Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Nobody is just one thing


Reading Patricia Hill Collins’ piece reminds me so much of how much we, as a society, are always trying to pin people into one category, to fit them into one box. We want every teenager to either be a jock, a nerd, a prep, an artist, a drama queen, etc. We try to label every black woman as a Jezebel, a Mammy, a Matriarch, a Welfare Queen, and so on. In all types of media we peg each character and each person as one thing: the teenage boy who is on trial for rape? oh how sad, he was an athlete! The unarmed black man who was killed by police? well he was a criminal anyways. Even the characters in movies who are supposed to be dynamic are overall static characters, because at the end of the day the playboy is still a playboy and the smart girl is still a nerd.

But nobody is just one thing. There is not one single character trait that can solely define a person. We talked in class about how the characters in Silver Sparrow might fit into the controlling images put forth by Collins. Gwen, who always keeps herself put together, with a clean and accommodating home, may represent the “Black Lady.” But, as James’ secret wife, a mistress of sorts, she could also be considered a “Jezebel.” However, Gwen is so much else. She’s a mother who tries her best to be honest with her daughter. She’s a nurse, who works hard to provide for herself and Dana. She is a daughter, rejected and cast-aside by her own father, and abandoned by her mother. She has so many traits and qualities and secrets and feelings, that the only thing she truly is, is Gwen.

And this goes for all people, in all places.

Nobody is just one thing.


2 thoughts on “Nobody is just one thing

  1. I 100% agree with you about how it is so easy to judge someone or put them in a box. I feel if someone goes beyond the labels we find a human being whose soul is unique and which we are unable to categorize or labeled. I really connected with what you said and the way that you wrote it, so I just want to say thank you for writing something that was both relevant to what we are reading and what we experience/feel in our everyday lives.

  2. In my social problems class we learned that this perspective of analyzing social problems would be known as symbolic interactionism. In short, the social problems are whatever society deems them to be as per labels. For example when as you said criminal, that clearly has a negative connotation and allows those that would not relate to that individual to think of this “criminal” as deserving of harsh punishment. This issue plays into a bigger societal issue ie: prison industrial complex. 😦

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