Defying Stereotypes

I constantly preach on the stereotype issue. I am always highlighting how so many times people are placing labels on people based on preconceived notions placed upon groups by society. In my daily life, I truly never judge a book by its cover, but personally I worry how people view me within society.

For the majority of my adult life, I have been the perfect example of why people should not stereotype people, but sometimes I focus so much on breaking stereotypes that I diverge from being truly myself. The fact that I shy away from my true self is even worse than proving a stereotype right.

This leads me to my purpose for writing. Sometimes people like myself either try hard to defy a stereotype or to fit the stereotype instead of remaining true to ourselves.  I am a sarcastic, intelligent, rap/rock listening, sub par dancing, proper speaking, chicken loving, animal loving, multi-racial american.

At times I shy away from my love for hip-hop, rock, or country not to look too white or too black. I stop emphasizing my words around certain people or refrain from using certain vocabulary. I dumb myself down, tone down my sarcasm, and become a lesser version of myself. I am not promoting that I do not love my personality, but sometimes I am so focused on proving certain stereotypes wrong that I diminish vital personality traits the I possess.

I have come to realize that educating on diminishing stereotypes is enough. I do not have to become someone different to inform others of the negative connotation and harmful effects caused by stereotypes within society.

I can still laugh too loud, eat too much fried chicken, talk “too”‘ white (speak proper English), dance like no one is watching, and listen to a wide variety of music. I can do all of these without shame because I do not always need to defy a stereotype. I need to be me! If being completely true to myself makes or breaks stereotypes than so be it,but if I am defining that stereotype than so be it. Regardless I am happily being who I was meant to be.

Here is to growing into a new and happier person. Here is to the next phase of my adult life! Here is to everyone being their true amazing self!

I am not an Exception

The other day, one of my good friends put a post on Facebook explaining why he is not an exception.  He made a great point and an important remark that I feel should be shared to the masses. He wrote the following:

“I am not an exception. I repeat, I am NOT an exception!

Now that I have your attention, here are a few reasons why. I am NOT an exception for:

– Pursuing higher education
– Being educated!!!
– Being able to hold a deep and insightful conversation on complex or controversial topics
– Having goals and a plan to obtain them

An exception is defined as, “a person or thing that is excluded from a general statement or does not follow a rule.” So being that none of my above examples should come as shocking for a person in their mid 20’s, I am not an exception. Pretty simple right?

Unfortunately, my melanin causes some peoples logic program to malfunction and they throw an “exception” label on me because it’s tough to comprehend. Though, I could understand it, you know, if I was the first black person to do it. Maybe even the first from “the hood” with dreadlocks and tattoos, but I’m not. All I’ll say is, if my computer program kept throwing exceptions, I’d rewrite my program. Though, even with the many instances of black excellence that occur daily, I can honestly say I’m not surprised people still believe there are just a few “exceptions.” Cause between the media and unfortunately the actions of some of our community members (yes, we have to own up to our own part in this situation), that “general statement or rule” will continue to reign.

There are thousands upon thousands more individuals like me, and more being born each day. We are determined to achieve greatness in whatever form it takes in our personal lives, and are willing to use all of resources to do so. I thought that was the “American Dream”!

So let the world know, WE are NOT exceptions.

Changed minds change lives. #geniusmentality” 

I repeatedly write and rally against stereotypes, and the placement of imaginary boxes society places upon people, but I have always allowed people to reference my achievements as an exception. I am constantly reminded that many people of my race with similar socioeconomic background never end up going to college or having the opportunities that have been presented to me.  As I am constantly fighting against the boxes society has created, I have never pushed against the reality that, I am not an exception. I am not a lone wolf. I am one of many educated African Americans. I am one of many black Americans that pursue a higher education, who land a decent job, or that can have a meaningful conversation.  In comparison about 33% of African Americans pursue higher education compared to 41% of whites.  Over 1/3 of the African American population pursues higher education, and this percent is constantly growing each year. 1/3 of a population is not an exception.  When will society wipe away the rules on what is normal for a person of a specific race? When will  a person stop being defined by their pigmentation? When will we all realize that we are not a product of our race, our past, our socioeconomic status?  These factors may help create our personality, our determination, our being, and our outlook on life, but it does not make anyone an exception. Instead it allows us to prove that pushing barriers reaps great rewards, and anyone can live the American dream.  The next time you want to give someone a pat on the back and tell them they are an exception, remind yourself how many people overcome the same obstacles.

To my dear friend who wrote this enlightening post. You are right, you are not an exception, but yet you are still exceptional. The definition of exceptional: to describe something that is unusual; not typical. You are not exceptional because of your circumstance or your accomplishments as a black man, but you are exceptional because you are enlightened beyond your years. You are exceptional because you treat people with dignity and respect. You are exceptional because you set goals that are bigger than yourself, and you never rest until you get there. You are exceptional because you are not the typical guy with dreads who made it out of the hood, but an enlighten young guy who never allows others to put his accomplishments in a box.  Your genius mentality is inspiring to so many.

-KP

What is being “too white”?

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In American society, if one has an ounce of African-American blood running through their veins, other Americans instantly consider the person “black”.  Do not get me wrong, I embrace the fact that people call me “black”, and I encourage people to realize that in fact my father is African-American and North American Indian.  “.

Although at large people only consider my African-American heritage, there is one thing the drives me insane. When someone state that I act “too white”.  People from both the African-American community and White American community have both stated this comment.  I will not argue with someone who states that I have “white” mannerisms, I dress preppy, I engage in “white” conversation, or any other “white” attribute that I seem to obtain.  I guess what I am trying to say is what makes what I am doing “white”, how am I “too white”? (besides the obviously fact that my mother is in fact white). Many educated people of color that I have had the pleasure of knowing find it highly offensive and demeaning to categorize their mannerisms as “white”.  If you look at some of the most inspirational advancements within the African-American community it was by these amazing people who seem to have a lot of  “white” mannerisms.

What this all boils down to is: when in American culture have we substituted having diction and speaking American English language as it is taught categorized as white?    Why is wearing a certain brand of clothing considered “white”?   On that same note “why are so many white people acting black?”  Why do we categorize mannerisms, personal style, and speech by race.

Our major issue in American society is not police brutality against people of color, the major issue is separating everything between what is “black” and what is “white”.  We separate and distinguish between our differences rather than coming together as a whole society to celebrate our similarities. Unfortunately our society is constantly reinforcing stereotypes and categorizing certain negative characteristics as “black” instead of listing it as it truly is.  Such as aspects that people consider “hill billy” or “country” is a negative connotation that does not necessary stem directly to one race or another.  Can we list a style as hip-hop and speech simply as “slang”?  By eliminating certain stereotypes (Not just white or black but all cultures) that cause negative view of a culture as a whole can allow American to be great nation that we pretend it to be.

Finally Weighing In: “Black Lives Matter”

It is not often that I write, discuss, or share my personal beliefs on politics or current events, but in the recent weeks I have been pondering about the controversial civil rights issues that have been present within the media and political debate within the past few months. I abstain from many politically charged debates mainly, which lead many to believe that I have few opinions. This is far from the truth noting that I am a political science major, and have a strong stance on most issues, but often view situations quite differently due to my extensive political background. I refrain from debate due to my twisted unusual views and the fact that I hate debating people who are emotionally attached to a subject that they have little to no accurate knowledge about. With that said, I warn those who decide to continue to read that this is purely my opinion and up for debate, and I will not give you a simple response.

Within the media, I have seen to spectrums of the argument. One stating that the incidents are not civil rights issues, but actions of the officer were caused by these individuals violating the law. On the opposite end, people state that police brutality is a persistent problem that plagues black communities. These two sides are blaming one another for what occurred and for the outcome and results of these incidents. As an educated woman of color, I can appreciate both of the arguments and relate to both sides, but there are some many underlying issues that are never addressed by both sides.

Yes, I agree if these individuals did not commit a crime or show aggression towards officers there could have been a different outcome. (the key word is could because no one truly knows) There was so much controversy when Pharrell Williams stated that Michael Brown committed a crime and was pursued by the cops for his actions. Williams was correct, he was being pursued because there was a crime committed. His death was a result of his mistake. No matter how smart he was or the bright future that he may have had, the facts are he committed a crime, and the officer was in the right to pursue him. No one can dispute this, regardless if there was the end result of the situation. I understand that this outcome probably would have ended differently if this was a white male versus a black male, but the reality is that we will never know because that is not what happened. To put it quite frankly there would have been little to know media coverage of the incident if it was a white male and there would be less controversy and interest in the case. Would society be blaming police brutality if it was a black cop and a white suspect? Would the black cop be charged with a crime? We simply cannot say with certainty the outcome if the roles were reversed. One fact is for sure; there would not be riots and protests on the scale of this event if circumstances were a bit or radically different.

With the being said, I also agree that there is a sense of racial profiling within the American society that has existed for years, and are targeted towards black individuals being criminals or law breakers. I agree that on a daily basis, black individuals get stopped and pulled over by the police at a higher rate than white individuals. We are accused of crimes that we did not commit and people look at us more suspiciously. Recently, I was shopping at a store and went to leave at the same time as two white individuals. The security alarm went off, yet I was the only one stopped. I was asked to verify my purchases, and ask to search my personal belongings. I willing obeyed knowing that I did not take any un-purchased items. I was released shortly after with an apology. The worse part of the situation was that one of those other individuals could have easily taken an item, but I was automatically the target. Someone dressed properly and with proper grammar is still defined by the color of their skin. The high rate of racial profiling within America continues, and it seems impossible for African Americans to break these stereotypes that many people place on them.

Putting both arguments aside the problems lies within the great divide that still exists within society. The struggle and hardships that are faced by African Americans is the true problem in society, and is greater than just police brutality and the death of one or two individuals. This is not to say that White Americans have not embraced some the black culture such as music, dance, style, and the outrageous slang but simply realizing that there are still misconceptions and stereotypes still placed on African Americans. Many people who are posting on social media about police brutality and the terrible nature of the police department need to realize that the protests and riots are not due to a single incident, but rather linked to deeper underlying issues and frustrations rooted within many communities of color. We need to unite not as African Americans and people of color, but as a human race to stop stereotyping and to become as one. I am not saying to hold hands and sing Cumbyeya, but to simply recognize that there is a problem in our society that stems from our own misconception and beliefs that is deeply rooted within society and to move on to become a stronger society. At the end of the day I just want everyone to remember not every black person is a criminal or thug and not every cop is militant jerk ready to kill. We are all human beings that make mistakes that should take responsibility for our actions.

To simply put my opinion for all those who have trouble following my endless rant. Michael Brown was in the wrong, and that cop had every right to pursue him, but did he have the right to shot him…. I simply do not have a definitive answer, but at some point will he realize that regardless if it was right or wrong he took a life of a young boy who made a mistake. No human is perfect. We cannot blame him entirely for firing upon him, and it was up to our judicial system to discover an appropriate decision for the case regardless if we agree with the decision or not.

Simply keep in mind regardless of your race, ethnicity, or family background next time you pass someone rethink that stereotype you just placed upon them because there is a ninety-five percent chance that you have already created one for them. Stop judging a book by the color of the cover and move pass the preconceived notions that you may already have. Lastly, stop judging me as you read this last sentence. Peace and love to you all!

Stereotypes: Who is to blame

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As one scrolls through social media one gets a snapshot into the lives of all those people that we call friends or acquaintances. Over the past few months I have noticed a handful of my African American friends make posts or comments such as the following statement:

“As a black man, I feel as though I have to work twice as hard and present myself twice as well in whatever I’m doing, because whether someone believes misconceptions and stereotypes or not, I can’t afford to let any of them enter their mind.”

I found myself guilty of liking and emphasizing with those friends who would post these status and updates. Although I am biracial, I could understand the motive behind these statuses and comments. I am constantly telling people about how I have to work twice as hard and seem to be prove a point every step of the way. In the same instant I have thought about how each person has to deal with stereotypes on a daily basis. Society has engrained within each of us a set of rules that we seem to guide our very existence upon.

How Asian’s are deemed as the mathematical and scientific intellects of society, white males the leaders, African Americans as underclass, Latinos as trespassers or illegal aliens, women as the weaker sex. No matter where ones turn there is another stereotype that we as a society continue to reinforce. We constantly talk about the dislike of others or outsiders placing us in a box but continue to endorse society to place us in the box.

We continue to allow stereotypes to exist by filming and producing shows and movies such as “Basketball Wives” and the Madea movies that only help to reinforce the negative images and actions of African Americans. In the instance of Latino the “George Lopez Show”, and for women almost any film which the woman is the madam in distress (which is about 85% of movies out there). Not only do we film and produce these types of shows, but we also become a captivated audience to these productions. How can we argue that society puts these negative stereotypes onto us when we are willing to sit back and laugh at this debauchery within our homes?

Not only do we watch this madness on television and in movies, but we are all guilty of placing ourselves in this box. By referring to ourselves or allowing others to refer to us as the “black friend” or the “white girl of the group”. We also soften the atmosphere by creating a joke like “hey don’t worry I am not going to steal anything”. And let’s not forget about apologizing or needing to explain being that black person who loves country music. Why do I need to apologize or explain my preferences?

I am going to leave all of you with something to think about. Next time you are tempted to post a status about needing to prove yourself to others, or working twice as hard to keep stereotypes out of their minds think about white men for one second. While most people think they have the easiest stereotypes to live under, they indeed are one of the hardest stereotypes to have. Because instead of being able to be the first woman to complete an obstacle on American Ninja Warrior, the first African American President, or the first Latino Court Justice, they are expected to become all of these things. When they have scandals and make mistakes, they are scrutinized heavier because they are expected to “know better”. When someone becomes the CEO or gets promoted over the “white men” they do not see the other person as the more qualified, but sees the fact that the “white man” is a disappointment for not gaining a position that is was destined for. Or if the son of a prominent attorney decides to become an artist it is looked upon with shame. The stereotypes when one has to live up to a high standard are much more difficult than those when people think lowly of you. It is easier to prove someone wrong than to try to prove someone right. It is more satisfying to do something someone sees as impossible or unlikely than to become someone people expect you to already to become.

Now I am well aware that stereotypes will not disappear overnight, but it is nice to be aware that although we complain about these stereotypes we also help to enable people to continue to solidify these misconceptions through our actions. I am not saying to give up your favorite television shows (it is also one of my guilty pleasure), but I am simply trying to soften the blow when someone decides to place a stereotype upon you or others you may know. Although I will still continue to like those status updates about the unfairness that stereotypes place on a race that I feel a part of, and share feminist articles on Facebook I do understand that I not only endorse stereotypes but help to create them. Simply live your life to the greatest and do not ever compare your struggle to another’s because everyone is fighting a different battle.