Three Stereotypes Black Women Are Still Fighting

Listen. I’m so glad Franchesca Ramsey is heading this series for MTV. Her weekly videos cover relevant concepts and ideas with clarity and precision, and last week’s video “3 Black Female Stereotypes that Need to Die” was no different.

The beauty of MTV’s Decoded Series is how well-done they all are. Although the topics themselves may not seem that complex to some (listing the stereotypes that plague Black women is certainly not new) the videos are an excellent resource across audiences. They simultaneously serve as both a primer and a more detailed summary of historical context. In short, they’re useful and entertaining, and avoid being reductive despite MTV’s mainstream audience.

Like Ramsey’s other videos, this one uses an educational lens to deconstruct three major tropes against which Black women have struggled for decades: the sassy Black friend, the Jezebel, and the Mammy. Ramsey does an excellent job of walking the viewer through each trope, offering examples of their usages, and their history. Despite the fact that these conversations feel old — especially to me, as a Black woman whose lived experience involved a constant navigation of these exact tropes and others — I welcomed the informational, fresh vibe that Ramsey brings to the set.

And of course, it’s also worth noting that the characteristics of the tropes themselves are not inherently bad. If you are a Black woman who identifies with any of the attributes Ramsey mentions in the video, there’s nothing wrong with that. Do you, boo. The onus of resisting stereotypes is absolutely not on the people who those stereotypes are being forcibly pressed up against. They may try to resist those tropes however they can as a means of survival (*cough* respectability politics *cough*), but that will always only provide a conditional kind of protection. The onus of dismantling stereotypes is on the folks who created, recreated and recreated them again: in this case, white folks.

So, let me say again: if you’re a Black woman who finds parts of herself mirrored in those tropes, you still deserve respect. You still deserve to feel like a whole, multi-faceted human. And regardless of what these or any other stereotypes might suggest, without a doubt, you are.

Check out Ramsey’s video above.

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Jacqui Germain is a published poet and freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work is focused on historical and contemporary iterations of black, brown and indigenous resistance. She is also a Callaloo Fellow, and author of "When the Ghosts Come Ashore," published through Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press.

Jacqui Germain is a published poet and freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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