Disclaimer: If you are a person who doesn’t believe in institutional racism, then I have some things to tell you… about you.
Whether we are the ones proving them to be true or false, stereotypes come into play in our daily lives. As a young, educated black man, I’m stereotyped for all sorts of things. A lot of times, they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here are some of the most common stereotypes I battle with every time I step out into the world since I got my degree.
We Think We’re Better Than Others
In the media, we often see stories of how someone from a minority group gets an education and then develops a superiority complex to others inside the minority. It is assumed because they are striving for self-improvement, we begin to look down on those who don’t share the same career values as us. Although I think that this may be true for some, I don’t believe we can expect that from every black male.
We have to remember that everyone is different. Even with those who we share the same culture, we have to accept them for wanting to experience things differently than we do. Black culture is diverse. We shouldn’t feel threatened to take away someone’s black card for not thinking exactly as we do. This kind of mindset is divisive. Black men see education as a way to better themselves, not to be above others. As our knowledge and perspective of the world increases, it is normal for our values to grow and change as well. That’s normal for everyone, not just black men so it bothers me when they stereotype is put on us. I think one area of improvement for the Black community is that we aren’t as open-minded and inclusive as we need to be.
We Hate our Ourselves
It is perceived from many that once a black man has entered into spaces outside of the black community and has assimilated to other cultures, it is because he hates his own. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Black American culture is so beautiful because it grew from such a horrendous time in American history (yes, I’m talking about slavery). We literally had to create our culture because our African culture was ripped away from us. This is what makes us sensitive when we see someone who doesn’t conform to all of the norms inside of our culture. This also explains why we are hypersensitive to cultural appropriation. However, this does not mean, we value our culture any less because we form connections with others outside Black culture.
Did you know that only 17% of Black men have a Bachelor’s degree or higher? What that means is that 17% is a small group inside of our minority. This can be very isolating. I remember times where I was the only black male and sometimes only black student in a classroom. Although I love being black, I felt isolated away from the black community. So naturally, you learn to code-switch and adapt to your surroundings. That doesn’t make me think less of my own culture. It actually makes me find the value of predominately black spaces. So please try not to judge someone for occupying spaces that aren’t predominately black spaces, especially black students who attend PWI’s. We are already isolated enough, we don’t need to feel like outcasts within our own community. We love being black and our culture. So we need others in our culture to love us in return.
We Are Exempt from Racism
As mentioned earlier, educated black males are a small group inside of a minority. With that being said, we work in spaces that are predominately white. It is very rare and a privilege to work in diverse, inclusive environments. It’s crazy, but unfortunately, it’s true. Institutional racism is everywhere! Microaggressions, which are racial slights and insults toward people of color, are typically what I notice first. There have been a lot of times where I was ‘complimented’ for being “articulate”, “wanting to act white,” or being the representative for the entire black community. One thing I have learned about racism, is that it’s not always overt hate towards minorities. It’s the microaggressions that build up to create these toxic environments.
Institutionalized racism is a long-going issue in our country. I feel that black men can sometimes get it much worse as we are stereotyped to be innately strong. Being vocal about it is the only way to deal with it. We shouldn’t internalize racism. That turns into self-hate. I’m not saying that anyone should become an advocate if they don’t feel comfortable, but you should be able to call out racism wherever you are. Part of creating change is being about to call out the problems.
Our Degree(s) Guarantee Success
In life, nothing is guaranteed. For black men to excel in their careers, we must be exceptional. I was told growing up that we must be twice as good to get half as far. Outside of dealing with racism, we still have issues outside our skin tone that limits us. Not to mention the natural competition we face to move up in our careers, make career changes, etc. Financial illiteracy is something that troubles the black men as well. Black men have one of the highest percentages of outstanding student loans. Seeing how this is one of the smallest groups to actually attend and graduate college, this puts out a stereotype that we don’t belong in higher education. So regardless of our education paths, it’s still difficult to develop a comfortable lifestyle.
As I continue to navigate through life, I am determined to persevere. I know in certain aspects I am privileged to have an education and I do not take it for granted. I know that there are others who are counting on me to persevere. We are needed in our communities. We need to give back and invest our younger generations so they don’t have the same plights. As difficult as it is, I’m up for the challenge. Are you?
What stereotypes do you dislike the most?