It takes a lot of confidence to be this ridiculous.
Nine times out of ten
When I ask you to describe me
I’ve found that the words loud, sassy, and angry
Make an appearance.
And the curves and contours
And the ripples of my body
Poked and prodded in the same breath you use to berate me.
In my eyes you see red
If you see me at all
And to you I’m made of straw
Packed and thrown into others
Burnt at the stake on any given day
I am a caricature.
And the fingers you click with
And the neck you crack as you attempt to mimic the way I move my back
Failing to capture my essence
You are mistaken.
And when I raise my voice
And when I cry
And I bare my soul to a passerby
You strip me of my humanity and attempt to block my blessings
Because to you
I am angry.
Extract from The Root:
Beginning in the early 1830s, the first “black women” American audiences saw on the American stage were minstrel “Negro wenches.” Using burned cork and greasepaint to blacken their skin, white men in their performances as black men and women became wildly popular in the mid-19th century. White men used crude drag along with the burned cork to mark black women as grotesque, loudmouthed, masculine and undeserving of the protections afforded to white “ladies” in American society.
Black women were ridiculed on the minstrel stage. Mammies were fat, monstrous, asexual and loyal caretakers of white children and neglectful of their own. Jezebel characters, often called “mulatto” or “yellow gal,” were fair-skinned, disloyal, greedy and hypersexual but not portrayed as beautiful. These blustering women yelled at their spouses and acted loud and inappropriately in otherwise genteel, public spaces to demonstrate all the ways that they were different from white women. The distance from and disdain for black women was reinforced by the fact that although white women were stage performers in the 19th century, it was thought to be too bawdy and low for them to blacken their skin for the minstrel stage.
These stereotypes served the needs of a slave regime that wanted to justify the sexual exploitation of enslaved women by painting them as Jezebels, like the biblical wanton woman whose promiscuity and controlling nature was her supposed undoing. The rapes of enslaved women could be laughed away on a minstrel stage that showed black women as temptresses who wanted nothing but money and sexual attention. The mammy stereotype painted over the ways in which black mothers were forced to raise and nurture white children to the detriment of their own families.
For more on the background of this pernicious stereotype, follow this link:
And this one:
And please remember that this is no longer a US only phenomenon.
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