• Nyibol Gatluak

The engrained societal microaggressions towards black women

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

I remember vividly in my sociology class, we had a class on stereotypes, which the teacher informed the class. That the notion of stereotypes was merely a ‘convenient’ way to categorise people, opposed to intentionally getting to know them.

I pondered on this statement for a while and uncovered that indeed there was a lot of veracity to the statement. This only evidently depicts that as a society, it is much more convenient for us to attach a label or place a preconceived identity onto someone rather than making the effort to get to know them – their values, traits and vices. This has become an entrenched habit that we do so readily, that we fail to recognise the detriments of doing so, on those we pigeonhole meanwhile, we complain about others imposing a preconceived ideology on us.

In addition, we become ignorant about the underlying mental and psychological impact of said stereotypes, how that can innately shrink the receiver of the message. As I pen, this I am forced to reflect on times in my life where I have been perceived through the lens of society, to behave a certain way. Without the space to present and show up as MYSELF. This has mostly been shone through the infamous ‘black woman stereotype’ and how this affected me mentally.

Sadly, I was forced to reflect upon some of my earliest memories that took place between the ages of six to thirteen years old. The times where my primary school friends and acquaintances, would ask me to ‘twerk’ or ‘dance’ because it occurred to them that it was an inherent aptitude for someone who looked like me. Black.

There were even subtle gasps which inferred disappointment when I told them that I couldn’t ‘twerk’ or do the single ladies dance and rather my dancing skills were horrible. The feeling that I had disappointed them and myself, when I realised that I could not fulfil their biased expectations. It disappointed me that I could not adhere, to a common stereotype expected of a black girl based on what society’s futile sexualisation of black women. Furthermore, I recall the moments whereby people who I met for several minutes would question me initially about how long I had resided in Australia because my spoken English was ‘impressive’. Due to their assumptions and they were met with the reality of my speech being the opposite, of the archetype that black women spoke nonsensically and used illogical vernacular. This ideology that I did not fulfil would again become apparent during times where people would use terminologies of ‘gurrl’ whilst mimicking the typical ‘sassy black girl accent’ which is prevalently portrayed in television. It registered to me that this ‘convenient’ way of labelling people has followed black women from a young age and carried on through adulthood.

As a result, we feel inadequate and consumed with worry that we cannot uphold the ideology expected of us, which distorts our perception of ourselves. These ingrained stereotypes that we have created, ultimately lead to mental health issues amongst black women. Mental health issues that attempt to shrink and constrain us to the inability of expressing ourselves out of embarrassment. Black women often feel embarrassed, by these feelings because society continuously attempts to deem our feelings and experiences as non-existent. Meanwhile, they are indeed valid and ought to be expressed utmostly. The stereotype that we should all be strong follows and then becomes hurtful because there is a point where staying strong does not become an option. Let us diminish stereotypes and perceive people through the lens of individuality and acceptance of who they are. And not through our own societal perception.

- A sincerely hurt black girl

By Nyibol Gatluak

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