Culture of Dissemblance

The Culture of Dissemblance is basically when someone rejects a stereotype that is used to characterize them by becoming the exact opposite of that stereotype.

Darlene Clark Hine, a historian, has referenced the culture of dissemblance in terms of Black women’s sexuality. Black women are stereotyped as Jezebels and during Jim Crow when many Black women were working as domestics, they were vulnerable to sexual assault by white employers. Therefore, many Black women created a culture of dissemblance by masking their sexuality and creating an asexual exterior.

Melissa Harris Perry writes, “the act of dissemblance was a tactic to find the upright in the crooked room.” Melissa Harris Perry coined the crooked room, it’s basically the idea that the perception of Black women is so schewed, that many Black women align themselves with steretoypes believing that the room is straight, when its crooked. The culture of dissemblance is an attempt to align yourself straight in a crooked room.

For example, if you know of the loud Black woman stereotypes, you might create a culture of dissemblance by going out of your way to portray yourself as quiet, demure and submissive. You are substituting the loud stereotype and forcing yourself to be quiet to dissemble that stereotype. However, you are denying yourself the right to speak freely because you fear that you will be characterized as a loud, sapphire Black woman. You are in a crooked room.

Check out the video below for more information about the culture of dissemblance and the crooked room:


Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America


7 thoughts on “Culture of Dissemblance”

  1. Good post, but even better video. So many things she said registered for me on so may levels. The ‘shame and proud/pride’ effects of racial figures is an eyeopener, the crooked room as well.
    White people feel this shame as well and the pride too, but this is where the imbalance between races come into play. White people or races that hold sway over large societies feel less of this shame and unjustly more racial pride, because of the system that they largely control. Whenever they are forced in any way to, at least, see that they should be accountable for past and present actions, that excessive unjustified racial pride that they hold is threatened.


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