School Posts Offensive, Stereotyped List Of ‘101 Things Black And Latina Girls Should Know’
It’s not easy growing up as a black or Latina young woman in our culture. From being made to feel bad about the color of their skin by magazines that lighten celebrities’ skin color, to the white-feminist policing of the feminism of women of color, to the treatment of natural black hair as ‘wrong’, young women of color experience this kind of microaggression (and plenty of macroaggression) from their peers and from the media all day long. And now, teenagers at one Denver high school have a new source of fuel for that pervasive fire: their school.
Via Jezebel, at the rather painfully-ironically named Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, school officials hung posters titled, “101 Things Black and Latina Girls Should Know.” While the list includes positive messages (body love, the importance of friendship), these affirmative thoughts are drowned out by the other troublesome inclusions on the list targeted specifically to students of color in the predominantly-minority school. For example? A list of things that need to be accomplished before having a baby. Reminders not to look like a “clown” by wearing too much makeup, or not to overdo their look with too much jewelry. The directive to read actual books rather than reading online or picking up a Kindle, because “Experience holding a book […] is so important for you to remember how far you have come as Black and Brown people.” And of course, the exhortation not to twerk, as that “ain’t cute”–cute being, of course, the be-all, end-all of what a young woman should strive to be.
Young women of color are in serious need of positive messages about themselves and their bodies. (And please save the “ALL girls need positive messages” today. These hurtful posters were targeted at young women of color, who have the shit end of the stick to deal with in terms of racism as well as misogyny, and they deserve to have a discussion to themselves.) But positive affirmation doesn’t do any good when it’s buried under a pile of tired, hurtful stereotypes. ‘You’re beautiful–unless you wear too much makeup.’ ‘Your life has value and your potential is limitless–unless you have a baby.’ ‘The way you look matters less than what’s on the inside–unless you wear too much jewelry, and then no one will take you seriously.’
We, as a society, have to do better than this. There is absolutely no excuse or justification for calling out students of color for dancing wrong, wearing makeup wrong, dressing wrong, even reading books wrong. And while these posters will probably have an effect on their targets’ self-esteem, it won’t be in the direction they were intended.
(Image: Fox31 Denver)