When the annual “Black Girls Rock” premiered in 2013, a #WhiteGirlsRock hashtag went viral, mainly from Caucasian females who failed to decipher the meaning, depth and importance of such an uplifting event, which is why they ignorantly and wrongfully characterized the show as racist.
BGR founder Beverly Bond spoke on behalf of millions of rightfully defiant black women when she delivered a surgical and thorough lashing on the critics of Black Girls Rock in this editorial which first appeared on theroot.com. Take a look at what she has to say:
When I heard about the “#whitegirlsrock” hashtag that trended on Twitter, my immediate reaction was, “Well, duh! Of course white girls rock. Are they unaware?” White women’s beauty, talent, diversity and worldly contributions are affirmed everywhere: on billboards, on television, in magazines and in textbooks.
However, the breadth and depth of the beauty, intellect, work and legacy of black women is often marginalized. The cultural, intellectual and social contributions made by women across the African Diaspora are a part of human history and should be valuable to all people. The participants in the #whitegirlsrock hashtag, who heralded accusations of reverse racism, fail to acknowledge the history of racism in media including the perpetual absence of diverse stories and representations of black women. They also fail to recognize that this absence impacts the way women and girls of color, around the world, see and value themselves.
As a humanist, I believe that we all rock. My issue is that the commentary that followed the “#whitegirlsrock” hashtag was not even about affirming dynamic white women. Instead, it was about critiquing or even punishing black women for having the nerve, the audacity and the unmitigated gall to love and affirm ourselves!
In an article in the Huffington Post, Olivia Cole, a white girl who most certainly rocks, points out the exclusion of black women in various public spheres. In response to the white community that was offended by “#blackgirlsrock” Cole writes:
“All of the things you take for granted are what you’re protecting when you shout down Black Girls Rock: your Whiteness, the system that upholds your face as the supreme standard of beauty, your place in the center of a culture that demands people of color remain hidden in the margins, present, but only barely and never overshadowing the White hero/heroine. Your discomfort with black girls who rock tells me that you prefer the status quo: you prefer for black faces to remain hidden, you prefer for America’s heroes to have White faces, you prefer for black actresses to wear aprons and chains.”
Like Cole, I also think the anxiety that people have about Black Girls Rock!-ing reveals the blind spots associated with white privilege, including the inability to acknowledge that the privilege actually exists, a lack of accountability for prejudices and an overwhelming deficit in cultural competency. So whoever is offended by Black Girls Rock!-ing and whoever thinks that black empowerment threatens their own power should confront their own racism.
– Terry Shropshire