Overcoming The Angry Black Woman Stereotype

Janice Gassam | Forbes

A stereotype is defined as “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Underrepresented minority groups often find themselves having to overcome widely-held stereotypes about their groups. For Asians, they are dubbed the model minorities, with many of the labels and stereotypes about this group being more positive in nature, although they do experience stereotyping about their lack of interpersonal skills and their inability to be assertive. Women in the workplace must overcome the glass ceiling, which is the invisible barrier that prevents them from career ascension and progression. For black women in the workplace, this glass ceiling may seem even more impenetrable. Black women must overcome the angry black woman stereotype, which characterizes black women as bad-tempered, hostile and overly aggressive. For evidence of this stereotype, one must look no further than recent headlines regarding Serena Williams. Other examples of this stereotype being applied include Michelle ObamaJemele Hill and Shonda Rhimes. The origin of the angry black woman stereotype is believed to stem from the 1950s radio show Amos ‘n’ Andy, which depictedblack women as sassy and domineering. The angry black woman stereotype has persisted over half a century later. Columbia University professor Kimberlé Crenshaw states in her research that the intersectionality of the black woman’s experience is unique to that of black men and white women. Crenshaw also asserts that the double minority status of black women makes them more vulnerable to further marginalization. How can black women overcome the angry black woman stereotype in the workplace? What can organizations do to stop this stereotype from persisting?

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