June 29, 2011
In the midst of an era of reality TV like the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Basketball Wives, it is sometimes easy to forget that we are also witnessing another era of reality too. The glorious reality of Michelle Obama. Strong, smart, sophisticated, beautiful, accomplished, loving, loved, and black.
The Age of Michelle Obama
An Open Letter to the First Lady of the United States
Dear Mrs. Obama:
Do you have any idea what you mean to us?
By us I mean the strong, independent, accomplished black women of America. I suspect that on some level you do, but because you are the First Lady of the United States, I know that you don’t think along those lines , and you should not. I love that you embrace all Americans and that you are everyone’s First Lady. But please allow me this small indulgence as I share with you how special you are to us. What I am about to say may seem a bit much, but it is important that you know—that everyone knows—how much you have changed and are changing everything for present and future generations of black women in this nation.
“How so?” you may ask.
I’ll tell you how: You humanize us. You soften us. You make us invisible no more. You make us approachable, feminine, sexy, warm, compassionate, smart, affirmed, accomplished, and fun-filled all at once. Your very nature most emphatically answers Sojourner Truth’s 160-year-old question, “Ain’t I a woman too?” Yes, we are women too!
June 4, 2011
The Sentencing Project
A recent study, “The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders,” by Jill Viglione, Lance Hannon, and Robert DeFina of Villanova University assesses how perceived skin tone is related to the maximum prison sentence and time served for a sample of over 12,158 black women imprisoned in North Carolina between 1995 and 2009. The authors controlled for factors such as prior record, conviction date, prison misconduct, and being thin, as well as whether the woman was convicted of homicide or robbery since these crimes usually carry lengthy prison sentences. With regard to prison sentences, their results indicated that women deemed to have light skin are sentenced to approximately 12% less time behind bars than their darker skinned counterparts. The results also show that having light skin reduces the actual time served by approximately 11%.
The authors conclude by urging people to understand that it is not sufficient to understand racial discrimination in terms of relative advantages of whites compared to non-whites. Among blacks, characteristics associated with whiteness appear to also have a significant impact on important life outcomes.
Viglione, Jill, Lance Hannon, and Robert DeFina. 2011. “The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders.” The Social Science Journal, 48:250-258.