For many people, reality shows Basketball Wives, Miami and Real Housewives of Atlanta have metastasized in America’s psyche as a poisonous stereotype of African-American women.

Cloaked as entertainment, our marginalization as angry Sapphires and promiscuous Jezebels is encapsulated in each and every episode. At times, both juvenile and superficial — with a painfully obvious need for fame and external validity — these women have yet to realize that every cat-fight and backstabbing antic solidifies their pioneering role in a new Blackface era, where strong, successful women are reduced to mere caricatures of themselves.

Which is why it is so intriguing that the shiniest star in the BBW orbit is Evelyn Lozada.

You wouldn’t guess it by the petition spreading like wild-fire across the black wide web, but Lozada, a proud Puerto-Rican from the Bronx, is not African-American. Whether she considers herself to be black or not is a topic tackling race vs. ethnicity that is tangential to this article. Still, without fanfare or warning, she has become a symbol of many of the stereotypical depictions that have plagued African-American women since the dawn of time and all she needed to do was act like a damn fool.

How exactly did this happen? How was our distorted media image transferred so seamlessly to Lozada?

Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and author of the book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, said in a discussion at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that many black women feel shamed by stereotypical images – many which have come to life in the contemporary narratives of Basketball Wives and RHOA — because we are still grappling with our identity in this country and asserting our right to shed the stigma of being black in America. With powerful honesty, she told the audience that seeing ourselves portrayed in a positive light instinctively “means something to us.” With this in mind, it would make sense that when we see these historical stereotypes weekly in high definition, the “color” of the person embodying them ceases to be important.

Not surprisingly, the topic of “race” is approached with extreme caution and vagueness on both shows. Leading many viewers, perhaps subconsciously, into believing that both Evelyn and Kim Zolciak of RHOA — the token white woman who tries so painfully hard be a stereotypical “sista”  — are anomalies in a world where they are not representatives of their respective cultures. Rather, they are viewed as “honorary members” of our own – at least the mischaracterization of it that is spoon-fed to the world. Unlike the inescapable “otherness” of black skin in this country, their racial identity is safely tucked between the folds of what is stereotypically considered an African-American woman’s existence. Simultaneously, a fun-house mirror reflection of Black culture is being broadcast all over the world, then boomeranging back to polarize our communities.

In a previous Clutch article, I hypothesized that to feel disrespect, one must feel that a characterization is abusive, and to experience that abuse on a visceral level, one must feel that even if it’s not true of them as individuals, it is often true of their kindred in the collective. This is amplified on BBW and RHOA, where critics continue to cast judgment on what blurs into an all-Black cast and many of us will continue to shoulder the “shame” of two small groups of women because how we are represented “means something to us.”

While this concern is admirable, and at times necessary, the idea that black women must always be perfectly well-behaved — or risk shaming the community-at-large – is both unrealistic and unfair. We are fighting a battle that is unique to women of color in this country, and that is the duality of asserting our individual identities separate from stereotypical imagery, while fighting for the elevation of our communities as a whole. This places us in the precarious position of not being able to ignore the pervasive effects of reality television, while still recognizing that every, single one of these women has the right to present themselves to the world as they choose – whether anyone agrees or not.

At some point, the debate must be expanded to encompass not only how our narrow representations in media are affecting our communities, but to also address the more nuanced ground of individual identity – something to which black women seem not to be entitled.

Dialogue is essential.

And a good place to begin would be to examine why black women have been elected as torch-bearers for the entire African-American community at-large – trapped in a cycle of stereotypes that refuse to disappear.

57
SHARES
  • Blackness

    Umm..EVILyn is stereotyped as black simply because she “looks” black. Oddly enough, her project dwelling parents don’t look it though.

    0
    • http://livefromthematrix.wordpress.com TAE

      Evelyn looks black? And just because she “appears” black that’s reason enough to stereotype her? No disrespect but I’m having a hard time following this one. Evelyn, to me, looks like your run of the mill Latina, which come in various complexions and phenotypes just like us. I believe that she is not stereotyped because of how she looks but how she acts, the fact that she is on a show with a majority black cast, and engaged to a black man might have something to do with it. Like Zoe Saldana, she may be a Latina of african descent, I’m not sure though.

      0
    • QoN

      @Blackness

      Evelyn does not look black. She looks like a mestizo mix of Carribean “Indian” and Caucasian. A bit like J.Lo.

      0
    • Kami

      I can definitely see how Evelyn can be stereotyped as “black” by behavior alone because she is in a cast of women who identify as black, however she doesn’t. We all know that Puerto Ricans have that history of African descent and indigenous descent, so they come in all colors and sizes. You have some with the kinky/curly hair and others with wavy/straight hair. She could be looked at as a light-skinned black woman-and I’ve seen black women who resemble her but they’re not latina. However, she doesn’t claim to be holistically black, which makes sense because she’s Puerto Rican. But a lot Puerto Ricans do deny their black heritage completely. I don’t know if that’s the case but whatever if it is. It wouldn’t be any different than dark skin/light skin women bashing debate.

      0
    • Alexandria B

      I’m really confused by some of the comments. What exactly does it mean to “look black?”????????

      And the article was very specific to call these stereotypes African-American because that has more to do with nationality and race in this country than “blackness.”

      What the article does not address, and the point it seems many are missing, is that there are stereotypes for all women. They vary by race and citizenship. There are stereotypes for the “African American woman” and the “Black woman.” As a Puerto-Rican (who by DEFINITION) has African heritage as all Puerto Ricans do, she is type-cast as because in this country, Afro-Latina doesn’t really exist. You are usually Black, white, or other.

      0
    • AJ

      Evelyn is an Afro-Latino – she’s Black nuff said. Be her Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cubano, or anything else. Unfortunately, she’s an ignorant, violent fool just like everybody else on the Basketball Wives.

      Black men like Ochocinco have ethnic and color preferences for lighter skinned Black/Afro- Latina women (like Evelyn) and hate their own ethnicity (Black American) and hate women in their on skin shade range (dark of any country), but their preference and intraracial hatred doesn’t change the fact that the Afro-Latino women are still Black.

      0
    • Anon

      I am ROLLING with these Evelyn doesn’t look black comments!!! Is every black person you know the color of tar? Trust, in the south, chicks like Evelyn are a DIME a dozen. I’m from the south and I can tell you straight up if she moved around the border, she wouldn’t get so much as an “Hola” in a Fiesta grocery store. #Truth.

      0
    • H

      @Anon – Thank you. In the South, there are lots of light skinned people. People are letting her light hair color (dye probably) and the texture of her hair throw them off. If her hair was black or she were wearing a weave, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

      It all depends on what you consider black. Does black mean 100% black to you? That would throw a lot of American black people out of the black population. It sounds like people think black means having dark skin, a wide nose, full lips, and kinky hair even if you are not 100% black.

      Hispanic/Latino is not a race. There are white Hispanics (Shakira, Sofia Vergara). There are black Hispanics. There are mixed black/white, black/indigenous, and white/indigenous Hispanics. Lozada is one of those mixtures.

      Evelyn is mixed just like Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, and all these other light skinned people, but to say she is Puerto Rican doesn’t mean anything. That’s like me saying I’m American. That says nothing about race. She is considered Afro-Latina which means she has black ancestry. So if Halle Berry and Mariah Carey are considered black in your book, then so is Lozada. Technically they are mixed and not black. Many Afro-Latinos don’t share our view of black and don’t want to be seen as black. They would rather say that they are Puerto Rican or Latino which still has nothing to do with race.

      0
  • Rochelle

    i DON’T WATCH THE SHOWS YOU MENTIONED BUT I THOUGHT THIS WOMAN WAS BLACK. COULD HAVE FOOLED ME. BESIDES PUERTO RICAN IS NOT A RACE. SHE IS EITHER BLACK, WHITE, OR ASIAN. SHE LOOKS MORE BLACK TO ME.

    0
    • Yb

      The only thing black about this woman “and (I use that term loosely to describe her) is her nose.

      0
  • Toppin (Formerly Known As Just Sayin’)

    “How exactly did this happen? How was our distorted media image transferred so seamlessly to Lozada?”

    Could it be because this woman has clearly been around African American women (of the lower caliber) at some point in her life and she is on a show dominated by African American women.

    It ain’t rocket science.

    The reality is black women don’t have a monopoly on these stereotypes yet for some odd reason MANY of us feel we do and get defensive when non-black women start “stealing our thunder” with the same ghetto mess.

    SMH.

    “the debate must be expanded to encompass not only how our narrow representations in media are affecting our communities, but to also address the more nuanced ground of individual identity – something to which black women seem not to be entitled.”

    Very good point, but I personally could care less how our narrow representation in media is affecting our communities. Truthfully our community doesn’t do a thing for black women so why focus our attention there. I’m more concerned with the effects of this narrow representation on black women OUTSIDE of the black community.

    “And a good place to begin would be to examine why black women have been elected as torch-bearers for the entire African-American community at-large..”

    I think a large piece of the blame goes on black women. I’m so sick and tired of black women claiming to be the “Strong” backbone of this broken beyond repair mess it’s not even funny. It’s almost like claiming to be the mechanic of a broke down tore up car that blows out smoke, has one brake light, one windshield wiper, and one operating door. It makes no sense.

    Yeah…black women pretty much elected themselves as the torch-bearers and they were encouraged by the “disappearance” of black men.

    I personally don’t consider myself a torch-bearer for the community. I consider myself a torch-bearer for myself. My needs, health, money etc come first. And believe it or not I got into a bitter argument about this topic with an older black woman in my book club who couldn’t accept that I don’t feel the need to uphold the race/community like her generation likes to pride themselves on. SMH. No thanks…I’m good.

    0
    • S.

      Omg

      I love you for saving me from having to type

      0
    • Alexandra

      “I’m so sick and tired of black women claiming to be the “Strong” backbone of this broken beyond repair mess it’s not even funny. It’s almost like claiming to be the mechanic of a broke down tore up car that blows out smoke, has one brake light, one windshield wiper, and one operating door. It makes no sense. ”

      I’m glad to hear more women speak up about this detrimental motto. This excessive need to be strong does more damage to Black women, than good. When I look around at all these complaints some Black women have, I do agree to an extent it’s brought on by themselves. Black women are human like everyone else, stop putting impossible tasks at your responsibility, as well as putting others before you.

      0
    • Qofn

      @Alexandra

      let us not pretend that being the socalled backbone of tge black community while it comes with responsibilty it comes with a lot of power. Black women are the head of the home. She doesnt have to be at anyones, not least a black mans, mercy. Other women have to play by a mans drum until the courts award her his resources thru divorce. This is a popular theory that explains black women “attitude” she doesnt have to play nice like other women because she makes her own money it she gets it from the government. Lastly the “strong” label is a conveiable one for black women. White women are supposed to be the most desireable asain the most feminine and latinas are supposed to be the traditional loyal family oriented woman.

      0
    • LN

      Girl PREACH! I made a decision earlier this year to stop listening to rap music. Why? Because as an educated, responsible black woman, 99% of popular rap is NOT designed for me. Every time I listen, my gender (and race!) is referred to as “bitch” and “ho”. Um, no thanks Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye. I’m good. It’s crazy because when I mentioned this on Facebook the only people who “liked” the status were my white friends. My black friends felt a way about it, like I was defecting from the race or something because I was no longer sitting idly by while black men with POOR JUDGMENT in women and… honestly LIFE, take their NARROW experiences of females and apply it to every woman in the damn world.

      The older I get (I’m 26 now) is the more I realize that it doesn’t really make sense to be a torch bearer. Black culture has a HISTORY of torch bearers, and at this point, they’ve just become apologists for black MEN’S bad behavior. That’s right. The Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of the world are the first to jump up and holler when a black man is killed or treated unfairly, and they remain DEATHLY SILENT about the high rates of domestic abuse in black culture, or the inherently misogynistic nature of many black communities.

      As for me and my house, I will NOT be raising my children to be torch bearers of any kind. Yes, I remain aware of the issues that face us. And if there’s a worthy cause (like Trayvon Martin), I’ll jump into the debate and show support. Otherwise I’m more concerned with identifying progressive PEOPLE (black or non) and sharing life with them.

      0
    • anony.mous

      /thread

      0
    • edub

      “I’m so sick and tired of black women claiming to be the “Strong” backbone of this broken beyond repair mess it’s not even funny. It’s almost like claiming to be the mechanic of a broke down tore up car that blows out smoke, has one brake light, one windshield wiper, and one operating door. It makes no sense.”

      AMEN!

      Yes, because many black women revel in dysfunction. They seek it out, they procreate with it, they perpetuate it, and they use it to define their worth. Strong these days implies making a whole bunch of bad decisions and trying to stay afloat as a result. No thanks. I’ll pass on that. I don’t embrace dysfunction, the part of this that makes up the black race, I disown. My community, my identity is self, family, and like-minded individuals.

      0
    • http:www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

      “I’m so sick and tired of black women claiming to be the “Strong” backbone of this broken beyond repair mess it’s not even funny.

      *chic jumps jumps up so fast her chruch hat goes flying*

      Preach!

      I refuse to run myself down to fix people who don’t really want to be fixed. There is no mammy over here.

      0
    • Anon

      I just wanted to say THANK YOU for putting down rap/rape music!!! And as a hat tip, you should start to distance yourself from women who do. I PROMISE you the types of changes that you’ll be making from now on are not going to vibe with how they conduct themselves and whether it be fast or slow, your lifestyles will diverge.

      0
  • squeen

    Evelyn is afro latino from the bronx. She is no different from black women, therefore she is subject to the same stereotypes as black women. Duh… blog postings like this are what seperates people of african decent. This post is devisive and insulting.

    0
    • Yb

      Evelyn is not a black woman. Do not push this woman upon my group. If you feel that this post creates a division between different black ethnicities than your have a warped definition of what it is to be black. If you referred to Evelyn as black you would be called everything BUT a child of God. Stop claiming people who want nothing to do with you.

      0
    • Alexandria B

      I was all prepared to give a diasporic high five to you squeen when I read the unfortunate reply to your post. As a Black woman born in the US, with a lineage of slavery in my history, who does not often identify as African American because I am family with all people of African descent around the world, it saddens me that many Black folks in this country think that we have the monopoly on “being Black” or that Black folk from other parts of the world do not suffer under similiar stuggles, stereotypes or racial aggression. TOTALLY UNTRUE!

      0
    • Yb

      @Alexendria

      You overestimate the unison people have because they are the same race. Culture trumps race.

      And also understand that race is a social construct which veries from country to country. In America Evelyn is not black. I do not impose my view of race on others when I am outside of the states, and neither should you or squeen.

      Please don’t hesitate to give squeen that Disporiac high five that misguidingly believes that race unites a group of people.

      0
  • Yb

    The reason I see why the Evelyn’s and Kim’s are associated with black people, and particularly black women is because racists need to associate anything negative with blackness and being black. I can’t even begin to count the number of times a white person has been assumed to be black or that they must associate with black people because of something negative they done. Anytime a crime news report does not describe race or show a picture, it is guaranteed the criminal is assumed to be black.

    Even when we do something positive the achievement is distanced from us. I heard racists fools attempt to say the FLOTUS is not black, that she has Eurocentric features. WTF

    It’s like people want to believe the worst in us and will twist reality to suit their beliefs. As if every non black person (namely white) is without flaw and incorruptible. Kim is a WHITE woman. Evelyn is a MESTIZO latina women with faint black blood. Not caricatures of a black women.

    0
    • Alexandra

      This is correct, I see it all the time; in subliminal hints of course. All that is negative is always disproportionately associated with Black people. But when the categorization boxes can’t close, excuses are made.

      Stereotypically, a Black person that is trash is typical (what they call TNB) or a representative of all Blacks. A Black person that isn’t, is an exception or a rarity. It’s a bit pathetic some people have to dig into themselves or hesitate to say something positive about a Black person. I used to watch the Bad Girls Club & despite the show casting most White or non-Black girls, viewers always attributed the Black girls to all the trash behavior, even though all the girls are trash. Obviously, a difference is made when Whites and Blacks act reckless. There is no room for individuality and Black women are definitely trapped in these boxes. I also believe Black women have just as much power to change it.

      I agree with your last comment as well; just wait till the ‘one-drop rule enforcers’ come after you.

      Great article/topic Kirsten!

      0
    • chanela

      @alexandra YES!!!!

      go to the bad girls clubs’ youtube videos and you’ll see that when it’s white girls fighting and being immature then all you see is “well she shouldn’t have been talking shit!” or ” damn i love a tough sexy fiesty chick!” and ” shes a true bad bish. i love her ‘dont fuck with me attitude!'” but when you see a video with any of the black girls from the show everybody in the comment section is saying “why are people surprised? this is how black women always act” and ” look at the black chick being a bully” ” black people are always causing fights”

      the same damn youtube channel!! LOL

      0
    • Qofn

      @yb

      too true

      0
Read previous post:
Close