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Negative Racial Stereotypes in Zora Neale Hurston’s Essay “How it Feels to be Colored Me'

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In the play A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hanbserry brings forth many issues that African Americans face in the real world to the audience attention. In the book it is mainly about dreams that the main characters struggle to achieve because of the circumstances that rule their daily lives. This book is not only important, but also simple to comprehend because it addresses so many important issue that occurred during the 1950s and also today. In the book the family struggles with discrimination and segregation.

This book reminds the audience of the tough love, hope, pain, and loss the characters face. They realize the responsibilities and struggles they have to deal with as an African American in the United States.

Now negative stereotypes are biased opinions that people assign negative qualities to certain groups or individuals themselves. When repeating negative stereotypes it causes those who are judged to embed those stereotypes. Negative stereotypes damages people, in which damages character by causing low self-esteem, low motivation, self- doubt, etc. We must come to realize how much of an impact it has in the world today

It is very hard for people today to go about their day without getting judged or people having an opinion on everything that they do. People get judged everyday in society, but African Americans get judged frequently on the day to day basis. African Americans have struggled to go about their daily lives and still are struggling. Many people discriminate and judge African Americans. African Americans deal with discrimination in their daily lives; when it comes down to applying for jobs, trying to vote or participate in politics, interacting with police, being paid/promoted equally, applying or attending college, getting health care, etc. Discrimination is a public health issue that our society deals with. Their are laws, but unfortunately discrimination still often occurs. Our society needs support and strength in the world we live in. Many get judged, discriminated, disrespected, and get treated unfair. Our society needs to work towards equality and hope. Many feel as if there is no hope for equality and justness. Many stand up and faces it.

Discrimination is an everyday reality that many people face during their daily lives. Many are targeted because of their race and ethnicity. In Zora Neale Hurston’s essay “How it Feels to be Colored Me,” she explains how it feels to be a colored woman in America. She discusses where she grew up and how it was growing up black. She explains the town where she lived, she explains how white people differed from the colored in her town. She tells how she was always reminded of her being colored and how her ancestors were former slaves. She talks about how she belonged to the white people in her town.

At one point in her essay she says, “During this period, white people differed from colored to me only in that they rode through town and never lived there. They liked to hear me ‘speak pieces’ and sing and wanted to see me dance the parse-me-la, and gave me generously of their small silver for doing these things, which seemed strange to me for I wanted to do them so much that I needed bribing to stop, only they didn’t know it. The colored people gave no dimes. They deplored any joyful tendencies in me, but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the county–everybody’s Zora.” In this essay you can tell how Zora Neale Hurston felt in her own skin, against all the odds she loved being in the skin she was, but it was difficult and hard to actually be who she was and who she wanted to be. She felt locked in and caged.

She also states, “ But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all but about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more of less. No, I do not weep at the world–I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. 7 Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past.” She doesn’t feel ashamed, but sometimes wishes for a break or some relief.

In the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, there is no one message or main theme really. Instead, the book has multiple life lessons. Although one of the books central theme is about self-actualization. The main character Janie goes through many life lessons searching for true and unconditional love. She experiences many many different kinds of love throughout the book. Although the book doesn’t really focus on discrimination, there are many instances where the characters come face to face with discrimination.

At one point in the book Janie states, “De one’s de white man knows is nice colored folks. De ones he don’t know is bad niggers.” In this quote Janie makes a statement where Tea Cake agrees to. Here, Tea Cake and Janie are treated very differently than in their old life. Around this time when Tea Cake encounters white people he is treated like a beggar instead of someone with a job and money. At this point both Janie and Tea Cake realize that having cordial relationships with white people doesnt change how a white person act towards a black person, which is full with dislike and suspicion.

Also in the book the narrator gives a point where race is also involved. At one point in the book the narrator states, ̈Anyone who looked more white folkish than herself was better than she was in her criteria, therefore it was right they should be cruel to her at times…. Like the pecking order in a chicken yard.¨ Here the narrator explains why Mrs. Turner accepts Janie ́s insult. She feels as if her behavior is correct. Mrs. Turner believes that black people are lower in position. She believes that Janie, as a light-skinned person, has the right to treat her poorly. The irony in this is that Janie in fact avoids Mrs. Turner because of her lack of respect towards her husband, Tea Cake, which is in fact darker.

Discrimination is an important matter in America that affects one’s person health and well being. It is a matter that America should focus on more and find ways to fix the problem that African Americans face on the daily. The word discrimination often brings to mind a historical meaning and background. It comes with hate crimes, voting rights, and criminal justice. Some of the most discriminatory acts takes place in America’s justice system. Humans mostly take part in these acts. Factors such as self-justification and socialization are some human attributes that lead to the acts of discrimination. There is unequal treatment towards people.

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In the United States, we have no official religious faith, skin color, or language. African Americans have been continued to be undervalued in this country. The violent acts continue to go unpunished. America has evidently lowered when it comes to justice for African Americans. We need to realize that “The word discrimination often brings to mind historical examples of denial of voting rights, hate crimes or discriminatory practices in housing and criminal justice. But not all discrimination is conscious, intentional or personal. It’s often built into institutional policies and practices such as mortgage lending, zoning or school funding practices—which, in turn, impacts where you live, the quality of education you receive or access to public transportation or good jobs—all of which are linked to health. But when discrimination is a part of your day-to-day norm, even an Ivy League education can’t fully protect you from its effects. So what do we do about it? Although there are examples of programs and policies aimed at increasing health equity, there’s really no simple answer. But the first thing we have to do is acknowledge that the everyday racial discrimination embedded in our culture is sickening and killing African-Americans, and make a new commitment to work together to make America a healthier place for all.” (Why Discrimination Is A Health Issue). America needs to come to realization. It is time to wake up.

It is an everyday reality that sadly many people have to deal with, but it’s not something they should just deal with. It causes stress and lowers confidence and the ability to speak up for yourself and what’s right. It’s not right and its unfair. The ironic part is that, “Laws are in place to protect people from discrimination in housing and employment.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability.

The Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnic origin, age and disabilities.

Unfortunately, discrimination still occurs. According to Stress in America Survey results, issues related to employment are the most commonly reported experiences of major discrimination across ethnic groups.

Yet experts say that smaller, less obvious examples of day-to-day discrimination – receiving poorer service at stores or restaurants, being treated with less courtesy and respect, or being treated as less intelligent or less trustworthy – may be more common than major discrimination. Such day-to-day discrimination frequently comes in the form of “microaggressions” such as snubs, slights and misguided comments that suggest a person doesn’t belong or invalidates his or her experiences.

Though microaggressions are often subtle, they can be just as harmful to health and well-being as more overt episodes of major bias. People on the receiving end of day-to-day discrimination often feel they’re in a state of constant vigilance, on the lookout for being a target of discrimination. That heightened watchfulness is a recipe for chronic stress” (American Psychological Association). It’s getting to the point where our health is getting involved. This isn’t a game, this is serious.

The racial stereotypes of America’s early history has had an important role in shaping the attitudes towards African Americans during this time and in history. The Sambo, the Savage, Mammy, Aunt Jemimah, Sapphire, and Jim Crow may not be powerful in the present, but it sure is alive. Discussing racial stereotypes and discrimination will allow people to explore and hopefully discard racial stereotypes. It is important to learn our history and suspending our disbelief so that we can see each other as an individual in society today. We people naturally evaluate any and everything we come in contact with. We also try and gain insights from our evaluations in other people as well. “Findings revealed that 58.9 percent of black and white subjects endorsed at least one stereotypical difference in inborn ability. Additionally, whites are 10 times more likely to be seen as superior in artistic ability and abstract thinking ability; and African-Americans were 10 times more likely to be seen as superior in athletic ability and rhythmic ability. Further, 49 percent of subjects endorsed stereotypical differences in physical characteristics such as blacks experience less physical pain that whites and have thicker skulls and skin. Interestingly, African-Americans and those subjects without a high school degree were more likely than others to endorse racial stereotypes (Plous & Williams, 1995). This finding shows how individuals internalize negative self-stereotypes.”

We indured a lot of stereotypes from many people. It is sad that still today there is no change in society. It is a lot that even children shouldn’t have to deal with. Children deal with stereotypes at school, at the park, stores, and even police! “It is important to gauge accurately the level and nature of prejudice and stereotyping of African-Americans in contemporary society if one is to intervene effectively in these areas (Plous & Williams, 1995). However, in order to do this, society as a whole must come to terms with the fact that stereotypes and oppression still exist today. We have made enormous progress since the days of slavery and the stereotypes that supported it. Yet it seems that many people are unaware of the remaining stereotypes, negative attitudes, and oppression of African-Americans. Because stereotypes are so often accepted as the truth, defining the problem is a crucial step of intervention. It is also important to explore how stereotypes are formed and dispelled in order to intervene in the problem.

Many people develop expectations based on their beliefs and are inclined to ignore or reject information that is inconsistent with these beliefs. These individuals look for information that supports stereotypes. Therefore, encouraging people to recognize information that is consistent with stereotypes may be helpful in dispelling damaging stereotypes within society. It is, then, essential to provide people with information that challenges stereotypes. Because the media’s portrayal of African-Americans has been and still is conducive to the formation of stereotypes, interventions in this area are a good place to start. Currently, African-Americans are over-represented as sports figures (Peffley et al, 1997). Reevaluation of the content of television commercials, magazine advertisements, movies, plays, cultural events, museum exhibits, and other media reveals where African-American representation needs to be increased. There is nothing wrong with the image of the African-American athlete. However, it is the portrayal of this image at the exclusion of other positive images that leads to stereotyping (Hoffmann, 1986)” (Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans).

We need a solution. We need to wake up and take action for the sake of our loved ones, children, and our country. Ignoring the issue isn’t going to make it go away. It won’t push people to stand up for what they believe in. Instead we lose hope and give up each time when we feel like there is nothing you can do when it constantly happens over and over again. When will we wake up and realize that our country is slowly going downhill? This is important and a serious matter, but when will we get serious?

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Negative Racial Stereotypes in Zora Neale Hurston’s Essay “How it Feels to be Colored Me’. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
“Negative Racial Stereotypes in Zora Neale Hurston’s Essay “How it Feels to be Colored Me’.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Negative Racial Stereotypes in Zora Neale Hurston’s Essay “How it Feels to be Colored Me’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
Negative Racial Stereotypes in Zora Neale Hurston’s Essay “How it Feels to be Colored Me’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2022 Nov 29]. Available from:
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