So…a little while after we moved Germany, The Man and I were talking, just about random stuff. And then:
“Ach ja…so I have to tell you something.” He was hesitant.
“So, I was talking to one of my colleagues today, and I showed him a picture of you and the Babycakes. He was like, ‘She’s hot!” He was surprised. He said when he heard that I was engaged to a black girl, he thought you would be a…”
“…a big, black mama.” There was a long pause during which I picked my jaw up off the floor.
“A WHAT?” He repeated it for me. “Like…like in Big Mama’s House?”
“Yes, I think that’s where it comes from.” He went on to tell me how he explained to his colleagues that that was a stereotype, all black women don’t look like that, etc., but my mind was completely blown. When The Man said “black woman”, the first image that popped into this guy’s head was Martin Lawrence in drag.
There are so many reasons this is a problem.
I won’t go into that here, but I will say that this is just a small symptom of a bigger issue. I’m gonna keep it as simple as I can and just talk about media images. What I have to say is this: America’s biggest export is probably its culture. A good 80 percent or so of the TV and films shown here come from the United States. When those films happen to have black women as characters, they are have usually been created without the input of an actual black woman. What this usually results in is some sort of stereotype–a sassy best friend, a longsuffering spiritual guide, a hypersexualized tart. Then they ship it around the world. So when people here see a black American woman on their screen, what they’re usually getting is some kind of caricature. Like a big, black mama.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the reasons I blog is to create counterimages to stereotypes spread through mass media. I’ve got a voice, and I’m going to use it. And this week on Twitter, many other black women have been using their voices, too, stepping out of silence and invisibility. From the conversations taking place around the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and #BlackPowerIsForBlack men hashtags to the the totally warranted eviscerating of a Russell Simmons-backed YouTube video that makes light of systematic rape during American slavery, black women are taking control of narratives about them. I am so here for that.