To Be, or Not to Be Black Essay

Submitted By ctgordy
Words: 1111
Pages: 5

To Be, or Not to Be Black “Are you black?” is a question that I have encountered in my life countless times. The following conversations are always so similar it is almost as if they were scripted. I answer “yes”, but the person proceeds to tell me why I am not black. They say that I am too light-skinned, that I have “white-people hair”, or that I do not act black. I always wonder what makes these people think that they have the authority to tell me who I am. Despite being annoyed by their ignorance, I explain how I am indeed a black person. Having to constantly deal with encounters such as these has conditioned me to be ready to prove that I am black to anyone that questions me. It is troubling that people have to provide reasons as to why they are black, but it seems as if that is how society is today. After my experiences and observations of the “black” world around me, it has become evident that the population of “true” black people is very limited. Being “black" involves meeting certain standards set by society, dealing with stereotypes on a daily basis, and the ever so constant struggle to climb the social ladder. According to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, black means “of or relating to a race of people who have dark skin and who come originally from Africa” (Merriam-Webster). The Oxford English Dictionary defines black in a variety of ways ranging from “denoting a member of any dark-skinned group of peoples”, to “enveloped in darkness”, and “deeply stained with dirt; soiled, filthy, begrimed” (OED Online). If official dictionaries recognize that anyone from African descent is black, why is that society cannot? Discrepancies between the dictionary definition of black and society’s definition of black elicit the controversy of what makes someone black. It appears that society has unofficial requirements a person must meet in order to be considered black. A person must act a certain way, do certain things, and go through certain kinds of experiences a “true” black person would go through. A friend once told me that if I have not seen the movie Love and Basketball I am not black because every black person has seen it. That comment struck a nerve because it was ridiculous that according to her, the difference between being black and white was something as simple as seeing a movie. Another requirement black people have to meet is how a black person should look. Apparently, a black person should be dark skinned and should not have “good” hair. However, this is the complete opposite of reality because black people have evolved into many different looks and makes. Now it seems as if the number of “true” black people is slowly shrinking. Stereotypes play a role in the daily life of black people. Sadly, most of the time the negative stereotypes are what represent black people as a whole. As a result from the stereotyping, a lot of other cultures look down on black people and their ways. Some of the stereotypes claim that all black people are thugs, low-lives, basketball players, and all sag their pants. The striking fact is that most of the stereotypes exist in other cultures, yet the focus is always on black people. Negative stereotypes have such a prominent role in black culture that the positive outcomes in the black community are often dismissed. For example, some of the country’s best entertainers, athletes, and politicians, including the President, are black (Raspberry 315). Even if these “elite” black people have not gained respect from everyone, no one can deny the fact that they are successful. Many fall victim to the dismissal of success when they should be receiving praise for their accomplishments. It is almost as if all black people are being placed into a proverbial box of people that are bad influences. Stereotypes should never be allowed to become a blanket term for a group of people. Everyone is unique and society needs to start acknowledging this fact. The Oxford English Dictionary’s