Here’s another edition of the great unlearn. Many of us, of all ethnicities, have learned damaging stereotypes about Black people. In this piece, I outline 30 ways in which Black people may be different than you expect.
Thanks for reading,
Sharon Hurley Hall
Not All Black People...
One of the favorite tactics of the racists and those who aren't real allies is to say "not all white people". Believe me, Black people already know, because if it were all white people, even more of us would probably be dead. But there's a lot white people don't know about Black people - a lot of assumptions they need to unlearn. And so I present: not all Black people…
Not all Black people speak for each other; we have varied backgrounds and experiences, and we are not a monolith. That means there are Black people reading this right now who will disagree with me, and that's OK.
Not all Black people were enslaved in America from 1619; Black people were enslaved throughout the 17th century across the Americas.
Not all Black people participated in enslaving their peers; if Europeans hadn't created a market, enslavement would never have become an inherited condition.
Not all Black people know their history, especially if educated in white majority countries.
Not all Black people love the skin they're in; enslavement, colonialism and a whole heap of trouble lets you understand why some passed if they could, and why colorism still divides some Black people.
Not all Black people hate the skin they're in; few do, they just wish more people would let them be in that skin in peace.
Not all Black people love their hair; many have been socialized to see it as a “problem” that has to be “managed”. Treatment at work and school just reinforces this perception.
Not all Black people hate their hair. Some see it as a beloved crown, letting them walk tall and acknowledge their ancestry. For them, Black hair is part of Black beauty, and something to be cherished.
Not all Black people are OK with Black people using the N-word, let alone white people; and don't sing it either. (Similarly, not all Black people hate it with a passion; some even want to "reclaim" it.)
Not all Black people have names that sound Black, whatever that means. Thanks to enslavement and colonization, not to mention rape and cultural erasure, many of us have names that sound like the names of the people who enslaved and brutalized us, and ain't that a mind trip, if you stop to think about it.
Not all Black people are educational underachievers. Despite discriminatory systems, many people rise, achieve, and excel.
Not all Black people speak AAVE; not even all Black Americans. It depends on your upbringing.
Not all Black people speak in dialect. First of all these are Creole languages. Second, colonialism means many Black people, in the former British Caribbean at least, speak standard English most of the time.
Not all Black people are poor; some are, a few are super-rich, and the rest are muddling along in the middle.
Not all Black people can be Oprah or Barack Obama; very few can, and when those few succeed, look at the backlash. Was it so bad that you had to elect an orange man-child?
Not all Black people are strong. We can’t bear more, physically or emotionally. We feel pain, we cry, we suffer just like everyone else. Just like white people, we may need medication or counseling, though we’re less likely to get it.
Not all Black people are cis; Black people have a range of gender identities and expressions, and all Black lives matter.
Not all Black people are able-bodied or neurotypical; some have physical and mental disabilities, and not all of these are visible, so please give people some grace.
Not all Black people live in daily fear of being shot by the police; that dubious honor is mostly reserved for America, and still not all…
Not all Black people live in the inner city; many live in the burbs, though they'd still better be careful if they're walking or jogging.
Not all Black people use or sell drugs; but those that do get stiffer sentences than their white peers doing the same thing.
Not all Black people carry guns; so why is this always a suspicion? Besides, no Black person would walk up to the cops carrying an AK-47 and expect to live, #justsayin
Not all Black people have bootstraps to pull themselves up by; centuries of enslavement don't create much scope for amassing generational wealth.
Not all Black people are athletic; some of us are klutzes too (yours truly is a case in point; I can trip over nothing).
Not all Black people are bad; many do lots of good quietly.
Not all Black people fight injustice by marching; some of us use the power of the pen (keyboard?) to educate and inspire.
Not all Black people will fight this anti-racism battle quietly; some will be loud and in your face.
Not all Black people fight racism all the time; though they're often affected by racism all the time, they also have to earn a living.
Not all Black people want to educate white people about racism; many are too tired of living it to want to talk about it.
Not all Black people will give time to white fragility; put on your big person pants and learn (and you can cut out the tears, too).
Not all Black people trust white people's word; actions speak louder, and consistent action shouts. Doing the work is right and just, so don't be looking for cookies, either.
The next time you find yourself buying into a bias or stereotype, just check yourself, and remember: not all Black people …
Thanks for reading. If you find my articles interesting or enlightening, please consider supporting this newsletter with a paid subscription.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, September 2020. Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
Have you read my book? Learn more about colorism in Exploring Shadeism.