Today as I parked my car at Walmart and began to exit my vehicle I happened to look over at the car next to me (something I should do more often) and noticed that there was a man sitting on the passenger side of the car. I immediately noticed that the driver of the car was missing and that the passenger was drooling over a Colt 45 (tall can). I looked over at the man, did a quick review of my doors to make sure they were locked then proceeded to exit my vehicle. When I looked back up at the man in the car he seemed to be quite annoyed that I had checked my doors…maybe he thought I had feared he would break into my car….maybe I did! Not only did the guy look at me as if he was insulted, he did what seemed to be a man eye roll. He then turned up the can of beer and guzzled more of it down.
Now being that I am an African-American female myself and the passenger of the car was also an African-American maybe he assumed that I should have no fear of him or maybe I shouldn’t assume that he was dangerous in any way, BUT he was guzzling a Colt 45 (tall can) at 1:45 in the daytime…now that may not be enough to say that he was dangerous, but for me it was damn sure enough to say that he could possibly act a damn fool because I don’t know too many people who drink Colt 45 in the daytime who don’t act like a real fool. Colt 45 is known for having that effect on people!
Could the feelings, thoughts and preconceived notions I had concerning this black man possibly be the same thoughts and preconceived notions others had when they stereotyped and often feared black men? Was it his Colt 45 or was there something deeper behind my double-check of my car doors and double-check of his positioning to reassure my safety and the safety of my vehicle?
This incident got me to thinking about how black men are viewed in society. This past semester we read and discussed Brent Staples’ Black Men and Public Space in my English class and even though this was not the first time I had read the essay, this time I was older and a little bit more experienced and “aware”. For those that have not read the essay, you should. The essay is basically Staples’ personal reflection on how his presence as a black male affected others in public. Staples describes various instances in which his presence caused others to fear him which caused him to seriously think about how black men are stereotyped.
Today’s incident got me to thinking about the extent in which black men are often feared, not just in public space, but ANY space. Black men are not only stereotyped by people of other races, but even black people have begun to have this slight cloud of stereotypical fear looming around as an unidentified or strange black man is in their presence. As the black man approaches the purses are hugged a little closer to the body, eyes are diverted away yet still paying very close attention to every move this unidentified black man makes. When he walks across the parking lot doors are clicked to the locking position and eyes dart around to make sure he gets to wherever he needs to be, which is away from here….
Why is this? Why are so many people afraid of the black man?
This blog post is a draft of what I intend to be a blog discussion including several post regarding the subject of black men; the first dealing with the stereotypes black men face. This “draft” post allowed me to get my thoughts down about this topic. I will follow-up on it later, but I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts about why they feel that black men are stereotyped, feared and sadly accused and assumed to be “bad”.
What role if any do you think the media plays in this way of thinking?
Do you think there is just cause for black men to be stereotyped, feared and or assumed to be “bad”?
When did this start and do you see any possible solutions to this problem?
Do you stereotype black men? If so are you black or of another race?