The Myth of the Inactive Black Community

Black people care as much about their communities as the next bunch, but lately the myths of uncaring communities seem to keep reoccurring. Especially from people who don’t and never plan to live near any diverse communities. So what occurs are these uninformed or misinformed groups, thinking they are “introducing” concepts (like fair trade) into communities that already have practiced it for years. It’s just they might not have the same terminology or they may not have a fancy name for it at all. Overall, the lack of listening & assumptions harm black communities policy wise, because it is assumed that the outsider “knows better”. Let’s expose this lie and snatch a few wigs in the process.

Myth #1: Black people don’t care about Environmental Issues

Many communities across the United States have been fighting pollution from corporations and organizing local green acts. A more recent example is the organizing in the South Bronx (most heavily polluted area in NYC due to plant occupation), where they are currently fighting Fresh Direct’s plan to install a warehouse of their delivery trucks. Which would make the air quality even worse. The ignorant outsider has determined that this community “doesn’t want fresh food”. No idiot, their kids have asthma.

Myth #2: Black people don’t care about “black on black” crime.

The phrase “black on black” crime is very asinine in itself because blacks kill each other at the same rates whites kill each other. Yet like many have said, no one says “white on white crime”. It’s all about geographical proximity. Most inner city neighborhoods that involve public housing, are predominantly black. Which is not some coincidence, but that is something you can read about here. Most suburbs, are occupied by whites. So most people will lash out in their geographical span of living, more than they would travel to a neighborhood with different racial demographics to kill someone. For years communities have been creating support groups, and providing alternatives for “at risk” youth who fall prey to the cycles of violence that surround their lives. One organization founded by a Brooklyn born and bred doctor, Kings Against Violence Initiative, helps young men and women of color improve their quality of life through programming and mentorship.

Myth # 3: Black people don’t care about their health.

In the 1800s, pharmacology in the U.S.’s medical industry wasn’t that well developed. Even though this was around the time scientific racism was in full swing, many white doctors would write down the herbal remedies and medical techniques that the West Africans used to heal themselves. Which were far more advanced than the chemicals that the doctors were using on their patients.

The medical community in the U.S. has always shamed the black body. Excessive weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. mainly gets associated with black bodies. All of this has been blamed on “personal choice”. Personal choice is important but what gets left out is healthcare access, the lack of access to nutrition in childhood, the excessive stress levels of racism, and quality of life. All of these things affect us and as a specific example, black women have higher levels of cortisol, a steroid that gets triggered from anxiety. This same steroid is correlated with weight gain. The trigger for these high levels has been associated with the daily racism and sexism black women face. Which reflects that racism has physiological effects. Instead of this being considered, the medical field continues to treat us with a condescending attitude. Which has had many adverse affects over time. From research to medical implementation.

More recently the NY Times released an article about co-ops in gentrified Brooklyn. A quote:

“Unifying communities around shared labor and bringing fresh, healthy and affordable options to people who have long gone without. But cultural insularity and the danger of resentment over the gentrification the co-ops represent can make that message a hard sell.”

So basically trying to blame “cultural ignorance” and “bitterness” on the fact that these food co-ops are not so successful. The whole article goes on to talk about how the lower income residents are “used to Big Macs” and how they may not be welcome to eating Kale. However, it is never mentioned that maybe the anger is rooted from starting a co-op that is supposed to be by the community for the community, without actual community input.

Myth #5: Black people don’t value education.

Many parents have been able to get their children to college even through adversity. Even if they could not obtain a degree themselves. The fact that we have historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), shows how much we do care about education. Growing up I got the “you’re talking white” from other black peers as well but I know where that comes from now. Especially since I have been on my journey as a life student to black studies, I have learned to not even take “the Queen’s English” in that high of a regard over my life. If I didn’t need the oppressor’s language to get a job, I wouldn’t need to speak it. History has been passed down in my heritage and so has knowledge. Africa had the world’s first degree awarding university. So how can one say we don’t care about education when obviously evidence says otherwise? There is a difference between a parent not caring about their child and a parent not being able to care for their child. It truly does take a village if we truly care about black kids gaining access to education.

All of these myths get packaged into the thought that black people are lax about the quality of their lives and their communities when years of activity refute that nonsense. Unfortunately, even our own people seem to believe these lies that “ghetto people” don’t care. These stories and initiatives will always be present and have been very prominent in my life. Our voices get lost in policy decisions and it’s not because we don’t care, it’s because no one wanted to listen.

If you are upset about the state of Black America, it’s best to contribute rather then take away from our humanity with poisonous and misinformed words.

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

– Zora Neale Hurston

Recommended Reads:

Medical Apartheid, Sister Citizen, Center for Social Inclusion Case Studies.

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