Bethune Cookman Faculty, Stereotypes, Black Women

Bethune Cookman Faculty Present Research On Myths And Stereotypes Surrounding Black Women

During the 2024 CLA Convention, Dr. Clarissa West-White and Dr. Rondrea Mathis discussed Black women taking on the "superhero role."

Two esteemed Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) faculty members, Dr. Clarissa West-White and Dr. Rondrea Mathis, presented their research on the impact of myths and stereotypes surrounding Black women at the 82nd Annual College Language Association Convention.

West-White, an archivist at the university and an assistant professor at the Carl S. Swisher Library, jointly discussed the pervasive notion that Black women must shoulder the burden of being all things to all people, with Mathis, an assistant professor of English at B-CU.

West-White stated her observations of Black women donning “the cape” to play superheroes in the home, workplace, and society. “When African American women believe they must handle everything…it becomes an obstacle to seeking any form of support.” She emphasized the importance of balancing self-care and extending care to others.

Mathis shed light on the duality Black women in America confront as they navigate the intricate dynamics of race and class. She uncovered the often-obscured facets of Black female identity, underscoring how Black women find themselves torn between conflicting interests while striving to define and redefine their personal and professional truths, identities, and desires.

The licensed Baptist minister shared her own experiences of being recognized in rooms first as a Black woman before being acknowledged by her professor, Ph.D., or preacher titles.

“Through languages and literature, I recognized how many other Black women also find themselves at odds with their identities, trying to find authenticity in spaces that seek to define who we are before we are able to even say who we are,” she said.

West-White delved into the “Superwoman Schema,” a concept coined by Dr. Cheryl L. Woods-Giscombé of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which examines the links between stress and health disparities faced by African American women. In 2010, Woods-Giscombé asserted that sociopolitical factors like the climate of racism, race- and gender-based oppression, disenfranchisement, and limited resources, both during and after the era of legalized slavery in the United States, forced African American women to assume roles of mother, nurturer, and financial provider.

West-White and Mathis co-edited the compelling work “Mamas, Martyrs, and Jezebels: Myths, Legends, and Other Lies You’ve Been Told About Black Women,” released in February 2024, alongside B-CU’s Dr. Jan Boulware and Dr. Kideste Yusef.

This year’s College Language Association Convention was held in Memphis from April 10 to 13.