sassysage's Blog

Sage’s Rage: Black girls are using drugs to feel good cause they don’t feel good about themselves

Posted on: September 27, 2011

  • In: Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on Sage’s Rage: Black girls are using drugs to feel good cause they don’t feel good about themselves

–Black girls will steal your boyfriend– Black girls are loud and have an attitude–

These are among the statements highlighted in my research which was recently published in the article “Gold Diggers, Video Vixens, and Jezebels: Stereotype Images and Substance Use Among Urban African American Girls” in the Journal of Women’s Health.  The federally funded study included African American adolescent girls (ages 10-15).  I was very alarmed by the findings and felt a scientific article buried in the halls of academe was not doing justice to the important information found in the report.    

Almost half of the girls agreed with statements such as:

-Straightened hair looks better than natural hair

-Black girls are loud and have an attitude

– Having long hair gives you a better appearance

-Black girls are mad and ready to fight

Almost a quarter of the girls agreed with statements like:

-Black girls are gold-diggers

-Black girls use sex to get what they want

-It’s important to have good hair

Findings from the study showed that girls who agreed with these types of statements were most likely to use drugs.  Teens that use drugs at such an early age are at risk for many other issues including school dropout, early sexual activity, violent behavior, STDs/HIV and involvement in the criminal justice system. 

The findings are a call for us to pay attention.  It shows us that some of our girls are buying into the negative stereotypes they may be seeing in the media/popular culture or their surroundings about Black girls/women.    It underscores that Black girls are getting a message that what they look like counts and for some of them this means believing having darker skin and/or kinky hair counts less. 

We need to ask ourselves as a community, where are our girls hearing or seeing these messages?  In what ways are those messages being validated and reinforced?   Are we doing a good job of helping them navigate the messages they are observing? Are we speaking up about the need for more balanced images? 

So what can we do?  Here are several tips to help Black girls through these difficult issues:

–          Have Black girls read books (or read to them) which have images of girls from all backgrounds, including stories where Black girls/women are shown in a positive light.  This way at an early age and beyond our girls can see a variety of hues and shapes.

–          Comment on how much you appreciate and adore Black girls for who they are. This is especially important when combing a Black girls’ hair.  As challenging as you may find it; be sure NOT to show the child that you might be upset or challenged by their hair.  Let them know that their hair, skin and features are what makes them unique and special.  Repeatedly tell them that you love them no matter what they look like (this includes the teen years when their style of choice may make you cringe).

–          As they encounter negative images/stereotypes, talk with Black girls about it and help them understand the history behind such values.  Give them an opportunity to voice their opinions without judgment.  Talk to them about the importance of celebrating the beauty of all Black women and the many accomplishments we have had.

–          Take note of your own judgments and how it might impact Black girls and their wellbeing.  How may your comments about the way a Black girl or Black woman looks or behaves contribute to what Black girls may think about themselves or others? Remind yourself that those comments may impact a Black girl’s drug use and many other issues such as, self esteem, dating/relationships, and school success.

–          Monitor the media Black girls are exposed to.  There are many reasons for Black girls to take a TV break; including the fact that Black youth spend more hours watching TV than youth of other races. Media exposure without adult monitoring may expose them to negative images and stereotypes that could harm them.  In addition to limiting TV/media time, try to make sure Black girls have access to diverse images and role models which match multiple hues, shapes, sizes and from all walks of life.

–          It’s not only girls that need to be aware of image values and negative stereotypes.  We should also have conversations with our Black boys. What are the image values and negative stereotypes they observe about Black women/girls?  Have discussions with them about their values and how it may play out in their interactions with Black girls/women.

Although the findings from the study are a cause for concern; the solution is in our hands to teach the next generation a better way to see themselves.

For more information about the study and the author, contact Dr. Wallace at wallaces@stjohns.edu

Learn more about sassysage

%d bloggers like this: