Another Black woman has been called “Jezebel,” a racial stereotype and slur that historically and persistently has been used to obfuscate the truth, promote and justify racial inequality and sexual violence against Black women. According to Baptist News Global, two pastors called Vice President Kamala Harris “Jezebel.”
The “Jezebel” stereotype is one of three pernicious racist and sexist stereotypes that have been used to rationalize and justify slavery and to spur racist and sexist perceptions and treatment of Black women. The three are the “Mammy,” “Sapphire” and “Jezebel” stereotypes. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Carolyn M. West, as well as many others, have written that these stereotypes originated in American slavery and continue.
The three stereotypes
“Mammy” is a slavery construct of Black women that “distorts the notion of caregiver,” Ladson-Billings wrote. Mammy is generally characterized, as a “grossly overweight,” “jolly,” “unattractive dark-complexioned woman,” and “asexual — living only to serve the master, mistress and their children.” She is “even neglectful of her own children and family while simultaneously overly solicitous toward whites.” The mammy image is the old Aunt Jemima, the Black woman wearing the kerchief on her head and wearing an apron perpetually smiling on a pancake box.
West adds: “There is little historical evidence to support the existence of a subordinate nurturing, self-sacrificing Mammy figure. Enslaved women often were beaten, overworked and raped. … In response, they ran away or helped other slaves escape, fought back when punished, and in some cases poisoned slave owners.
According to West, the Mammy stereotype was a lie. A jolly, smiling, fiercely loyal Mammy was created so we could believe slavery was a humane institution.