Addy de Leon
Kisha Quesada Turner
17 December 2018
Stereotypes and Racism: The Impact They Have on African Americans
Stereotypes are preconceived notions, especially about a group of people. Many of these stereotypes are racist, sexist and homophobic. Stereotypes can and do damage reputations of people and their cultural background, this is extremely prevalent in the African American community. Stereotypes and generalizations about African Americans and their culture have existed since colonial years, especially due to slavery. Overall, stereotypes affect African Americans greatly but do not only affect a single gender or age, but they also affect men, women, and children. Ultimately, causing social, mental, identity, and cultural damage to a person and their community.
Since stereotypes about African Americans have been around for quite some time, there are some historical phrases that are still alive today. This is true according to Laura Green, a graduate student from Virginia Commonwealth University. In her paper, “Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans”, written for the Jim Crow Museum, states “The racial stereotypes of early American history had a significant role in shaping attitudes toward African-Americans during that time. Images of the Sambo, Jim Crow, the Savage, Mammy, Aunt Jemimah, Sapphire, and Jezebelle may not be as powerful today, yet they are still alive.” (Green). Another example of racist stereotypes of African Americans is the image, “Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (formerly of Primrose & West).” This image portrays a full length and head-and-shoulder, of Tom Lewis and Charles M. Ernest, in “costume”, but actually blackface. These two men were getting ready to perform a show, that uses stereotypes to make fun of African Americans, as entertainment for white people. Regardless of how old these stereotypes are, many of them are still used to this day, such as the Iowa 1st grade teacher, Megan Luloff, who wore blackface for Halloween as a “joke”. All of these examples show how racism and stereotypes still haunt African Americans and their communities after so many years of fighting to be equal.
Although it may seem unlikely to some, racism and stereotypes can affect children. According to research done by Dr. Priest and others, “... youth racism has been associated with a range of negative mental health outcomes, indicators of poor physical health including allostatic load, immune, inflammatory and chronic disease biomarkers, as well as social and cognitive development.” (Priest, et al. 2). What Dr. Priest and others are saying is that a child can only handle so much negativity in their life before “snapping”Many times the children who are exposed to these harsh words and environment, they suffer from mental conditions. Additionally, these children end up developing poor physical health, along with poor social and cognitive development. According to Priest, “This is evident due to the scientific consensus that early life experiences and exposures play a substantive role in later outcomes and inequalities and racism can influence child health and development through multiple pathways.” (Priest, et al. 1). Studies explained throughout this journal describe how African American children in environments of negativity, grow-up with fewer friends or no friends, have a harder time in school and are bullied. These factors contribute to these children's social and health problems. Although, anyone at any age can suffer from stereotypes and racism, children especially due to since they are still developing and are easily influenced. As proven by Priest’s and others research, “Institutional and cultural racism can harm health through stigma, stereotypes, prejudice and racial discrimination.” (Priest, et al. 1). Overall, stereotypes and racism can cause some serious and long-term damage to people, which causes it to be a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
African American women are also affected by peoples racism and stereotypes. In Melissa V. Harris-Perry’s book, Sister Citizen Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, Harris-Perry talks about how many black women in America are still greatly affected by racism and stereotypes. Many black women in today’s world are still racial profiled and stereotyped as someone and something they aren’t. I have witnessed people assume that a colored woman was up to no good in a Walmart before, they were following her around and approached her. Soon after approaching her, it was brought to their attention by the employee's manager that she wasn’t doing anything bad and that the employee was in the wrong. Witnessing that caused me great sadness, it feels like America is still stuck stereotyping and judging people by the color of their skin when we should know better. Furthermore, in an article written by Nicole Phillips, for The New York Times, a woman stated, “ I was attending a Montessori conference in Kansas City with teachers from my sons' school and kept noticing a black woman carrying a baby-changing tote around and wondered if she was part of the hotel cleaning staff. What a surprise to find she was the main speaker for the conference — a world expert on Montessori in public schools. We lose out from experiencing the full blessings life has to offer when we succumb to racial stereotyping.” (Phillips). This woman thought a black woman carrying a baby-changing tote was part of a hotel’s staff. All this woman had to go off was that this woman was black, and was carrying a baby tote, which leads her to falsely assume her occupation and status. This is a great example of how it doesn’t take much for us to racially stereotype and make assumptions about someone. Although stereotyping and racially profiling African American women, it is not as common as it is among African American men.
African American men seem to have the most interactions with racial stereotyping, and racism. According to a journal written by, Mary Beth Oliver Ph.D., “African American Men as ‘Criminal and Dangerous’: Implications of Media Portrayals of Crime on the ‘Criminalization’ of African American Men” discusses how many black males are victims of stereotyping. Dr. Oliver’s article analyzes how African American males are stereotyped as dangerous people and how these can lead to their incarceration or even their deaths. According to Dr. Oliver, the assumption of black males to be dangerous or criminal has risen in the past years. Dr. Oliver states, “Nevertheless, the frequency with which black men specifically have been the target of mistakenly placed police aggression speaks to the undeniable role that race plays in false assumptions of danger and criminality.” (Oliver 3). Dr. Oliver is referring to the many false assumptions people make about African American males. Some being, store clerks who keep an eye of black males who they assume are shoplifters and white women who clutch onto their purses more tightly in front of black men. In Dr. Oliver’s paper, she interviewed Brent Staples, a writer for The New York Times, who recalled his experiences with being a target of fear and mistrust when he was a graduate student. Staples sated to Dr. Oliver, “I was indistinguishable from the muggers who occasionally seeped into the area from the surrounding ghetto.” (Oliver 4). Staples statement referred to how whites would often cross the street or lock their car doors when he approached, assuming that he was potentially violent or threatening. Furthermore, Oliver states in her article, “Given the widespread and persistent stereotyping of African Americans as criminal or threatening, explorations of the sources of stereotyping have examined a wide variety of factors.” (Oliver 4). After thoroughly examining factors of these stereotypes held against African American males, she came to the conclusion, “... that stereotypes are likely the result of a complex and diverse set of variables, making it difficult, if not naïve, to try to isolate a single cause.” (Oliver 4).
Ultimately, as Americans, we need to figure out a way to remove these stereotypes that surround these people. It is unjust and unfair to group African American people into one “idea”, that these people are dangerous, criminals, and violent. There may and will be African American people who do commit crimes or do fit into these stereotypes, but not all do or will. The saying is, “innocent until proven guilty” not “guilty until proven innocent.” These stereotypes affect African Americans greatly but do not only affect a single gender or age, but they also affect men, women, and children. Further, causing social, mental, identity, and cultural damage to a person and their community. Stereotypes can and will lead these people down the wrong path, these people who are called names assumed criminals, or just bullied as kids, will become what we call them. Just telling these people over and over that they are bad, violent, and dangerous, will make them become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oliver, Mary Beth. “African American Men as ‘Criminal and Dangerous’: Implications of Media Portrayals of Crime on the ‘Criminalization’ of African American Men.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, 2003, pp. 3–18., Academic Search Complete, (EBSCOhost). http://lpclibrary.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=13281798&site=ehost-live.
Green, Laura. “Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans.” Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans - Scholarly Essays - Jim Crow Museum - Ferris State University, https://ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/links/essays/vcu.htm
Priest, Naomi, et al. “Stereotyping across Intersections of Race and Age: Racial Stereotyping among White Adults Working with Children.” Plos One, vol. 13, no. 9, Dec. 2018, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, (GALE). http://link.galegroup.com.lpclibrary.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A560248771/OVIC?u=live10669&sid=OVIC&xid=30be06e8.
“Wm. H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee (Formerly of Primrose & West).” Planning D-Day (April 2003) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin, Victor, www.loc.gov/item/2014637049/.
Phillip, Nicole. “9 People Reveal a Time They Racially Stereotyped a Stranger.” The New York Times, 25 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/reader-center/racial-stereotypes.html.
Harris-Perry, Melissa V. Sister Citizen Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. Yale University Press, 2014.