Stereotypes and Contrast Affecting African-American Women

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Stereotypes and Contrast Affecting African-American Women

In colonial times, white men often viewed white women with suspicion and distrust. They associated white women with sexuality. However, as time passed, white women were no longer portrayed as sexual temptresses. They became celebrated as the “nobler half of humanity” and depicted as goddesses rather than sinners. White women were thereafter represented as virtuous, pure and innocent. Conversely, the historical and social experiences of African women during the same period resulted in numerous images that defined African American women as deviant. In 1744, Edward Long, a British colonial administrator and historian, supported slavery through his published writings and drew some interesting conclusions about African women. He characterized them as “ignorant. crafty, treacherous, thievish, and mistrustful.”

For centuries, African American women have been contrasted with white women. While the Victorian concept of “true womanhood” defined white women as possessing unquestionable moral character, African American women were defined as immoral and sinful. To white men of the era, women of all races were considered property to use and abuse. The abuse took different forms. White women, though often not subject to the same degree of physical and psychological abuse measured out to women of color, were thought of as the property of their husbands or fathers. To uphold the honor of white women, white males felt a need to protect their women from others. Slave women, often separated from their husbands, brothers and sons, also depended on protection, but unfortunately it would be lacking from their owners. These and other differences between perceptions of African American and white women stem from the fact that historically, African Americans have not received the same protection of the law as their white counterparts. In addition, African American women are forced to combat the dual stereotypes of race...
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