excerpted from: Internalized Racism among African Americans: the Connections and Considerations for African American Lesbians and Bisexual Women: a Clinical Psychological Perspective
Jewelle Gomez observes that “[p]assing is an obscene form of salvation. Just as a black woman passing for white is required to deny everything about her past, a black lesbian who passes for heterosexual is required to deny everything about her present.” Gomez’s writings provide us with eloquent analyses of the silence about African American lesbian and bisexual women in African American communities and the silencing of African American lesbian and bisexual women themselves. It is appropriate to define this group. African American lesbian and bisexual women are a large and diverse group represented in every age group, socioeconomic class, educational level, physical ability, and geographical region. Their diversity must be considered in understanding their individual identities and the wide range of those identities. Because African American lesbian and bisexual women have multiple identities, we cannot make arbitrary assumptions about which of those identities is most salient to a given individual. Moreover, we cannot even assume that one identity is ever more important than the others. Furthermore, identities shift in salience depending on the social context a woman is in at any given time and during different developmental periods of her life.
Was written in May - but this is just as relevant right now
When we embrace our curvy bodies, we’re told we’re fat. When we accept our thin frames, we’re accused of lazy or bad cooks. We’ve been charged with nursing and caring for the children of our white employers from Antebellum times through today, but we’re constantly being portrayed as bad mothers. We put a weave in our hair trying conform to a beauty standard that has nothing to do with us and we’re still called “nappy-headed hoes”. When we go to school, get degrees and a career, we’re “un-marry-able”. If we work and have kids early instead of going to school, same thing happens. When we or others decide to celebrate us, white women scream out “REVERSE RACISM” but we have to comb through 50-11 magazines with white women on every page to find ONE with a Black woman on the cover. We bare it all in a video or keep condoms in our nightstands and we’re called sluts. We dedicate ourselves to The Church or are decidedly single and we’re prudes or “bitter”. All too often, we are forced to choose our race over our gender or risk feeling the wrath of our Brothers, despite having to live with the realities of both. From Saartjie Baartman aka “Venus Hottentot” to Satoshi Kanazawa’s “scientific” study claiming Black women being less physically attractive than EVERYBODY else, we’ve been studied like freaks of nature instead of just regarded as human beings with the same value as all others.
We’re pretty much damned if we do, damned if we don’t. So, the stereotype of “The Angry Black Woman” is rooted in a very visceral truth. We’re tired of this shyt. Stop telling us to stop getting upset. Stop telling us to not be mad despite having to deal with this crap ALL THE TIME. Why are we supposed to put up with this reckless disregard for our humanity with a smile on our face? Because we’re women? Because we’re Black? Please, miss me with that bull. We are HUMAN first. This anger is righteous and all ignoring it and the causes of it will do is create a dyspeptic breeding ground for spiritual, psychological, social and physical dis-ease.
The portrayal of Black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, White women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but Black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of Black women is signified by the name Jezebel.2
K. Sue Jewell, a contemporary sociologist, conceptualized the Jezebel as a tragic mulatto – “thin lips, long straight hair, slender nose, thin figure and fair complexion.”3 This conceptualization is too narrow. It is true that the “tragic mulatto” and “Jezebel” share the reputation of being sexually seductive, and both are antithetical to the desexualized “Mammy” caricature; nevertheless, it is a mistake to assume that only, or even mainly, fair-complexioned Black women were sexually objectified by the larger American society. From the early 1630s to the present, Black American women of all shades have been portrayed as hypersexual “bad-black-girls.”4
Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to serve in the United States Congress. An early education expert, Shirley Chisholm was elected to the New York Legislature in 1964 and to Congress in 1968. She ran for president in 1972, winning 152 delegates before she withdrew. Shirley Chisholm served in Congress until 1983. During her congressional career, Shirley Chisholm was noted for her support for women’s rights, her advocacy of legislation to benefit those in poverty, and her opposition to the Vietnam war.