Lately I find myself questioning many of my ideas regarding race in this country. I reflect on the various messages I’ve received about how Black people supposedly think and live. I meditate on statements that I’ve even caught myself making in the past. I now question this narrative that has been perpetuated, and see that I should have strongly questioned it all along.
They say that Black culture is anti-intellectual and that ‘Black people don’t read’ .But in my mind’s eye I can still see my Grandma every single day, drinking her coffee and eating her toast as you read the newspaper. Watching my Grandma read the paper had a profound effect on me. You see my Grandma stopped going to school when she was eight years old as she had to go work in the fields with her family. And even though she was born in a time and era where her educational opportunities were limited due to racism, she still understood the value of knowledge and pursued it .
They say that Black people don’t care about books, and that putting information in a book is the best way to keep it from us. But in my mind’s eye I can still see the gold script of the Encyclopedia Britannica set that my Mama bought for me before I was able to read. I see myself at age six and remember the exhilarating joy I felt the day I learned to read, and how I eagerly opened up those volumes and read them to myself.
They say that Black people lack family values. But in my mind’s eye I see myself as an adolescent, my maternal family wrapping me in love and taking care of me when my mother could not due to her addiction. I recall that-in spite of any other differences we may have had and how strict they were-they never allowed me to without anything I needed and gave me stability.
They say that Black make too many excuses for failure, that we don’t take responsibility for ourselves. But then I look at my younger sister. She could have used every excuse in the book: black, female, from a broken home, child of a drug addict, raised in the inner-city, absentee father and losing her mother when she was only fifteen years old. My sister never looked at her situation as an excuse to not excel; she looked at it as the reason that she had to. So instead of being a sad story on the news , my sister is now a junior at a university, employed at the same job for over five years and a proud member of one of the “Divine Nine”.
They say that Black men just breed irresponsibly, acting like studs and neglecting their children. And though I myself married such a character, I know so many more Black men who are the polar opposite,who love and provide for their children even in difficult circumstances and take their position as a father quite seriously. I know other Black men who serve as father figures for children that do not belong to them biologically.
I don’t mention these examples to say that everything is rosy in my community. However I do feel that it is past time that we stop accepting and perpetuating a one-track narrative of Black Americans. There is much more to us than what is shown in the media.