The Discrimination And Oppression Of African American Women

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Black women across the world are commonly discriminated against, not only within their own race, but among society as a whole. I became interested in this topic because throughout my life, I have endured situations of discrimination. My situations are not as extreme as most African American women experience on a daily basis, however I have opened my eyes to the topic. Attending an extremely small, private school in Orange County, the majority of my classmates were varying from the races of Caucasion or Asian. Myself, along with three other male peers, were full or partially, African American. Regardless of not being full African American, I was still identified as “the black girl” of my class. In my opinion, my race is an unchangeable quality of myself that should be embraced confidently, rather than hidden away with shame. Spanning from the beginning to the ending of my middle school years of education, everyday, I would come to school with straight hair. I have naturally curly hair, a mixture of both my mother and my father’s genetics. From another person’s perspective, straightening my hair must have no deeper meaning rather than the obvious, that I liked the way it looked. However, I began straightening my hair because I had believed that it made me appear less black. Straightening my hair made me feel confident, especially in surroundings filled with girls whose hair was naturally straight. The simple choice of constantly applying heat, which eventually damaged my hair, was used as a mask, to hide a quality of myself that I soon believed that was all I was viewed as. It took not only a growth in age, but a growth in maturity for me to accept and realize that being half African American will always be apart of me. There needs to be an ending on the oppression that black women across the globe face, ranging in ages and socioeconomic status, overall causing psychological distress (Szymanski, Stewart, 2010).

Throughout the history of the United States, there has evidently been more power and dominance within the white races. In order for there to be a union created among white and black women, the topic of slavery must be recognized and confronted. Women of all races are discriminated against by not only the men of their race, but by the men of society as an entirety. However, black women are still outcasted, while white women have an inferior status in comparison. Mae C. King continues to suggests, “A massive, aggressive attack on the caste structure is not likely to be carried out by those who benefit from the status quo” (King,1975, 118). Most white women fail to put their authority to good use, especially regarding the rights and emotions of African American women. The author continues to state that there is a failure to accept the hardships that African American women face, especially from those who are considered more “powerful” in society (King, 1975). The social ranks among women based off of race must be terminated for there to be a decrease in discrimination.

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Studies show that it is impossible to name only one form of oppression that African American women suffer from. All forms of oppression that these women face are equally horrific. Beginning during the era of slavery, black women were bred and recognized as animals. Slave owners enforced toxic marriages, forcing women to produce large amounts of children. There was no sort of consensual sex, meaning that most of the children that African American women birthed during many years of slavery, resulted from rape. The more children they had, the higher in rank they became in the slave trade (Watson, Robinson, Dispenza, Nazari, 2012). “These examples demonstrate how African American women’s bodies have been socially controlled as sexual objects based upon racist, classist, and sexist ideologies” (Watson et al., 2012).

The oppression that African American women face throughout their daily lives has been proven to be psychologically damaging. It can severely affect their physical and mental well-being. It can cause them to internally feel insecure not only as a minority group member, but also about one’s minority group. Feminist psychologists have widley accepted and acknowledged the experience of both racism and sexism in the lives of African American women, conducting research based on the recognized events of oppression (Symanski, Stewart, 2010). The beginning approach, as described by Moradi and Subich, black women are commonly underprivileged in comparison to African American men. Therefore, this study proves that it genuinely affects their overall psychological health because of experiencing more than one minority status, being racism and sexism. Continuing their study, the authors explain through their traumatic experiences, African American women surpass the racial obstacles, but also from being a woman. These unique events are based on interactions of race and gender. Resulting, their social, culture identities can be conjoined to form various, unexplainable experiences (Symanski, Stewart, 2010).

Author’s Watson, Robinson, Dispenza, and Nazari, also formed a similar research study on the oppression of African American. The series of steps taken to forming their study was for African American women to discuss their age, educational status, and economical background. This was the author’s way to better understand black women’s experiences of sexual objectification. “Sexual objectification is “the experience of being treated as a body (or collection of body parts) valued predominantly for its use to (or consumption by) others” (Watson et al., 2012). They interviewed various women in public settings, gaining their trust that the interviews would remain confidential. After receiving the results of these women and their experiences, they felt as if they were only identified through their bodies and sexual functioning. This caused them to be not only objectified by their physical appearance, but other aspects of their personalities were ignored (Watson et al., year). This qualitative study shows additional proof to the oppression of African American women’s sexual objectification experiences.

Dealing with issues of gendered racism and sexual objectification, most African American women have found difficulties in discovering ways to cope. Showing dispassion to the situation can protect the emotions of these women. However, it can eventually block the emotional support from others when attempting to help with the psychological distress. Coping mechanisms, such as self-blame can cause African American women to internalize the events of prejudiceness, rather than regarding it to the persecutor. Other negative coping mechanisms include, self medicating with alcohol and/or drugs. The authors futher explain, “Resistance is the process of confronting the perpetrators of a discriminatory behavior, while coping via education/advocacy is the process of increasing self and other’s awareness of discrimination and implementing advocacy efforts to fight discrimination at micro- and macro-levels” (Symnaski, Lewis, 2015). Raising awareness to situations of discrimination can not only provide support for African American women who have been deprived, but also work as a coping mechanism throughout the process.

African American women have suffered with experiences of discrimination and oppression all throughout their lives. It has been proven to cause them psychological distress, which is resulting in serious issues of mental health. These women deserve to be receiving similar respect in society as nonblack women. Women of all races should form an alliance to demand equality, especially in a patriarchal society, primarily dominated by men. Taking the horrendous, traumatic, life changing experiences that African American women face, some on a daily basis, should be utilized as a sense of motivation to change the perceptions of black women for future generations.

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The Discrimination And Oppression Of African American Women. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Discrimination And Oppression Of African American Women.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
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