Stereotypes Of African American Women

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African American women are considered the most disadvantaged group vulnerable to discrimination and harassment. Researchers have concluded that their racial and gender classification may explain their vulnerable position within society, despite the strides these women have made in education, employment, and progressing their families and communities (Chavous et al. 2004; Childs 2005; Hunter 1998; Settles 2006; Wilkins 2012). Most people agree that race and gender categories are explained as the biological differences between individuals in our society; however sociologists understand that race and gender categories are social constructions that are maintained on micro and macro levels. Historically, those in power who control the means of production Stereotypes strongly influence how people interact, communicate, and establish relationships with others around them (Fries-Britt and Griffin 2007). In mainstream America, black women are often stereotypically portrayed as sex workers, welfare queens, blue-collar service workers, video vixens, and entertainers (Collins 2004). Within these stereotypical depictions, black women are viewed as loud, angry, ghetto, hypersexual, and sometimes violent (Chavous et al. 2004; Childs 2005; Collins 2004; Nguyen & Anthony 2014; Wilkins 2012). In contrast, positive stereotypes of black women showcase them as strong, independent, resilient, loyal to their families and romantic partners, and responsible for sustaining the African American family. These images promote constructive illustrations of black women even though popularized images negatively portray black women (Chavous et al. 2004; Settles 2006; Wilkins 2012). These stereotypes of black women describe positive characteristics that many black women tend to ascribe to and attain. I argue that even though these stereotypes may yield positive behaviors from black women, they are still considered stereotypes because the majority will utilize these stereotypes to negatively categorize black women. In the words of Pat Hill Collins (2004: 263), “African American women’s race and gender classification disadvantages them”. Thus, these being black and being a woman. Scholars convey that African American women are involved in what’s called the “double threat” where membership in more than one oppressed social group results in cumulative risk outcomes (Brown 2000; Chavous et. al 2004; Childs 2005; Steele 1992; 1997). Black women may also experience stress due to unrealistic stereotypes. For example, research has revealed that black women experience “double threat” when they apply for housing from a white landlord. Results conclude that white landlords perceive black women as the “black single mother” stereotype, therefore they refuse to provide them with adequate housing (Iceland and Wilkes 2006; Roscigno et al. 2009). Black women actively seek to resist the positive and negative stereotypes for fear that embodying them will result in validation of those categorizations (Chavous et al. 2004; Fries-Britt & Griffin 2007; Rollock, Gillborn, Vincent & Ball 2011; Settles 2006; Steele 1997). Black women may not have intended to perpetuate stereotypes in the presence of others, but are subjected to social pressures to normalize these stereotypes for others and pigeonhole themselves in counteractive representations of black women (Childs 2005; Wilkins 2012). Steele (1992) described this process as “stereotype threat” which occurs when individuals perceive that negative stereotypes about their group as

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