You’ve seen her before. You know who she is. Read what I think about this stereotype of Black women in pop media and literature.
You know who she is.
You’ve seen her before.
She’s in movies with a mostly white cast or books chocked full of white characters. She is normally married to a white man or is the best friend of a white girl or running in a clique of white and/or wealthy girls (she may even be a snob herself). And even when she’s married to, dating, or in some type of relationship with another Black person or person of color they are the only “colored” people around.
She’s loud. She wears hoop earrings, braids (or heaven forbid unnaturally straight hair or weave usually dyed blond or some shade of blond), some form of typical/atypical ethnic hairstyle, tight pants, short skirts, and low cut, belly-exposing tops. Animal print something is near her (handbag, purse, nails, blankets, sheets, cell phone, earrings, jacket/coat) or there’s an actual live “exotic” animal near her. She dances, sings, cooks, does hair, chauffeurs, is a nanny maid (usually has a close master-slave family relationship with her non-Black employer), and/or makes crass jokes. She is portrayed as wild and exotic, an African mistress, a full-figured fertility goddess abundant in love, maternity, and bosom. She’s a hypersexual animal–rwarrr! She’s a professional dressed in a two-piece suit, middleclass, college educated, frigid bitch with no knowledge of her people’s past–classy not ghetto. Increasingly, she’s Black but she’s mixed with white or something else–the best of both worlds. She’s a prostitute, a mistress, a fast food worker she’s a victim to be used as an example for the author, director, or artist’s white main characters. She’s the only Black woman in the horror movie and she usually dies–very quickly so no one cares or very violently (sometimes like all the other losers in the film or worse than them). She is sometimes promiscuous and/or flirtatious and most likely has children–sometimes several children. If she’s in a comic, manga, cartoon, or anime she’s scantily clad, showing her breasts, legs ass, hips, and thighs and anything else she can put on display; she has big oftentimes glossy lips lots of jewelry and she has music notes inside of speech bubbles. Oftentimes, she is portrayed as violent or plain “gung ho” in the best or worst of situations.
She is the “friend” who says something soulful and inspirational right when her white or “Asian” [term used both cautiously and sarcastically] friend needs it most. But, most of all, she is NEVER the main character. She may only have one or two lines but she always says what her non-Black friend needs to hear most because she is bumbumbum–THE BLACK GIRLFRIEND CHARACTER!!!
Sistas, beware! This stereotype is dangerous. It appears in many different forms and all types of media especially now that America has a “Black president” . White America is now increasingly interested once again in the existence of Black peoples and how the Black folks operate. Books, ads, commercials, movies, daily television, music videos, porn, radio–you name it, she’s probably there. The Black Girlfriend Character or archetype never sleeps.
There was once a time when I would have given anything to see a Black female character in the mainstream but now I’m not so sure I like what I see. Black women are at the bottom of “racial heap” at no fault really of their own but because of a history that continuously and systemically tries to destroy everything that we are through our bodies and the bodies of the women and children around them. We are so much more than stereotypes allow us to be, especially when those stereotypes are being perpetuated outside of ourselves and our communities.
Can we even hope for a better tomorrow?
Though I do try not to be aware of it, but I both hope and expect. More to come on the topic….
[Originally posted to Ms. Queenly’s Blog here.]