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African American Women: Understanding The Problems Of Gender And Race

2328 words - 9 pages

African-American Women: Gender and Race
African-American women have often been an overlooked group with the larger context of American Society. Historically, oppression has been meted out to the African-American woman in two ways. Historically, everything afforded to African-American, from educational and employment opportunities to health care have been sub-par. As women they have been relegated even further in a patriarchal society that has always, invariably, held men in higher regard.
Throughout history black women have been referred to as “slave”, “wench”, “nigger” and “mammy” amongst other things. Her children have been referred to as “pickaninny” and “niglet”. They have been beaten, routinely raped and abused in every real and imaginable way. To further add insult to injury in “modern” day American society African American women are routinely referred to as “chicken-head”, “bitch” and downgraded to the status of “baby mama” never to be called “wife” by the very men who should be their protector but who instead choose to add to the abuse.
Instead of being allowed to embrace their unique and personal beauty African-American women have been reared in a society that edifies all things non-black. Light skin and long flowing hair are exalted and as a result many African-American women have bought into this. Oftentimes African American women resort to the use of skin bleachers, wearing colored contacts, hair weaves and using chemicals that contain lye to alter the texture of their hair.
Within the African-American community it is taboo for women to admit the need for help in coping with “life”. Instead many wear the proverbial mask, grin and bear it and simply try to survive.
By examining the historical and modern day stereotypes that plague African American women we can see how these stereotypes affect their lives and their concept of self. In terms of mental, emotional and physical health how does the African-American woman compare with other cultural groups? How does she cope? How does she view herself and her circumstances? Where is she now in terms of employment and educational opportunities?
Historical Overview
The first Africans landed on the shores of America in 1619, there were 17 men and three women. When they arrived these Africans were not considered slaves, they were instead identified as indentured servants. This would eventually change and by the time slavery ended in 1865 it is estimated that more than 500.000 Africans had been imported to America as slave labor.
Although there were many common factors within the institution of slavery for both men and women there were also circumstances that were unique to women. “The first slaves to be brought to the British colonies of North America were disproportionately male. Considered more valuable workers because of their strength, enslaved men performed labors that ranged from building houses to plowing fields. When the Dutch brought African and...

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