to be treated with reverence and called by my name.

I can’t be purchased or sold at any price because I’ve already been bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ!

--My Pledge Allegiance to Me, Letitia Hodge

Beautiful, pretty, good-looking are all the adjectives that women and girls aspire to be or encouraged to strive for in their life. From the first years of a young girl’s life, she’s told to wear dresses and comb her hair so when she looks into the mirror, she’ll see beauty reflected back at her so that consequently this shallow image of beauty is adopted by her consciousness. Yet as the years pass, she comes to a point in her life where the very aspect of her being is put into question because of what she’s seen on television or heard on the radio so that as a young woman she constantly feels the need to conform to a patriarchal society’s standards of beauty in order to be accepted. Now let’s look at this transition in a young female’s life through the eyes of an African-American girl who grows up being told to wear this and to do her hair like this in order to look pretty. At such a young age, she may not have been affected by the demands and expectations of beauty that was put upon her, but as she grows and develops a deeper understanding of the images around her, she will realize that the images of beauty presented before her do not wear the same face that she does. In fact, none of the images hints at anything that makes up her physicality. Where is the image that glorifies her skin tone, shape, and hair type? What does she have to aspire to in order to feel beautiful, the negative stereotypes of a hyper-sexual jezebel who permeates modern hip-hop culture? Or should she completely forget herself as being anything more than the opposite of what American society deems beautiful? African-American females have a long history of defining and redefining what it means to be Black and Beautiful especially when the media is constantly reinforcing the notions that Black can never be beautiful. The need for young black girls to have positive images and role models to look up to when they are in their transitioning stage of exploring their identity is crucial for the uplifting of Black culture as a whole. Rooted in the history of slavery and racism, the negative connotation that “Black is Wack” has developed in the minds of whites and unconsciously adopted by the minds of Blacks, which has unfortunately distorted the image of beauty for young Black females. Therefore, by analyzing how society views beauty through the eyes of these girls, I hope to find a solution to counteracting these negative connotations that will also help me and others alike to see ourselves in a new light, to define ourselves with new criteria, and to love ourselves unconditionally.

The issue of beauty has crossed every young girls mind more than once or twice because it is exactly what’s expected of us, to hone our looks and please our male. In reality, our beauty or sexuality doesn’t really belong to us; it belongs to the white patriarchal society in which we live in. Even within Black communities, we’re subjected to the male’s expectations of female beauty that objectifies and degrades us. A prime example of this objectification and degradation is contemporary rap music which is filled with raunchy lyrics that depict...
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