by Melissa Harris-Perry
Anne Ferber (01/15/12): Ms Harris-Perry, professor at Tulane University, is well known to those who follow the elite, liberal media. She is a regular contributor to Nation Magazine and MSNBC where she will begin airing her own show Feb 4. Sister Citizen is a comprehensive, highly focused exploration of the "intentional misrecognition of black women" throughout history and today. The model she uses is the crooked room, taken from field placement studies where a subject is put in a room with crooked walls, floors, furniture and told to find the upright. Obviously, the visual cues will make this most challenging or, perhaps, impossible.
Ms Harris-Perry's style is warm, conversational and inviting in spite of the fact that she is describing a particularly heinous set of judgments. Three streotypes dominate the misrecognition: The hypersexual Jezebel, the self sacrificing Mammy, and Sapphire, the angry black woman. Basing her conclusions on many academic studies, focus groups as well as literature and current events, she presents a convincing argument within a polemic that is educational, not necessarily blaming.
An additional stereotype, the strong black woman, is now emerging. Based on the achievements and successes in all areas of endeavor--business, political, educational, entertainment--black women must now contend with allowing themselves to feel vulnerable, in need of help,finding suitable partners, all part of the human struggle, but a threat to the self imposed strong image. Ms Harris Perry seems to be saying "proceed with caution; standing in the crooked room is an ongoing process and must be attended to with inner resources to keep the upright in view."
I highly recommend this book as a tool for understanding and exploring the never ending search for what
it means to be a human being.