Black Stereotypes and Tropes in Books

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It’s no surprise that black stereotypes and tropes still exist today. From the strong independent black woman to the “ghetolicious” diva, this seems to be a common theme in books and other forms of media. I thought I would give my reasons why I do not particularly like these stereotypes and tropes but also maybe how they are not 100% bad (maybe like 99.5 %).

Let’s start with some of the common tropes. I wrote an entire post regarding these common black tropes but here is the basic rundown.

  • Token Black Friend
  • The White Savior
  • The Strong Black Woman
  • Coffee to Describe skin color

Just to add a few more

  • Absent Dad (cheating, leaving the family, etc)
  • You’re only black if you have two black parents
  • “Ghettolicious” Diva
  • Overly strict mother

Alright for all the ones I can think of, there are some in which I have trouble with justifying. However, there are some that have a tiny bit of value but is STILL harmful.

The Token Black Friend

Image result for token black friend gif

Okay, yes, this is quite annoying. Most of the time, the token black friend is used as a “diversity point.” However, I personally relate to the token black character because 1) I am the “token black character” in my friend group and 2) MOST of the time, the token black character does end up having some character development which I always end up connecting with. So yes, I still hate the token black character and yes, I still hope that we can get more black-centric stories but I would be lying if I said I completely despise it.

The White Savior

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This is one of the ones I just can’t justify. I’m taking Black Studies right now, and I’m finding out the black people are the main inventors of our time so I’m pissed that their history got erased. Black Heroes and inventors are important and we should learn more about the true history of these black experiences.

The Strong Black Woman

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Oops, I used another OITNB Gif 😉

This is a “positive stereotype” but a stereotype nonetheless. I’m glad that there’s an ample amount of head-strong, fierce “take no BS” black characters. However, there’s something a tiny bit wrong with this image. There’s not a lot of stories about black characters who are vulnerable or those who may suffer from a mental illness. The black community basically doesn’t talk about these issues but Black woman (and men) have these illnesses but often get swept under the rug because a lot of black families have negative stigmas regarding mental health. I think it’s important there are more stories about these experiences. I think telling both sides would benefit all.

Coffee to Describe Skin Color

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As a coffee addict, I can still say this annoy me to no end. I have to see this on a lot of makeup products as it is so I think I don’t need to see it in fiction as well.

Absent Dad

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This is going to be another bias one. Yes, this is a HUGE stereotype. This is also the biggest joke that people love to tell (not as funny as it was years ago). We should have more stories about solid families because not all black families are broken. However, I come from one of those “broken families.” My dad cheated AND walked out (Double Whammy) so when I read about these stories, it actually doesn’t bother me too much. I do see the frustration that people are experiencing because I get that black people are not merely doomed for dysfunctional families but I personally feel we shouldn’t completely erase these stories.

You’re only black if you have 2 black parents

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Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope. If one parent is black….YOUS BLACK

“Ghettolicious” Diva (Other Variations Includes the Angry Black Woman)

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As the token black friend, this one is more used as comedic relief. However, it’s also another controversial characterization that can bring more harm than good. Yes, there are black people who may have these characteristics but these aren’t all black people. Believe it or not, what you see on those reality TV shows do not represent us. Again, there needs to be some sort of balance. If I am being honest, I don’t like these labels because we shouldn’t place black people into a label. Blackness isn’t defined by these labels and there isn’t a wrong way to be black. However, if there’s a non-black person trying to imitate the “ghettolicious diva” I may have a problem…

Overly Strict Mother

Image result for strict black mother gif

You gotta love those Black mothers! Okay, I actually can’t relate to this one because 1) my mom is white and 2) she was the most lenient mother ever (I did, however, get whipped with the belt and bathing suit several times in my childhood). I’m not quite sure if this trope actually annoys other Black people but it’s one I see often. I think in YA, it’s comforting because parents are usually absent (a running joke) so perhaps people like seeing strict black mothers? I will just say even if you have a non-strict black mother, that doesn’t define you or your mother’s blackness


I think there is a general consensus that stereotypes do a lot more harm than good. One way to combat these tropes is to have more black authors, more black people in the editing of books, promoting pro-black publishers.

Recognizing tropes and stereotypes in books is important because we are what we read. We learn through books and if we further tolerating these tropes and not challenging the stereotypes, people will begin to normalize these black stigmas.

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What black trope are YOU tired of hearing about? Let me know in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Black Stereotypes and Tropes in Books

  1. I agree with the ones you shared! One that drives me insane is when a character is biracial and another character acts like since they are black they don’t know anything about their other culture. I recently read a book featuring a character being half italian and someone acting like she wouldn’t know her way around pasta even though she owns a italian restaurant. Ugh it drives me insane.

  2. Wow I love your blog! I saw your post (on the front page!!) when I Googled 2019 ya books by black authors. I really love your other posts like THIS one. I love how unapologetically black this blog is. Thank you! ❤
    Taiwo x

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