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Black women ugly? Says who?

By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN
  • LZ Granderson: His mom a fiery, caring woman who beat back life's challenges, she's beautiful
  • He's offended at Psychology Today blogpost that asked why black women aren't attractive
  • He questions writer's methods, but wonders at culture that abides, fosters such views
  • Granderson: Some black men help damage black women's image. They must show respect

Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for A senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, he has contributed to ESPN's "Sports Center," "Outside the Lines" and "First Take." He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing.

(CNN) -- In a couple of weeks my mother turns 65.

She takes yoga and Zumba every chance she gets and if you sneeze more than twice around her, she'll cook you a pot of collard greens. My mother believes her collard greens can fix just about anything.

She has a fiery personality that can rub people the wrong way. But those who know her don't mind, because it was that same fire that helped her overcome poverty, beat cancer and protect her five cubs.

My mother is a black woman.

And she is beautiful.

So to the editors of Psychology Today who thought it was a good idea to post a blog item calling black women ugly, I suggest you watch your back... my mother's cubs are looking for you.

And we are not happy.

Satoshi Kanazawa's post, "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?" appeared Sunday and quickly circulated around the blogosphere. It drew a great deal of criticism, which I suspect led to the post being pulled, though you can still find it elsewhere on the Web.

While it's not quite as bad as Golfweek magazine putting a noose on its cover in relationship to a story about Tiger Woods, it is still rather disturbing that Psychology Today's editors needed public outcry to clue them in that the post was offensive and irresponsible.

It's challenging enough to see popular culture publications such as People and Maxim struggle to include black women in their annual most-beautiful listings, but at least their editors don't try to justify their choices under the guise of science.

"Because they have existed much longer in human evolutionary history, Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races," Kanazawa's post read. "And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness."

I do not dispute Kanazawa's credentials as an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, but I do wonder why he even approached the topic.

I question a methodology that asks random people to judge the attractiveness of other random people without taking into account the influence of background and culture. Without taking into account a Westernized standard of beauty that has not only haunted some black women into buying cream to bleach their skin but prompted some Asian-Americans to undergo surgery to make their eyes more European looking.

That's not to say white skin or round eyes are necessarily unattractive. Rather, a system that declares one set of physical attributes as the standard to which a multiethnic society must adhere is destructive.

And racist.

And yet as much as I detest Kanazawa's post, I do recognize it as just another chapter in the ongoing assault on black women in our culture.

He says they're ugly.

The statistics say 42% have never been married.

Some rappers say, well, we know what they say... and apparently we don't mind, because they keep topping the charts.

If you comb through Donald Bogle's book "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films," you'll find a long celluloid history of black women being portrayed as anything but beautiful. Their sass is a constant source of comedic relief, but rarely are they seen as complete human beings, to be romanced or capable of being vulnerable.

Nowadays the most popular black female characters in film are not even played by black women. Tyler Perry's "Madea" and Martin Lawrence's "Big Momma" characters are unflattering caricatures of figureheads who for generations on top of generations held the black community together.

Funny, maybe.

Fair, definitely not.

More than two in three blacks in enrolled college are women. Three of four blacks in graduate school are women. It's a free country and film makers can say whatever they want. I'm just not sure why it's so hard to make a sequel about that. The First Amendment gives us the freedom to say whatever we want. But it doesn't say that we should.

Because of the long history of the deconstruction, Kanazawa's post, while tasteless and disgusting, is an attack black women can easily brush aside -- been there, heard that. But it does provide an opportunity for real talk within the black community and for recognizing that the wounds that hurt the most don't come from enemy lines but friendly fire. It comes from black men who know enough to respect the black women who are their mothers but not the black women who are their lovers. They fail to see the disconnect.

I'm not suggesting black women are absolved of any responsibility in how they are portrayed in the media. I'm also not suggesting that every black woman is looking for a black man in the first place. But certainly black men play a significant role in the way black women are perceived. Black men help create the environment in which a blog like Kanazawa's can be written.

We are the ones who use black women as shields because we lack the will to be disciplined, integrity to accept responsibility, or, for a small number of us, even have the courage to embrace our own sexuality.

The down-low isn't just about the impact homophobia has on black men; it's also about the selfish disregard these black men have for another person's life. In that, I see little difference between that and the black men who refuse to help raise the kids they father or resort to domestic violence.

The truth is Kanazawa's post doesn't hold a candle to the amount of damage black men continue to do to the image of black women ourselves.

That doesn't mean not choosing one as a spouse is an automatic slap to the face. Black men are free to date and marry whomever they want, just like everybody else.

Heck, I haven't slept with a woman of any color in years because, well, I'm gay. But my sexual orientation doesn't prevent me from simply showing respect for what continues to be the backbone of my community. Women like my mother. My sisters. My aunts, cousins, friends ... the sisters who retwist my locks, fight for equal rights, usher in church or go to work every day in a society where a publication like Psychology Today thinks it's OK to call black women ugly.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.