The pure white woman stereotype was a picture that white Americans had in their heads about white women. It pictured them as being pure in terms of both sex and race. It was the main excuse given for Jim Crow, the laws and customs that kept down black people for a hundred years after they were freed as slaves.
Even today the stereotype lives on in a weakened form, making white Americans uncomfortable when they see a black man with a white woman.
The pure white woman determined how whites looked at blacks. If white women were pure, then black men were the threat. Thus the black brute stereotype, which saw black men as savages. And if white women were pure, then black women were not. Thus the Jezebel stereotype, which saw black women as easy and loose.
At the heart of all this was the raw fear in the hearts of white men that black men would take all of “their” women – meaning the white women. They thought black men were better at pleasing women in bed. So they had to be stopped.
They were stopped in three ways:
- White men kept the races apart with Jim Crow laws, laws backed up by lynchings.
- White men made sure that most black men were kept poor, making them undesirable to white women as husbands.
- The One Drop Rule meant that any children a white woman had by a black man would be black too.
Black men were kept from white women, but white men continued to rape black women without consequence.
So, in the name of keeping white women pure, to keep them up on that pedestal, blacks were kept down.
But white women were kept in their place too, even if it was up on a pedestal somewhere closer to the angels.
The American magazines and religious books of the 1800s told white women that to be good and pure they should leave the dirty business of running the world to their husbands. So no need to vote. They were told that making beds was much better for them than reading books, which would only fill their heads with the wrong ideas. And so on.
The Jim Crow laws came down in the 1950s and 1960s. By 1967 black men could marry white women anywhere in the country.
But even now some white people are still not comfortable seeing a black man with a white woman. White women are still held up as more beautiful than anyone and more morally upright, despite “Girls Gone Wild” and other things. And when a white woman is missing it can be on the news for days and days, while missing black women never seem to make the news for some reason.