“Why are your lips so big?” “Why do you wear braids, is that your real hair?” Blackness was forced upon me at an early age. I often reminisce about my early childhood when, as far as I knew, “black” was merely the color of a tire and nothing more.
Fast forward a few years. I’m already feeling excluded since I was physically and mentally dissimilar to the other suburban students attending my elementary school and my insecurities were bound to be enhanced as I regularly watched television series (whose intended audiences were adolescents) where blacks were adversely portrayed, characterized as obnoxious, ignorant, subhuman buffoons. The black female characters – even worse. We are the angriest, most aggressive, classless species (according to the media and popular culture). This toxic exposure marks the corruption of my childhood, infiltrated by the media and society’s predetermined expectations of me. Gradually, I experienced, what I now know to label, a self-fulfilling prophecy, behaving according to others’ beliefs. Sitting in class thinking these whites kids are depending on me to oppose authority in a sassy, belligerent manner for their humor. And I did so. I wish I could go back in time and slap myself.
“This toxic exposure marks the corruption of my childhood, infiltrated by the media and society’s predetermined expectations of me”
Assuming most people do not recognize the detrimental impact that one-dimensional personifications of black women have on society, my purest intentions for writing this article is to replace society’s unconscious negative interpretations of black women with a cognitive understanding that subliminal messages within the media have accumulated their prejudice perceptions of black women.
Out of the few times that black women receive representation in the media, they are likely to perform roles with pessimistic, downbeat story lines. Although some popular shows appear to grant respectable black female roles, the public remains extorted by subtle implications of stereotypical attributes. For example, television shows such as How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal may fool the average audience by casting professional, successful black women, however, their promiscuity reflects the typical over-sexualized-Jezebel persona. Historically, the Jezebel stereotype primarily served as justification for slave masters to sexually take advantage of their slaves using the validation that black women voraciously yearn sex. Presently, Olivia Pope, the main character in Scandal, epitomizes the black female home-wrecker who stimulates the white man’s fetishization of black women, resulting in an ongoing affair. Similarly, Annalise Keating, the main character in How to Get Away with Murder, cheats on her husband, symbolizing an inability to control her sexual desires. Overall, both mainstream series promote the idea of nihilism within the black female community.
In the meantime, shows such as Being Mary Jane showcase the trivial bitter, depressed single black woman who is in her late 30’s (sometimes 40’s) and struggles to find a soulmate; typically, due to the fact that she has an uncooperative attitude that leaves society repulsed from engaging in any form of intimate relationship with her. For this reason, 48% of black women have never been married; this statistic does not just coincidentally coincide with the white media’s depiction of black women as bad-tempered and difficult to please. Manipulative entertainment lessens the quality of black females (as if our structurally racist and patriarchal country needs assistance in doing so). To advance my argument, reality shows that feature black women, destructively intensify all preconceived notions since the genre itself makes the implicit claim that these actors are real, authentic, accurate replicas of black women when, in reality, they get hired to present the same exaggerated stereotypes.
“Considering this phenomenon and the way black women are characterized, the human brain is left to develop a generalized opinion of an entire group of people; most of the time, they have no credible insight pertaining to that specific race, culture, or environment.”
Reality TV shows such as Basketball Wives illustrate the marginalized, underachieved, dependent-of-their-man, black female gold-digger. Similarly, other reality TV shows such as Bad Girls Club, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Love & Hip Hop relay the drained pattern of black women being revealed as confrontational and dramatic. On the other hand, aside from television series, the news does a phenomenal job of disgracefully featuring black “crack heads” pregnant with “crack babies,” strengthening the stereotype that black women are immorally irresponsible. In the same way, the news incorporates political, economical issues while indirectly, yet, obviously blaming what they consider lazy, single, black “welfare queens” for the nation’s financial deficits. It seems as if everywhere I look my sistas are misrepresented.
Our society is continuously bombarded with negative portrayals of black women, and as psychology proves, too much of anything affects your mentality. Considering this phenomenon and the way black women are characterized, the human brain is left to develop a generalized opinion of an entire group of people; most of the time, they have no credible insight pertaining to that specific race, culture, or environment.
To any young black queen struggling to find their place or self-identity, let me tell you, it is in reach. Don’t fall for the trick of being marginalized. Be yourself. It is natural to feel insecure; it took me years to tackle my insecurities. But after it all, I am confident to a fault. I am so optimistic it’s borderline delusional. I acquire knowledge on a daily basis. I am so articulate white folks come at me like, “wow I never knew you were this smart,” I am reserved, modest, educated, and classy. I am wonderfully black.