A new study reveals that young Black women from middle-class backgrounds feel “different” or even isolated when it comes to Black sisterhood.
The report, published in Gender Issues, is based on 25 in-depth interviews conducted by Colleen Butler-Sweet of Sacred Heart University. Butler-Sweet spoke with middle to upper class Black female post-secondary education students who ranged in age between 18 and 25. Those interviewed were either raised by two Black parents, came from a biracial family (one White and one Black parent), or were adopted by White parents.
More than any other issue, the women all spoke more explicitly about difficulties with other Black women.
“They rarely mentioned White women, while they described other Black girls as generally negative, and anything from alienating or terrorizing,” Butler-Sweet said in a press release emailed to EBONY.com.
Butler-Sweet also noted that many of the interviewees say they’ve experienced such tension since high school. They were often accused of “acting White,” or “looking too pretty” by Black women of lower classes, according to the release. The women surveyed also said they were accused of getting too much attention from Black men in particular.
Butler-Sweet notes that most of the participants in the study did not vocalize their negative interactions with other Black women. The women surveyed were also hesitant to attribute such tensions with other women to class differences.
“While social class was not directly referenced in any of the accusations, the detractors were almost always of a lower socioeconomic status than the informants themselves,” Butler-Sweet said. “The issue of class is ‘an invisible force’ in these encounters.”
In some cases, the women even attempted to rationalize the tension. For example, Black women who were adopted by White parents frequently noted how their parents did not know much about Black hair and skincare. They stated that their parents’ lack of knowledge left them feeling silly when they were teased at school, the release states.
“Women from monoracial families do not share this ‘benefit’ of explanation, and essentially do not have a place to put the criticisms they face or a way by which to explain them away,” Butler-Sweet said. “They therefore may suffer a greater sense of anxiety and stand a greater risk of internalizing their struggles.”