Curvy Conversations

How People See You When You’re Big and Black…

December 8 2014 | CeCe Olisa

I’ve had some thoughts whirling around in my head over the past week and I’m going to attempt to share them here… hopefully what I’m trying to say makes sense. I just really think its important to remember that biases and prejudices don’t always show up in the form of a disgusting act that makes the news. Sometimes those things are found in the everyday ways that we treat people. And maybe if we were a little more mindful, we would treat people better.

As I watched the footage of Eric Garner’s murder I started thinking about my experiences at the intersection of size prejudice and racial prejudice. Some of you may identify with some or all of my experiences, some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about and that’s totally fine.

I’m big, I’m black and I’ve become well aware of how those things shape the way people see me, what they assume about me and how they treat me.

on being big and black 2

On Being Big…

My first vivid memories of body shame came in fourth grade. At nine years old, I was both tall and chubby and that year for whatever reason, at recess kids in my class were constantly jumping on my back for piggy back rides without my permission, I guess they assumed I could handle their weight. They thought it was fun, I hated it.

One day we all filed into our cafetorium for a music assembly. As I sat giggling with my friends, a smaller girl from my class complained to the teacher that she could not see anything because she was sitting behind me. My teacher promptly instructed me to sit in the very back, behind all of the other students so that they could see the show. I sat in the back row alone, put my head down and cried.

Between the piggy back rides at recess and being sent to the back row, the body shame began to set in. I felt like I was being punished for my size. Now that I’m older, I wonder why the teacher didn’t move the smaller girl to the front row, instead of banishing me all the way to the back.

On being black…

I went to a predominantly white school and I’m pretty sure I spent all of third grade being racially profiled by my teacher. As an eight year old, it was hard to understand why Mrs. [Redacted] was always assuming I was the one causing trouble in her classroom. I’m not saying I was a quiet mouse or anything, I definitely had my moments, but I felt like I was blamed for anything that went wrong in Room 8. I will never forget hearing Mrs. [Redacted] screech “CeCe, be quiet!” and then turning bright red when she whirled around angrily to find me quietly reading at my desk while the other (paler) kids were jumping around and yelling. Oddly, she said nothing to reprimand them.

Related: On Being Plus Size & Asian

As an adult, I put myself in Mrs. [Redacted]’s shoes. If I was in a room full of 19 small blue balloons and one large pink balloon, the large pink balloon would probably catch my eye more. I would probably find myself focused on the large pink balloon, while the sea of small blue balloons flew under the radar doing whatever mischevious small blue balloons do. But I’d hope that I wouldn’t treat the large pink balloon more harshly than the others. And if I did find myself doing that, my challenge to myself would be to treat all of the balloons the same and hold them all to the same standards.

On Being Big and Black…

My second grade class spent weeks working on a presentation about– actually I’m not sure what the presentation was about. All I remember is that each of us were to make a speech as a celebrity or historical figure. Our roles were assigned to us by the teacher and we were to do the presentation in front of the entire school (K-8th grade) I was comfortable being on stage and I had my lines memorized to the approval of my teacher, so as a seven year old, I wasn’t nervous about speaking in front of the older kids. When it was my turn to make my celebrity speech I walked up to the microphone and held up my picture, “I’m Oprah Winfrey!” I said, and before I could say anything else the entire school errupted with laughter.

I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t finish my speech, embarrassed that all of those students were laughing at me, but most of all I was confused. It never occurred to me that being a chubby black 7 year old portraying herself as a fat black woman would a bad thing, or worse– a punchline.

Related: He called me “Precious”

As I type this I’m realizing that all three of these experiences happened before I was 10– can you imagine the overtime my parents had to do uplifting little CeCe to make sure my self esteem was where it needed to be? God bless them!

Anyway, these childhood experiences taught me that being big, black or big and black sometimes made people treat me differently. And in a vague way, I saw these lessons parralled in the Eric Garner murder video: Looking different can make me an easy target for negative attention. Having a large body might make people feel comfortable getting overly physical with me, it also may discourage people from taking me seriously.

Related: Size & Race: Who Has it “Easier”?

Am I comparing my childhood experiences to Eric Garners murder? No. But in my observation, the seeds of bias are planted with fleeting thoughts.

I think its important for us all to question ourselves when we assume the worst in certain people– do we assume that a fat person is lazy? do we assume that a person of color is up to no good?

I think we should be aware of how we engage with people of different sizes– do we ignore a large person’s pain because they’re tough and can handle it? do we use big bodies as jungle gyms because we think they can hold our weight?

I also think we should be mindful of who/what we find funny– why are big black women (or black men dressed as big black women) often punchlines in movies? Why are shows and movies about big people in love always comedies?

Lastly, its important to remember that what people think about us has nothing to do with what we know about ourselves. I may be big and black, but I refuse to claim those things as negative or hilarious. I choose to find beauty in my size and the richness of my skin, I choose to define who and what I am in spite of any stereotypes people throw my way.

We define who we are. That’s why we’re doing things like stomping out the myth that big girls don’t hit the gym with #PSPfit. That’s why we’re working on events that celebrate our bodies like theCURVYcon.

They say that changing your thoughts can change your life. I know how negative thinking can affect others, so I’m working to change mine and I invite you to do the same.

What are your thoughts? (please note: anything offensive or hateful will be deleted)

Facebook Comments

82 responses on “How People See You When You’re Big and Black…

  1. Mona

    This has been a thing waaaaay before Eric Garner (may he rest in peace).
    I’ve been campaigning for my plus size sisters for years. Even within plus size fashion industries there’s a lot a discrimination towards larger black women. Most of the times the black models are on the smaller side compared to their white counterparts. I guess they don’t want to play into the “mammy” image too much but be just enough to represent black women of size, I don’t like it.

    Society is a little more lenient towards big men. I notice that regarding the weight loss of Rick Ross and how all down his social media page people are like “Don’t lose too much weight” or “What happened to my big sexy teddy bear” and “We want fat Ross back”. There’s a lot of sexism and misogyny within the discussion of weight and health. Just do a compare and contrast, when a male celebrity gains weight, it’s never a big deal. But when a female celebrity goes from a size 00, to a size 3 all heck breaks lose with titles like “Susan packs on the pounds”, when Susan is still smaller than me on a good day.

    Fat black women have to deal with the stigma of being a fat woman, while being black. Black women are already the most stigmatized representing two of the most ostracized groups on the planet (woman and black) but being fat with that makes the burden even tougher to bare. Even within the black community there’s an obsession with mocking and making fun of fat black women. Despite the “Moniques” of the black community, fat shaming is nothing new in the black community. I remember growing up watching a lot of the work of the Wayans Brothers and realized they’re very fatphobic. Seeing how obsessed they were with anything light skin, super skinny, with big boobs annoyed me.

    I watched in my school years big girls get bullied 24/7 and I went to both mixed and predominantly black schools.

    I know society is anti-fat woman universally but, fat white women, or fat non-black women are more tolerable than fat black women, even within the dating scene. People don’t view them as threatening or as repulsive because there’s no stigma attached to them like black women are. At least they’re shown in a inviting manner some times. Black women who are of size are always shown as aggressive, repulsive, angry, unhealthy, unattractive and overbearing, even when she’s not, and even if she is, SO WHAT?
    There’s this dark cloud of racial history constantly attached to black women of size. The mammy, the Maid, and Aunt Jemima. I feel bad for my plus size sistas because I come across blogs like these and THEY ARE EXTREMELY FEMININE, BEAUTIFUL, CLASSY AND THE STANDARD. It is sad how they believe they have to conform to get that dark cloud from over their heads.

    Large people are no different than anyone else, they’re not abnormal or need to be eradicated, it’s insulting and needs to change. Big people don’t owe society beauty standards, or obedience, that’s complete ableism.

    1. CeCe Olisa

      Yes, this has been a thing for a long time and Yes, there are nuanced stigmas with different races/genders when it comes to weight. What’s fascinating to me is everyone seems to think everyone else has it “easier” when really we should be tearing down these biases for everyone…

      1. nicthommi

        I think it’s perfectly fair to acknowledge the privilege and hierarchies within groups though. Whether you are discussing colorism (so yes, the life of a fat and light-skinned BW will be different from that of a dark-skinned and fat BW) or racism or sizeism, in my opinion you cannot properly fight the battle if you don’t admit that some battles are harder than others.
        It is very true that when ppl opt to show a “beautiful big woman” more often than not it will be someone white or a POC with lighter skin. When I go to buy clothes from Torrid or Nordstrom or Talbot’s, the majority of women used to sell those clothes to me are white (and at percentages that FAR outmatch their presence in overall society). The same is true in the dating world. So many fat NBPOC run around saying how much black men love big women when in reality what they are loving is that fact that these women aren’t white.
        My battle and journey isn’t the same as what a fat white woman faces, and I’m okay admitting it and the fact that I’m probably going to fight my own battles first rather than use up my energy on the people who are further ahead than me.

  2. nayawyatt@aol.com

    This has been a thing waaaaay before Eric Garner (may he rest in peace).I’ve been campaigning for my plus size sisters for years. Even within plus size fashion industries there’s a lot a discrimination towards larger black women. Most of the times the black models are on the smaller side compared to their white counterparts. I guess they don’t want to play into the “mammy” image too much but be just enough to represent black women of size, I don’t like it.

    Society is a little more lenient towards big men. I notice that regarding the weight loss of Rick Ross and how all down his social media page people are like “Don’t lose too much weight” or “What happened to my big sexy teddy bear” and “We want fat Ross back”. There’s a lot of sexism and misogyny within the discussion of weight and health. Just do a compare and contrast, when a male celebrity gains weight, it’s never a big deal. But when a female celebrity goes from a size 00, to a size 3 all heck breaks lose with titles like “Susan packs on the pounds”, when Susan is still smaller than me on a good day.

    Fat black women have to deal with the stigma of being a fat woman, while being black. Black women are already the most stigmatized representing two of the most ostracized groups on the planet (woman and black) but being fat with that makes the burden even tougher to bare. Even within the black community there’s an obsession with mocking and making fun of fat black women. Despite the “Moniques” of the black community, fat shaming is nothing new in the black community. I remember growing up watching a lot of the work of the Wayans Brothers and realized they’re very fatphobic. Seeing how obsessed they were with anything light skin, super skinny, with big boobs annoyed me.

    I watched in my school years big girls get bullied 24/7 and I went to both mixed and predominantly black schools.

    I know society is anti-fat woman universally but, fat white women, or fat non-black women are more tolerable than fat black women, even within the dating scene. People don’t view them as threatening or as repulsive because there’s no stigma attached to them like black women are. At least they’re shown in a inviting manner some times. Black women who are of size are always shown as aggressive, repulsive, angry, unhealthy, unattractive and overbearing, even when she’s not, and even if she is, SO WHAT?
    There’s this dark cloud of racial history constantly attached to black women of size. The mammy, the Maid, and Aunt Jemima. I feel bad for my plus size sistas because I come across blogs like these and THEY ARE EXTREMELY FEMININE, BEAUTIFUL, CLASSY AND THE STANDARD. It is sad how they believe they have to conform to get that dark cloud from over their heads.

    Large people are no different than anyone else, they’re not abnormal or need to be eradicated, it’s insulting and needs to change. Big people don’t owe society beauty standards, or obedience, that’s complete ableism.

    1. nycece@gmail.com

      Yes, this has been a thing for a long time and Yes, there are nuanced stigmas with different races/genders when it comes to weight. What’s fascinating to me is everyone seems to think everyone else has it “easier” when really we should be tearing down these biases for everyone…

      1. athomasz@umich.edu

        I think it’s perfectly fair to acknowledge the privilege and hierarchies within groups though. Whether you are discussing colorism (so yes, the life of a fat and light-skinned BW will be different from that of a dark-skinned and fat BW) or racism or sizeism, in my opinion you cannot properly fight the battle if you don’t admit that some battles are harder than others.It is very true that when ppl opt to show a “beautiful big woman” more often than not it will be someone white or a POC with lighter skin. When I go to buy clothes from Torrid or Nordstrom or Talbot’s, the majority of women used to sell those clothes to me are white (and at percentages that FAR outmatch their presence in overall society). The same is true in the dating world. So many fat NBPOC run around saying how much black men love big women when in reality what they are loving is that fact that these women aren’t white.
        My battle and journey isn’t the same as what a fat white woman faces, and I’m okay admitting it and the fact that I’m probably going to fight my own battles first rather than use up my energy on the people who are further ahead than me.

  3. Nicole Nesbitt

    This might be some of your best work. And I love the balloon analogy. You need to submit this to huffpost or something. Let me know if you want me to help it get attention because this is wonderful and relatable. Well done lady!

  4. nicolemnesbitt@gmail.com

    This might be some of your best work. And I love the balloon analogy. You need to submit this to huffpost or something. Let me know if you want me to help it get attention because this is wonderful and relatable. Well done lady!

  5. Kera

    Seriously, I can think of so many times where as a kid I’d be playing with other kids and we’d bump into each other or something, then the other kid starts crying and the adults act like I hit them or did something on purpose. Or just the many times (especially growing up) where people would act noticeably intimidated by me solely because of my size. I’m also tall and it’s like you wrote my life! I’ve been treated like a criminal, like I’m always going to hurt someone my whole life.

    As a child I was very loud and outgoing, and over the years I realize that I have become a much more soft spoken, mild mannered person and I have no doubt that I subconsciously became that way to be less threatening or intimidating to others. At 23 years old, I even feel uncomfortable fully extending my arms because I’m scared I’m taking up too much space or that I’m going to hit someone. When taking pictures, I always go to the back. In school, I always sat in the back of class. I know being big and black and people’s reactions to it have made me this way.

    It’s a messed up world we live in and I thank you for calling attention to these issues. There are so many subtle (and not so subtle) differences in the way plus sized women (especially plus sized black women) are treated. I have experienced pretty much every single micro-aggression you have mentioned on your blog, such as people being surprised my boyfriend is attractive, people suggesting I should take what I can get when I say I don’t like a guy, the whole situation you described with the big black girl in the yoga class…I mean the list goes on. I’m so grateful for this blog because you actually take the time out to describe how it feels to be treated like that and to validate our feelings and observations (I’m not crazy, this shit happens!) and hopefully show people that do these things why it is hurtful and unacceptable. I did a lot of rambling there but like I said, I really appreciate this blog. Thank you Cece!

    1. CeCe Olisa

      Hi Kera, what you’re describing is so real and trust me I have a vault of stories that mirror what you’re sharing. Nothing more strange than using your hands in conversation and having a classmate flinch as if you’re going to hit them… *deep sigh* Thanks so much for reading and for commenting to let me know I’m not imagining it all! xo

  6. kerawright@yahoo.com

    Seriously, I can think of so many times where as a kid I’d be playing with other kids and we’d bump into each other or something, then the other kid starts crying and the adults act like I hit them or did something on purpose. Or just the many times (especially growing up) where people would act noticeably intimidated by me solely because of my size. I’m also tall and it’s like you wrote my life! I’ve been treated like a criminal, like I’m always going to hurt someone my whole life.
    As a child I was very loud and outgoing, and over the years I realize that I have become a much more soft spoken, mild mannered person and I have no doubt that I subconsciously became that way to be less threatening or intimidating to others. At 23 years old, I even feel uncomfortable fully extending my arms because I’m scared I’m taking up too much space or that I’m going to hit someone. When taking pictures, I always go to the back. In school, I always sat in the back of class. I know being big and black and people’s reactions to it have made me this way.

    It’s a messed up world we live in and I thank you for calling attention to these issues. There are so many subtle (and not so subtle) differences in the way plus sized women (especially plus sized black women) are treated. I have experienced pretty much every single micro-aggression you have mentioned on your blog, such as people being surprised my boyfriend is attractive, people suggesting I should take what I can get when I say I don’t like a guy, the whole situation you described with the big black girl in the yoga class…I mean the list goes on. I’m so grateful for this blog because you actually take the time out to describe how it feels to be treated like that and to validate our feelings and observations (I’m not crazy, this shit happens!) and hopefully show people that do these things why it is hurtful and unacceptable. I did a lot of rambling there but like I said, I really appreciate this blog. Thank you Cece!

    1. nycece@gmail.com

      Hi Kera, what you’re describing is so real and trust me I have a vault of stories that mirror what you’re sharing. Nothing more strange than using your hands in conversation and having a classmate flinch as if you’re going to hit them… *deep sigh* Thanks so much for reading and for commenting to let me know I’m not imagining it all! xo

  7. LC Henry

    Awesome, awesome, awesome post!!!! It gives me shivers (in a good way) because it hits home from beginning to end. Words can even describe how I’m feeling right now.

    Ms Cece…you are (infact ALL #PSP) are beautiful inside & out!!!

  8. boshagirl22@gmail.com

    Awesome, awesome, awesome post!!!! It gives me shivers (in a good way) because it hits home from beginning to end. Words can even describe how I’m feeling right now.
    Ms Cece…you are (infact ALL #PSP) are beautiful inside & out!!!

  9. Amy Campbell

    I can totally relate to being a big and tall kid. Even today, friends and acquaintances will call me their “bodyguard” when we go out, knowing full well I wouldn’t hurt a fly. They don’t think about my feelings a when they pigeon-hole me into a role just because of my size.

    1. "M"

      You don’t have to just sit still for that, without a little pushback. It is okay if you tell them you don’t like that, or that they can’t call you that, or to please consider your feelings.

  10. afcpassion@gmail.com

    I can totally relate to being a big and tall kid. Even today, friends and acquaintances will call me their “bodyguard” when we go out, knowing full well I wouldn’t hurt a fly. They don’t think about my feelings a when they pigeon-hole me into a role just because of my size.

    1. themidnightmusic@gmail.com

      You don’t have to just sit still for that, without a little pushback. It is okay if you tell them you don’t like that, or that they can’t call you that, or to please consider your feelings.

  11. Lisa

    Cece, this was so well written, so well thought out, and I agree with Nicole Nesbitt that this is a post that should receive wider attention.

  12. lisablake1@gmail.com

    Cece, this was so well written, so well thought out, and I agree with Nicole Nesbitt that this is a post that should receive wider attention.

  13. BrooklynShoeBabe

    You don’t know on how many levels your essay touched me. First, as a mother. I have a 7 year old daughter. She takes after my husband’s side of the family–tall. She’s the tallest kid in her second grade class. She’s taller than her 9 year old sister. She’s taller than most 4 graders! She’s also a big sturdy girl. My daughters go to school that is mostly filed with non-blacks and petite kids. During the first week of school, she came home crying because she felt all of her classmates were staring at her “big belly” and big appetite. Kids and adult assume she’s tough because of her size, but she’s a sensitive cream puff.

    As a big black woman with a short hair cut, I get so many assumptions of being tough or butch or able to hold my liquor. Or, being so good with children (I work with small children) because I look so “motherly.”

  14. rakisha.white@gmail.com

    You don’t know on how many levels your essay touched me. First, as a mother. I have a 7 year old daughter. She takes after my husband’s side of the family–tall. She’s the tallest kid in her second grade class. She’s taller than her 9 year old sister. She’s taller than most 4 graders! She’s also a big sturdy girl. My daughters go to school that is mostly filed with non-blacks and petite kids. During the first week of school, she came home crying because she felt all of her classmates were staring at her “big belly” and big appetite. Kids and adult assume she’s tough because of her size, but she’s a sensitive cream puff.
    As a big black woman with a short hair cut, I get so many assumptions of being tough or butch or able to hold my liquor. Or, being so good with children (I work with small children) because I look so “motherly.”

  15. Curvily NYC

    This is a fantastic, thank you so much for sharing. The “seeds of bias are planted with fleeting thoughts” line perfectly highlights why microaggressions are not trivial things to be laughed off: Racism does not form in a vacuum, and it is so important to identify and change problematic thoughts and behaviors.

  16. curvily@gmail.com

    This is a fantastic, thank you so much for sharing. The “seeds of bias are planted with fleeting thoughts” line perfectly highlights why microaggressions are not trivial things to be laughed off: Racism does not form in a vacuum, and it is so important to identify and change problematic thoughts and behaviors.

  17. juliette m

    You are always so spot on. This, with a few differences, echoes much of what I have experienced. Biggest and only Black girl in my class in grade school. In the “gifted” class but teachers/parents were always confused by my presence. I always loved clothes and so started to dress my body the way I felt I wanted to (mostly “tailored with an edge”, LOL) and being a well dress fat girl REALLY confused people. (This was 20 or so years ago.) When I started wearing my hair natural, the twist out or afro with the business suit seemed to confused them even more.
    Things are a bit better but non people of color still seemed surprised/confused/(even a bit resentful?) that the Book Review is my favorite section of the paper, I read mysteries and I love beautiful, colorful clothes. No, I am not an f-ing exception.
    Thank you Ms. Cece, thank you! Sharing this on my FB page….

    1. "M"

      “Biggest and only Black girl in my class in grade school. In the “gifted” class but teachers/parents were always confused by my presence.”

      I am sorry you were stereotyped like that. That i s*not* okay.

  18. juliette14147@gmail.com

    You are always so spot on. This, with a few differences, echoes much of what I have experienced. Biggest and only Black girl in my class in grade school. In the “gifted” class but teachers/parents were always confused by my presence. I always loved clothes and so started to dress my body the way I felt I wanted to (mostly “tailored with an edge”, LOL) and being a well dress fat girl REALLY confused people. (This was 20 or so years ago.) When I started wearing my hair natural, the twist out or afro with the business suit seemed to confused them even more.Things are a bit better but non people of color still seemed surprised/confused/(even a bit resentful?) that the Book Review is my favorite section of the paper, I read mysteries and I love beautiful, colorful clothes. No, I am not an f-ing exception.
    Thank you Ms. Cece, thank you! Sharing this on my FB page….

    1. themidnightmusic@gmail.com

      “Biggest and only Black girl in my class in grade school. In the “gifted” class but teachers/parents were always confused by my presence.”

      I am sorry you were stereotyped like that. That i s*not* okay.

  19. deloris

    I didn’t get it a lot as a child, but I got it more as a adult, I noticed men would tap me and say that didn’t hurt, when in fact it did….also I kinda like it but I get the looks as if I am intimidating until they get to know I am a sweetheart….I live in an area where I don’t mind as much if they are intimidated by my looks….but when children look at me as if I’m scary its kinda confusing to me especially since they hv parents also on the big side….. in a nut shell the post was beautifully written and I thank you for the eye opening observation.

  20. dmartin3332@gmail.com

    I didn’t get it a lot as a child, but I got it more as a adult, I noticed men would tap me and say that didn’t hurt, when in fact it did….also I kinda like it but I get the looks as if I am intimidating until they get to know I am a sweetheart….I live in an area where I don’t mind as much if they are intimidated by my looks….but when children look at me as if I’m scary its kinda confusing to me especially since they hv parents also on the big side….. in a nut shell the post was beautifully written and I thank you for the eye opening observation.

  21. Kim Johnson Birnbaum

    Beautifully written, CeCe! I agree with Nicole…you should submit this somewhere! I don’t know what it’s like to be black or of any kind of dark skin, or to be a large child, but I do know what it’s like to be a teacher and see some co-workers act the way the teachers you described treated you…I wish they could all read what effect they have on children’s lives when they act that way. My children had to grow up as the only Jewish children in their school, along with only a couple of Muslims and a few Hindu or Sikhs, in a school of almost all Christian children who celebrated Christmas or Easter. It was very difficult for them to participate in “multicultural winter holiday” activities that were really just “Christmas around the world.” I made sure that every year their teachers had some Hanukkah decorations to add to their classrooms, as well as children’s books to read about Hanukkah and Passover..both of which are basically “freedom” celebrations. When I taught elementary school, I made sure we had a multi-cultural calendar in our classroom, and celebrated each holiday we came across throughout the year, and had lots of books on my shelves that were multicultural. I sincerely feel this helped all of my students to grow into kinder, more understanding people, as well as celebrating all of my students with different colored skin, beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. Since I stopped teaching due to health reasons, and due to those health issues and different medications, I am now close to 100 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day. I can certainly appreciate being looked at differently as a large person than as a smaller person. I’ve heard comments, even from doctors: why don’t you just exercise? why don’t you just stop eating so much? I want to say back “why don’t you just learn to keep your mouth shut??!” Your posts have really helped me learn to celebrate what I am right now, instead of trying to hide. Keep writing!!! And publish!!! 🙂

  22. kbirnbaum@sbcglobal.net

    Beautifully written, CeCe! I agree with Nicole…you should submit this somewhere! I don’t know what it’s like to be black or of any kind of dark skin, or to be a large child, but I do know what it’s like to be a teacher and see some co-workers act the way the teachers you described treated you…I wish they could all read what effect they have on children’s lives when they act that way. My children had to grow up as the only Jewish children in their school, along with only a couple of Muslims and a few Hindu or Sikhs, in a school of almost all Christian children who celebrated Christmas or Easter. It was very difficult for them to participate in “multicultural winter holiday” activities that were really just “Christmas around the world.” I made sure that every year their teachers had some Hanukkah decorations to add to their classrooms, as well as children’s books to read about Hanukkah and Passover..both of which are basically “freedom” celebrations. When I taught elementary school, I made sure we had a multi-cultural calendar in our classroom, and celebrated each holiday we came across throughout the year, and had lots of books on my shelves that were multicultural. I sincerely feel this helped all of my students to grow into kinder, more understanding people, as well as celebrating all of my students with different colored skin, beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. Since I stopped teaching due to health reasons, and due to those health issues and different medications, I am now close to 100 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day. I can certainly appreciate being looked at differently as a large person than as a smaller person. I’ve heard comments, even from doctors: why don’t you just exercise? why don’t you just stop eating so much? I want to say back “why don’t you just learn to keep your mouth shut??!” Your posts have really helped me learn to celebrate what I am right now, instead of trying to hide. Keep writing!!! And publish!!! 🙂

  23. Edward L. Jordan

    Excellent piece CeCe! Unfortunately, because of my legal work, I can tell you that there is a connection between what you’ve raised herein and the “defenses” defendants have used re: Black women. “Being big” is in fact used as a defense for wrong doing! And those same comments were made re: Eric Garner.
    My sister also had similar experiences K-6! A smaller girl was picking on her and my sister fought back. The principal basically told my mother my sister should not have fought back because she was “bigger” than the other girl. My mother calmly let the principal know that “size” was NO BARRIER to defending oneself.
    Unfortunately, whether as children or adults people don’t think about the ramifications of what they say:-( On the milder side- it leads to “embarrassing moments.” On the more severe side the consequences could be deadly.

  24. edward.jordan65@gmail.com

    Excellent piece CeCe! Unfortunately, because of my legal work, I can tell you that there is a connection between what you’ve raised herein and the “defenses” defendants have used re: Black women. “Being big” is in fact used as a defense for wrong doing! And those same comments were made re: Eric Garner.My sister also had similar experiences K-6! A smaller girl was picking on her and my sister fought back. The principal basically told my mother my sister should not have fought back because she was “bigger” than the other girl. My mother calmly let the principal know that “size” was NO BARRIER to defending oneself.
    Unfortunately, whether as children or adults people don’t think about the ramifications of what they say:-( On the milder side- it leads to “embarrassing moments.” On the more severe side the consequences could be deadly.

  25. Janay Mckoy

    I can relate to this on so many levels. I am big and I am black. I struggled with this in my adolescence as well. I was teased for being the bigger kid in class. It became even harder for me when the signs of my PCOS began to show on my face, at such an early age. I learned depression and shame at very young age. It took well into my adulthood to learn to embrace who I am in life and what I see in the mirror. I too am trying to grow as a woman and change the way I think. I have been thinking recently, why is it that when we hear of someone’s passing and see a picture, we sometimes say “she was pretty, or he was handsome”. This should not reflect the way we view someones’ passing. Death is hard no matter what. This is just something I am trying to be more conscience of.

  26. janay24hrls@gmail.com

    I can relate to this on so many levels. I am big and I am black. I struggled with this in my adolescence as well. I was teased for being the bigger kid in class. It became even harder for me when the signs of my PCOS began to show on my face, at such an early age. I learned depression and shame at very young age. It took well into my adulthood to learn to embrace who I am in life and what I see in the mirror. I too am trying to grow as a woman and change the way I think. I have been thinking recently, why is it that when we hear of someone’s passing and see a picture, we sometimes say “she was pretty, or he was handsome”. This should not reflect the way we view someones’ passing. Death is hard no matter what. This is just something I am trying to be more conscience of.

  27. Guest

    I can relate to this on all levels. I am Big and Black. I have struggled with this is my adolescence and this only became worst when my signs of PCOS began to show on my face. This was so hard for me because I couldn’t understand why I was so different from the other kids. I also learned that I was treated differently because I was Big, Black and I have PCOS. It took me all the way into my adulthood to learn to embrace who I am and what I see in the mirror. I too am also learning to change the way that I think. It dawned on me the other day, why is it that when we hear of someone’s passing and see a picture of them, we sometimes reply “he was so handsome or she was so pretty” (as if to say if he or she were ugly it would be okay). This should not change your perspective on a persons death.

  28. anonymized-1733930192@disqus.com

    I can relate to this on all levels. I am Big and Black. I have struggled with this is my adolescence and this only became worst when my signs of PCOS began to show on my face. This was so hard for me because I couldn’t understand why I was so different from the other kids. I also learned that I was treated differently because I was Big, Black and I have PCOS. It took me all the way into my adulthood to learn to embrace who I am and what I see in the mirror. I too am also learning to change the way that I think. It dawned on me the other day, why is it that when we hear of someone’s passing and see a picture of them, we sometimes reply “he was so handsome or she was so pretty” (as if to say if he or she were ugly it would be okay). This should not change your perspective on a persons death.

  29. Christine in DC

    Wow, CeCe, powerful stuff. I was a big white girl, so I can’t begin to understand how it feels to be black in this country, though I do relate to the big girl stuff. I was teased…I wouldn’t say mercilessly, but enough that specific incidents have stayed with me for 30 years and they impacted my self esteem for years. For me, I think I spent 5 grades in elementary school fearing weigh in day. WTH was that?! It was so humiliating. I tried so hard to not have the scale seen, and all the kids would compare their numbers. The school nurse scared me; I was always afraid she would be weighing us. How sad is that?

    It’s funny, I’ve always thought big black girls had it a little easier, at least within the black community. Not “easier” in most aspects of life, just in body acceptance. Just goes to show you that no one can know what people are feeling.

  30. cmgraziano@gmail.com

    Wow, CeCe, powerful stuff. I was a big white girl, so I can’t begin to understand how it feels to be black in this country, though I do relate to the big girl stuff. I was teased…I wouldn’t say mercilessly, but enough that specific incidents have stayed with me for 30 years and they impacted my self esteem for years. For me, I think I spent 5 grades in elementary school fearing weigh in day. WTH was that?! It was so humiliating. I tried so hard to not have the scale seen, and all the kids would compare their numbers. The school nurse scared me; I was always afraid she would be weighing us. How sad is that?
    It’s funny, I’ve always thought big black girls had it a little easier, at least within the black community. Not “easier” in most aspects of life, just in body acceptance. Just goes to show you that no one can know what people are feeling.

  31. 1josephamos@gmail.com

    Thanks for pointing out some of the biases that I’ve held. I constantly have to remind myself I don’t know that “big” person’s story.
    And I love the empowering message you send with this site!

    PS I wouldn’t have laughed at lil’ Oprah

  32. Joseph Amos

    Thanks for pointing out some of the biases that I’ve held. I constantly have to remind myself I don’t know that “big” person’s story.

    And I love the empowering message you send with this site!

    PS I wouldn’t have laughed at lil’ Oprah

  33. Clever Girl Reviews

    I liked this piece! I can’t really speak authoritatively on topics of race other than “white people problems”. I feel I can speak to larger black women or men being used as punchlines. I’m not sure I can point out a certain instance but I’ve always felt those individuals are automatically classified as “sassy”. Elderly black women in film too. It’s type casting to be sure.

    I’m not sure my opinion is valid so feel free to correct me here but I’ve always felt that the majority of my curvier african american friends were more accepted by their communities (that I saw) or even more accepted as curvy being OK for them because of their race (at work or friend groups) while the Caucasian or Asian gals in my circles or co-workers were less accepted body wise because we’re supposed to be skinny. I can remember many men at the water coolers/corporate cafes (and some women too) openly discussing how the darker skinned or Latina women filled out their jeans so well where women of similar shapes and different ethnicities needed to hit the gym because they looked dumpy.

    I had a dear friend and co-worker give me a tip on some great jeans for women with huge butts and little waists and I bought the same jeans she was wearing that weekend. We both wore them often to work and she always garnered compliments where as I didn’t. Is it just me? Am I crazy? Is this just a west coast phenomenon?

  34. erin@clevergirlreviews.com

    I liked this piece! I can’t really speak authoritatively on topics of race other than “white people problems”. I feel I can speak to larger black women or men being used as punchlines. I’m not sure I can point out a certain instance but I’ve always felt those individuals are automatically classified as “sassy”. Elderly black women in film too. It’s type casting to be sure.

    I’m not sure my opinion is valid so feel free to correct me here but I’ve always felt that the majority of my curvier african american friends were more accepted by their communities (that I saw) or even more accepted as curvy being OK for them because of their race (at work or friend groups) while the Caucasian or Asian gals in my circles or co-workers were less accepted body wise because we’re supposed to be skinny. I can remember many men at the water coolers/corporate cafes (and some women too) openly discussing how the darker skinned or Latina women filled out their jeans so well where women of similar shapes and different ethnicities needed to hit the gym because they looked dumpy.

    I had a dear friend and co-worker give me a tip on some great jeans for women with huge butts and little waists and I bought the same jeans she was wearing that weekend. We both wore them often to work and she always garnered compliments where as I didn’t. Is it just me? Am I crazy? Is this just a west coast phenomenon?

  35. Alison

    I am just now seeing this article, and I’m really appreciating your connecting race, gender, and fat shaming in such a thoughtful way. It reminded me of Eddie Bautista’s argument that Eric Garner’s murder reflects two forms of institutionalized racism: the way that our society views black male bodies, and the way that poor people of color are disproportionately forced to live in areas with greater pollution, less access to fresh food, and fewer opportunities for outdoor exercise. At first, I was surprised to hear someone argue that asthma, rather than race, played such a role in Garner’s being strangled by a police officer. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed that they were intertwined — you can’t separate racism from perceptions of black masculinity and ideas about the body. Thank you for sharing your own thoughts and experiences, and for giving us another way to think about how we live our lives and treat each other.

  36. allison.bigelow@gmail.com

    I am just now seeing this article, and I’m really appreciating your connecting race, gender, and fat shaming in such a thoughtful way. It reminded me of Eddie Bautista’s argument that Eric Garner’s murder reflects two forms of institutionalized racism: the way that our society views black male bodies, and the way that poor people of color are disproportionately forced to live in areas with greater pollution, less access to fresh food, and fewer opportunities for outdoor exercise. At first, I was surprised to hear someone argue that asthma, rather than race, played such a role in Garner’s being strangled by a police officer. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed that they were intertwined — you can’t separate racism from perceptions of black masculinity and ideas about the body. Thank you for sharing your own thoughts and experiences, and for giving us another way to think about how we live our lives and treat each other.

  37. Nondumiso Meu Jwara

    I came accross this brilliant article last night. Coincidentally I was trying to deal with the events of the day that left me resentful of God for creating me black, very dark, short and chubby. You have helped me to understand that the way I have been treated since my childhood, school years, university and now workplace is as I have always felt infact motivated by people’s perceptions of me based on my physical appearence. I continue on my journey of positivityregardless. I wish you all the best in 2015 and beyond. Stay beautiful and blessed.

  38. ikhethelo1@yahoo.com

    I came accross this brilliant article last night. Coincidentally I was trying to deal with the events of the day that left me resentful of God for creating me black, very dark, short and chubby. You have helped me to understand that the way I have been treated since my childhood, school years, university and now workplace is as I have always felt infact motivated by people’s perceptions of me based on my physical appearence. I continue on my journey of positivityregardless. I wish you all the best in 2015 and beyond. Stay beautiful and blessed.

  39. Kat Christian

    Thank you so much! I am a Girl Guide Leader (Same thing as Girl Scouts) and I was looking through a body Image powerpoint I had found on the internet. It was quite useful until it said this “Women of colour generally have a very positive body image…” and I remembered growing up. All my friends that weren’t white had at one point or another been mocked for their race. And that impacted their confidence. So now I’ll be showing my Guides this for sure!!

  40. katrina.christian@hotmail.com

    Thank you so much! I am a Girl Guide Leader (Same thing as Girl Scouts) and I was looking through a body Image powerpoint I had found on the internet. It was quite useful until it said this “Women of colour generally have a very positive body image…” and I remembered growing up. All my friends that weren’t white had at one point or another been mocked for their race. And that impacted their confidence. So now I’ll be showing my Guides this for sure!!

  41. CF Sista

    This just happened to me while at an “upscale” (read:mostly white-person occupied) grocery store this past Sunday. (I am “death” fat, black, was wearing a headscarf and sunglasses. THE SHOCK! THE HORROR! *EEP!!*) I went to the deli counter, and while there were workers behind the counter, no one even bothered to come up to the front and acknowledge me. I was going to wait and see how long it took before I had to shout out my existence. However, a white woman came up to the counter and was acknowledged within seconds and she had the forethought of mind to nod her head toward my direction and say, “That woman was here before me,” which, in and of itself, is a rarity. Sadly, that’s how it goes most times.

    When I went to the checkout stand, the cashier was a younger-appearing black woman, and she was cool–no problem. The bagger was a white guy. I bought some flowers for my husband, and after he was done bagging my items, I noticed that all of a sudden, the bagger had come around the stand and was at my side, telling me how to care of my flowers. (“Now, you gotta cut those and put them in warm water!”) o_O I have been buying flowers for a couple of decades now, and at this point in my life, I really don’t need instructions on how to take care of them. I was mildly offended and simply responded, “I’M AWARE!” I looked at the Sista, we exchanged knowing glances, and she wished me a good day.

    Now, I know someone out there is gonna play “Devil’s Advo,” but on the real, I have NEVER had that happen to me before and found it rather odd. I could see if I asked the guy or the associate ringing me up a question on how to care for the flowers, but I didn’t. I wonder if the white guy assumed that the fat, black chick with the headscarf either appeared too “ghetto” to know how to take care of fresh flowers, so he took it upon himself to “help me out with that.” :/

  42. vlm123@gmail.com

    This just happened to me while at an “upscale” (read:mostly white-person occupied) grocery store this past Sunday. (I am “death” fat, black, was wearing a headscarf and sunglasses. THE SHOCK! THE HORROR! *EEP!!*) I went to the deli counter, and while there were workers behind the counter, no one even bothered to come up to the front and acknowledge me. I was going to wait and see how long it took before I had to shout out my existence. However, a white woman came up to the counter and was acknowledged within seconds and she had the forethought of mind to nod her head toward my direction and say, “That woman was here before me,” which, in and of itself, is a rarity. Sadly, that’s how it goes most times.
    When I went to the checkout stand, the cashier was a younger-appearing black woman, and she was cool–no problem. The bagger was a white guy. I bought some flowers for my husband, and after he was done bagging my items, I noticed that all of a sudden, the bagger had come around the stand and was at my side, telling me how to care of my flowers. (“Now, you gotta cut those and put them in warm water!”) o_O I have been buying flowers for a couple of decades now, and at this point in my life, I really don’t need instructions on how to take care of them. I was mildly offended and simply responded, “I’M AWARE!” I looked at the Sista, we exchanged knowing glances, and she wished me a good day.

    Now, I know someone out there is gonna play “Devil’s Advo,” but on the real, I have NEVER had that happen to me before and found it rather odd. I could see if I asked the guy or the associate ringing me up a question on how to care for the flowers, but I didn’t. I wonder if the white guy assumed that the fat, black chick with the headscarf either appeared too “ghetto” to know how to take care of fresh flowers, so he took it upon himself to “help me out with that.” :/

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