Images of women of color in a variety of unflattering contexts proliferate all over the Internet and in our “so called” social media. Let’s take a closer look at a few. 

One of the main archetypal stereotypes is that of the “Mammy.” The mammy is a Black woman, selflessly working in the white master’s household, dating back to the days of slavery in the US. These women often even nursed white children, at the disadvantage to their own children. They were asexual and servile, almost like a household pet. Here, a photo of Hattie McDaniel has had text added to it. I find the phrase “White trash” telling, as it is clearly a phrase rooted in racism. For a white person to be considered low-class a modifying adjective must be added. No such modifier is needed when we are talking about African Americans, who under a racist system, are already considered inferior. 

Above, we see another “mammy” meme. The assumption here is that slavery is good for the subservient woman. Not much is asked from her other than loyalty, and in return she is granted the warmth and security of the “master’s house”. Comfortable shelter, fellowship, and an abundance of food are things she would not be capable of without the white man’s benevolence. 

Another stereotype widely disseminated by the Internet is that of the “ratchet” Black woman. She possesses not only an inferior intelligence, and a general lack of grace, but also a low moral character.

A perfunctory “google” search in an effort to find images that portray Black women in various stereotypical archetypes can leave one feeling the need for a shower. Anyone who asserts that we live in a “post racist” society surely does not have a wireless router at home. The above photo of Black women protesting racism in Baltimore lampoons them for their weight and implies that they are crying about nothing. They should be happy to live in a society where the white man has provided them with plenty, even if they are not intelligent, or morally upstanding enough, to know how to handle their blessings. 

Lastly, lets take a look at the hyper-sexualized Black woman archetype. We saw during this year’s Super Bowl, the indignation saved up for non-white female sexuality. The last time there was such a Super Bowl uproar was when White Americans were subjected to Janet Jackson’s wayward nipple.  Twerking is both the subject of outrage and emulation. Just ask Miley Cyrus. Images found all over the internet harken back to the days of Hottentot Venus, and make one wonder how far we have progressed. While the field at the Super Bowl is regularly adorned with sexualized White women, the inclusion of too many women of color invites not only White outrage, but also runs afoul of “respectability politics.”   

Much of what we see portrayed out there plays on foul stereotypes and manipulates the masses to objectify Black women while creating division by encouraging people to distance themselves from one another to gain the approval of the “mainstream.”

Gene Chieffo a is retired Army Musician and teacher. He studied clarinet at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and holds a Bachelor of Science in Music (Clarinet Performance), and a Master of Education degree. A native Philadelphian, he performed with Army Bands all over North America, Europe, and Asia from 1985 until 2005. Upon his retirement from Army Bands, he taught in Philadelphia Area public schools for 15 years. He would like his third chapter to include taking his musical skills to the next level as a freelancer in the Hampton Roads area, publishing an article, or a poem…anything really, and perhaps finally figuring out what is happening inside of his head, and all around him, for the first time.