The “sassy” black woman
I think it goes without saying why this stereotype is so damaging, but I’m going to say it anyway. It’s racist. Compartmentalizing characters of color into a handful of “types” is limiting at best and offensive at worst. This only perpetuates the idea that every person of a certain race performs in a certain way. The same can be said for the “angry black man” trope that still lingers in the popular culture. It’s just so one-sided.
As much as we enjoy a good burn and sarcastic comeback, relegating black women to this two-dimension role suggest they aren’t able to play anything else. This trope has its origins in the “Mammy” character of the 1930s and that existed long into the late 1980s. This character could “talk back” and scold her family, was seen as the wise voice of reason, and was thought of an authority over the children, although not really of the parents, since they were her employers.
She’s mostly defined by her vivaciousness, unwillingness to suffer any fools, and her snarky sense of humor. To really round out an ugly stereotype, sometimes we see her rolling her neck and snapping her fingers. It was gross back then, and although it’s become only slightly less offensive now, it’s still problematic.
However, in some recent attempts to modernize this character, they also offer this character a freer sense of her own sexuality, and insight into her own identity as a woman. Usually much more so than the white people around her.
Examples: Gimme a Break, Parks and Recreation, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, and True Blood