Fuller-figured black women have higher self-esteem than white women who describe themselves as average-sized or thin, according to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The poll found that:
"Although 41 percent of average-sized or thin white women report having high self-esteem, that figure was 66 percent among black women considered by government standards to be overweight or obese."
For many of you that finding isn't exactly breaking news. After all, voluptuous black women have been celebrated (and some feminists would argue denigrated) in songs for decades now. But curvy is not the same as being obese, a condition that may lead to diabetes, hypertension and arguably even cancer.
At 5 feet 4, the average black woman surveyed was the same height as the average white woman surveyed, but the former weighed approximately 15 more pounds than the latter. The black women polled weighed 168 pounds on average, while the white women weighed 153 pounds on average. Nationally the stats are even higher, with black women weighing 189 pounds on average and white women, 165 pounds.
Washington Post reporter Lonnae O'Neal Parker posits that black women are happier with bigger builds because they have created their own beauty norms for years now. While that's certainly true, I'm not sure if I buy that overweight and obese black women don't have a problem with their physiques. Most of the women in my family fall into these categories, and they're certainly not happy about it. Some of the black women in my life have fallen depressed because of their weight. Others have developed eating disorders. All of them can relate to how Oprah Winfrey, the black woman who shined a national spotlight on body image issues, has yo-yo dieted over the years.
Given my personal experiences with black women and weight, I'm hesitant to say that black women have high self-esteem no matter what the scale says. I think the primary difference between black and white women with regard to weight is that white women are more likely to idealize extreme skinniness. None of the overweight black women I know would consider the frail leg Angelina Jolie displayed at the Academy Awards on Sunday sexy, but non-black women I've known have strived for such a look. While black women may identify with someone shaped like singer Adele, their goal is often to look more like Beyonce--curvy but slender. In short, black women and white women both desire to be thin, but the difference is to what extent.