When people encounter a black person, they are subconsciously compared to expectations grafted onto them by stereotypes. Blacks hear, “you’re not really black” from both white people and black people alike.
Black people use the term “Uncle Tom” to describe black people that don’t fit their expectations of blackness just as frequently as white people might say, “you’re not like most black people,” or better yet, “I’m blacker than you.”
Unfortunately these stereotypes are exceedingly negative. In my own experience, I’ve found that slang and grammatical incoherence are so closely associated with black people and articulateness is considered distinctly not black.
I surveyed professors and students on the campus of Xavier about what they think it means to be black. When you read these answers, you will see that they are somewhat different, but the key message from each person is: Being black is means staying true to yourself, embodying who your are, and facing the odds even though they are stacked against you.
Kennedy Cox, Junior Mass Communication Major:
“Being black means being a part of the strongest, smartest, and most resourceful group of people on the planet. We have had every single burden possible placed in front of us and still manage to come out on top. We are also incredibly kind and always look out for others even when people don’t look out for us.”
Jordyn Jackson, Junior Business Accounting Major:
“Being black is having to work twice as hard to be half as great. Being black is walking into the room knowing that everyone will be fearful of you outshining them. Being black is contributing to society in all ways without being thanked. Being black is having power. Being black is creativity. Being black is inclusion of every race. Being black is fighting for what is right even when no one will fight or stand with you. Being black is not allowing others opinions to box you in.”
Tylan Nash, Sophomore Mass Communication Major:
“Being black means understanding that your blackness is more than what people outside of the culture make it to be. You have to define what it means to be black yourself. You are your own person outside of what the stereotypes says.”
Dr. Rachael Grant, Professor at Xavier University of LA:
“Blackness is an embodiment; not just how we feel but how we present ourselves to the world. This struggle and long story of strength and wisdom that we have passed down through our ancestors and current activist is a longer legacy of what it means to endure tough times, preserve, and struggle.”
Monica Pierre, Professor at Xavier University of LA:
“On the highest level the intention is to embody who you were created to be and do it with integrity and courage. Often times in reality, we are faced with choices. And sometimes we have to balance who we truly want to be with the reality of the situation. Sometimes I struggle, but I hope that I exemplify courage to be who I was created to be. I hope to use gifts and talents and put that into the world and let that be my legacy of what people think of me going forward.”