The Monolithic View of Black Women


Moon Masque, Lois Mailou Jones

Monolithic: large, powerful, and intractably indivisible and uniform.

The term “monolithic”  properly represents the tropes adopted to portray black women throughout history.  These tropes stem from colonialism; colonizers used monoliths to showcase black inferiority which continue to affect the portrayal of blackness in media and the world. The monoliths used were powerful, uniform, but extraordinarily narrow and limited as it failed to include the depth and makeup of the being of an individual, especially an individual black woman.

A tactic that many colonist adopted to create this “monolithic view” of black women was through the creation of caricatures such as cartoons, novel characters, statues, and stereotypes. The concept of caricatures reinforced the perceptions that colonialist had of black women as it represents their perception of black women as static, subservient, undesirable, or aggressive. Consequentially, the common representation of black women through caricatures failed to embody the dynamic nature of individual identities and experiences.

Additionally, the stereotypes reinforced through these views and portrayals not only influenced white populations to internalize their own discriminatory and white supremacist ideologies, those same views were imposed and internalized by black communities as well. The internalization of these caricatures by the black community continues suppress the movements of self-love and self-recognition within the black community, especially for black women. Black women have commonly expressed through art the hindrance that comes with the monoliths associated with their black womanhood, especially as they try prove their multifaceted and unconventional nature.

Artist such as Kara Walker, Toni Morrison, and India Arie use different forms of artistic mediums to expose a different narrative that contradicts the generalizations and stereotypes created by colonialists. These three artist play with the ideas of caricatures or monoliths to challenge the binary representation of blackness through American history and present those images to include the individual depth of the black woman experience



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