Survey of black women in America paints complex portrait

The recently-released results of a survey focusing on black women in America paints a complex portrait of their lives. The poll, which was conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, included questions on topics ranging from religious to romantic concerns. The sample of 1,936 adults (of which 800 were black women), included black men and whites of both genders. According to the Washington Post, which reported on the study, the information revealed, “represents the most extensive exploration of the lives and views of African-American women in decades.”

The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation gathered data through phone interviews augmented with more in depth conversations to broaden fact collection. The statistics brought to light by the study include:

-Almost 75 percent of black women believe this is a good time to be an African-American woman, while an almost equal number worry about their ability to pay their bills.

-Half of the African-American women surveyed called racism in America a “big problem.” Nearly half fear personally facing discrimination.

-Eighty-five percent of respondents are satisfied with their lives, despite the fact that 20 percent report receiving less respect than other people.

-Only 45 percent of black women consider marriage to be of central importance compared with 55 percent of white women.

-Over 20 percent of African-American women believe wealth is important, compared to one in 20 white women.

-More black women have high self-esteem, with 67 percent describing themselves this way compared to only 43 percent of white women.

-Only 45 percent of black women reported feeling stressed frequently, compared to 51 percent of white women.

-Almost six out of ten African-American women fear that they will not be able to provide a proper education for their children.

-Nearly half of the black women surveyed feared being the victim of a violent crime. By comparison, approximately one third of white women polled shared this fear.

Couched within the discussion of these results are stories of black women coping within a social landscape they describe as peppered with limiting negative images. While African-American women with college degrees earn nearly as much money as white women with similar levels of education, many black women feel the need to be exceptional in order to be considered worthy.

This need to push for achievement to offset the projections of persistent stereotypes like the “welfare queen” has made many black women more career than marriage-minded. This focus on career is compounded by the fact that African-American women are often raised to believe they must be self-sufficient, because they cannot count on a “Prince Charming” to save them. Some believe their pursuit of career goals contributes to the assumption that black women are too strong and have no emotional needs, thus pushing men away through over-assertiveness.

Images like those perpetuated on reality shows are also named as a contributing factor to the belief that black women are loud and unrefined.

Ultimately, the Washington Post reports that despite these obstacles, African-American women are focusing on what they can do to help themselves and create a foundation that can be built on by their children. Even though their economic and social development is still seen as precarious, because smalls mishaps could wipe out the gains of previous generations, today’s black women are using the tools at their disposal to positively control their lives — even if that means being flexible.

“I’m not afraid to make the choices that will make my life happy,” one black woman told the Washington Post about her realistic appraisal of her prospects. “I may have to do it differently, but so what? I’m still going to get it. I’m not going to settle for a life that is less simply because it doesn’t happen exactly the way I want.”

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