Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stereotypes of African American Women

Stereotypes stick. It is difficult, after a stereotype is set, to undo it. We discussed this briefly in class on Wednesday, referencing the “Mammy” character. African American women have been haunted by this stereotype and stereotypes of different kinds have followed. In a recent interview with NPR, a columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky and proud African American woman Betty Baye, says it is not this “Mammy” stereotype African American women are currently battling.

Ms. Baye states that her ancestors and the African American women that helped lead the civil rights movement would be elated to see the progress of many African American women in this country. Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice and Cathy Hughes would make female activists proud as these women’s successes are seen far more than their skin color is. These women fight the “Mammy” character as they prove that they are strong, able and intelligent women who are able to do great things outside of the house and kitchen.

Even though we still have Aunt Jemima greeting us when we reach for the syrup, the current African American woman stereotype that appears on televisions, computers and in real life has changed greatly. Today, Ms. Baye states, African American women, along with many other women, are stereotyped as the provocative, overtly sexual and hardly clothed woman seen dancing in hip hop and rap music videos. Ms. Baye states that these women are not doing their part in the continuing fight for civil rights-they’re giving in to the modern thinking that these actions are all these women can do. But if dancing in these music videos if what these women enjoy, is it truly a step backwards in the civil rights movement?

Ms. Baye says that women such as Rosa Parks should be saddened by the actions of modern day African American women. I believe that Ms. Baye is focusing too hard on the few women who choose to go down the more provocative path. African American women continue to shine brightly as leaders in the civil rights movement as they become prominent leaders, politicians, doctors, diplomats and many more positions of honor. However, Ms. Baye does make a point in stating that African American women are still prone to being stereotyped simply because it was not long ago that they were faced with the “Mammy” character along with many others. Stereotypes will always exists, evolve and envelope, however they can be proved wrong as they have been so often by African American women.

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