The national debate sparked by broadcaster Don Imus' use of the term "nappy-headed hos" to describe black players on the Rutgers women's basketball team has raised an unintended, seldom-discussed question:
How have African-American women maintained their femininity and sense of beauty after centuries of dehumanization?
They survived the inhumanity of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the indignity of being separated from their families on slave auction blocks. They endured abuse and rape by slave masters and overcame the injustice of being bred and worked like animals. During segregation and after desegregation, they suffered doubly for being black and female in a culture that esteemed neither.
More recently, the physical attributes historically possessed by black women were deemed undesirable by America's wider society - until women of other ethnic groups began to exhibit them. Cornrows weren't chic until Bo Derek got them, curvaceous derrieres weren't sexy until Jennifer Lopez came along, and full lips were unattractive until Angelina Jolie's kissers showed up and sparked a cottage industry of lip-plumping potions.
Black women are least likely to be perceived as attractive and worthy of respect, some observers say, which may be why groups ranging from black rap artists to black comedians to white radio hosts have no problem denigrating them.
And the darker her skin and the kinkier her hair, it seems, the less she is valued.
Check out the rest of this great article by LaMont Jones on Kansas.Com!