In the history of the United States, racial and gender injustices have been a common thing among the people. There has been unequal treatment based on skin colour and sexual orientation. African Americans are one of the groups that have been on the receiving end of these discriminations. In addition to this, the manner in which African American men and African American women have been perceived in the American society is different from how the Native Americans have been perceived and handled. Scholars have taken time to look into these differences based on race and gender, how these differences have grown over the years, and how they are rooted into the culture of the people.
In 8th May 1967, an African American woman drafted a letter to address the premier annual meeting of the American Equal Rights Association. In this letter, this woman talks about the plight of African American woman (Address 26). At that period slave trade was at being abolished and the rights of the black people in America being fought for. In the letter, the woman is concerned that only the rights of the men were being addressed, and not a word was spoken about the rights of a coloured woman. She says that not talking about the rights of the coloured woman will lead to their being ruled by the coloured men. In that era, white women were smart and were respected by the society but their counterparts, coloured women, only took care of their homes. Coloured men mistreated their women, a phenomenon which did not occur to the white women. The woman, in the letter, was crying for the rights of the coloured women. The old woman remembers her forty years as a slave. She worked in a grain field together with coloured men and white women, however; coloured women received the least pay yet they did equal work with all the other groups. In the letter, the old woman was categorical that since coloured people had received their freedom, the rights of the coloured women should be addressed in the way that of coloured men was being addressed.
Patricia H. Collins discusses hegemonic masculinity among the African American in his article “Sexual Politics”. Collins explains the ideologies that illuminate male domination amongst the African American race. He explains that financial independence that the current African American women have gotten has caused more harm than good to the African American men. Collins says that the current African American women are too strong for the African American men, and they only let the men dominate. Mass media has also portrayed black American males and female in a bad light. These men have been described as gangsters and criminals whereas the black women have been portrayed as bad girls. The media has made the black community be interpreted as ‘bad’ people in the American society. For example, Halle Berry, a black American award winning actress, won Oscars awards after playing a sexually promiscuous role. On the other hand, Denzel Washington, an African American actor, won Oscars awards after playing the role of a corrupt and violent individual. The African American race have been portrayed as the sources of social unrest in the American community.
White individual in America are believed to be the supreme race. Movies have given them a positive publicity. For instance, a movie known as Tarzan, whose main character is a white man from the jungle was defined as a different man from the apes, females, black people. He comes from the jungle into the city. There he establishes power and is rated higher than women and the black people. This movie is a good example of how mass media had pictured white masculinity in the American Society. Another clear illustration of white men’s domination is that homosexuality and heterosexuality among the white men is viewed as normal, natural, and nothing can be done to control it. Heterosexuality is not welcomed in other races and men from other races, for instance African American men cannot freely express their affection towards other men like white men do.
Hierarchy of masculinity in America has also placed African American men at the base of the pyramid. At the top of the triangle are the white men. They are believed to be the wealthiest and have the most power in the society. Second in the hierarchy are the Latinos, working class white men, Asians, and the immigrant white men. Finally, at the bottom of the hierarchy pyramid are men from indigenous groups and African American men. They are subordinate to all the other groups and are the marginalized masculinities.
In the United States, the female species also have different status in the society. White women are placed on top of the strata. They are said to be the most intelligent and get involved in constructive activities. The Asian, Latino, and African American women are believed to be in the low social strata. In the film making industry, Latina and African American women were marginalized and ill-treated. More especially black women were treated as slaves. Their Latino counterparts were always portrayed as sexual items whose purpose was to satisfy the sexual desires of the males. For African American woman to receive recognition and respect, they must be very successful. Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey are examples of African American women who have received credit and have power and respect due to their success.
African American men do not have an equal chance for economic and political power like the white men in the United States. George Bush was a below average student at Yale University. He also had a drinking problem (Omi 59). Yet, despite all these negative traits, he was elected the president of the United States. Any black man cannot be politically successful with the slightest negative social or academic trait. George Bush is said to have enjoyed the privilege of whiteness in the United States. Lack of equal opportunities is the reason behind the high number of African American participation in a crime. A good number of African American men search for power and financial stability through force. They choose to engage in drug deals and crime so as to get respect in the society. In African American Race, respect is high values, and for a male to be classified as a man, he must command respect from his family and other people of the society.
In the African American race, there are a number of things which a male must satisfy in order to be referred to as a man. Physical appearance is a great distinguisher between boys and men. For one to be called a man, he must be strong and have hair on his face and body. He must also be strong and be able to fight and protect his family. Second, sexual intercourse with older women initiates boys into manhood, and one is said to be a boys when he is still sexually a virgin. Finally, financial stability is a major symbol that a male has qualifies to be a man in the African American race. When a male gets a stable job, earns sufficient income, and can assume the role of a father by supporting himself and dependents, then he can be termed as a man. Unlike boys, men are respected in African American societies. The use of the word boy to refer to men is humiliating in these culture. The “bad boy” character is also valued in the African American community. Being fearless and ready to get involved in risky activities shows that one is a man in the African American race.
In African American culture, women are subordinate to men. Black women are not supposed to behave or appear like male. Physically, they are supposed to take care of their bodies, they are supposed to be attractive and bear children. Unlike men who are supposed to bring cheques home, have athletic physiques, and have power, African American women were supposed to be passive and be physically mature to be women. They were supposed to be submissive to their men. In the history of the United States, African American women have had the burden of being inferior on the basis of gender and race (Collins 380). Statistics shows that, in the early twentieth century, African American women were arrested more than the white females, got long sentences, and it was not easy to pardon them like the white women were.
Over the years, human rights activists have come forward to fight for the rights of the minority. African Americans have been protected from discrimination and racial discrimination by the law. African Americans have also emancipated them from mental slavery through education. They have been liberated from irrational customs. African American women have also fought for their rights as black people and as women. They have educated themselves and proven that they are not lesser in any way to the white women. There are very successful African American Women such as Oprah Winfrey, who have commanded respect form both men and women of both black and white races. Black people have gotten into leadership positions and a good example in the president of the United States of America Barrack Obama. Their struggle for equality has brought forth fruits as black people have the same opportunities as the whites.
Collins, Patricia Hill. "It's all in the family: Intersections of gender, race, and nation."
Hypatia 13.3 (2008): 365-385.
Omi, Michael. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s.
Psychology Press, 1994.: 53-76.