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FROM READERS: African-American women are beautiful, have value

Monday, March 17, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:51 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Brittany King is a junior communications major at MU. She also is the co-founder of Anti-MU 22, an organization on campus that encourages students to love their bodies and themselves.

I am a black woman, but that's not all I am. I'm stubborn, I'm loud, I'm a writer, I'm independent and I'm beautiful.

It's not often you hear twenty-something black women in college proclaiming how beautiful they are. Do we exist? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean we still don't have our insecurities.

Yes, I am black, I am also a woman, but I am not the face of every black woman everywhere and this submission is not a compiled list of the way all black woman in college feel.

Growing up, I was a beauty pageant brat. I knew I was beautiful because the judges and trophies I won told me I was. A lot of people are quick to judge and ask parents how they could put their child through long days like that, but I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I think it’s where I got my competitive spirit from. I wanted to win, I needed to win. So during my childhood I never even questioned if my skin color was beautiful, or if it meant that I was worthy of winning a beauty pageant or becoming famous or anything like that. My color was not a problem and the people around me didn’t find it to be problematic either.

It actually wasn’t until I got to college that I started to question whether or not I really was beautiful, whether black women in general were beautiful. In fact, I didn’t just wonder if I was beautiful enough for society's standards, I wondered if I was strong enough, and smart enough to rise above the majority in anything I did on MU's campus.

I’m attracted to men from different walks of life and colors, but they do not seem attracted to me. Not only that, but being black seemed toxic. When I would apply for jobs and go in for the interview, managers would try to hold back the shocked looks on their faces. As if a black woman couldn’t be named Brittany and have a phone conversation without “sounding black,” insinuating that my qualifications were no longer valid because of my skin color. I hate it. I’m followed around in stores, ignored by classmates and overlooked by guys saying, “I’m not really into your kind,” as if we’re all the same (spoiler alert: we’re not).

It’s funny because with all of that mistreatment, people from outside the black community still question why we need programs such as “Black Women Rock,” why Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar was such a big deal for black women from all over the world. I’ll tell you why: because we aren’t supported. We can’t get upset or loud without being called ghetto, we can’t just simply work hard to earn our 4.0, we must have cheated. Because even when one of us gives the performance of our life in a movie that brought in over $140 million, Twitter still explodes with tweets about how Jennifer Lawrence should have won and the editors at People Magazine give Matthew McConaughey the post-Oscars cover and Nyong’o a tiny sidebar.

The truth is, according to the Pew Research Center, black women are enrolling in college at a higher rate than any other race or gender. Oh, and this might come as a surprise, we’re graduating. We’re becoming doctors and lawyers and journalists and actresses and we still aren’t seeing the respect we deserve. We’re typecast as the girl that sleeps around, the girl that has a baby out of wedlock and can’t pay the rent as if we’re the only ones, as if black women in those situations can’t bounce back and turn it around. I’m sick of it.

My skin color is not a problem that needs to be corrected with lightening creams; it’s not something that fits into one of the three shades offered in the makeup aisle. My hair is not something that needs to be tamed by a hot comb or covered by a wig. I don’t "speak well for a black girl," and I’m not "cute for a black girl," either.

We are strong, beautiful, smart woman and I don’t say that to say that other women aren’t, I say it because we need to hear it. We deserve to hear it.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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