This is from the mindset of one African American man. These are my views; as unfiltered as I am allowed to be on a site that frowns upon crass language and suggestive talk. I come to the members of my community as a member of that same group. I ask my brothers and sisters one question: Why? Why are some of us so incapable of seeing past our own plights to offer even the slightest bit of sympathy to other groups? Why do we celebrate the downtrodden, the delinquents, and the miscreants that perpetuate the harmful stereotypes that continuously plague our community, but shed little to no spotlight on the individuals of academic, cinematic, or scholastic prowess who elevate us to a platform beyond the ghettos and streets? Okay, that was more than one question, but, let’s move on.
To look at my skin color and gender, one would have to assume numerous things about me: I am a Christian, I am good at basketball or football, I listen to only rap and R&B, and I only watch BET. Why do I say this? Because I want to elaborate on these ridiculous connotations for a second: out of the mouths of anyone else who was not a black person, this would be regarded as blatantly racist and offensive and stereotypical. And, to be frank, I have had many of my non-black friends (not just white) bring up this up to me and question my “blackness.” I have learned to dismiss this for the most part, and honestly never saw it too much as racist for one reason: my black peers were calling me on it long before my non-black peers ever were.
Here’s my deal: I am gay, I am an atheist, and I am black. And while I didn’t come out as either until later on in life (I am not even out as an atheist to anyone except a former friend), there were just so many other things about me that were different from most of the kids I grew up with in the historical town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, America’s first all-black incorporated town. As a teenager, I transitioned more to the diverse cultures of mainstream media and music, while my peers stayed mainly with rap music and R&B. And while there is nothing wrong with keeping your scope narrow, my issues came from others who lambasted me for daring to like music like Bush and Soundgarden. My anxieties were so bad, that I would literally hide my music tapes and mix CDs out of fear that someone might hear them and learn that while Track 1 was Three 6 Mafia, two tracks over was Christina Aguilera . I mean, never mind the fact that she was pop music, what was I, a black teenage boy, doing listening to song about a genie in a bottle and what a girl wanted, unless I was looking for tips? Because, you know, I was supposed to be straight and only into rap and hip hop.
We in the black community have a real bad habit of pigeonholing ourselves into only a few categories. In order to be acceptable in mainstream black culture, we have to be either rappers, musicians, or athletes. We can be world renowned scientists, book authors, show creators, and activists in the LGBT community, but that doesn’t command the same respect from our black youth quite like a rapper getting out of prison or being the next World Star Hip Hop phenomenon.
We pigeonhole ourselves with religion. I have yet to personally meet a black Buddhist, a black Jewish person, a black Scientologist, or even a black atheist (which I am). The only individuals I have ever been around are Christians. They were Christians of different denominations, mind you, but still all Christians. My grandmother, who raised me, is a Jehovah’s Witness, and though she does not identify as a Christian (Jehovah’s witnesses are “Christ-like”), that is exactly what she is. Other religions are frowned upon in the black community, and atheism is all but unheard of as a black person. I have found that it would be more acceptable for me to be gay than it would be for me to be an atheist, in my community. My family is no better, with the noted exception of an amount of family members I could count on one hand; hell, I could count them on one finger.
There is such a disconnect with black america and the many cultures that exist within it. Believe it or not, not all of us aspire to be rappers or singers. Not all of us spend our waking hours eating, sleeping, and breathing basketball or football. Maybe I like tennis or lacrosse. Maybe I want to be a yodeler or folk singer. Maybe I want to write short stories and books while occasionally doing some personal blogging. If I don’t denigrate your preferences, why do you denigrate mine? I have no problem with other black people preferring rap, basketball, and the so-called urban culture. But, your personal preferences should not have to define my life, and should not have to be so profound that even other races are taken aback by my “lack of blackness.” We are all the same people and the same race: the human race. But do not assume that because some of us are the same color, that only one label would be applicable to describe us.
And to make one final point, I would like to address the inevitable conclusion that many may come to if this is posted, and if anyone bothers to read it: This is not a notion that is permeating only the black community. I don’t address other communities because I can’t speak for other communities, nor do I want to; I can barely speak for my own. I talk of my experiences and what I have seen as being a black man in a community where I feel more like an outsider than a member. Where the only thing that unites us is the fact that our skin tones are the same colors. Where because I appreciate the fine arts and a culture that is foreign to my upbringing, I am a sellout or “whitewashed”. We need to know that whether we are gay, straight, theist, atheist, deist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or just spiritual, we are all still cut from the same cloth and that our diversity within our own communities should be celebrated, not panned and ridiculed. Okay, I’m done.