“Unfortunately, the devaluation of black womanhood has wreaked havoc on black female ability to cultivate healthy self-esteem.” – bell hooks
I’m slowly making my way through bell hook’s (not a typo, she doesn’t capitalize her name) works. Ms. hooks is a well-known African-American sociologist and social critic. Needless to say, she’s a woman of high intellect, as the content of this book clearly shows.
Rock My Soul is about self-esteem in the African-American community. I’m not African-American and therefore some of the points she makes in her book do not apply to me, though they were interesting to read about. The main point the book makes is that, as a group, blacks have internalized so much negativity and falsehoods, dating back from slavery times, and also compounded by media images (especially eurocentric ones which paint any black features and characteristics as bad) that self-esteem is very low. Of course low self-esteem leads to a host of problems in society, and they are seen in the black family, in relationships between black men and women, and so on, so it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed.
A quote that really stood out to me went as follows:
” Any African-American who watches television for more than a few hours a week is daily ingesting toxic representations and poisonous pedagogy. Yet the ingestion of constant propaganda that teaches black people self-hate has become so much the norm that it is rarely questioned.”
Now that’s scary! As someone who watched a lot of television in her younger days, I can attest to the truth in that statement, especially pertaining to black female images on television. The number of negative images out there is really high . If black women are always typecast in extremely negative and one-dimensional roles, is there any wonder their self-esteem is low and that they are scared to try new things? Is it any wonder that a black woman who likes reading and travelling is sometimes looked upon as odd? The last point is me speaking from my own personal experience, of course, and it’s a sentiment that I never understood.
And finally, to end with a great quote from Toni Bambara:
“We often overestimate the degree to which exploitative behaviour has been normalized and the degree to which we’re internalized these norms. It takes, then, a commitment to an acutely self-conscious practice to be able to think and behave better than we’ve been taught.” – Toni Bambara