How Black Are You? (How Stereotypes Affect Our View On 'How Black' Someone Is)

Welcome back. This is a subject I have touched upon in my June 17th article entitled 'Why Cultural Pride and Internalised Racism Cannot Co-Exist', however today I will be exploring this topic more.


Throughout history, stereotypes have been used as the preconceived thought that leads to widespread discrimination (systemic or non-systemic) on multiple accounts against multiple different groups. But for the sake of this article, I will be focusing on how it affects black people specifically. In America, throughout the 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries, these stereotypes dominated the way black people were seen in everyday life and presented in the media. The 'Sapphire' stereotype (in contemporary times, the 'Angry black woman' stereotype) of a domineering female who consumes men and usurps their roles and is strong, 'masculine', and aggressive. The 'Uncle Tom' stereotype of a black man who is 'simple-minded' and 'compliant' and 'more interested in the welfare of 'whites' over that of 'blacks''. The 'black buck' stereotype of a black man who is 'animalistic', 'savage' and 'destructive'. And there is a lot more where that came from during that period. In contemporary times, we see more stereotypes of black Americans that mostly link to the stereotypes I've listed above. The 'angry black woman' stereotype has continued to this day being one of the most pervasive ones. The 'welfare queen' is also another one of a black woman who defrauds the public welfare system for a life of idle luxury. Then also the 'positive' stereotype of black people being more athletic and more superior in sports in general. While this seems like a positive stereotype, the B-side of it is that then black people are perceived as being deficient in academic subjects. This is the case for most 'positive' stereotypes of black people. One in which negative stereotypes come out the other side. Furthermore, throughout the Transatlantic slave trade, the widespread immigration of Africans and Caribbeans to Britain, and all the way to today, one stereotype has remained intact and still damagingly affects a lot of black lives today. The stereotype of black people being 'criminals'. This specific stereotype has cost many, many lives in the past. Our societal predisposition to view black people as having an innate predisposition to be criminals has caused black people to be stopped and searched despite nothing raising suspicion apart from the colour of their skin. It has caused black people to get shot and killed at traffic stops. Stereotypes have caused endless anxiety for black communities around the world and have created a collective trauma and slowed advancement and development for decades and decades and decades. And I am only describing the surface level for this issue at this moment.

So you may be thinking, but aren't stereotypes based on reality. It is important to note most are based on distorted or exaggerated realities and the actions of a small group or even 1 person. It is true, that black people are overrepreseneted in British crime statistics but it is not for some 'innate trait of criminality' but because of poverty, systemic racism and other multiple disadvantages.


Moving on from historical points, my own experiences as a black person who goes to school with a lot of other black people, have given me some points on how stereotypes in today's world about black people have shaped how we view 'how black' someone is. I am not 'athletic' in the traditional sense that I do not enjoy a lot of sports therefore I do not participate in them much. That's one point down. I am a vegetarian and don't eat meat therefore I must (hate chicken). That's another point down. I've been told I 'speak 'posh' or 'differently'' (I don't think I do). That's another point down. And the list goes on from intelligence to choice of music to listen to. And while I try to not let this affect me much it is hard to ignore the stereotypes rooted in these claims and this 'scale of blackness' (one end is 'fully black' and other is seen as black with 'white qualities'). Like I stated in the previously mentioned article, eating chicken is not what makes you black and even the notion that it is is based on the stereotype. To be black it doesn't mean you have low intellect, that's rooted in the centuries of being told that black people are intellectually inferior both here and in America and again it is a stereotype. These stereotypes should not determine how black someone is and the faster we realise that the better.

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