Please take this time to imagine a black woman. Name any old stereotype that comes to mind. Don’t be shy! Curvy, big ass? Loud? Ghetto. Welfare queens. Tons of baby daddies. Overtly sexual or religiously prudish.“Angry black women”? I didn’t make these up. These are actual stereotypes that exist in American society today. No really, I literally just Googled “black women.” I must say, as young black woman living in the United States, none of these stereotypes represent me. However, too much of American media perpetuate these stereotypes on a daily basis. This makes me sad.
If you decided to present a black woman on a TV show, so many factors come into play. You must be cautious not to create a stereotypical character-so as to not offend. But what sucks is you can’t have a loud, feisty,black female character without perpetuating stereotypes of black, feisty women. Minorities don’t have the privilege of just being human in media. If a feisty, loud white female character is on TV, white women don’t have to identify with that character as someone that represents their whole group.
That feisty white woman would be just an aspect of humanity; just a wacky character rather than a representation of female whiteness, because there are so many other types of white women presented each day in media to counteract.
Now, let me level with you. There are definitely more white women in the United States than black women. There just are. This is no conspiracy. But that’s exactly why it’s not okay to perpetuate minority stereotypes in our media. It’s inevitable that stereotypical characters will stand to represent the whole minority.
So how do we solve this? Just don’t do it. No more stereotypes. I know, rash statement, but really that seems the only way to stop this. As an oddball skinny black queer with a degree in film and vegan parents, I’d love to see more minority female characters that I can relate to. It’s not so hard. Really! I once had a professor in college make the argument that if we all eliminated race descriptions from our vocabulary, that would accelerate our overcoming racism. I understood her point, though I feel that approach is far too Utopian. Instead, I propose we un-define race descriptions through our media but debunking deeply-rooted stereotypes in our characters.
“Community” does a great job of presenting minority characters that are well-rounded and unique. There’s Abed, an Indian and Polish young man with autism and an obsession with film and television, Troy, a sensitive and imaginative black man with a boyish charm, and Shirley; while a single black woman with children, she’s also a brilliant ping-ponger. In spite of her mammy-like sweetness, she’s been known to have her fair share of romances and sexy-time. Shirley is humanly balanced, not stereo-typically flat. Come on, it’s so lazy to write a black character that “just so happens” to fit every stereotype in the book. Real humans are more than labels. And minority characters deserve more of these boxed-in portrayals. Thank you “Community” for all your quirky goodness. Now- More please.