All Articles Tagged "african american stereotypes"

Pass The Watermelon: How I Stopped Being A Slave To Stereotypes

August 26th, 2015 - By Sierra Boone
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

I don’t know what emotion consumed me more after learning that a group of Black women were kicked off of the Wine Train for “laughing too loudly,” sadness or anger. People get louder when they drink; it happens. Part of me was surprised that such an incident could happen in that environment. But all of me knew that tone policing is more than real as a Black woman when it’s already assumed that you speak too loud as is.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to mentally tell myself to speak at a lower volume in my fear of being seen as stereotypical. In fact, for a large portion of my life, I have let Black female stereotypes dictate my actions. It’s time to stop and gain full control over what I choose to do in my life.

Ask anyone what some stereotypes are for Black people and they’ll probably run off at the mouth: fried chicken and watermelon, an innate skill at basketball, and speaking loudly are sure-fire examples. Stereotypes for Black women are just as universally known: we all wear weave, we are angry all of the time, and we all are born with the ability to twerk. Though so many efforts have (successfully) been made to disprove these stereotypes, how many times do we overwork just to say we aren’t stereotypes?

Yes, one of the many problems with racial and gender stereotypes is that every single person of the same overarching identity does not do the exact same thing. But just as this means not all Black people love watermelon, it also means that there are Black people who do and there’s nothing wrong with people in either of these categories. Some Black women don’t speak loudly, but some do; it’s the same with women of every race. We must be there for all of them. Protect and support the Black women that do grow up with their father in the home, but simultaneously don’t shut out the women grew up without their fathers for the sake of disproving a measly stereotype.

Up until recent years, I was a “I don’t wear weave because it’s a stereotype” kind of girl. Never mind the fact that protective styling helps with length retention, I wasn’t going to be “THAT Black.” And now? I’ve gotten so good that I can do my own weaves. I am glad that I don’t let that misogynoir label control me anymore. When I wear weave now, I understand that I am doing what’s best for me, despite what any stereotype may say about me. White women don’t have to do the same double take when they consider wearing weave or adding extensions to their hair, because it isn’t considered a “white thing.” Just as it is offensive to randomly assume that a Black girl can twerk, it is also harmful to condemn a Black girl for twerking.

Black women deserve to have the freedom to throw stereotypes to the wind and act in our own best interests. When I want to fully laugh at a joke someone tells, I don’t want to wonder if I am coming across as “too Black” to anyone. When I am dancing at a party, I don’t want to be self-conscious about whether my butt is moving too much.

It is in part because of these controlling stereotypes that a group of Black women having a good time in a drinking environment were publicly humiliated. On a train with hundreds of people having multiple glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon, I am sure there were plenty of loud people of all ethnicities. I know this to be true from the few hockey games I have attended. And nothing is wrong with having a good time – unless you’re a Black woman.

Yes, I use the words “ain’t” and “bae.” They may be stereotypes, but I do this for me. Yes, I may enjoy wearing hoop earrings; I do it for me. And I will no longer let a stereotype treat me as a puppet who is not the writer of her own story.

Workplace Struggles: The Time My Boss Mistook Me For Erykah Badu

April 14th, 2015 - By Nneka Samuel
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Photo Credit: Karim Sadli

Photo Credit: Karim Sadli

To spice up an otherwise dull and uninspiring space, I’ve been known to switch the background image on my computer’s desktop at work.  I fill the screen with shots of my favorite music artists, faraway lands I’d like to visit, abstract goodness – things that make my heart smile.  Plus, I’ve got that whole dual monitor action going on so I can look over at one screen and be say, “Well, isn’t that pretty?” when I need a distraction. And I need a distraction often because my day job sucks.

Cue in the stunningly bad a** photo of Erykah Badu you see above. A 2014 Givenchy shoot for Purple Fashion Magazine, the pic is a perfect blend of sporty, glamorous elegance. I mean, the woman could rock a band-aid and call it fashion and we would all believe it.

My company’s new CEO, let’s call him Mark, a middle-aged White man who lives and works in a different state, recently visited the office.  This was not our first encounter. We exchanged CEO-employee appropriate pleasantries before: “How about this weather, huh?”  You know,

You know, ish like that.  As Mark made his rounds, he paused when he saw the image of Badu on my computer screen.  I should have expected an off-kilter remark on account of the image’s boldness, but I truly wasn’t prepared for him to ask me, “Is that you?” It sounded like less of a question, actually, and more like a statement. Dumbfounded and in no mood to call him out for being an ignoramus, I said a quick little prayer, took a deep breath and calmly corrected him. “It’s Erykah Badu,” I said. He replied, “Who’s that? I’ve never heard of her.”

As Mark made his rounds, he paused when he saw the image of Badu on my computer screen. I should have expected an off-kilter remark on account of the image’s boldness, but I truly wasn’t prepared for him to ask me, “Is that you?” It sounded like less of a question, actually, and more like a statement. Dumbfounded and in no mood to call him out for being an ignoramus, I said a quick little prayer, took a deep breath, and calmly corrected him. “It’s Erykah Badu,” I said. He replied, “Who’s that? I’ve never heard of her.”

Just kill everything inside of me, why don’t you?

Never mind the fact that Badu has been around for, like, eleventeen hundred years, won four Grammys, graced countless magazine covers, and given interview after interview.  I guess Badu’s music just hadn’t reached his corner of Mars yet.

More importantly, let’s bear in mind here that Erykah Badu and I look nothing alike. Trust me, we look nothing alike. Under other circumstances, I would have been flattered to be mistaken for the iconic beauty and soul maven, but this was a White man saying this, owner of a gaze that historically undervalues Black women. In that moment, I realized that the tired Black people look alike stereotype is still alive and well. To top it off, I was hit with a double whammy: I was being both seen and unseen at the same damn time. Allow me to explain.

Mark’s eyes saw an image of a Black woman. His mind thought, Nneka is a Black woman. Putting two and two together, he wrongfully equated that the two (the image of Badu and me in the flesh) were one and the same. He didn’t utter the stereotype out loud, but he may as well have. In that moment, he saw me solely as a color. These are the same eyes that fail to see Black women’s complexities, our differences, and our inherent, God-given beauty. Eyes that view us as homogenized, one-size-fits-all entities. A mindset that sees no problem in uttering statements like, “She’s pretty for a Black girl,” or that exoticize our so-called otherness. Limited scopes, narrow perspectives.

This all speaks to a much bigger problem found in white-dominated workplaces. According to the Black Women’s Roundtable 2015 Report, Black women in the U.S. with bachelor’s degrees are paid on average $10,000 less than White men with associate’s degrees. And according to a recent Essence Black Women at Work Panel, many Black women in the workforce are afraid of being labeled as the angry Black woman, so they won’t say anything when they find themselves in uncomfortable positions in the office. Mark’s mistake was a clear example of how Black women are often undervalued and unseen, a phenomenon that occurs both in and out of the workplace.

After Mark left, the room fell silent. My coworkers and I laughed and quickly bonded over the awkward exchange. Despite his mistake being an annoying one, Mark’s naivete and questionable comment didn’t keep me from posting and admiring Erykah Badu’s beautiful image on my desktop. And in it, I see all of the eccentricities that make Black women beautiful.

California Private School Offers Students Fried Chicken And Watermelon For Black History Month

February 7th, 2014 - By Rich
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Source; Shutterstock

Source; Shutterstock

Officials at the Carondelet High School for Girls in Northern California are apologizing to outraged parents after a lunch menu change kicked up quite a stir.

According to NBC’s Bay Area affiliate, some students got together and decided that they wanted to come up with ways to observe Black History Month during a lunchtime celebration. The school later announced that they would be serving fried chicken, watermelon and cornbread in honor of the event—something that left other students and parents upset for obvious reasons.

Officials at the girls school held an assembly earlier this week to address controversy and issued an apology letter to students and parents.

“I’d like to apologize for the announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members,” Principal Nancy Libby wrote in the letter. “Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetrate racial stereotypes.”

University of San Francisco professor James Taylor weighed in on the controversy and said that while the menu selection may have been well-intentioned, it’s pretty obvious why so many were offended.

“Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these stereotypes of black Southern culture that come from the same place where the N-word comes from.”

Chair of the African-American Studies Department at San Jose State University, Ruth Wilson, also chimed in, expressing that while the foods themselves weren’t offensive, the history behind the stereotypical association of these foods with African-Americans sparked negative feelings.

Fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon have since been removed from the menu.


Stereotypes Black People Uphold

January 19th, 2012 - By jaebi
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"Stereotyping is bad, unless it's good."

Everyone agrees that stereotypes are wrong but there are a few floating around that most black people don’t take much offense to. In fact, some stereotypes are more a badge of honor for black culture than racial bigotry.

Not only are many black people proud to proclaim these commonly held notions, but if a white person affirms her belief in this lore, you’ll pat her on the back for finally getting it right, thinking “now that’s a cool white person.”

And here they are, black people’s favorite stereotypes:

Why Does BET Get The Scrutiny While VH1 Gets A Pass?

January 4th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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"tami roman"

Sometimes I think Black folks are in a no win situation.  We are damned if we do and we are damned if we don’t.

Take for instance, Debra Lee. Man, the last couple of years have been very bad for her. After taking over the helm in 2005 as H.N.I.C from Robert Johnson, who sold the company and the integrity of BET to Viacom, Lee has been charged with taking all the original programming and transforming it into a steady diet of offensive stereotypes and cheap entertainment for the TV watching audience. And after successfully producing one of the worst Michael Jackson tributes ever during the even more shame-worthy BET awards, Lee topped herself by following through with the premieres of Frankie and Nette and the Tiny and Toya shows.

The backlash came swift. Letters and blog posts were written, anti-B.E.T songs were produced and boycotts were organized.  Folks around the blogosphere expressed their disdain for BET and its usage of hyper sexualized, misogynistic, materialism under the flagship of Black entertainment. They pleaded with Lee to do us a solid and start producing more relevant programming, which presents Black folks in a more positive light.

Hearing the concerns, Lee and BET havebeen trying to get its act together, albeit slowly. Recently it has taken a new approach to improve the brand by researching what their viewers wanted to see.  Of course, the answer was more family-oriented programming. In the last decade or so, the black family has been largely missing from prime time and more than anything, viewers wanted to bring back the golden era of black television which is best represented byThe Cosby Show. So being good stewards to the Black community, BET created a lineup of more family-oriented shows such as “Reed Between the Lines” and “Let’s Stay Together.”

And so far it appears to be working as “Let’s Stay Together,” a romantic comedy involving a contemporary relationships that debuted in January, has averaged around 3 million viewers, helping the network score its biggest ratings in history. And the premiere of “Reed between the Lines,” a new show starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross doing their best Cosby Show impersonation, has pulled in solid numbers since its debut. It seems that things are starting to turn around for the station, and more importantly Lee, who has certainly taken a beating in the Black press.  Not so fast.

Despite BET’s noble attempt to change the face of Black entertainment, its wildly popular sister-network VH1 continues to capture the attention of Black America. It first started out with shows like Flavor of Love and I Love New York and has now expanded into Basketball Wives, Basketball Wives LA and Love & Hip Hop. Both Wives shows and Love & Hip-Hop have been a ratings bonanza for the station.  The network released stats showing that the season finale of Basketball Wives LA drew over 4 million viewers. And the second season premier of “Love & Hip Hop” scored equally high in the 18-49 demographic, making it the most watched episode out of the two seasons. In short, the tawdry agenda of seeing black folks backbiting and backstabbing, which is taboo on B.E.T, has become perfectly acceptable must-see TV on VH1.

Summer’s Eve Pulls Racist “Hail to the V” Ads Amid Backlash

July 28th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Summer's Eve Pulls Racist Hail to the V AdsBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Summer’s Eve has removed its three “Hail to the V” commercials from its web site and YouTube channel, AdWeek is reporting, in response to a national backlash. The jive-talking black hand depicting an African-American vagina did not sit too well with the feminine products market. Nor did the saucy misrepresentation of a Latina vagina. Both reinforced racial stereotypes that ad executives assumed would be entertaining. Summers Eve in reality did a lot of offending, and ended up being mocked by “The Colbert Report.” Now that’s good branding.

AdWeek details the latest moves of Summer’s Eve as it tries to backpedal from this disaster:

Under pressure, agency and client stood by the videos last week, with agency founder Stan Richards saying they were meant to be “relatable,” not stereotypical. But on Wednesday, Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go.

“Stereotyping or being offensive was not our intention in any way, shape, or form,” said Barnett. “The decision to take the videos down is about acknowledging that there’s backlash here. We want to move beyond that and focus on the greater mission.”

Agency and client had expected the campaign to be provocative, Barnett said, but for its frank talk about female anatomy, not for any racial issues. […] “We do not think they are stereotypical, nor did we obviously intend that. However, it’s a subjective point of view,” said Barnett. “There seems to be an important perception out there that they may be, and we would never want to perpetuate that.”

It’s utterly maddening that these culture creators could be so blithe about the perceived nature of what is stereotypical. Their complete ignorance of these issues allowed such offensive ads to make it into the public arena, harming their client and disturbing audiences. Barnett is not in a position now to call the ire they stimulated “subjective.” These opinions came from the audience they claim to want to educate. In actuality, this audience is educating The Richards Group ad firm, which made this mess, on what stereotyping is. Perhaps its leaders should shut up and listen.

Another good idea: clearly apologize to women of color, hire more people of color in decision-making positions at this firm, and keep it moving.

As I pointed out in my previous essay, the stream of skewed portrayals of black women in ads stems from the fact that virtually zero people of color work in the industry in powerful capacities. The defensive and dismissive words of this ad group’s PR exec illustrate the need for integration. If those who are still in control of the main apparatus of cultural production can’t tell what a stereotype is in the 21st century, they need to hire some help.

No, not “The Help.” No more background servitude, secretly empowering the master. Ad firms need to hire well-paid managers of color who can raise a red flag about race issues current leaders may never understand. Otherwise, racism in advertising will continue, perpetuating the same crap in a new century.

“Hail to the V” Ads: Summer’s Eve Serves Up Racist Stereotypes

July 20th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Summer's Eve Hail to the V: RacistBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

The new “Hail to the V” ad campaign from Summer’s Eve is the latest in a recent string of ads that stereotype blacks, particularly black women, in the most disturbing of ways. The campaign is comprised of three different ads, each depicting a woman’s vagina — talking as a vertical “mouthing” hand. That sounds bad enough, but what makes the “Hail to the V” campaign disgusting is how the race and culture of each lady part of color is made aggressively clear. While the white hand gets to talk in an educated voice about wholesome things like going to the gym, the black hand talks about weaves and hitting the club — and the Latina hand? She derides her owner’s tacky leopard thong in a string of Spanish-laced saucy talk.  Really Summer’s Eve?

Truly, this level of racial stereotyping has to be seen to be believed. Exhibit A — The black vagina squawks:


From the “neck swivel” of the black vajayjay’s wrist, to the use of non-existent urban slang made up by ad agency executives who likely have never watched an episode of “Girlfriends,” this travesty of communication packs a whopper of black female cooning. Why didn’t they throw in a reference to waiting in line for your welfare check and keeping your “V” fresh after chasing down your baby daddy? I bet that’s already in the works for the follow-up.

Exhibit B — Oh those fiery Latinas!


I truly could not believe my ears when I heard this accent. Having lived in New York City for 16 years, and knowing many Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans and Peruvians personally, I have never heard anyone talk like this. This is a Latina accent on crystal meth. And you have to wonder why. If this ad was meant to appeal to Latinas, why not depict said woman’s Latina vagina talking in a realistic way? (Okay, I know that doesn’t make any sense, but you have to work with me in this absurd context.)

How Black Women Benefit From Stereotypes in the Workplace

June 22nd, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(The Grio) — Today, more than 25 years later, there’s still a great need to publicly celebrate women of color who are “doin it for themselves”. When it comes to public portrayals and representations in the media, black women have been known to get the short end of the stick, often being cast as villains or scapegoats rather than successful career women and girl power gurus, as Franklin and Lennox once did. From “loud” to “angry” to just plain “unattractive”, we’ve had to face a whole host of negative labels and stereotypes that have surfaced about us and our abilities, some of them with deep-seeded cultural and historical roots.  That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear about the findings of Katherine Phillips, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and an expert in workplace diversity. She recently presented data as a visiting scholar at the Stanford Graduate School of Business demonstrating that black women are actually excelling in education and business, due at least in part to the ways that we are publicly portrayed in popular culture and the media.

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