10 Lies Society Told Me about Black Women

*Feat. Image by Selenada via deviantart.com

10 Lies Society Told Me about Black Women

A short list of lies people outside of and within my race have told me about black women.

1. Black women don’t camp

I won’t lie. I’m not the type of person who would readily categorize an adventure in the woods as a hot Friday night. But most people aren’t. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go if someone asked me. There are so many stereotypes about black women being allergic to nature that I’m beginning to think that if I went outside and brushed up against a tree, I would break out into hives and subsequently explode into a thousand tiny pieces.

2. Black women don’t swim

No, I can’t swim and it’s not about my hair! I can go on and on about the fateful day at Disney World on which my confidence in swimming was crippled forever. But that’s not the point. The She Don’t Swim stereotype derives not from a massive series of traumatic childhood experiences, but from the petty assumption that black women don’t like to swim because they don’t want to mess up their hair. That may be the case for some people. But is a black girl who almost drowned any different from a white girl who almost drowned? Where’s the vanity in that?

3. Black women aren’t vegetarians

I’m not a vegetarian but I’ve pondered it plenty of times. When I ask family friends and relatives what they think, they raise a skeptical brow and look away as if I made a tasteless joke. Last I saw, there wasn’t a sign in the produce section that proudly read Whites Only.

4. Black women aren’t soft spoken

Cripplingly shy people sort of annoy me and I’ve met plenty of cripplingly shy black girls who have annoyed the crap out of me. But to be fair, it isn’t cool to police a Be Loud and Proud policy on every black girl you meet. Black women can be as shy or as bold as any other woman on the planet.

5. Black women only sing gospel

Blacks and non-blacks alike seem to think that black women are only good at singing R&B and gospel. Whenever I’m at an event where the MC asks a few audience members to showcase a talent, there are always at least five black girls trying to sing the same Mary Mary song and only one of the five does it correctly. One time a girl leaned over and asked me if she should sing “Ave Maria” instead. Before I could answer she recanted and became the sixth girl to sing that freaking Mary Mary Song.

6. Black women don’t have any talents but dancing, singing, and acting

When I tell people that I go to an art school they immediately ask me if I sing. I say no. They look me up and down and they can obviously see that I don’t have the body of a dancer, but they ask me if I dance anyway. I say no. Oh, so you must act! No. Leave me alone, I write.

7. Black women don’t like experiencing new things

I can’t count the times I’ve suggested going to an odd restaurant, a cultural festival, or watching a foreign movie and the black women in the group give me an uncertain hum before making the I’m judging you face. I also can’t count the times I’ve suggested doing any of those things and the non-black people stare at me in awe before saying that they didn’t think I would be into things like that. Why does this shock them? Why is this stereotype being pushed by both sides of the spectrum? I thought doing new things was what was life was all about.

8. Black women don’t like interracial relationships

People like to act like they care but I don’t think they really do. A black woman would happily date a non-black person if they liked them. A sane woman of any race wouldn’t choose an abusive bum over a nice, responsible partner solely because the bum is from the same race or culture.

9. Successful black women are “stuck-up” or “white washed”

This stereotype has appeared in almost every Tyler Perry movie ever. You know who I’m talking about—that chick that’s at the top of the corporate ladder and totally abuses her black husband and the rest of her family before announcing her plans to steal all of their money and run away with a white dude? To point out a more recent reference, the character Olivia Pope from Scandal has been accused of conforming to this stereotype. But while I dislike Olivia Pope for unrelated reasons, I have to put this stereotype down right now. It attacks black women from both racial and feminist points by meshing the accusations that commercially successful women who require leadership skills are stuck-up, bossy, and “bitchy” and that women of color who associate with white people are self-hating—two accusations that I believe are unfair generalizations.

10. All black women love rap, hip-hop, R&B, etc.

No, stop. We will like whatever we want to like. I like some rap, hip-hop, and R&B songs. But I don’t confine myself to those genres. I’m tired of black people breaking off into song rifts and expecting me to join in like I’ve known the song for years and I’m tired of non-black people trying to consult me about the meaning of a song like I’m Rap Genius. I’m not positive that the founder of RG is even black.

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