Unfortunately, there are still people who endorse the belief that African American women are ghetto. It always amazes me that after all these years of the media exposing viewers to successful, educated, and refined African American women, people still believe the hype. Some of these stereotypes are laughable and unsurprising, but some of it rather shocking and a little disturbing.
Today is a new day. “Ghetto girls” no longer dominate television shows and movies like they once did. Kerry Washington has one the most popular shows on television; Scandal has broken all types of barriers and has set a host of records, yet Kerry does not look, speak, or behave anything like a typical “Ghetto” Black women. The First Lady of the United States is the beautiful, the classy, the educated and eloquent speaker, Mrs. Michelle Obama. One of the most popular singers of the 2010’s is a woman who answers to the name of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. With her curves and features, one cannot deny that she is a Black woman, yet the word unrefined and raw does not capture the essence of who she is.
I expect these opinions from someone of a different skin complexion than mine, so I am usually a bit more shocked when it comes from someone who shares my skin tone and hair texture. These opinions are not only bound to people who reside in the U.S., the negative stereotypes are seemingly ubiquitous. Many of my classmates from Spelman commented on the reaction that received from foreigners when they traveled abroad. Unfortunately for me, I had my own story as well.
My first time venturing outside of U.S. was in 2007 when I went to Jamaica to participate in an internship. I had just graduated from Spelman College a week before and was well aware of the the judgements people place upon Black women. However, what happened when I got off the plane and reached for my luggage at baggage claim was unexpected.
A Jamaican man was attempting to assist me with my luggage. I don’t remember what I said to him, but he quickly caught on to the fact that I was from the U.S. and asked me what music video I danced in. I was shocked. I told him that I didn’t dance in music videos and that I was in Jamaica for a research internship. He was beside himself. Given what he knew about African American women, he couldn’t imagine someone of my complexion coming to Jamaica for research purposes.
That was 7 years ago, and I had forgotten about this situation until I heard my co-worker tell me the other day how different I was because I didn’t roll my neck, suck my teeth, stand with my hands on my hip and speak Ebonics like other Black Americans.
I am her one exception to her rule and while I am happy to combat such negative stereotypes, being the token Black girl can be a little tiresome. For, one lapse in judgment or one minor argument and her opinion about Black women will be supported. I feel a little bit of pressure to prove her stereotype wrong. My hope is that as time goes by and she is more exposed to me, my friends, and maybe my family members she will come to the realization that there are far more Michelle Obamas in the U.S. than there are ghetto women.