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Tamara Winfrey Harris on the “Black Woman Problem”

I’m Tired of the Black Woman Problem: An Interview With Tamara Winfrey Harris

Gawker: What was the motivation behind writing The Sisters Are Alright?

Tamara Winfrey Harris: I am just so tired of seeing Black women portrayed as problems. My frustration hit its peak during the obsession with Black marriage rates a few years back. Do you know what it was like to be a Black woman during that ridiculousness—abiding books and news segments and newspaper headlines dissecting what the hell is so wrong with you that no man wants you? Because, make no mistake, low black marriage rates were blamed solely on Black women. Were we too fat? Too aggressive? Too masculine? Too easy? My personal favorite—too educated and competent? I’ve been married for nearly 15 years and that conversation had me doubting myself. And this debate was happening as fewer people of any race married in the US and abroad and Black men remained just as single as Black women.

And here is the other thing—the conversation often involved people talking about Black women but not to us. The Black marriage discussion is a great illustration of how Black women are defined by our perceived problems in a way that is heavily influenced by stereotype. Mammy, Sapphire, et al, were all up and through that discussion. I wanted to explore why society, including our own communities, cannot see Black women’s complexity. I wanted to counter a narrative that I think is broken with authentic experiences from Black women. The book isn’t about us being perfect or without problems. It is about Black women being human.

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