In her essay "Race, Gender and Progress: Are Black American Women the New Model Minority?," Professor Amadu Jacky Kaba outlines how Black women continue to be negatively impacted by the legacy of slavery and how they lag behind other groups, including their Black male counterparts, despite significant gains in education,...
In her essay "Race, Gender and Progress: Are Black American Women the New Model Minority?," Professor Amadu Jacky Kaba outlines how Black women continue to be negatively impacted by the legacy of slavery and how they lag behind other groups, including their Black male counterparts, despite significant gains in education, politics, and economics. Black women's gains in these three areas support the author's point that they are the new "model minority." The expression "model minority," which is usually used to describe the white mainstream's perceptions of Asian Americans, is a problematic phrase because it judges people according to mainstream, white, capitalist standards, which are sometimes at odds with the goals and values within other communities.
Kaba uses the phrase "model minority" rather ironically, looking at "interrelated factors," such as "religion, avoidance of drugs, avoidance of crime, work ethic, and discipline and diligence, and a gradual transfer of wealth and knowledge from older and wealthy Americans of any race or gender" to show how Black American women have progressed.
In terms of disadvantages, Black women are more likely to give birth to infants with low birth weights. This malnutrition is a sign of persistent poverty. The article shows that high school drop-out rates are higher among Black females than among their white counterparts. However, the study is from 2004, and Black women and girls are making steady strides in education. Kaba does acknowledge the gains that Black women have made in higher education. However, they remain more economically disadvantaged than Black men and members of other racial groups in the United States.
Black women continue to suffer higher rates of poverty and are also more likely to be victims of homicide. This is likely due to Black women being more likely to live in economically disadvantaged communities. Due to a legacy of poverty, Black women "are disproportionately represented among the very poor and welfare dependent." However, all other groups have a higher rate of suicide than Black women. One could infer a level of resilience among Black women or, perhaps, fears of leaving children behind, that are less likely to exist in other groups that commit or contemplate suicide.
Politically, Black women have become an influential voting bloc. Kaba lists political activism, along with religion, lower rates of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, and less criminal activity among the reasons that Black women continue to progress. In fact, she concludes by saying that Black women can largely attribute their emerging success to "Religion or their high level of reliance in God." This last is debatable, though it is true that church membership is very high among Black people in general and among Black women particularly.
Kaba asserts that Black women are the true "model minority" because they have suffered most in the New World but, in the United States, have emerged as some of the most productive and law-abiding members of society.