Dr. Boyce Watkins; Psychology Today Apologizes for Calling Black Women Ugly: Sorry, but the Apology Is Not Accepted… : ThyBlackMan

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Dr. Boyce Watkins; Psychology Today Apologizes for Calling Black Women Ugly: Sorry, but the Apology Is Not Accepted…

May 28, 2011 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sista Talk, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Well, they’ve finally broken down and done what they needed to do last week.  After tremendous public scrutiny, Psychology Today has issued an apology for the shocking article published on their site which claimed that black women are uglier than women from other races.  The article, written by Satoshi Kanazawa, an Evolutionary Psychologist with the London School of Economics, drew a firestorm of controversy from people around the world.   I was personally outraged by the article, for it is shocking to me that someone would go out of their way to try and “scientifically” insult an entire race of people.

Kaja Perina, Editor-in-Chief of the Magazine, issued this statement:

“Last week, a blog post about race and appearance by Satoshi Kanazawa was published–and promptly removed–from this site. We deeply apologize for the pain and offense that this post caused. Psychology Today’s mission is to inform the public, not to provide a platform for inflammatory and offensive material. Psychology Today does not tolerate racism or prejudice of any sort. The post was not approved by Psychology Today, but we take full responsibility for its publication on our site. We have taken measures to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. Again, we are deeply sorry for the hurt that this post caused.”

Excuse me for sounding unscholarly when I say this, but I have one question for Kaja Perina, Professor Kanazawa and the rest of the Psychology Today  staff:  What in the hell is wrong with you?

I remain flabbergasted that an article of this nature could make it to the pages of a magazine which considers itself a credible source of scientific information.  Who was doing the editing on the website?  If there had been no backlash, would this article have remained online?  Also, why did you remain so stoic when the public made it clear that they were outraged by the article?  Were you wondering if Professor Kanazawa could actually prove his claims?

In a separate piece, Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, a Cognitive Scientist out of New York City, made a seemingly harmless, yet subtly troubling statement about the Professor Kanazawa’s research:

“Kanazawa mentions several times that his data on attractiveness are scored “objectively”… [However] the low convergence of ratings finding suggests that in this very large and representative dataset, beauty is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Because raters differ strongly in terms of how they rate… this source of variation needs to be taken into account when testing for average race differences in ratings of attractiveness. Kanazawa does not indicate that he did so.”

I appreciate Dr. Kaufman supporting the cause of black women and men around the world by seeking flaws in the methodology used by Dr. Kanazawa, but there’s one glaring problem:  The man is dead wrong.  What if Professor Kanazawa were the most thorough, competent researcher on the planet and came to these same conclusions?  Would that mean that black women are uglier than women of other races?  Absolutely not.

In fact, there was once a time when the best researchers in the world had no problem laying out complex and carefully-considered scientific theories and tests to prove that black people are uglier, dumber and more violent than everyone else.  Millions of black mothers (including my own) are presented with a list of charts and tables from so-called educated people to prove beyond any doubt that their children are inferior to white kids.  Black children across America are being put on unnecessary mind-altering drugs at an early age because some “scientist” concluded that they have a behavioral disorder – never mind the fact that black kids are far more likely to receive this arbitrary diagnosis than white children.  Going even further back than the radiation experiments that literally left black people with holes in their heads, black people have regularly found ourselves disrespected, attacked and perpetually damaged by so-called scholars in academia who are not smart enough to know that there is a thin line between academic elitism and institutionalized racism.

So, here’s the bottom line:  Psychology Today should have apologized sooner.  Black men should have been (and some were) on the front lines defending black women when their beauty was assaulted.  The same way that this professor and magazine claimed that black women are less attractive than women of other races, there are other studies saying that black women are too fat, their lips are too big, and their hair is too nappy.  As a result, it’s hard for me to prepare my daughter and God daughters for a world that decided long ago that black women are not as important as everyone else.  To be quite frank, I’m just sick of it.

Psychology Today, thank you for your apology,  but unfortunately, your apology is not accepted.  You should never have allowed this assault on black women to occur in the first place, for it fundamentally undermines the essence of our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and grandmothers.  Perhaps when it comes to acknowledging the impact that racism has on our perceptions of other human beings, we might take a second and accept the fact that even analysis that appears to be scientific is impacted by the biases of the researcher.  The beauty of black women is simply not a subject that is acceptable for debate.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit http://BoyceWatkins.com.


16 Responses to “Dr. Boyce Watkins; Psychology Today Apologizes for Calling Black Women Ugly: Sorry, but the Apology Is Not Accepted…”
  1. Frank Love says:

    We are a society comprised of many easily-offended people. For example, consider the recent Psychology Today article in which journalist Satoshi Kanazawa reported on research gathered by Add Health. In it, he listed the resulting statistics and offered a possible answer to the question this study introduces – “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?”. Admittedly, the controversy surrounding this article pretty much passed me by. I had heard about the research, but the subject matter didn’t interest me enough to digest it … until a few days ago when I heard it discussed on the talk show, Insight, by the host, a guest and a bunch of outraged callers. The majority of the callers seemed to be black women. But black women are definitely not the only group of people to get offended over something that was meant to be informative. If you think about it for a minute, you’ll come up with plenty of examples of other races, genders, religious groups, etc, getting worked up over news stories that painted them in a negative light.

    The article appeared nearly a month ago, and Kanazawa has since been fired, seemingly because of the backlash surrounding it. However, I respect and admire his willingness to present this controversial information in a logical, research-based, objective way. I am hardly saying that I agree with his conclusions, but if you disagree, attack the research, not him.

    The same goes for relationships. How often have your partners (past and current) civilly and respectfully made statements about you that felt uncomplimentary? And how often have you reacted by going off on them? Consider this: When we change the dynamic of the conversation from logical and objective to emotional, we usually do so because:

    1) It is a topic about which we are overly-sensitive (like religion, politics, or race, as in the case of Kanazawa’s article), or

    2) There is some truth to the information, and we are uncomfortable addressing it.

    So, instead of pondering the merits and weaknesses of the statements, we get offended and start an argument – making the discussion about hurt feelings rather than the real issue. But if we keep the argument on the level at which it was presented, and discuss what was said in a rational and substantive way, we participate in an exchange that gets everyone a lot further than lunging into a fight. And even if we don’t ultimately accept what our partners are saying to be true, the ability to have logical conversations will help them want to be open and honest with us over time.

    In Stephen Covey’s highly-acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he urges us to always “seek first to understand.” Before you get offended or react, hear your partner out – and make sure that you understand both the point as well as the spirit in which it was intended. Though the information might feel insulting, consider that fact that your partner’s intention might be to be helpful – to inform you, or to help you grow, be happier, or better navigate life and relationships. This possibility is reason enough to allow for a give-and-take discussion. And even if the intention is mean-spirited, and your mate is speaking out of frustration, anger or hurt, there is still a learning opportunity there. For example, you may become more aware of your mate’s perceptions, biases or misconceptions. If you can avoid the urge to react emotionally, you may effectively dispel the aforementioned, and ultimately grow closer with your partner. When this happens, everyone wins.

    Appreciating your mate’s willingness to talk to you and present potentially sensitive information will make you a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.

    Keep Rising,

    Frank Love


  2. Dwight says:

    I am a Black man. I have a black mother, sister and wife. I must speak on this awful behavior of the black man. Why are you not appalled by this racist study by a racist magazine. How in gods name can you call yourself a man and be proud of your heritage and stay silent. I have read too many negative comments regarding our women from Black men. You never should degrade your woman to cover up your own insecurities, your bad characteristic behavior and lack of responsible manhood.

    Date or marry who ever you choose but Respect your counterpart. I have watch you jump on our President’s Band wagon. We have a black President so you feel you can ride off of his merits; you can stop that right now this brother respects his black wife-The First Lady and his black daughters. You are a disgrace to most black men that respect our black ladies and know the power of a wonderful black woman. Men with confidence are not afraid of a woman that has an opinion. We do not need a woman to put in a box and shape her into a fool. That is considered Abuse.

  3. DGH says:

    PSEUDOSCIENCE is alive and well. Often imitated, but never duplicated…the wellspring of black beauty is — at a minimum — absolute, unapologetic, and incomparable.

  4. Saleh says:

    Scientific what? Scientific research could be manipulated for hidden agenda and for popularity. I am an African but I strongly believe in YAShuaib’s comment on his blog http://yashuaib.net/blog/2002/03/miss-world-between-mariette-and-darego/ when a black African won Miss World in 2002. He said “the African femininity, without exaggeration, enables one to mirror oneself from unblemished and fleshy cheeks. They are women who are healthy and full of life, exhibiting in enticing physiques. An African must also be dark, thick and robust, devoid of a skinny, bony and tiny body frame. Artificial makeup and expensive attires are not what make the natural beauty.”

  5. good idea says:

    As patently racist and ridiculously poorly researched Kanzawa’s article was, to refuse to forgive is emotionally unhealthy.
    Forgiving is far more about the forgiver healing than the transgressor being forgiven. Not forgiving will not bother Kanzawa, but will continue to eat the person (who refuses to forgive) up inside.

  6. rhonda says:

    whether if an apology was to be accepted or not, we know how we can get especially in public…..beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder and i’ve notice when we get overly above and beyond ourselves where we just (be human) have too be the loudest and raunchest…..that article woke up and stired quite an emotion didn’t it?….well that’s too damn bad, i thank him using any means and justification necessary where we must and should get our program together and in order, again dear sir, i salute and thank you for that wake-up……

  7. Iola says:

    Thank you Dr Boyce Watkins for your contribution. You are right in your stance to publicly reject the ‘apology’. I am, however, inclined to agree with Pee’s comments above in saying that we, as Africans, really need to stop falling into these same old traps. As with the recent Beyonce black-faced saga in a French fashion magazine, and before that, the special all black edition of Vogue (a few years back), such overtly racist and contraversial publications only act to cause controversy and attract publicity. We all know, ‘scientic’ or not, that these outrageous news are ludicrous and pathetic.

    Who in the end benefits? Not us? Will they do it again (ridicule our existence in the name of beauty, intelligence or any other manner to evoke mass public outcry)? Of course they will. As a proud black British woman of African decent and Caribbean heritage, I reject such attention-seekers, in fact this is the first comment I’ve made, refusing to inject any time or energy into what can only be deemed as laughable.

    I compare such research as trash and treat it the same. We all need to wake up and stop biting on these fools backsides as it’s only crap we’ll continue to hear, followed by patronising so-called apologies. Please, let’s focus on the many outstanding important issues facing our community at large, and stop whining about some nerd who has run out of topics.

  8. Dee Rountree says:

    However I do have to say that all of this isn’t necessary. I should have edited my post before but it does bring about a valid point: why believe and publish a report that claims to be objective on something so subjective as beauty? I also don’t believe that Asian men are less attractive but the study concluded this.

  9. Dee Rountree says:

    I wonder if Dr. Kanazawa read any of the scientific reports stating that Asian men are the least attractive men. If he feels that the report about black women needed to be published then turnabout is fair play. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the same sort of study that he conducted prove that Asian men are about as attractive as black women from an evolutionary standpoint.

  10. CM Writer says:

    I’m not a psychologist, but I am a researcher. Most research starts with an hypothesis, and then data is gathered to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

    So the Dr. Kanazawa began with what hypothesis? How did he collect the data? From whom did he collect the data? What data was collected?

    Given the fact that African-American women run the gamut in physical appearance from skin tone to body shape to hair texture to lip size to hip to waist ratio, what “features” were considered to draw his conclusions?

    Beyond that if we really want to look at attractive appearance or what is deemed “beauty”…take a look at the top plastic surgery requests and then match them what is deemed innate to a certain race.

    Let me step out of academia into the real world for a moment and say this. People will lie to you if you let them. Ever wonder why so many studies are completed to bash black women? There has to be a reason. And if you conclude that was not the purpose of this “study” you are a bigger fool than I could ever imagine.

  11. Pee says:

    This has got to stop. Here we are falling for the same old crap again. Why should we care if some idiot says something about us? Is it true what they said? Did it affect any of your pay checks, love of life, love for your children and family? I hope not. I hope some of you, in all your academic glory, stop and ponder, did this fool just say this to get a raise out of us? I bet him and the people he work for were sitting around and said, hey, let’s see what happens if we write something crazy about black people. They probably took bets. It’s more surprising to me that we still give this type of behavior any attention at all. What’s not surprising is to see a Great African People still being poked and prodded. We will always be scrutinized until WE see us standing together, ignoring the BS, and achieving what no one else can achieve. We’ve been here, we’ve done that. Let’s do it again. REMEMBER?

  12. Arthur Lewin says:

    Meh, did Kanazawa look at perception of beauty from the procreational, evolutionary, M.H. Complex, or some other “scientifically measurable” concept? If not, how can he be defended?

  13. Meh says:

    And actually, Arthur Lewsin, beauty can be looked at from a VARIETY of aspects. Procreational, evolutionary, etc. Women with a 0.7:1 hip-to-waist ratio are considered more attractive (based on psychological and communicational findings.. and no.. not new), which stems off of a procreational perspective because women with a 0.7:1 ratio are more fertile and that is where the fat comes from to provide the baby with. People need to look at it from different perspectives as well, you can’t just say beauty (simply attraction) is ALL subjective because there are things that do affect people.

    Another example is the Major Histocompatibility Complex. Attraction was based off of pheromones–men wore shirts all day (or for a week straight, I can’t remember) and women sniffed the t-shirts. Those who liked the smell of a specific kind of t-shirt were more attracted to that man, and this is due to, from a procreational perspective, the compatibility of MHC (major histocompatibility complex), which are supposed to be opposites in order to be completely compatible.

  14. Meh says:

    Well if she hasn’t based it off of research, then people have a right to be annoyed, but if it is based on research findings, such as polls, ratings, etc., then she has every right to claim something. Controversial findings are EVERYWHERE.

    Either way, Psychology Today allows social scientists to post as they wish, considering they are social _scientists_, so I highly doubt it is of any concern if someone accepts their apology or not. Controversial findings are fun to read, even if it is ridiculous. If we had no controversial findings, how we advance and spark ideas?

  15. Arthur Lewin says:

    Hontas Farmer, you defend the right of Kanazawa to try and scientifically measure the beauty of women of various racial backgrounds. But how could it be possible to objectively measure a subjective concept like perception of beauty? Not only would one have to take into account such contaminating factors as the role of the media, but at bottom there is no scientific way to measure real, as opposed to perceived, beauty. Beauty is not an objective scientific concept.

  16. While I appreciate your emotions on the subject and feel as you do about Kanzawa’s insensitive and tone deaf words in his article the mere asking the question he raised cannot be stopped.

    You argue that “what if he had been through and made no scientific mistakes and came to the same conclusion”? Then you go on to argue that simply asking such questions is wrong.

    His inquiry why offensive was a valid scientific question. The answer to which if done properly may explain why black women get such a hard time. Also your conclusion that Kanzawa hates black people or something is dead wrong. He is the one responsible for a theory in evolutionary psychology which holds that the human brain hasn’t evolved in any significant way since man left the Savanna of Africa. IT’s called the Savanah principle. So while he may not think , or thinks his data did not show that black women look good at least he gives us credit where it counts between the ears.

    As for the idea that offending peoples feelings is a good reason for scientific inquiries not to be made I and all other scientist reject that. For if that were the case bilogist would dare not teach evolution and physicst dare not teach the big bang for it offends the 50% of people who think the world is 6000 years old.

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