This Will Be My Undoing | Morgan Jerkins

Summary of: This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America
By: Morgan Jerkins


This introduction offers readers a glimpse into ‘This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America’ by Morgan Jerkins. The book dives deep into the complexities of navigating life as a Black woman in a white-dominated society. It covers topics such as the desire for assimilation, racial heritage, the concept of ‘color-blindness,’ the historical objectification of Black women, the importance of representation in media and the impact of stereotypes on Black women’s lives. The author also explores the challenges faced by Black women and the importance of supporting one another in their quest for success. Throughout the summary, readers will be engaged by a clear and comprehensive analysis of the many layers of this thought-provoking book.

The Struggle of Embracing Blackness

From childhood, Jerkins tried to assimilate into white culture for acceptance. But she learned that white culture always wins and doesn’t see Black culture as a viable option. The labels “human” and “Black woman” are perceived as mutually exclusive by some white people, denying Blackness when not conforming to stereotypes. Acknowledging a Black person as though they were white is still considered a compliment, and being a well-spoken and educated Black woman is seen as defying the norm, making her no longer Black but white – and thus human.

Why Being Color-Blind isn’t a Virtue

Not distinguishing between skin colors is not a progressive stance. In fact, it only perpetuates racism by ignoring the societal challenges faced by people of color. Not recognizing someone’s blackness disregards the unique cultural history of black people and only reflects a white perspective. Being color-blind assumes a “universal” standard that is actually a white perspective, dismissing real systemic racism. When black people aren’t regarded as black because color doesn’t exist, it means they have successfully assimilated into white culture. White people do not have the right to determine whether someone identifies as black or not. The idea that color doesn’t matter is a myth that needs to be debunked.

The Dehumanization of Black Women

Black women have been historically dehumanized by being used for entertainment purposes. Starting from being displayed for people to gawk at, to becoming sexualized by the media, the act of dehumanization has been present for centuries. As slaves, their bodies were the property of white owners, and in modern times, they are still categorized as sexual objects rather than people. This has restricted their self-discovery. Fetishizing Black women robs them of their agency, and treating them as though they are objects exists only for white people’s enjoyment. The act of touching or petting a Black woman’s hair is offensive and degrading, considering the cultural significance that Black hair carries.

The Importance of Representation in Film and TV for Black Girls

The film Girlhood, directed by a white woman, has been criticized for claiming to depict the experiences of a young girl in general, when in fact it negates the unique experiences of Black girls. Black girls are often sexualized or stigmatized in ways white girls aren’t, and media representation further perpetuates this issue. While white women can talk about Black women, they must do so reflexively and acknowledge that they can never fully understand the Black female experience. Feminism must accept the differences between women of different ethnicities to be truly successful.

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