African American & White Women

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Sex and race have often been portrayed as principal statuses or superordinate groups that influence individuals and their identities. The convergence of race and gender may create unique experiences for African American and white women in their family lives, work, domestic roles, and interpersonal relationships. Disparate gender-role norms may foster varied perceptions of gender for these two groups of women. Gender is socially constructed and women’s understanding of their own gender is shaped by different factors such as interpersonal relationships, gender-role socialization, media messages and personal experiences as women.

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Some of these external influences and personal experiences may form similar perceptions of gender for women of varying backgrounds from their past. One contributing factor to these differences is race. More specifically, socio-historical disparities in African American and white women’s prospects for work, family life and household duties, along with experiences of stereotyping and discrimination, have led to the formation of race-related gender norms that impact how women from these groups value and perceive their own gender.

African American women have faced discrimination since before our current era. Prior to 1964, discrimination was rampant and American laws separated whites and blacks, denying access to opportunities, services, and facilities to the latter. These women also had to endure prejudice in housing, education, transportation, employment, and health care along racial lines. This term generally refers to the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from other races but pertains largely to discrimination against people of color within white communities. Gender is often devalued and assigned a low status among all women (Katz, Joiner, & Kwon, 2002; Kessler, Mickelson, & Williams, 1999). These prevalent viewpoints from the past can impact an individual’s self-worth and perception of womanhood (e.g., internalized sexism, feminist consciousness). Consequently, women from other ethnic backgrounds may occasionally experience similar gender-based mistreatment, such as sex discrimination and sexism. For example, a national study found that 48% of women attributed their perceived daily discriminatory experiences to their gender (Kessler et al., 1999).

While Black and White women are both devalued on the basis of their gender, the double jeopardy theory (King, 1988) suggests that Black women may face additional challenges, as their race is similarly devalued (Settles, 2008). Furthermore, Black women confront daily discrimination from various sources, including ingrained societal views and contentious political rhetoric. The Washington Post reports, “The FBI’s report released last month revealed that hate crimes had jumped an astonishing 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. Moreover, 60 percent of the victims were selected because of their race, ethnicity or ancestry. More than 20 percent were targeted because of their religion,” (King, 2018). Clearly, racism remains deeply ingrained just beneath the surface of our politics. The result is a widespread illusion that obscures the reality unfolding right before our eyes. While many of us believed our country was becoming less racist, the truth is we have allowed issues of race to slide because we were not as forthright as we used to be. These are matters that need addressing urgently.

Women are unfavorably influenced by both unequal access to and institutionalized sexism in the healthcare industry. Several critics also point to the medicalization of women’s issues, for example, as evidence of systematic sexism. ‘Medicalization’ refers to the process by which mundane, normal aspects of life are reframed as deviant, requiring medical attention to remedy. Historically and contemporarily, many facets of women’s lives have been medicalized, including menstruation, premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause,” (Baker). Looking at the epidemiology in the United States, it’s hard to ignore the disparities among races. The gap between white and black Americans is clearly demonstrated; In 2008, the average lifespan for whites was about five years longer than it was for blacks. According to a report from the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation (2007), African Americans also have higher incidences of several diseases and causes of mortality, ranging from cancer to heart disease to diabetes. Lisa Berkman (2009) notes that this gap began to narrow during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, but it started to expand again in the mid-1980s. The National Healthcare Disparities Report (2010) shows that, even after adjusting for insurance differences, racial and ethnic minority groups receive poorer quality care and less access to care than dominant groups. The report identified these racial disparities in care: Black Americans, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives received inferior care compared to Caucasian Americans in nearly 40 percent of measures (Baker).

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African American & White Women. (2020, Apr 26). Retrieved from