By Brittney Hemmands
Blog Content Contributor
When looking at the world, it is easy to see how diverse we are. There are different races, cultures, languages, and so much more that makes all of us different. With all these differences, it is hard to relate to or understand people that are nothing like us. Sometimes we will hang out with people that have similar backgrounds to avoid culture clash and unfamiliarity, and other times we will result to believing in stereotypes to explain what we do not know. A stereotype is defined as a widely fixed belief that oversimplifies a group of people. This is usually thought to be about someone who is of a different race or culture than you. What we do not usually think about is how those same stereotypes are held within our own cultures and how it may affect us wanting to do things that are “out the norm”. As an African American woman, my experience with these stereotypes have been going on for my entire life. I have struggled finding my identity between being too black for white people and being too white for black people because I never fit into a category. This is why I want to debunk these stereotypes I have heard within my own community and give you some truth that may just change your perspective.
“You Talk White”
In the twenty years I have lived, I have heard this statement consistently. The idea that talking a certain way will make you suddenly seem as another race has never made any sense to me. Whether or not someone pronounces words correctly or speaks with a different tone does not change the color of their skin. Where you were raised – in the country, across the seas, etc. – plays a big role on what dialect you use and how you speak, but there aren’t any studies that proves speaking a certain way changes your race. In order to avoid disassociating someone with his or her race, I would refrain from using this statement all together.
“Black People Don’t Like Water”
This is another common misconception. It is considered a “white thing” to go swimming or surfing, and you often do not see a lot of POC (people of color) diving into the water. While this may true for some particular people, it is a myth as a whole. In the 2011 documentary White Wash, the truth is that POC actually started surfing long before anyone else ever did is revealed. I also learned this myth appeared because even though black people loved the water, the Slave Trade made many stray back to the mainland in fear of being captured. The fact that black people have a history of being swimmers debunks this statement, and I hope it also will help us stray away from the stereotype we have falsely believed in for centuries.
“Hip-Hop, R&B and Rap Only”
Throughout the African American community, Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rap are thought of to be the main genres listened to. Anything else is out of the norm and thought to be “weird”. What I do not understand is how listening to different genres are out of the norm when the African American community had such a big influence on Rock n Roll, Country, and the Blues. In fact, one of the most famous psychedelic rock guitarist is an African American named Jimi Hendrix. Listening to music outside of what seems normal does not make a person any less black, just as listening to Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rap does not make you black. It is important to appreciate the genres you love, but do not make fun of someone for loving something different.
I have only listed a few stereotypes I have experienced myself, but I wanted to get one main point across; if you are doing what may seem “different”, it does not make you any less of your race or culture. The music you listen to, the way you speak, or what your hobbies include are only characteristics of your personality and they do NOT affect how you identify. You are not bound to fit into one category; you can identify as many as you want! What’s important is that you do not stray away from doing something you love because of a false stereotype. Be proud of you are and embrace your culture.
Featured illustration by Asia Daggs.