5 Tragic Stereotypes

5 Tragic Stereotypes


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Whether it is a janitor or C.E.O., student or professor, apathetic citizen or activist, sinner

or priest, many Blacks have accepted, processed, internalized and now proselytize

the verbiage of shameful stereotypical statements not as fiction, but as fact.



5 Tragic Stereotypes, Part I

 By Bakari Akil II

One of the tragic consequences that occurs when a person or group is subjected to ridicule and degradation is that if it occurs long enough, the victims of this treatment begin to acquiesce and in a unfathomable process begin to take on the negative characteristics assigned by the victimizer. As Blacks in the United States and elsewhere throughout the Diaspora, this scenario has been inescapable and has in fact been successful in ways unimaginable to those who first practiced this type of psychological conditioning, known in some circles as “seasonin.”

“Seasonin” to the uninitiated was a common practice where Africans who were enslaved were intimidated by torture, physical force and psychological coercion into accepting their new status as enslaved human beings. Thereby, becoming a valuable product capable of carrying out the wishes of their respective enslavers. Think of the conditioning applied to training wild horses or in today’s basic training for the military, except that horses and soldiers are treated much more humanely. It is the process of breaking down an individual’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being until they are a totally new creature.

A carryover of this type of “seasonin” is that the fear of possible consequences of rebelling against the authority that exists prevents the victim from assuming their natural or previous state. They begin to exhibit characteristics of that idealized image held by the person(s) who initially provided the conditioning. As a consequence of this type of fear and brutal brainwashing that existed during the Transatlantic slave trade and the era of Black Codes, Jim Crow and present day continued disenfranchisement, the victims (Blacks) of such treatment continue to suffer from the legacy of these sadistic techniques and in some cases are perpetrators who out perform its most devoted non-Black adherents.

The behavior that I speak of now is not physical, it is verbal (stereotypes) and can be observed in many different ways and in fact has become apart of Black culture. It can be heard in humor, average conversations and can be major components of intellectual writings and debate. Whether it is a janitor or C.E.O., student or professor, apathetic citizen or activist, sinner or priest, many Blacks have accepted, processed, internalized and now proselytize the verbiage of shameful stereotypical statements not as fiction, but as fact.

In the age of modern media technology and the proliferation of media messages through many different mediums, these verbal “shots” cannot be escaped and thus are highly detrimental to Black communities’ development and advancement.

Now, since these stereotypes are many and varied, this article will limit itself to five statements and others will be discussed in future writings. So, what are these verbal stereotypes and their effects?

Number 1: If you want to hide something from Black people, put it in a book!

This is a very offensive statement and not a thoughtful one at that. A cursory glance at historical data will demonstrate that after prohibitions had been lifted against Black people learning how to read in the US, Black people flocked to those who knew how and pleaded or cajoled them into teaching them how to do so. In fact, without the push by many Black politicians during Reconstruction (1865-1877), public schools as we know it might not exist. Reading has always been a strong tradition amongst Blacks before and after slavery. To state that Black people do not understand the importance of reading and that most do no read, is a fallacy. A better question may be, what types of materials are Black people are reading, which in itself may be an inexhaustible subject.

Number 2: Colored People Time, Better known as C.P.T.

This is another statement that hurts Black communities in numerous ways. There is the perception, held by many, that Black people are not able to start functions on time as well as Blacks as individuals are not punctual, in general. As a matter of consequence, those who constantly rely on this statement as an excuse for this type of behavior and view lateness as a cultural phenomenon assigned to Blacks, indeed provide license for this behavior to occur. People, groups or organizations that do not start things on time is a universal behavior and it is not a characteristic that can be assigned to a group. Instead, the event organizer, individual in charge, guest of honor or “fashionably late” person should instead be judged as not being punctual or professional. The blame should not fall on Black communities as a whole. After all, the people who are in attendance and who are present at that time are not late.

This stereotype also carries over to professional assessments and business determinations, which affect the perceived credibility of Blacks as it relates to economic endeavors.

Number 3: More Black Men in Jail Than In College

The reasons for this statement are obvious. It is to cite the sheer sense of hopelessness that exists for Black males as it relates to society in terms of being involved with prison systems and chances for a higher education. Yet, this statement should be clarified. Yes, there are more Black men in jail than in college. However, that is if you include all age groups. If you choose the age demographic that falls between 18 to 24 years of age then there are more Black men in college of this age range than in jail. This is nothing to be excited about, but it does provide a clearer perspective and lets us know that Black men are on the right track. By highlighting this disparity without clarification, Black men who are in college and not involved in the criminal justice system receive no credit.

Number 4: Minority & Minorities

In terms of population in the US, Black people constitute a numerical minority as it relates to the White populous; however that is where the use of this term should cease. Instead of this word being used as an adjective describing Black numerical representation, it is instead used as a noun and the Black person becomes the minority. If the Black person is now the equivalent of that noun then they are in essence the definition of that word and all it implies.

See definition below:

Minority: 1. A group of people or things that is a small part of a much larger group. 2. Group with insufficient votes to win 3. Smaller socially defined group, a group of people, within a society whose members have different ethnic, racial, national, religious, sexual, political, linguistic, or other characteristics from the rest of society. 4. Offensive term; an offensive term for a member of a minority group 5. Non adulthood; the state or period of being younger than the legal age of adulthood.

From analyzing the definition, provided by Microsoft’s Encarta College Dictionary, the word minority has many implications, none of them particularly impressive. As can be seen from the definition, many types of groups can be assigned this name, however in US society, only color determines if that is your official designation to be used by media pundits, scholars and your every day average citizen.

What is particularly disturbing is that this term’s usage by Black individuals and communities is rampant. To automatically assign oneself to a degrading status is an indictment on one’s perception of themselves and their power and role in society as an individual and of Black people as a whole.

I am not a minority and neither is any other person of color. End of discussion!

Number 5: Young people have no direction!

Black youths are often viewed in a negative sense. They are criticized for their style of dress, choice of music, way of expressing themselves and if you really think about it, for their audacity in existing at all. As a surveyor of communications media and its corresponding terrain, criticism of Black youths by their elder generations is continuous and in some cases worse than mainstream criticisms.

Although much of the imagery concerning Black youth is negative and can influence them to behave negatively, creatively a vicious cycle, most of the imagery is indeed false and portrays an unrealistic picture of those who know them intimately as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, students or friends. In reality, if Black youths have no direction, then what does it imply about the preceding generations’ role in preparing them for adulthood? Are older generations providing guidance, are they asserting their leadership or have they folded to the pressures of society and have resorted to complaining backed by inaction?

Instead of quickly indicting youth and assigning them to mediocrity or less, perhaps a greater focus should be placed on finding the success stories that are out there and they are numerous. Black youths are attending high school and college, are politically active, volunteering in their communities, playing sports, creating businesses or working, assuming all of their responsibilities and enriching their communities in ways we would be wise to recognize. Instead of continuously highlighting their immorality, faults and wrongs, perhaps they should be recognized as those who will accept the baton of leadership for the future and allies for a better tomorrow. To do otherwise would be an error that will hold negative consequences for both young and old.

In conclusion, it is possible to be one’s own enemy, even if unconsciously. Therefore, a thorough analysis should be applied to our interactions with each other, both verbally or otherwise. Our present day language, vernacular and conversations that we hold with each other may seem harmless, yet it affects the way we treat each other as well as the way that we approach the society in which we exist. As humans we have choices and my choice is to use language for empowerment and not degradation, I hope you choose the same!

Bakari Akil is an Editor-In-Chief for Global Black News. He holds a MASS degree with an emphasis in Public Administration and has a Bachelor Degree in Law and Society. He is currently teaching Public Speaking and working on his PhD in Communications. Bakari Akil is an editor for

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Marketing Ghana as a Mecca for the African-American Tourist—The Afro-American tourist market constitutes an important niche market. At the moment, the U.S.A is Ghana’s second highest tourist generating market with the U.K being the first. In 2003, some 27,000 tourists arrived in Ghana from the Americas. Approximately 10,000 were African-Americans. Also, about a thousand are living and working in Accra. The African-American tourist market is Ghana’s niche market because it has the greatest growth potential in terms of arrivals and receipts. This is because the African-American tourist of today is more interested in exploring his/her cultural and historical heritage; the very products that Ghana offers. Also, they have a $300 billion spending power and spend 98% of their household income. The total income of this segment of the American population is the largest of all the ethnic groups at $485 and projected to reach $1.01 trillion by 2010. In a 2000 Gallup poll commissioned by the National Summit on Africa, 73% of African-Americans were interested in learning more about Africa.—


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Strange Fruit Lynching Report / Anniversary of a Lynching

  Willie McGhee Lynching  / My Grandfather’s Execution

Dr. Robert Lee Interview / African American dentist in Ghana

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Bob Marley— Exodus

Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands The Wailers (19641974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (19741981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement (of which he was a committed member), to a worldwide audience.



Exodus: movement of jah people! oh-oh-oh, yea-eah! Men and people will fight ya down (tell me why!) When ya see jah light. (ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) Let me tell you if youre not wrong; (then, why? ) Everything is all right. So we gonna walk – all right! – through de roads of creation: We the generation (tell me why!) (trod through great tribulation) trod through great tribulation. Exodus, all right! movement of jah people! Oh, yeah! o-oo, yeah! all right! Exodus: movement of jah people! oh, yeah! Yeah-yeah-yeah, well! Uh! open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied (with the life youre living)? uh! We know where were going, uh! We know where were from. Were leaving babylon, Were going to our father land. 2, 3, 4: exodus: movement of jah people! oh, yeah! (movement of jah people!) send us another brother moses! (movement of jah people!) from across the red sea! (movement of jah people!) send us another brother moses! (movement of jah people!) from across the red sea! Movement of jah people! Exodus, all right! oo-oo-ooh! oo-ooh! Movement of jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus! Exodus! all right! Exodus! now, now, now, now! Exodus! Exodus! oh, yea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ea-eah! Exodus! Exodus! all right! Exodus! uh-uh-uh-uh! Move! move! move! move! move! move! Open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied with the life youre living? We know where were going; We know where were from. Were leaving babylon, yall! Were going to our fathers land. Exodus, all right! movement of jah people! Exodus: movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Move! move! move! move! move! move! move! Jah come to break downpression, Rule equality, Wipe away transgression, Set the captives free. Exodus, all right, all right! Movement of jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus: movement of jah people! oh, now, now, now, now! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Move! move! move! move! move! move! uh-uh-uh-uh! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! movement of jah people! Move(ment of jah people)! Move(ment of jah people)! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people! Movement of jah people!


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 Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities

By  Godfrey Mwakikagile

 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: National Academic Press, 2005) 302 pages

Chapter Four: The Attitude of Africans Towards African Americans

Chapter Six: Misconceptions About Each Other


The Joseph Project: Ghana Reaches Out to the Diaspora

Gateway to West Africa ? by Stacey Barney

Should the African Diaspora have free-visa access to Africa?

For African-Americans In Ghana, the Grass Isn’t Always Greener

African-American Association of Ghana Condemn WSJ

Marketing Ghana As A Mecca For The African-American Tourist

A Rejoinder to The WSJ Article “Tangled Roots”

 Presidents Bill Clinton and Jerry John Rawlings February 24, 1999

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Chiefs in Cape Coast, Ghana  /  Grand Durbar Parade

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Dentist Dr. Robert Lee

Championed African-American Community in Ghana

In the mid-1950s, Dr. Robert Lee, a dentist from South Carolina, moved to Ghana to escape racism in the south. Over the next half century, Lee became a fixture in the African-American community in the West African country. Dr. Lee died on Monday, July 5th at the age of 90. But few here in his home state, or in the States at all, knew of his work. But in Ghana, he made a name for himself. Dr. Robert Lee, trained as a dentist, moved to Accra in the mid-1950s. Over the past half century, Lee became a fixture in the black American ex-patriot community in Ghana. NPR

Host Michel Martin talks to NPR West African correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton about his life and legacy. Dr. Robert Lee NPR Interview

Dentist Championed African-American Community In Ghana

Dr Robert Lee passes on


Dr. Robert Lee (right) in 2009 with Kwame Zulu Shabazz

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The State of African Education (April 200)

Attack On Africans Writing Their Own History Part 1 of 7

Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.

Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.

Part 2 of 7  /  Part 3 of 7  / Part 4 of 7  / Part 5 of 7 / Part 6 of 7  /  Part 7 of 7

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Basil Davidson’s  “Africa Series”

 Different But Equal  /  Mastering A Continent  /  Caravans of Gold  / The King and the City / The Bible and The Gun

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West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850

By Basil Davidson

This book is excellent as an introduction to West African history. It begins with a brief overview of region’s history from earliest times but the focus of the book is on the thousand years between the 9th and the 19th centuries A.D. Comprehensive overviews of the political histories of both well and little known West African states and cities are recounted. These include the histories of the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Kanem-Bornu, Oyo, Benin, Dahomey and Asante. Accounts of several other smaller states are also detailed such as the Hausa city states, the Wollof kingdom, the Bambara states, the Niger Delta trading states, the Fulani states of Futa Jallon and Futa Toro, the important cities of Timbuktu, Jenne and Gao and several others.

Apart from these political histories, Davidson also provides an insight into the social fabric of West Africa, especially at the dawn of the 17th century. He describes economic features (like trade items, routes, currencies etc), religion, arts and learning in the region, social stratification and dominant trends. These provide the reader with a real “feel” of the society at that time. Like all of Davidson’s writings on this subject matter, this book dispels the myth that Africa had no history or civilization before contact with Europe. It is clear, concise and very easy to read. D. E. Chukwumerije

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 22 October 2007




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