COLLEGE FEMINISMS: Pretty Black Girls Just Don’t Exist – The Feminist Wire

COLLEGE FEMINISMS: Pretty Black Girls Just Don’t Exist

By Kaila Philo

At least, this is what I’ve taken from you all these years.

Black women aren’t meant to be love interests or high school crushes, dynamic leaders or multi-dimensional heroes; but rather, they are seen as wise God-fearing grammies and sassy big-boned caricatures. I’m a strong black woman who don’t need no man, right?

Beauty Reflection WarningI mean, as evident in the media, it’s not as though I could get a man regardless. Black women are impervious to healthy relationships, and must forever fear being left for white girls, because eventually our men will yearn for something greater than brown lips and big hips. And it’s alright; it’s alright because then we grow into the sassy big-boneds who don’t need no men anyway.

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes we’re allowed to keep our men! Sometimes. How else will we grow into wise old grammies?

What kind of black woman am I right now, you ask? I’m not sure. There hasn’t been a manual on how to be a Black Girl yet, so I’m still sitting idly by for my inevitable chocolate husband to either plant his seed in me or sow his oats somewhere else.

No, at the moment, nobody yearns for me, dreams of me, writes for me, or sings to me. I may consider myself pretty—pretty decent, that is—but white people are immune to finding the coloreds attractive, and apparently I just don’t have It for black people. My hair is much too nappy, my nipples are much too dark. As a black girl, I resemble a monkey too closely. It’s not a racist claim to call black women monkeys—it’s allowed in high schools across the country. If black children call other black children “monkeys,” “niggers,” or “African booty-scratchers” it’s neither racist nor offensive, like apples calling apples red.

Oh, perhaps I can infect a white person with Jungle Fever. I’ve heard some of the crazier ones have weaker immune systems. Maybe he’ll call me exotic, the highest honor for colored girls in today’s post-racial society.

I can be exotic, but don’t dare be slutty or “fast-tailed.” Sexual independence is a White Right, but us black women should have more respect for ourselves considering men are ready to leave us at the drop of a hat. We can’t afford for our vaginas to be brown and dirty.

Pretty black girls just don’t exist, you see. Before we’re taken by men, we’re just amorphous molds devoid of vigor and beauty, tenderness, and strength. We have two aforementioned final forms, and at least it’s something for us to look forward to.  I can choose to be sassy, spunky Shaniqua or sweet, sagacious Sojourner in the end.

A couple of us have broken from the mold—you know, Kerry Washington, Toni Morrison—but a few rags-to-riches stories don’t write the whole book.

You, deeming “politically correct” a bad word.

You, calling Africa a country.

Or you, avoiding the sun in fears of a tan.

You, denouncing the color in your history.

Or you, fingering my coils and claiming you wish were black.

You, asking if my hair is real, asking if I can twerk, asking why I “sound so white.”

You, trying to dip me in white because the brown is too strong for you to handle.

White Spaces Racism


What I’ve taken from you, dear reader, is the modus operandi, the way of being for myself and those alike. I’m thankful for such enlightenment; I was almost foolish enough to skip marriage altogether and pursue writing. Silly me.


Philo pictureKaila Philo is a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County studying Philosophy and English with concentrations in ethics and creative writing, and learning languages on the side. She’s working toward a Bachelor’s in Philosophy/English, a Master’s each in both Applied Ethics and Creative Writing, and an eventual PhD in Applied Ethics. She hopes to become a novelist, poet, political writer, and literary critic. Kaila lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she spends her days planting flowers in art museums and wants nothing more in life than to leave a lasting positive impact on whatever she touches, and maybe become mildly photogenic along the way.


  1. Mary Blackford

    July 3, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Dear Kaila,
    Maybe nobody’s singing to you just yet, but clearly the world needs you–you with your passion, your thirst for knowledge, your questions, and your heart that’s filled with love to give. Please, please keep writing. Your voice needs to be heard.

    ps: who better to write the manual than you?

  2. curtissa cofield

    July 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    First and foremost thanks for your picture. Let the reader be the Judge of your Beauty. I say you’re gorgeous inside and out, the total package with a brain to boot. In your current age group there will be few young men who are mature enough to see what a wonderful life they would have in a union with you. I am inspired to create a ” Gentle of Distinction” group to seek out avenues to match our brightest and the best. Stay in school and continue to enlighten the world. Don’t compromise. You are priceless. Any mother would be happy to call u daughter. Love is a decision. There will come along a young man of character and intelligence who will decide that he can’t live without you . You are the voice of many young women of your generation who wish they’d said that. You have the voice; continue to speak for them and to them!

  3. Karen

    July 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I loved most of the article, but this really bothered me:

    “Or you, avoiding the sun in fears of a tan.”

    Tanning causes skin cancer which can be deadly. Melanoma has been on the rise in recent years and is now the most common form of cancer for young adults. Most of the time when I see people talk about “avoiding the sun in fears of a tan” it is because of health concerns. Having a tan IS the dominant beauty standard for white women — it is why so many women are willing to risk skin cancer and spend a lot of time and money in tanning beds. Please don’t dismiss valid health concerns that rise up when you reinforce this beauty standard.

    • Joey

      July 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      I believe that she was referring to those people of color that avoid the sun because they do not want to get any darker (read unattractive) than they already are. Many POC especially African Americans believe that their pigment makes them impervious to sunburn, skin cancer, so they people who she is speaking of are not concerned with the risk of skin cancer. That particular sentence is very relevant to the rest of the piece.

      • Lisbeth

        July 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        I’ll testify to that definitely being true, and not just for Black girls, but also for brown ones – we avoid the sun like the plague for fear that by the end of the summer, we’ll look uglier than ever. As I grew up and started realizing how much the shade of my skin affected how people saw me, I tried to stay out of the sun and tame my hair, and trust me when I say that things changed…and of course at the end of the summer, when I get back to school, most of my friends feel the need to make some sort of comment about how dark I look and console me that it’ll get better while they all celebrate their tans.

  4. Tori Nagudi

    July 6, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I loved this article. It really addressed so many things that I’ve thought about. I’m half black/half white, but because I have nappy hair and relatively brown skin, I’m automatically a black girl in society’s eyes. I say that I’m mixed, but if I said that I was black, nobody would blink an eye. If I said that I was white (which I SHOULD be able to do, since I’m 50/50?) I would get some epic side eye. I love how perceptive you are of all the messed up stereotypes, and you seem very intelligent, so don’t give up on the dating game! Judging from your picture, you’re very pretty also, at least in my opinion. I’d kill for your skin and perfect teeth! Just work with what you have. I’m dating a guy who appreciates me for who I am, black side and all. Good luck!

  5. Dom

    July 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Interesting post. Our notions of beauty are skewed in favour of a certain group, that’s for sure. I also think that women should be encouraged to focus more on their mind than on their bodies.

  6. Julia

    July 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    if that’s you in the picture then you’re really stunning and attractive. What is wrong with the world?

  7. sunny78

    July 30, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Very interesting article, but there was one thing that, as a black male, made me scratch my head. To start I’ll say I’m assuming the author is speaking from personal experience when she talks about how difficult it is for black girls to find guys that are interested in them. I’m pretty familiar with this notion and I’ll say its probably true for most African American girls. But what confused me after reading the article and seeing how attractive, and obviously quite intelligent, the author is, is how someone like her could have ANY issue finding ANYONE interested in her.

    Now I don’t know the author and I wont make any assumptions about her, but I will say that many of the black and African American girls I’ve met have a very ‘jaded’ personality. As in, they go into every relationship with a certain set of assumptions. These assumptions make growing closer to them very difficult because, Number One: one slip up can ruin the relationship and Number Two: you don’t know what that “slip” is until you’ve accidentally done it and they’ve stopped talking to you.

    I think this ‘I’m black so I’m not pretty and nobody could simply like me for who I am,’ attitude is keeping girls that everyone else can see clearly are ‘worth it’ from believing it themselves. I just think that’s a shame I guess…