Today?s Boundaries of Blackness: Is Secondary Marginalization Still Applicable to the AIDS Crisis in 2008?

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Ten years ago, Cathy Cohen published the book "Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics", examining the black community's response to the AIDS crisis. Cohen posited that secondary marginalization within the black community resulted in rising HIV/AIDS rates. Secondary marginalization is a process of exclusion of a subgroup of a marginalized community that functions outside the normative rules that determine community membership and power. Within the black community, this includes women and gay men, two of the groups most highly afflicted with HIV/AIDS. In 2008, blacks have the highest rate of new HIV infections. Stratification among marginal group members targets the most vulnerable in the group in exchange for the progress of the whole. I looked specifically at the impact of secondary marginalization on black women. The ideologies surrounding black women suggest that they are promiscuous, poor, and drain the welfare system. Popular media has shown a rise in images of promiscuous black women in the last ten years. Mass media outlets, such as the Los Angeles Times, have also shown a rise in articles on black women and poverty, welfare, crime, and drug use. In an attempt to distance the black community as a whole from the negative images of black women, the crises of black women go largely ignored. This is reflected by the decline of articles on HIV/AIDS in black womens? indigenous magazines. Finally, in 2008, little has changed in the black community?s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis via funding or education programs.


Regina Freer




Anderson Fund Endowment

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