Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women

              Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes,

                 and Black Women in America


Jezebel’s sexual lasciviousness, Mammy’s devotion, and Sapphire’s outspoken anger—these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized.

In this groundbreaking book, Melissa V. Harris-Perry uses multiple methods of inquiry, including literary analysis, political theory, focus groups, surveys, and experimental research, to understand more deeply black women’s political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images. Not a traditional political science work concerned with office-seeking, voting, or ideology,Sister Citizen instead explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States.


About the Author:

Melissa V. Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and columnist for The Nation, is professor of political science at Tulane University, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. Her previous book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, won the 2005 W. E. B. Du Bois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and the 2005 Best Book Award from the Race and Ethnic Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. Harris-Perry lives with her family in New Orleans.



Posted November 2, 2011, 9:23 PM EST: I found “Sister Citizen” to be the most comprehensive book I have read regarding the stereotypes plaguing black women. The book is clear and concise. This has helped me to better understand myself as a black woman and how I fit in our country. I felt validated about a lot of personal experiences. Ms. Harris-Perry proves again that she is one of America’s most incredible political minds. I appreciate how she is using peer-reviewed sources, empirical data,and recent events to tie her themes together. Ms. Harris-Perry says it best: “This book is not a work of history but it relies on black women’s history as a frame for understanding contemporary politics. It is not a work of literary criticism, but it relies on literature written by and about black women. It is not a biography…It is not a traditional social science text, but it makes use of empirical data. This book is concerned with understanding the emotional realities of black womens’ lives in order to answer a political, not a personal question: What does it mean to be a black woman and an American citizen?” (p.29)Ms. Harris-Perry masterfully gives scenario after scenario of the impact of mis-recognition over the history of African-Americans –using peer reviewed sources. The focus groups she conducted were interesting as well as the story about how black women (including Ms. Harris-Perry herself) struggled to survive during hurricane Katrina. She gives a heart wrenching ‘boots on the ground’ account of how people experienced hurricane Katrina, sharing the untold human losses and emotional traumas people endured. I cried and caught my breath aloud as I read the story of Ms. Phyllis Montana-Leblanc. You will be changed if you read this book better or worse. Paraphrasing another review “If a discussion about color, race and sexism are subjects you may not be interested then don’t read the book, it will only make you angry”. That said try to read this with an open mind.

Posted April 15, 2012, 11:49 AM EST: Without question one of the worst books ever written Filled with ggrammatical errors Inconsistent topics….one could almost hear her lisps whem reading this book thuffering thuccothath a waste of paper…a shame trees gave up its life for this garbage


One Response to Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women

  1. I just finished Melissa Harris Perry’s book last night. It was refreshing and honest. I think of all of the people who turn a deaf and uncaring ear when someone is free thinking and not afraid to speak truth to power. Melissa Harris Perry’s book held so many truths, that it is tragic for anyone to focus not on the truth of her words, but on how the words SOUND as she speaks. As the character, Mr. T., put it, I pity the fool. Oh, how apt is the phrase “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt. Hail, hail Melissa Harris Perry. At least what she has to say in her book is focused on intellect and reason.

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