Friday, September 29, 2006
No Images by Waring Cuney
She does not know
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river,
She would know.
But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dishwater gives back no images. . .
I first read this beautiful poem when I was just entering junior high school. It made quite an impact on me. It was then and there when I began to read all the history I could of black people’s struggles and survivals in this country which sought so hard to destroy us. I began to look at the images constantly shown and reinforced by the dominant white society on what was considered beautiful in America’s eyes—-“Barbie”; The Breck Girl Shampoo ads; the Miss Clairol Dye ads: “Does she, or doesn’t she”, which for so long showed the image of the blond, white ice-goddess as the epitome of all things beautiful in America; the Miss America Pageant, which for so many decades said with its selection of white women contestant winners, that black women had no place, or beauty in the eyes of America. That unless a black woman fit the molded image of light skin, fair eyes, long straight hair, that she was to be considered not beautiful; that she was to be considered as less than a woman.
Black women and girls are reeling from the vicious onslaught on their character, and the world’s skewed stereotypical views of them. Black women have been under attack in this country ever since they set foot on its shores more than 350 years ago. Their beautiful dark skin, full lips, tightly coiled hair that defies gravity, their lovely hips, all the beautiful attributes that God and Nature saw first to bless black women with, were denigrated by a white society that sought to debase and degrade all things black and beautiful.
As I read more and more of my history as a black person, as a BLACK WOMAN in America, the more I saw all the beauty that came before me. Beautiful black women from Sene-Gambia, Sierra Leon, Ghana, Nigeria. And as I read more and more, I learned of the beautiful women of Haiti, Bahamas, Bermuda, Columbia, Panama. Black women who were secure in their beauty, their walk, their stature, their place in this world.
The more I learned of my history, the more I learned and appreciated that I was born a black woman. We are most unique among all women on this Earth. We are the original “Earth Mothers”, we are the women whose lovely attributes all the other women of the world covet. We are the holders of the ultra-feminine ideal, the ideal which can only be obtained one of two ways—either naturally as a black woman, or through cosmetic means of surgery.
Many envy us what we have come by naturally—never-fade, ever-lasting natural tans; hair that never needs a curling iron, breasts and hips that need no surgical enhancement or padding, full, luscious lips that make men swoon.
Yes, there are some women of other races who have physical attributes such as ours. But, those women are few and far between.
We black women still own the monopoly on the original beauty standard, and it is time now for all black women and girls to embrace and claim their place in the Sun; their place on the throne.
We can all start by learning of our history as black women in America. We can all learn of those who came before us, those who paved the way for us in their own beautiful way. For by knowing our history as black people, as black women in America, we learn of ourselves and all that we have accomplished. All that we can accomplish as black women. There is power is learning; there is power in knowing.
All of our black ancestors who came before us “paid for you and me.” Many thousand gone—parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-great grandparents, uncles, aunts—everyone of us here today, has been paid for by all the enduring hope of these many people who came before us.
I exhort all black women today, to learn of our beautiful history as black women in America. To learn that before all the hated stereotypes, before all the disparaging slander, before all the “gold-diggers”, “hard and bitter”, “angry black woman”, “chickenhead” slurs, there were, and STILL ARE, beautiful black women–then, as now. Beautiful black women who set the standard on true natural beauty. Beautiful black women who had spines of “steel”. Beautiful black women who have made an inpact on America and its history. Black women are already beautiful. We do not need anyone else’s images to be beautiful.
We are beautiful black women who still have within, and without, that “brown body” beauty that dances underneath the palm trees, in the moonlit glow of the river within us all.