There are Black people on every continent. Each of us comes from a different background and we are all on different paths. Therefore, it is a given that no Black person is the same as another.
It is easy to label people with convenient stereotypes for our own self-actualization, but labels minimize the depth of human beings.
I was born into an urban lifestyle. I emulated the behavior I saw around me. I was taught independence even as child. For living in urban areas, it is encouraged that kids find their own way and fend for themselves.
Sadly, it’s often necessary due to the environment; children must be prepared to think quickly due to the environment in which they live. This is why those unwritten rules of Black parents still exist, like “Make sure you’re in before the street lights come on,” and like when going out to play with a group of friends, it’s a given that when one person runs, don’t ask questions — just run. I was taught this even as the youngest of four boys and two girls.
After four years of growing up in the inner city, I moved to the suburbs. I began Pre-K at a predominantly White day care, and the next year began kindergarten at a Catholic school.
Though it was easy for me to make friends, I struggled with playing and communicating as they did. I was often misunderstood by my peers because I was used to playing more physical games and playing “the dozens”. In Catholic school, freeze tag was supervised and “Yo mama” jokes got you “time-out”.
Over time, it became easier for me to behave in a way that my new environment deemed acceptable. I was taught table manners, general etiquette and to speak properly. After growing and learning in the suburbs for the remainder of my fundamental education, I was a different person.
Though I still visited family and friends in the inner city on the weekends, my interests and problems were different than the ones they faced and talked about.
We enjoyed popular music and shows, but other than mainstream topics we had nothing in common. Not that we didn’t enjoy or care for each other, but we had different experiences in life. Different experiences lead to different perspectives.
Differences aren’t always a bad thing. They give us the yin and yang of life. Not all Black people should be the same. We should not work to fit a mold. Unfortunately, many Black people cling to stereotypes in order to self-identify rather than accepting and embracing who they really are.
Always remember where you come from; understand that we come from different places. Enjoy your similarities and embrace your differences. Each has gone through specific experiences to prepare us for our own purpose in life. Some of us are meant to diversify corporate America, some fight for rights of Black people, and others choose to go out into uncharted territory exploring and creating new opportunities.
Each is equally important. Each person is a representative and model for Black advancement, whether they come from the “hood” or the suburbs. A good team is built with members of varying attributes and skills.
All black people are different. Be true to yourself and find people who do the same. Don’t allow societal labels to organize your life or our happiness.
Regina Love is a senior mass communication major from Kansas City, Missouri.