I have a difficult time interacting with people who fit stereotypes because I don’t know the right words to say to them. Maybe it’s because I was raised in the time of PC — Perfect Christian — when people pretended not to notice things like others fitting a stereotype while at the same time mocking them in private. And stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, because enough people in a particular group fit them, but maybe it’s self-perpetuating too.
It’s like when a crime goes down in the hood and the cameras are rolling so that they can get some footage for the news. Somehow the reporter finds the one person in the entire area who sounds the absolute dumbest and sticks a camera in his face.
“Yeah, I seen what dey did, sh*%, naw mean? Dat sh*% be buggin’, yo. Dis gon’ be on da news?”
And the whole time he has his pants down around his ankles with a pick sticking out of his lopsided afro, with eight teeth missing and a few holes in his t-shirt. In the background you can see his cousin waving at the camera, and you imagine TLC’s “No Scrubs” as the soundtrack for the scene. People in the neighborhood scratch their heads while they watch the broadcast, wondering where this “brutha” came from because they’ve never seen him before, and they swear the news program hired someone to play the role so no one forgets this happened in the hood.
I always want to shake the reporter and tell her, “We’re not all like that!” because guess what? Too many non-Blacks see that fool on the TV as a representation of all Blacks everywhere. Too many non-Blacks think we are this all just like this fool, and I cannot abide that notion. The hood may well be a depressed area, but that’s not because all of the people there are hoodlums, or drug dealers, or crackheads, or single mothers who do meth. It’s because too many of the people there haven’t been given a chance to succeed, or that they’ve taken the propaganda to heart. They think they are the “brutha” on the TV, and they’ve given up on being anything else. I want to just shake them and say, “Hell no, you’re not him!” And I wonder if they would listen.
Do you know why there is so much Black on Black violence out there, why we seem to always be beating on ourselves? It’s because too many of us have bought into the idea that we are nothing more than our base instincts, that the way to settle disputes is with our fists instead of with our words. We have bought into it lock, stock, and barrel, because of the media that paints the Black man as a physically strong beast who takes care of his business in the ring, on the streets, instead of in the den over a cup of tea. It just makes me sad to see the young kids coming up in this kind of society, in this media-driven world, in this age of PC — Painted Caricature — where they only see the extremes and think they need to support that vision instead of denounce it, instead of being the individuals they were born to be.
This cycle needs to stop, but where to begin? In order to change the stereotypes we need to stop fitting into them so neatly. We need to take the “hood” out of the hood, to find more Black men willing to find themselves instead of letting others define who they are. We need to help the Black women see that they’re valuable and valued instead of just a source of sex and babies, just an outlet for all the troubles of the time and of the area. We need to stop internalizing our pain and let it bleed for others to see that we’re human too, that we are endowed with the same mental capacity that others are, that we can deal without getting physical. It’s a steep slope but it can be done, so that we can turn Black on Black violence into Black on Black appreciation. I have a dream that one day I’ll see the news and the man being interviewed is a proud Black man who sounds real without sounding dumb, who wears a belt on his pants and who isn’t stoned.
But it starts with loving ourselves.