The first time I learned about the jezebel stereotype was during my first year in college. One of my white acquaintances felt comfortable enough to inform me that the supposed hypersexuality found in black women was ordained by nature. I quickly challenged his categorical assumption and forced him to identify a black woman he knew personally who was, by his standards, lascivious. After a few minutes, he told me that he couldn’t think of one, but not to worry because they were out there.

Stereotypes are learned by everyone slowly but steadily. No one is born assuming that black women are more sexually active than women of other races. Most people cannot identify the single moment when they discovered the social constructs behind race. Instead, it is a slow and steady process, learning who you are “supposed to be” and what you are “supposed to do” on the basis of your ethnic background. This can be learned from schoolmates, ordinary strangers in public settings and even your parents.

Below is a video where 12-year-olds who attend school in Manhattan discuss what race, as a construct, means to them.

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