Slavery is Over but Colonialism is Not

Each day, everyone participates in “doing gender” as a means of both cultural and gender expression. For each of us, the ways in which we “do gender” is policed in subtle ways by the audience with which we interact, socially constructing our ideas about gender and race. Society produces and then reproduces our ideas of gender and race. For Black men and women in the United States, the intersection of race and gender has resulted in their oppression, both historically and in the present day. In a speech by Laverne Cox entitled “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About it)” she, as a self-proclaimed Black Trans Woman, describes the Black community in the Unites States as a culture dealing with trauma.

During colonialism and slavery, Black men and women were dominated by White settlers (Aulette and Wittner 106). The racialization of Black men and women began. Black men and women were stereotyped as a hyper-sexualized and threatening (West 1993, Collins 2000 as cited in Aulette and Wittner 106). These images were created so that the violence inflicted on Black men and women would be viewed as normal and necessary (Aulette and Wittner 106). Black men were often seen as rapists and lynched and emasculated (Laverne Cox). Enslaved Black women were often raped by their White owners (ibid 105). Colonialism created a hierarchy of race and gender with White men and women at the top.

Black men and women have shared oppression because of their race and this continues even now. (Lorde118). Stereotypes of Black women as being “Divas” and using sex to elevate their social stature exist today in the United States (Aultette and Wittner 108). Images of Tiger Woods and Magic Johnson in popular media contribute to the on going stereotypes of Black men as being hyper-sexed and threatening (ibid 107). In the United States today, there is little prosecution of sexual violence against Black women and almost all men convicted of a rape in the United States have been Black Men (Aulette and Wittner 107) Moreover, the hierarchy of race and gender still exists in America today. The race and gender norm in the United States is “white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure”(Lorde 116). Everyone else is seen as a deviation from this perceived norm. (ibid). The same patterns used during colonization to produce a hierarchy of gender and race are present today. Images of Black men and women as hypersexed are still produced within society and violence against Black women remains seen as normal. Black men are prosecuted and emasculated by patriarchy.

Patricia Collins says that, “Black men are encouraged to express a hyper-heterosexuality as the badge of Black masculinity” (115). Laverne Cox describes a situation common to Black Trans women in the United States: being “cat-called” on the street by a Black man and a Latino man. She describes the incident, stating the two men were asking her if she was a “B” word or an “N” word. This incident is indicative of how these systemic ideas of race and gender are internalized and reproduced by society. These stereotypes are found in the sexual scripts of these men. “Cat-calling” is a way of asserting hegemonic masculinity and dominance based on sex. Further, the derogatory terms that the men gave Laverne to choose from show a lack of value and respect for Black women and men: there was no option that would place Laverne in a positive light.  In this moment, and moments like it, Black men seem hypersexualized and Black women are victims of a crime. The derogatory terms these men presented to Laverne, wrap race and gender together and devalue Black men and women, just as they were during colonization. Socially constructed ideas of race and gender have been internalized and are reproduced.

In her speech, Laverne Cox points to love and forgiving her oppressors in her speech as the solution and I very much agree. I think that for the act of forgiveness to work, one must first participate in self-love. Laverne Cox says that we have to begin to understand that the nobody lives up to the perceived gender norm. I believe that is we can do that, the socially constructed hierarchy of gender and race might start to disappear and this pattern can be broken. I believe that through the act of self-love, we might begin to start accepting each other and stop engaging in the policing of our own actions and those of others. I do not believe that this is the complete solution; however, like participating in activities that save the environment, every little bit helps.

References

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004. Print.

Hill Collins, Patricia ” Very Necessary – Redefining Black Gender Ideology.” Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism. New York : Routledge. (2004):182 -213. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/&gt;.

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press. (1984): 114-123. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

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3 thoughts on “Slavery is Over but Colonialism is Not

  1. This blog post was very eye opening for me because much of the stereotypical sexual scripts that are often associated with black people, are things that I too subconsciously believe. I also agree with Laverne Cox and think that self-love is always something that must come first before bigger issues are tackled and by all means if each and every one of us worked in solidarity to erase those oppressing boundaries we could reverse the marginalization that communities experience based on race and sexuality.

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  2. While reading, I found myself not only thinking about the stereotypes that are often associated with black people, but those associated with many other races; more specifically, Muslims, and how society has generalized a race as terrorists. It’s sad to say that subconsciously, I too have things that I believe that are really just stereotypes. If more people worked in solidarity, and not as allies just standing by saying they are with the group, then issues such as stereotypical sexual scripts associated with black people could be dealt with. And as much as it’d be nice for all stereotypes to be washed away all at once, every step counts towards a bigger goal. One other thing that I was thinking about was, what are the bad stereotypes of white people?

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  3. I throughly enjoyed how you not only examined the stereotypes that black people are often categorized into, but how this has a negative impact on the people themselves and the society we live in. I like how you examined them from an angle internalized social construction, because as much as we do not want to use stereotypes, the ideas are so deeply ingrained in society that it is hard to unravel the negative images that have already been implemented. Your post made me consider the ways that race is portrayed in the media and especially news broadcasts. When a person of colour commits a crime, it is seen as a stereotype of their race, when often times a white person commits the same crime and they are seen as “mentally ill.”

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