Commentary, Ronvel Sharper
Everyone’s familiar with stereotypes. When you go to the movies, you see people play off stereotypes just to be funny. But a lot of people don’t realize that those stereotypes affect people in their everyday lives. I can name a couple of instances where my race and gender made my life harder than usual.
First off, my gender as a male is usually associated with people’s ideas of masculinity. People demand that I dress in dull colors, have a mean face, or even be an unpleasant person, just so I can achieve my own ego.
There was this one person who hated me so much in seventh grade that she would just make up rumors about me. Although none of my friends believed her, her friends would harass me because they said I was “acting like a girl.” All I was doing was helping people through depression or trying to be there for them when they were down- which apparently was a thing only girls could do.
There was also a time in third grade when I defended the disliked kid at school, and everyone in our classroom ganged up on us, calling us names, calling me “gay” because I simply befriended him. Basically, everyone is expected to follow the status quo. In our society, girls can kiss each other on the cheek, but if a guy does the same, it’s seen as gay. People just can’t stop labeling each other.
Secondly, my race affects how am I seen as a person. Black men in particular are often portrayed as dumb thugs, or the sidekick to the protagonist or antagonist in a movie. People have various attitudes toward black men. Some see just another man; some see a subhuman, while some even hate them to the bone. Even black women are shown in an unholy light in films, being portrayed as sour- mouthed rebels in an attempt to be independent.
I get avoided all the time only because I am black, all due to stereotypes. Sometimes people look down until they walk past me, because they don’t even want to chat with a black man on the street. They probably think I’m going to rob them or something. One of my friend’s mothers disliked me in the beginning because she thought I only wanted to sleep with her daughter and get out of her life. It was so bad that every time I left her house, she would ask if I had anything in my pockets. I would just expose my pockets, showing only my phone and earphones.
There are also times when even black people themselves do the same to me, which in itself is low-key self-hatred. There was even one time where I was up in Marin County. There was a squad of white kids talking with one black dude there. He looked so awkward while they were making racial jokes and just roasting him. The black kid didn’t even say anything back. He just took it and laughed. That really ticked me off and I really wanted to just punch them all, but there were too many, I didn’t want to get jumped. So I just kept my cool and stayed silent.
Finally, if you put both race and gender in the picture, you can also see the stereotype of black men being seen as hypersexualized. This stereotype is quite common in comedy movies. I’ve been stared at by some white women before, not in a flirty way, but in a “Please don’t notice me!” kind of way.
They just believe stereotypes that I will never fall under. It’s sad how people are quick to believe these stereotypes. There was one point in my life, when I was nine years old, when I thought all black men were destined to go play in the NBA. Because I always saw black men play in it, I thought it was my destiny.
Well, I’m not an NBA star, or any of the other things that people think black men are supposed to be. If you follow stereotypes, you’re not just giving others a bad impression of you. You’re setting a bad example for your race as well. I don’t define myself based on other people’s ideas about me. I am just being a nice dude, not doing anything bad like the stereotype says. I guess you could say I’m helping people break their stereotypes of black men by just being who I am.