I once walked down the street behind a clearly obese black women who wore a spandex outfit–and yes, this was the summertime–and had a tattoo on her back, just beneath her neck, that said, “SEXY,” in cursive (or were they capital?) letters. I felt certain that no one could tell this women she wasn’t hot stuff and she would have believed them.
The stereotype of a neck-rolling, finger-snapping black women proclaiming her high-self esteem is a stock image from the movies. And study after study comes back with the result that black women have higher self-esteem than white women. But the stereotypes in the media, and the results of the surveys have got me asking: Does anyone know how to tell the difference between black women who really have a healthy sense of self-esteem, and between black women who say they have a high self-esteem but perhaps don’t?
I think that it is entirely possibly that cultural differences are skewing the results of surveys intended to measure the self-esteem of black women. From the cultural standpoint of the larger society, if a woman were to blatantly pronounce that she has high self-esteem her statement would be taken at face value and it would be assumed that she really does have high self-esteem. But what if you come from a cultural background where it is expected that you put on a show of strength and pride, even when you don’t feel very strong or proud of yourself? If you come from the later cultural background, people may mistake your pronouncements of pride–which are customary pronouncements and do no indicate anything about your real state of mental health–as being reliable measurements of your actual level of pride.
I wonder if there is a mis-measurement of pride and self-esteem–due to cultural misunderstanding–being reflected in the surveys that say black women have higher self-esteem than other women. I say that there may be a mis-measurement taking place because black women have higher poverty rates, higher stress levels, higher divorce rates, and a multitude of other negative metrics which indicate that black women have plenty of reason to suffer from lower than normal self-esteem levels.
So, why do you think black women are reported to have higher rates of self-esteem than other women?