Scholars: Slavery's Legacy Present in Current Policies, Social Customs

By Cooper, Kenneth J. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 16, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Scholars: Slavery's Legacy Present in Current Policies, Social Customs


Cooper, Kenneth J., Diverse Issues in Higher Education


WALTHAM, Mass.

Several hundred people spent a day and a half recently at Brandeis University discussing a subject that most people generally avoid: slavery.

The conference focused on overcoming the "religious and sexual legacy" of the Atlantic slave trade and systems of bondage embedded in the original teachings of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Professors who presented papers at the invocation of the Brandeis Feminist Sexual Ethics Project described as contemporary legacies of slavery public policies on welfare and criminal justice as well as social customs that shape marriage, Black women's sexuality and even Black leadership.

A major theme was that two contradictory images of Black women from slavery continue to constrain their sexuality and define expectations about their behavior. Dorothy Roberts, a law professor at Northwestern University, defined the images as "the oversexed Jezebel and the asexual Mammy."

"Jezebel, a woman governed by her sexual desires, made White men's sexual abuse of Black women seem justified--if Black women were inherently promiscuous, they could not be violated," Roberts said in her presentation. "Unlike the exotic Jezebel, Mammy was totally unappealing. She was depicted as overweight with African features and a dark complexion, always wearing an unattractive dress, apron and head rag ... Mammy represented the utmost safety in womanhood because she was both asexual and enslaved."

As a result of those images, Roberts said, "Black female sexuality is at once hidden and paraded" in the media. She cited rap videos and two incidents involving entertainers. In accepting the Oscar for best actor from Halle Berry in 2003, Adrien Brody "very forcefully, without seeking permission, French-kissed her." Both Brody and Justin Timberlake, who exposed Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl, received little public censure for their actions, Roberts noted.

"Most of the blame focused on Jackson, who was demonized for being a degenerate exhibitionist," or Jezebel, she said.

Dr. Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago, and Adrienne Davis, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, called for special reparations for the sexual abuse of slave women and girls.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Scholars: Slavery's Legacy Present in Current Policies, Social Customs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?