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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/24/13

Web Series Black Folk Don't Explores Stereotypes of African Americans

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Black Folk Don't , a web series written and directed by Nonso Christian Ugbode and produced by Black Public Media , is a web series that explores and debunks various stereotypes of Black Americans.  The series is filmed in various cities, and various Black Americans are often asked to speak about certain common stereotypes of Blacks.   As the panelists give fairly different answers and responses to the stereotype, the stereotype is challenged itself.  Topics covered include suicide, therapy, tipping, swimming, traveling, eating disorders, and going to the doctor.  One thing many of the participants said is that Black was substituted for poor.  Two of the stereotypes were that Blacks Don't Go to doctors and Blacks don't travel.  The participants pointed out going to the doctor is a matter of having money and/or insurance, and travel is a matter of being able to afford to travel.  So those that do indeed have resources do travel and/or go to the doctor.  One's race has nothing to do with it.  In terms of doctors, this African American writer just went to an eye surgeon on Park Avenue for lasek.   

Suicide was explored as well.  Obviously, there have been high profile examples of Blacks killing themselves.  But also discussed was slow forms of suicide that include alcoholism and addiction.  One participant thought that the stereotype of a strong Black woman was dehumanizing, as many Blacks do indeed struggle with depression and/or other forms of mental illness, just like any other race or group of people.  As for eating disorders, certain participants mentioned Black women who struggled with anorexia or bulima, as well as those who overeat.  Overeating as an eating disorder, or poor eating, is every much as dangerous and potentially life threatening as anorexia and bulima.  All of the disorders can also be linked to various mental disorders.  A number of participants felt that was a generational divide on the issue of therapy and of mental health.  Older blacks, who likely grew up with little money and no insurance had hostile attitudes towards therapy.  Younger people, who grew up in an era where you had more affluent Blacks, were more open to going to the therapist or seeking other mental health services.

Swimming was interesting because there seemed to be an evolution of people's attitudes about this stereotype, Black Folk Don't Swim.  On this episode, many of the people interviewed were from New Orleans.  An older woman pointed out how New Orleans is surrounded by water, and that of course she knew how to swim.  Another man said that in New Orleans, swimming should be a required activity for everyone.  One woman mentioned that not only did people die during Katrina from drowning, but post Katrina kids often drowned in abandoned pools in homes.  So this woman, who did not know how to swim herself, made sure her kids took swimming lessons.  She (along with others) viewed it as a skill that may save one's life.  (This writer is Black and a good swimmer, and it once saved my life, when I was drunk and jumped off a boardwalk.  It was in a dimly lit location in Fire Island, and I thought I would land on sand.  Instead, I landed in the bay and thank god I'm a good swimmer.)   And speaking of an evolution on attitude on swimming, the East and Gulf Coasts have been slammed by hurricanes within the past 10 years.  Its likely the poor in Coney Island, Brooklyn and the Rockaways in Queens, NY will make good use of swimming lessons at local YMCA's that are under construction and that will open soon.

Tipping was one of the issue that had the most disagreement among the participants.  Some tried to justify it because of historical purposes.  Others mentioned people that knew who felt embarrassed by this perception that Blacks don't tip.  (This writer tips, and really could care less what other Blacks do.  Other people's lives aren't my problem).  I will also note that people who go out regularly, regardless of race, tip.  You cannot get away with not tipping if you're regular customer of a place.  I've seen bartenders and waiters confront cheap customers on their tips in New York and Los Angeles. I would agree with those who would say this isn't a race issue, its a money/cheapness issue.

Perhaps one conclusion one can draw from this series is that no one person sees the whole picture on what Black people do.  Everyone is different.  There is no one person that can speak for an entire group of people.  Even within families, people can be pretty different from each other in terms of their attitudes.  Also events such as hurricanes can quickly change attitudes among large numbers of people.  So trying to define any group of people by their race, is ultimately collectivism, and a very dumb form of collectivism.  With that in mind, people who are of a race should be aware that being of a race doesn't mean or or anyone else can speak for that race.  A lot of times when these people said Black people this or Black people that, they were in reality speaking about themselves or their friends.  So they should have said my friends and I do this or that, instead of Black people.  And ditto for any other racial or ethnic group.

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Justin Samuels Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Screenwriter. Historian. BA in History and certificate in Latin American studies from Cornell University. MA in English Education from Columbia University. Very interested in public policy.

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