I watched this inspirational, motivating, and entertaining awards show on Black Entertainment Television and I felt bittersweet regarding it. As an undergraduate student, I was a mass media communications major. During this time, I conducted research on the images of black women in the media. I had somewhat of an understanding of what was going to be exposed to me through this research. I knew that the images of black women included being oversexed, mammies, angry, impoverished, dependent on governmental assistance, uneducated, overly reproductive, and that is to just name a few. I knew that it was going to be difficult to see positive images of black women in the media with the exception of the occasional Claire Huxtable sprinkled here and there; however now in 2013, I find that this still reigns true. As these women on Black Girls Rock accepted awards for their amazing accomplishments within the fields of education, entertainment, sports, and others disciplines, I listened to them discuss the lack of positive images of black women within the media. I listened to them as they encouraged young black girls and older black women to strive to be role models, to strive to set an example, to be visible, and to keep pushing to make a difference as black women.
This message inspired me and forced me to reflect on the environment that I inhabit; the world of higher education. I can recall numerous conversations that I have had with my peers about women of color, specifically black women within this field. Last year, I served on a panel discussion at GLACUHO focused on the recruitment and retention of women of color. During this conversation many themes emerged including women of color specifically black women feeling as if they still needed to overcome certain stereotypes and perceptions within their work environments such as not being perceived as intimidating, controlling their emotions and passion to prevent being seen as the “angry black woman” , feeling powerless, not being exposed to mentors, feeling isolated, and working to the point of exhaustion to show that they are capable and deserving of their positions. This is so disheartening to me and as someone that has had to decline a job opportunity because it was extremely transparent that I was being hired as a token…I know these barriers and obstacles all too well.So as I continue to mature as a professional and a woman, I have to ask myself, what do I do with this information? Years ago, I posted a blog post titled “If not me, then who?” As I continue to reflect on the thoughts that I have shared in this blog post…I keep asking myself this question over and over again. Black Girls Do Rock in Higher Education, but how do we ensure that we are visible; that we can overcome and destroy the barriers and obstacles preventing us from soaring to the top.
At this point, I do not have the answers, but I hope to at least begin encouraging others to start pondering the question. It starts with dialogue; dialogue inspires a vision, and vision coupled with action can change the world.