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You are here: Home / MPRC People / Mia Smith-Bynum, Ph.D. / Mia Smith Bynum Publications / “No [Right] Way to Be a Black Woman”: Exploring Gendered Racial Socialization Among Black Women

B.L. Davies, S.H. Allen, J.R. Hart, T.S. Francois, and M.A. Smith-Bynum (2019)

“No [Right] Way to Be a Black Woman”: Exploring Gendered Racial Socialization Among Black Women

Psychology of Women Quarterly , 43(3):381-397.

Using the theoretical lenses of intersectionality and racial-ethnic socialization, we conducted a focus group study with 29 Black women. We analyzed transcripts via a grounded theory approach for the sources of messages about skin color and hair and for participants’ responses to these messages. Family members were the primary source of messages about skin color and hair. Peers and the media also communicated such messages. Messages ranged from endorsement of Western standards of beauty to an embrace of darker skin colors and natural hair texture. Rather than serving as passive recipients of messages, participants sifted through and reconciled messages with varying degrees of resolution. Their accounts reflected their intersectional experiences as Black women representing a variety of physical attributes. We discuss the influence of these physical attributes on their individual racial-gender identity development in light of a second burgeoning Black hair movement in the United States, that embraces Black natural hair. Findings may help families and others build understanding of, and increase sensitivity toward, the intra- and interpersonal implications of colorism for Black women. Findings may also inform institutional policies (e.g., school, work) and practices to reduce barriers and improve consequences for the Black women navigating these settings.

Racial Socialization, Social and Economic Inequality, Smith-Bynum, Discrimination, Skin Color
natural hair, racial socialization, Black women, colorism, skin color, Black families
First Published March 4, 2019

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