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How Stereotypes Impact the Response to Violence Against Black Women

In July 2020, rapper Tory Lanez shot rapper Megan Thee Stallion in the foot during an argument in a car. Although Lanez was ultimately arrested and charged with multiple crimes related to the incident, Megan immediately became the subject of jokes and memes across social media. She was also criticized in the media, with some blaming her for the incident. Much of the commentary surrounding the shooting was racialized, discussing her body, her personality, and her sexually liberated public persona.

This may seem like an isolated incident. It may also seem different, because it involves two famous people. In reality, the response to Megan Thee Stallion getting shot — an extreme act of violence — is emblematic of a larger problem in our society: our refusal to see Black women as victims.

There are a range of stereotypes about Black women and girls that persist to this day in the United States. Rooted in racism and false beliefs that were used to justify slavery, these stereotypes can be particularly harmful. They may include beliefs that Black women are strong and are capable of taking abuse, that they are sexually aggressive, that they are physically aggressive, or that they are liars. These stereotypes are often used to justify, ignore, or minimize the violence and abuse that Black women face. As a result, Black women are less likely to be believed when they report abuse — and less likely to achieve justice.

In the U.S., Black women experience high levels of gender-based violence. 4 out of 10 Black women have been sexually assaulted, physically abused, and/or stalked by an intimate partner. In comparison to other racial groups, Black women are also more frequently killed by a male partner or acquaintance. Despite experiencing violence and abuse at the same — or higher — levels as other women, it is often more difficult for Black women to access help from police and medical providers.

These stereotypes are part of a larger pattern of misogynoir, which is the combination of racism and misogyny that Black women face. To make true change, we must first start by acknowledging the racist beliefs that underpin these stereotypes. By recognizing and addressing it when we see it, we can start to undo the centuries of oppression that Black women have experienced in our country. We must also make a commitment to believe and support victims — period.

If your life has been affected by violence or abuse, we are here for you. Our hotline is available 24 hours a day, is free of charge, and can be anonymous. Call us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 to get help today.


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