Sparked by a study conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation, The Washington Post started a series of posts about Black women. This article is the first in the series. In the article, author Krissah Thompson reports that Black women are actually complex beings. That, contrary to popular belief, we are more than the labels and stereotypes commonly forced upon us. Imagine that.

Many will ask why we need a study of Black women. “What good does it do us (Black women) to be studied like lab rats?” a friend asked; the same friend who went on to question popular images of Black women in the media, classifying said images as stereotypical and degrading. This is part of the struggle many of the Black women in my life have expressed. On the one hand there is a deep desire to belong, to not feel isolated any more than we already are, to no longer exist in the margins of society. To be studied scientifically conflicts with that desire. And on the other hand, there is a deep desire to eradicate harmful images.

This is indeed an interesting time to be a Black woman. This study supports the fact that many Black women are no longer waiting for the media to tell them who they are; that we are a generation of women who are okay with making our own decisions about our futures. While images of belligerent Black women from The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Basketball Wives may perpetuate common stereotypes, society is also confronted by real life images that fly in the face of those stereotypes. NeNe is as much a part of the public image of Black women as Michelle Obama and this may be the first time in history that America is simultaneously exposed to both extremes in large, public doses.

While it’s clear that there is still much more progress to be made, it would seem that this is a dynamic time in the history of Black women. Which way will we go from here?