Alexandria K. Wilson
"Black Women Will Prevail"
College Writing 2, Mr. Andrew Lenaghan
When writing this essay and learning more about Morrison's life, I realized we had much in common. I frequently find myself questioning the stereotypes that have been placed upon black women, specifically young black women. Despite the years of oppression, racism, and cruelty people of color must face constantly, I know I cannot give up, just like Morrison did not give up. Leaders like her have paved the way for people like me to keep moving forward in the direction of success. I know my worth and capabilities, and just like Morrison, I will break barriers and pave the way for those that look like me in America because I am NOT average, and black women will prevail.
Excerpt from "Black Women Will Prevail"
“Lastly, Morrison has some appeals to pathos throughout her writing. Her writing and her delivery of her spoken word show the emotions she wants the crowd to feel as she shares her poetry. She wants the group to feel some anger because of how cruel the world is upon black women, but she also wants them to be moved by change. The first example shows how Morrison was appealing to pathos because it uses the anger aspect within her tone of voice during her delivery and her word usage. “Excuse me while I set fire to this poem with my pen ‘cause I am tired! Tired of the stereotypes black girls have fallen into because of American Mentality. Oh! But not half as tired as Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Septima Poinsette Clark. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Miss Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates, Anna Arnold Hedgeman and Dorothy Height are far more tired than I am. But do you think the ones who say I’m not the average black girl even give a damn? No!" (Morrison). During this part of the poem, the author started to get very emotional in her delivery. She began to use voice fluctuations, starting softly, until she had something important to say in the poem and then began to use a powerful voice tone.”
Black Women Will Prevail
by Alexandria K. Wilson
Did you know that stereotypes are among the many things that divide us in the United States of America? Black women are one of the most stereotyped ethnicities in our world today. One woman named Ernestine Morrison published the poem “The Average Black Girl” in 2014. In this poem, she argues how the word “average” should never be considered as an adjective to describe anyone. Then, there is Dr. David Pilgrim, who wrote the article “The Jezebel Stereotype,” in which he talks about this theory of how black women are stereotyped today and throughout history. Morrison and Dr. Pilgrim effectively convinces their audience that black women are consistently stereotyped negatively through the use of ethos, logos, and pathos.
In her poem, Morrison sets the tone by describing some of the reactions others have when they meet her. Then, she tells about some of the most phenomenal black women that came before her. Even though their accomplishments were crucial, society downplayed them because they are black. Morrison continues to discuss why our society looks at black people and more specifically black women in such a negative connotation while using ethos and pathos. She then educates and tells us why this is not a compliment because it diminishes her race and culture down to being worthless. In the article that Dr. David Pilgrim wrote, he gives knowledge on these social constructions surrounding African American women, specifically the “Jezebel Stereotype.” He is very well-versed in sociology, and that helps our ethos appeal because he is a sociology professor at Ferris State University. His research was well thought out, and it had a lot of information regarding where these stereotypes came from and how people still stereotype today.
The first example of ethos in Morrison’s poem is her uses of intense personal experiences, tone of voice, and body language all while building her argument. Morrison starts her poem by having a gentle tone to show how people stereotype her as a woman classified as a “white” black woman who does not act like the “typical” black girl. An example of her personal experience, tone of voice, and body language being active with ethos is the following:
No! No! Not the Average black girl because the pigment of skin is just a shade lighter than that black girl over there. You know, the black girl over there, the black girl with the nappy hair. The black girls whose elbows can’t skip a day without lotion. Whose hearts and heads are filled with self-hate and bottled-up emotion. The cocoa brown girls who have to face society every day and be tough because no matter how good they straighten their hair. Their good is still not good enough. Oh, but see. Luckily for me, see I don’t fall in that category. (Morrison).
When she talks about black women who are darker than her and the adversities they have to face, she talks with a more assertive and aggressive voice, whereas when she talks about herself, she uses a soft and sweet tone. Morrison does this to show us what society perceives to be more acceptable for women, primarily how black women should act.
Next, Morrison shares more information about why she is a credible author because of her personal experiences being that she is an African American woman. The way she does this is by changing up her voice when she is portraying how society views black women who do not talk “properly.” Morrison explains this in the first stanza of her poem.
You know I remember my ex’s mother telling me, ‘I didn’t know how I was gonna react when he brought home a black girl, but I like you because you talk so white’. But when did me talking right equate to me talking white? They say I’m not the average black girl. (Morrison).
This second example proves that Ernestine has encountered a lot of stereotyping, even in her romantic relationships. This statement made her feel undermined and invokes thoughts into the audience's minds on the many ways that women of color get treated on a day-to-day basis. She is creating a substantial amount of evidence to show that being called the average black girl is not a compliment; this statement made black women seem inferior to other women’s races.
Lastly, Morrison has some appeals to pathos throughout her writing. Her writing and her delivery of her spoken word show the emotions she wants the crowd to feel as she shares her poetry. She wants the group to feel some anger because of how cruel the world is upon black women, but she also wants them to be moved by change. The first example shows how Morrison was appealing to pathos because it uses the anger aspect within her tone of voice during her delivery and her word usage.
Excuse me while I set fire to this poem with my pen ‘cause I am tired! Tired of the stereotypes black girls have fallen into because of American Mentality. Oh! But not half as tired as Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Septima Poinsette Clark. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Miss Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates, Anna Arnold Hedgeman and Dorothy Height are far more tired than I am. But do you think the ones who say I’m not the average black girl even give a damn? No!
During this part of the poem, the author started to get very emotional in her delivery. She began to use voice fluctuations, starting softly, until she had something important to say in the poem and then began to use a powerful voice tone. Other parts of her delivery on this part of her poem, especially in the end, she had teary eyes, and it showed how this is something that she cares about. Looking at her word choice, she says, “Excuse me, while I set fire to this poem on my pen ‘cause I am tired!” (Morrison). The keywords in this quote that show us the different emotions she is trying to evoke are passion and anger. One word that shows powerful emotion is the word “tired.” It shows that she no longer wants to deal with the unfairness that all black women have to face, meaning that she gives up, and she cannot take anymore. Even when she expressed that she is setting fire to this poem because of the fact that she is tired shows more emotions that she is furious. The fire image shows that she is willing to cause some burning passion through her words.
However, the crowd’s reaction to the whole poem in its entirety was positive because they gave her a standing ovation. The symbolism behind standing ovations is the best gratitude you can receive from being a performer. However, this is not the only gratitude that Morrison received; she could also receive applause during her performance when she said things that the crowd agreed with. The applause and standing ovation show how the group was attentively listening to her and receiving the purpose and emotions that Ernestine was aggressively trying to emit towards the audience. Furthermore, the poem’s meaning was to inspire black women not to take the compliment of being the average black girl. She received her goal due to the reaction that the crowd had. The only reason she received a good response was that she used fair use of figurative language, personal anecdotes, vivid images and made them emit emotions of empowerment.
Dr. Pilgrim explains to us how society views black women from a sociological standpoint. “The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype… seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting and lewd… white women… were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity” (Pilgrim). This stereotype has been engraved in our society since the time of slavery, according to Dr. Pilgrims’ study.
Secondly, Dr. Pilgrim can give facts and information around stereotypes that appeal to logos because of his area of expertise. The article provides us with a timeline as to when the Jezebel stereotype started in the world. “The Jezebel stereotype was used during slavery as a rationalization for sexual relations between white men and black women, especially sexual unions involving slavers and slaves” (Pilgrim). This timeline shows us that the white slave owners started this oversexualized stereotype that black women are hyperactive in sexual relationships and that makes it okay to have sex with them. Dr. Pilgrim then puts this stereotype in a modern aspect of the 20th century. “Jezebel images also reveals that black female children are sexually objectified. Black girls, with the faces of pre-teenagers, are drawn with adult sized buttocks, which are exposed” (Pilgrim). The stereotypes of black women being over-sexualized human beings have trickled down to the over-sexualization of black children. In his study, he shows and describes different caricatures that have been drawn of black female children in a sexualized way. These drawings are bad because it demoralizes these black children. They are born into a world who view them in this horrible way. It takes away their individuality and they are not able to become their own person.
In conclusion, both of these pieces came together to explain the stereotypes that black women face in America. Morrison gave us appeals to ethos and pathos to help us understand how these stereotypes affect this group of people. Dr Pilgrim gave us appeals to logos to give us credible information about these stereotypes that these women have to deal with. Combining
these works of art creates a better picture for us to get a clearer understanding of what this community of people go through. The black community and more specifically the women in the black community are tired of the underlying racism and stereotypes that hinders them from being their own self. The world must change so they can become their authentic selves.
Morrison, Ernestine. “Ernestine Morrison Performs ‘The Average Black Girl’ on Arsenio Hall Show." YouTube, Ernestine Morrison, April 14, 2014.
Pilgrim, David. “The Jezebel Stereotype.” The Jezebel Stereotype - Anti-Black Imagery - Jim Crow Museum - Ferris State University, July 2002,