55 pages 1 hour read

Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black Girl

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Themes

Creating Uncle Tom: The Cycle of Systemic and Internalized Racism

The Other Black Girl models the ways in which systemic racism can produce internalized racism, which, in turn, perpetuates systemic racism.

Examples of the horrors of systemic racism are embedded throughout the novel: Nella frequently reads about overt forms of anti-Black racism and violence such as police brutality, redlining, and harmful media campaigns. However, she also experiences hideously ordinary forms of systemic racism in the workplace every day: structural inequalities and biased hiring practices that limit the number of open positions available to people of color; white fragility and the irrational defensiveness with which white people respond when someone points out their bias; the constant microaggressions of liberal white women like Sophie who whisper the word Black and refer to “those people.”

In addition to systemic racism, Harris explores the insidious ways in which Black people, after years of exposure to these racist ideologies, can internalize the notion of racial hierarchies and reproduce racial bias. To illustrate the characteristics and effects of internalized racism, Harris invokes the trope of Uncle Tom. Taken from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “Uncle Tom” is a derogatory term that refers to an enslaved Black character who was excessively subservient to his white master.

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