The Harm Behind “Harmless” Jokes About Black Women and Girls

Twitter is a lot of things.

Twitter is an accessible app for anyone with a mobile phone. It’s diverse. It’s expansive. There’s different sections of twitter. There’s Black Twitter. There’s Feminist Twitter. There’s Hip-Hop Head Twitter. There’s Ashy Twitter. The list goes on. There’s different views and opinions all over Twitter but one thing Twitter is for sure is a cesspool of ignorance that is reflective of society.

One thing society continues to make clear is their disdain and disregard for black women. This is shown in how black women and girls are dragged through the mud on Twitter by any and everyone but mostly by cishet black men.

Twitter, last night, was a mess. There was a picture of animated girls with various shades  of skin floating around Twitter. At first it was harmless. Captions of the photo were “What shade are you?” and people would answer with which shade bracket they fit into. It went from harmless to harmful real quick when “Savage” Twitter got a hold of it. Here are some examples:

 

 

 

 

 

You know what’s sad? Black men and their token non-black homies slandering black women is not rare at all. In fact this is a daily occurrence. Young black men have built an audience off of “trolling” black women. They have built a large following (talking 10K+ following) simply off of cracking “jokes” about black women and girls.

Now one has got to ask a series of valid questions: Why are BLACK men degrading BLACK women–the same women who are responsible for…oh, I don’t know…their very existence? Why do black men make black women the butt of every troll and why do people of every color and creed find their misogynoiristic “trolling” funny? How can they build such a large audience simply based on joking about black women?

Hmm. Let’s break it down shall we?

We live in a world that hates black people but also hates women. We live in a world that has a long history of anti-black racism and objectifying, patriarchal sexism. Black people are frowned upon in not only European cultures but non-black people of color cultures too. Women have been made to be men’s foot stools, sex objects, and baby dispensers since the beginning of time. Being black and being a woman is not the move according to society. Now, let’s put these two identities together and what do you get?

Black women.

Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.” He was absolutely correct. The hatred for black women is severe because we are of two of the most hated identities in the world.
Black women are degraded for our features such as our kinky natural hair, our broad noses, our dark skin, our bodies, and so on. Our bodies are mocked and objectified but if the features typically connected to us are placed on a non-black–especially white woman–they’re praised. We’re painted as either super strong, independent women who can take any abuse you throw our way or as “ghetto”, “ratchet”, “loud”, “Welfare queens.’ There are so many narratives about black women but I know one thing for sure: we’re never seen as human beings.

Now for black men, they are also victims of racial oppression but we do still live in a society that values men over women–that includes black men. They may face tribulations regarding race but they are still afforded privilege as a man. One example being the fact that colorist, Eurocentric beauty standards aren’t as heavily applied to them as they are to black women–specifically dark skin black women. Women are expected to fit into societal ideas of what’s “beautiful” because we are ultimately the ones expected to be visually pleasing to look at.

With all that being said, that explains why people live for misogynoir and find joy in it. It also brings us as to why black men opt to degrade black women instead of support us in a world that sees us as less human. I believe the reason why they do it stems from their personal issues with their blackness. It is what we call “self-hate.” Now, people take this term pretty literal. Within the context of blackness, it does not mean to literally hate yourself. It means to be anti-black while also being black. It is being black and being resentful towards aspects of blackness.

Many black people in general struggle with self-hate. We’ve been conditioned to see our blackness as a punishment instead of a blessing. This manifests more severely in cishet black men and they take it out on black women. Black women are arguably the most hated demographic in the world. Who would want to be associated with us right? (sarcasm) Whether black men realize it or not, taking digs at black women is their way of distancing themselves from their blackness. Part of their conditioning is being taught that black women are lower or entry level and fairer, non-black–especially white women–are at the top and more valuable.

Now one will still validly ask: “Ok, that’s nice and all but aren’t their moms black? Do they not think of them when they’re slandering black women?”

The answer is… Well, no. They don’t.

I’m not a big fan of the “but your mom is black” retort when black men are slandering black women because black men don’t value their black mothers because they’re black women. They value them because that’s their mom. If that connection wasn’t there, they would not care. Plus it shouldn’t have to take a familial tie for a black man to see my–someone not related to him–humanity. We’re also assuming that they even have a good relationship with their mom. It’s very possible that they resent their mom too which would further explain their resentment for black women.

And for the ones who do claim they love and respect their mom, they typically paint their mom as some indestructible mule. But you know, that’s typical of any black man who claims to love any black woman. It’s usually based on what that black woman sacrifices for him. I digress though.

These young black men on Twitter will claim that they’re just “trolling” or “joking.” That in actuality they do “love” black women but they’re just “trolling” black women for fun.

Um… what? What kind of twisted love is that?

You really gotta stop and ask yourself: “Hm, why are black women the butt of my jokes all the time?” Do you think that’s it’s a coincidence that you use black women as a punch line? Do you think, living in a world doused in colorism, it’s a coincidence that most of your jokes revolve around dehumanizing dark skin black women? You think you came up with that?

You didn’t come up with any of your jokes. These jokes have been written for decades. These jokes were not written by you. They were written by white supremacy. Every “joke” you have about black women stems from anti-black racism and misogyny instilled by white supremacy. You think it’s a coincidence that your “jokes” are rooted in stereotypes about black women?

When you’re trying to roast someone, you point out their flaws am I right? The only reason you would opt to pick on black women and everything revolving black women would mean that you see us and our features as flaws. When you joke about us it is meant to be an insult. Would weaponizing our features as insults not imply that there’s something inherently wrong with our features? Help me understand.

This is far deeper than jokes. This speaks to a bigger picture–a picture that involves the normalization of degrading black women. There is nothing slow about black men. They know the harm behind these jokes but garnering retweets and followers is more important to them than respecting black women.

Black men claim black women can’t “take a joke” but if we were to joke about stereotypes pertaining to them, we’d be the bad guys right? Let’s make jokes about them being “thugs” who get shot down by cops. Let’s make jokes about them having a history of being accused of sexually assaulting white women and getting killed for it. Let’s joke about them being demonized for their dark skin. Let’s paint them like monsters like the white media does. Let’s joke about them being dead beat dads and not being in their kid’s life.

Would it still be a joke then?

These jokes are harmful and unnecessary. They are also internalized by black women but especially young black girls. What do you expect when young black girls are being made to think their blackness and black features are a curse? These jokes normalize and trivialize real hateful ideals about black women.

What’s interesting is that people will slam Lil Kim for lightening her skin and restructuring her face to fit Eurocentric standards but we won’t talk about how she came to resent her black features. We’ll ignore the color struck remarks about black women and the digs at our features.

What also kills me is that these same black men will see the humanity of a non-black girl before they see the humanity of black women. A clear example in the response between Blue Ivy–a toddler–being slammed for her hair to a teenager such as Kylie Jenner being critiqued for her cultural appropriation.

I remember one time a black dude said black dudes will slam black girls and “be nice” to non-black girls because “we (black girls) can handle it.”

Man, what?

No, you see the humanity of non-black women because you’re taught to value them more than black women. We are placed as lesser than whereas white women are seen as more superior.

All in all, I just need for black men to quit with the jokes and get real. If a joke is at the expense of black women, pack it up and put it away. You can be funny without bashing black women believe it or not. It takes this thing called… talent. Do you have that?

Stop valuing attention and shock value over the well-being of the women of your own race. I don’t need your shallow idea of “love.” I just need your respect. I need you to understand black women are humans with feelings and when you continue to perpetrate harmful stereotypes about us through these “jokes” you put us in harm’s way.

Let the jokes die. Find another avenue to build an audience.

Do better.

 

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8 thoughts on “The Harm Behind “Harmless” Jokes About Black Women and Girls

  1. All I can say in response to this article is THANK YOU! Thank you for validating the pain black women go through when trying to love a black man who makes “jokes” but doesn’t understand the damage he’s causing. Thank you for shining a light on this destructive cycle of hate that’s been sugar coated as fun. But most of all Thank you for making this article a teaching moment instead of retaliation for years of degradation. As a mother to a black son, I want him to understand and do better than those before him not be shamed into silence. If just one man takes this message and applies it to his life, then there is still hope for the black community. So again. Thank you.

  2. Someone once told me, ‘black men don’t want to end white supremacy – they just want a seat at the table’ – I don’t think words have hit me as hard to this day, as that did. I believe it.

    You cannot, as a black man, be against oppression such as racism but then actively oppress another. That tells me you aren’t for the end of oppression – you just want to do the oppressing. You expect us to rally around you when it’s something you as a black man faces, but will slander, mock and humiliate black women at any given opportunity.

    This yearning for the love and attention of black men has got to stop. Until they learn (if ever) to respect us, they will not get my time. ‘There are some good black men!’ – yes, but what are they doing to educate the others? To stop the others? Not much, in all honesty. As a black woman the abuse I’ve faced predominantly by black men has reduced me to tears. This has gone on for far too long now, and any ‘good black man’ would be visible in stopping this nonsense, But they are silent.

    Enough is enough. Please, black women, stop this yearning for their acceptance and go out and live your life and truly love yourself. You don’t need their acceptance – it’s time they started fighting for OUR respect.

    Bless x

  3. Omg this was such an amazing read. I have the utmost respect for you taking the time to write this . it’s a topic that for me as a black women I am drained of, and have become extremely annoyed of on behalf of the fact that i am so tired of justifying why bashing black women , particularly dark skin black women is dehumanizing and simply wrong. Although I am tired it is articles much like this , and the overall drive from phenomenal individuals as yourself that will continue to empower me and keep me motivated. Altjough tired and overwhelmed by s sense of defeat I will continue to spread the word of alternative discourses of the beautiful black woman and challenge those who are offensive.

  4. You hit it right on the head! Yaaaas! I’m so sick of our own men bashing us and then think its ok! Its truly pitiful, but fuck them we don’t need them, we are strong. We are queens!!!

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