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CHAPTER TWO

THE LEARNING CURVE

Sometimes, the real key is not learning what to learn, but learning what not to learn! Wise people have always known this and it is oftentimes the most powerful aspect of an education. Without a doubt, education is within the grasp of everyone, but without discipline and insight you may end up an educated fool or worse. In the case of the black women in America, there has been long periods of time when she has had to unlearn what she had learned and the most damning lesson she has had to unlearn was that she was not beautiful.

Attempting to live up to the Euro-centric concept of beauty has tended to squeeze so much valuable life out of the black woman’s self-esteem in America that it has virtually traumatized an entire nation of women of color.

Much has been made recently of the Willie Lynch theory of making black men slaves that was employed before Emancipation and it evidently worked to the delight of white slave masters, but equally viscous was the Barbie Doll Complex, a condition that wreaked havoc upon the minds of black women in the 1950’s.

When Ruth Handler produced the first Barbie Doll, this piece of plastic served to magnify the supposed flaws of black women in America. Her hair was too nappy, her nose was too wide, her butt was too big, her lips too full. Essentially, Barbie was a slap in the black woman’s face, a reminder that she could and never would be beautiful. Barbie insisted that beauty was reserved only for white women.

If you want to examine how threatening the Barbie Doll Complex was to black women, all you would have to do would be to study the results of a test given to young black girls in the early 60’s where they were given two dolls to play with. One was black. One was white. The young black girls were then asked to choose the doll they liked most. Guess which doll they chose? The white one.

Over and over again, these tests were conducted and no matter where the setting was or who the girls were, the outcome was precisely the same: the little sistas wanted nothing to do with the black doll.

Even at this tender age, black females had been conditioned to hate themselves. Don’t you think it fair to say that these girls should have chosen the doll that resembled them. They should have taken comfort in the familiarity. It should have been easy for the sistas to gaze at the black doll and instantly feel kinship because she could not have helped but to see her nose, her eyes, her lips, her hair, her skin.

Let’s not play games. This was clearly a case of black self-hatred manifesting itself. Without exception, the young sistas expressed fear and hatred for the black doll which looked more like them. It also indicated that the sistas hated the image they saw when they looked in the mirror. And I’m the first to confess than nothing in the universe can contribute to a low self-esteem than hatred for yourself!

This black self-hatred started sistas on a guilt ride where they tried to make amends for their “birth” defects by using bleaching creams to lighten their skin or chemicals to straighten their hair so they would be more white-like, more like Barbie. It took generations to undo the effects of this lesson. Black women had to learn what not to learn and it was not until the 70’s Black is Beautiful Movement that black women finally got the big picture.

But there’s more. Of all the women on the face of the earth, the black woman is the only woman in existence that had to learn how to be feminine. Slavery, sure as hell, didn’t permit many or any opportunities for black women to express their femininity. How can you be soft and womanly when you were worked in the fields like an animal? There was not much time to be a woman when you were worked like you were a man or a mule.

So when freedom came to the slaves, black women found themselves in a position where they had to learn how to be ladies. They had to experiment with various ideas, concepts, and notions that would help define their unique femininity. They didn’t know anything about makeup, perfume, or fancy clothes. Mainly, all they had during slavery that stamped their femininity was their bodies and that is the primary reason why black women place such a heavy emphasis on their physical assets. There was nothing else at the time by which to define themselves, so a big butt became the focal point, the basic building block of the black woman’s feminine foundation.

Using her butt as the foundation to building her persona, the black woman in America has gotten stuck with the notion of being “hot-to-trot” and that her only genius is exhibited in the bedroom.

This linear way of inventing her beauty from the bottom up, rather than from the inside-out has placed the black woman in the unenviable position of living an illusion, the myth that her body is a formula that will help her to generate happiness.

Sadly, many black women use the visibility of their ample physical assets to hide the nakedness of their inner being and oftentimes they attempt to mask any character flaws they perceive by wearing skimpier clothes. They would much rather the focus be on their behinds than on their minds and it’s a sad commentary that so many black women use their butts to compensate for a shallow mind. This self-imposed emotional slavery is a sort of imprisonment that effectively locks black women into a cycle of depression and stress because in America the curse of the black woman is to be pretty.

No other woman on the planet is so obsessed with their looks than the black woman and this national, collective obsession is a direct outgrowth of the Barbie Doll Complex where this phobia to always look good has optimized the focus on a big butt and a pretty smile. This obsession has, of course, turned into a cash cow for the cosmetics industry who rake in millions of dollars annually from sistas who insist upon looking good no matter the cost

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